[1st – 17th December 2019]
Sri Lanka is a birdwatcher’s paradise. With an avifauna of over 400 species of which 34 are endemics with many more being shared with the Indian subcontinent. The best time to visit for birdwatching is from December through to March when large numbers of Palaearctic migrants swell the numbers of resident birds and when the onset of the dry season makes traveling around the country easier. Sri Lanka is also an excellent place for photographers.
Accommodation throughout the tour is in western style hotels with en-suite bathrooms. Rooms are either air-conditioned or cooled by fans depending on the hotel location.
This is not a difficult tour. While there is some walking involved the trails are well maintained and not steep. There can be some rough roads after wet weather in some of the national park and climbing in and out of the jeeps can be a bit awkward at times.
2019 Tour Cost:
AUD$6865.00 per person twin share
2019 Single Supplement:
- 17 nights accommodation
- Meals as itinerary (check PDF itinerary)
- Transport including fuel
- Airport Transfers
- Guide services of the tour leader
- Site & entry fees
- Travel insurance and other emergencies
- Visa fees and entry clearing fees
- Flights (Domestic or International)
- Drinks & Snacks
- Items of a personal nature
Day 1 - Arrive Colombo
Arrive in Colombo. Meet with guide and transfer to your hotel. Local birding can be arranged for those who arrive early enough to take advantage of it.
Day 2 - Travel to Wilpattu National Park
Travel to Wilpattu. Start the day with a bit of local birding the drive up to Wilpattu. There are some interesting wetlands on the way which may be worth a look. Afternoon in the park, Indian Peafowl, Yellow-billed Babbler, Indian Robin, Brown Fish Owl, Jerdon’s Bushlark, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, Indian Jungle Crow and Pale-billed Flowerpecker are all likely possibilities. We wil also be looking for mammals, such as Sambar, Indian Axis Deer, Water Buffalo, Wild Boar and of course Leopard and Sloth Bear.
Day 4 - Travel to Habarana
Morning back in Wilpattu. Early morning and late afternoon are best for Leopards and Sloth Bears. Afternoon travel to Habanara stopping at various birding spots along the way. Jacobin Cuckoo, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill and various raptors can be seen. Arriving at Habarana we will check into our hotel and if time permits bird the local area. The big tank to the back of TOC is a great birding locale.
Day 4 - Full day Habarana
Full day around Habarana. Indian Pitta, Red-backed Flameback, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Green Warbler, Tawny-bellied Babbler, Loten’s Sunbird, the western form of Baya Weaver, Jerdon’s Nightjar at dusk, Jerdon’s Leafbird and Orange-headed Thrush are all to be found here.
Day 5 - Travel to Kandy
Travel to Kandy via Sigiriya where there is some good birding to be had around tanks and moat at the base of the fortress rock. In recent years a Shaheen Falcon, (currently regarded as a very distinctive form of Peregrine Falcon) has been nesting in the caves on the rock, Dark-fronted and Brown capped Babblers, Thick-billed Flowerpecker and Tri-coloured Munia can all be seen in this area. On arrival at Kandy we will check into our hotel and then visit the very well laid out Botanic Gardens. This is a very popular spot for families to picnic and play but good birding can be had here. Lesser Hill Myna, Orange Minivet, Red-faced Barbets, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Common Hawk-Cuckoo and Indian Pitta can be found amongst the exotic trees and flower beds.
Day 6 - Ubawattakele & Kithulgala
Start the day birding the old Royal preserve at Ubawattakele. Well maintained tracks can be followed through the forest and with Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Layard’s Parakeet, a perched Besra, Greater Flameback and Indian Blue Robin are amongst the birds that can be seen.
We then continue over to Kithulgala and check into our hotel before going birding locally Chestnut-backed Owlet, Orange-billed Babbler Spot-winged Thrush, Oriental Hobby and Grey Wagtail can be seen close to the lodge and Indian Scops Owl roosts nearby.
Day 7 - Full day Kithulgala
Full day around Kithulgala. A walk across a suspension bridge to an area of forests and gardens may yield Indian Pitta, Sri Lanka Crested Drongo and Green-billed Coucal while an afternoon trip up into the hills may yield Rufous-bellied Eagle, Plum-headed Parakeet, Indian Robin and with luck Chestnut –headed Bee-eater.
Day 8 - Travel to Sinharaja National Park
Today you head over to Sinharaja. A stop on the way at the famous gem city of Ratnapura can be very interesting and good for souvenirs. Arriving at Sinharaja you will check into your hotel and then head up to the Park HQ where Indian Blue Magpies can often be seen.
Day 9 - Sinharaja National Park (1)
Full day in Sinharaja National Park. It is a steep ride up to the park trail entrance but Sri Lankan Frogmouths can be found on the way up. The best way to see birds here is to walk the trails and wait for mixed flocks which come through and contain such goodies as White-faced Starlings, Sri Lanka Laughing Thrush, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Sri Lanka Whiteeye. Malabar Trogon and Red-faced Malkoha. A late afternoon trek for Serendib Scops Owl may be possible for the keener members of the group.
Day 10 - Sinharaja National Park (2)
Continuing to bird the Sinharaja area with an early morning visit to “Spurfowl Lodge” for Sri Lanka Spurfowl and Spot-winged Thrush. Indian Pigmy Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Babbler, Indian Blue Magpie and Brown-breasted Flycatcher care amongst the birds that can often be seen on the walk along the track to the lodge. The balance of the day will be spent birding the local area including the wet area near the Blue Magpie Lodge where Slaty-legged Crake can sometimes be found..
Day 11 - Udawalawe National Park
This morning will see us heading for Udawalawe National Park where we will spend the afternoon. This is a good park for Asian Elephant and if we are lucky Jungle Cat and we hope to see Sirkeer Malkoha, Grey-bellied Cuckoo, Barred Buttonquail, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Jungle Prinia, Marshall’s Iora, Painted Stork, Lesser Adjutant and more.
Day 12 - Travel to Tissamaharama & Yala
Leaving Udawalawe we head south to Tissamaharama and Yala. “Tissa” is famous for its wetlands and this afternoon we start by visiting the huge Debaraweva wetlands which are on the edge of the town. We can hope for Yellow and Black Bitterns, Watercock and other water birds plus raptors including Crested Serpent Eagle. In the trees nearby we hope to see Ring-necked Parakeets, White-naped Woodpecker and Red-backed Flameback. In recent years a Jungle Owlet has been found just a short walk away.
Day 13 - Yala National Park
An early start sees us at Yala National Park. This is a very popular park and areas where animals are being seen can become crowded with rangers sending out alerts by radio. Leopards are particularly popular and traffic jams can develop when one is found. Elephants and Sloth Bears are also big draws. The Yala area suffered badly in the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 and there is a memorial to those who died at the site of the old Rest House which was destroyed at that time. This is a designated place for picnics where you can get out and stretch your legs, which is not possible in most areas of the park. Streaked Weavers build interestingly shaped nests in reedbeds, Blue-faced Malkoha, Sri Lankan Green Pigeon, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon and Green Bee-eater are other possibilities here.
Returning to “Tissa” during the heat of the day we will venture forth again late afternoon to another wetland to look for more shorebirds and for flocks of the almost grosbeak-like Brahminy Starlings wheeling overhead.
Day 14 - Bundala National Park
An early morning visit to Bundala National Park. This is an area of wetlands and saltpans with a good selection of shorebirds such as Broad-billed Sandpiper and Red-necked Phalarope. Terns are also well represented with Little, Saunders, Gull-billed, Great-crested, Lesser Crested, Common, White-winged Black and Caspian Terns all possible. Small Pratincole, Painted Snipe, Spot-billed Pelican and perhaps Black-necked Stork can also be seen.
After a rest at our hotel during the heat of the day late afternoon of sees us back around “Tissa” birding the local area.
Day 15 - Travel to Nuwara Eliya
Leaving “Tissa” we take the main road through other areas of Yala where Asian Elephants frequently cross the road and Stripe-necked Mongoose can often be seen going about their business. We start to head back north climb the winding road up into the central mountains through the tea estates to Nuwara Eliya. Here the temperature is much cooler than on the lowlands around “Tissa” and sweatshirts and jumpers that have been carried around finally get a chance to be used.
Victoria Park in the afternoon is a good place to bird with Pied Thrush, Yellow-eared Bulbul and Kashmir Flycatcher. Hill Swallows can be seen over the town.
Day 16 - Horton Plains
Today we head up to Horton Plains, a lovely upland area where Sambar Deer graze and the local subspecies of Purple–faced Leaf Monkey is known as Bear Monkey because of its extremely woolly coat – an adaptation not required by its lowland relatives. We will be looking for birds such as Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, Yellow-eared Bulbul and Indian Blackbird.
A visit to Hakgala Botanical Gardens may be possible in the late afternoon.
Day 17 - Colombo & onward flights
Sadly today we head back to Colombo. There will be a chance to visit a tea plantation if desired. We will arrive back in the afternoon and flights out can be booked from early evening onwards.