On arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport you will be met by your zoologist escort and your Sri Lankan biologist guide and transferred in our private air conditioned vehicle to our accommodation in Katunayake, level – 4* (Gateway Airport Garden Hotel). This is a rest day as flights to Sri Lanka usually arrive in the early morning or late at night and rest and relaxation is always a good idea. Also as we are aiming to find a high number or rare and elusive mammal species the days will start early and finish late, so a good rest is always recommended. During the spotlighting throughout the tour we can stay out for as long as you wish, the later the better and that decision is completely up to you.
This morning after breakfast you will be transferred in our private AC vehicle north-east to the historical site of Sigiriya (~4 hours). On arrival you will be taken to the accommodation, level – 4* Hotel Sigiriya and have lunch. Sigiriya is a stunning 200m high rock formation is one of Sri Lankas most impressive sights. Dating around 5000 years ago there is a whole civilisation on top of the rocks which has been occupied in some form or another almost continuously. But this amazing location is also a very good spot for some of Sri Lankas seldom seen mammals. After we arrive at the accommodation, level – 3/4* hotel or guest house we will have lunch before heading into the sanctuary. We will be in search of rusty-spotted cats (the worlds smallest species of cat in the world), grey slender loris (endemic), golden palm civet (endemic), Sri Lanka spotted chevrotain (endemic). During the afternoon we will see the numerous primate species here which include the endemics purple-faced langurs and toque macaques as well as the larger tufted grey langurs. We will then carry on our search after dark and try to capture some of the more elusive species with high powered spotlights. This is where the expertise of our local mammal experts comes into their own as many of these locations where found by them and they have been coming here in search of these animals for decades.
Days 3 & 4
The next two days will be spent around the wonderful historical site of Sigiriya, you can enter the site to see the gardens, frescoes and mirror wall as well as the other ancient monuments here. It is a good idea to do this during the middle of day as the wildlife viewing will be at its most difficult then. During the early morning, afternoon, evenings and then night we will be searching for grey slender loris (this old and unsual primate is a long lost cousin of ours). Watching them as they silently stalk insects, frogs and lizards among the branches it is hard to associate them with the diurnal primates we will have seen all over during the day. That is until you see their hands and opposable thumbs. Also around here are the Indian giant flying squirrels, small Indian civets, jungle cats, rusty-spotted cats, golden palm civets and many species of bats. Also around here there is a plethora of birdlife all over here and our guides are also experts in bird watching so you will not go without any sightings in their company. For these two days all your meals will be provided at the accommodation, level – 4* Hotel Sigiriya, unless we take a packed lunch into the field.
Wasgamuwa National Park
This morning you will be transferred from Sigiriya to Wasgamuwa National Park in our private AC vehicle (~2 hours). On arrival you will be taken to your accommodation, level – 3* Willys Safaris Hotel and after checking in relaxing and after lunch we will head into the national park for our first jeep safari of Wasgamuwa. The absolute star of this very aesthetic park is the Asiatic elephant. There are around 150 elephants here and they are just about the most obliging elephants in all of Sri Lanka. Other than the elephants there is one of the highest densities of sloth bears here in the world as well as a good number of leopards. After this jeep safari and dinner you will enjoy some spotlighting after dark, around here there is a good chance of seeing rusty-spotted cats, fishing cats, jungle cats and Sri Lankan spotted chevrotains. Like before we are free to stay out and spotlight for as long as you wish, the later the better when it comes to trying for some of the really special species here like the cats and civets.
Wasgamuwa National Park
This morning you will have a rest before an afternoon jeep safari after lunch at the accommodation, level – 3* Willys Safaris Hotel. If you wish to have two jeep safaris (one in the morning and the scheduled one in the afternoon) then a morning one can be arranged on request for an extra cost. Once again we will be in search of the plentiful but hard to see sloth bears and leopards and no doubt get some incredible sightings of the many elephants here. After dinner we will also have more spotlighting, the local guides we use have visited the roads around here and the canals close to the park for years and have a very good record in finding the endangered fishing cat as they patrol the canals in search of frogs, lizards, small mammals and of course fish.
Today you will be transferred south in our private AC vehicle after breakfast (7 hours). As we get closer to the hill town of Nuwara Eliya you will see a very different side of Sri Lanka, as we leave the hot and drier lowlands we will climb up through the tea plantations to the central hilly area of the island. When the British had Sri Lanka (or Ceylon as it was known then) they loved the central highlands. With a much cooler temperature and rolling green hills the landscape is quite reminiscent of Europe. Many of the towns here resemble British towns and none more so than Nuwara Eliya. The central post office building surrounded by introduced trees and lush green fields it is easy to forget where you are. The hills here are all full to the brim with tea plantations and this is one of the worlds most productive tea growing areas and trying the black tea here is a must! Once we arrive here you will check in and have lunch at the accommodation, level 4* (Galways Forest Lodge); before visiting Victoria Park and search for some highland specialities such as the pretty Indian pitta and the pied ground thrush; there are also three species of squirrel in the trees here (Sri Lankan giant squirrel, Layards squirrel and dusky palm squirrel). If you wish we can have a short night walk around the park and nearby forests and try and find brown forest owls and Indian crested porcupines.
Yala National Park
This morning we will leave early and on the way to Sri Lankas premier national park, Yala, we will visit a good area for some other highland wildlife. As we begin to descend from the hill region of the island to the flatter south-east coast we will have lunch en-route. Once again you will travel through the various different regions of Sri Lanka and if the roads are good we could pass by Uda Walawe National Park. This park is named at after a huge lake which dominates the park and we will drive alongside this huge body of water for a couple of miles. Around here it is possible to see some of the parks huge elephant herd close to the road as they feed on the lush vegetation. After a few more hours (~7 hours) we will arrive at the accommodation, level – 5* (Elephant Reach Hotel) and relax. After dark we will be taken to some of the well scouted spots on the outskirts of the park in search of leopards, sloth bears, chevrotains, stripe-necked mongoose, fishing cats, jungle cats and the adorable Indian gerbil.
Days 9 & 10
Yala National Park
Over the next couple of days you have one scheduled jeep safari (either in the morning or the afternoon – that is your choice) and if you would like a second jeep safari each day these can be arranged easily at an extra cost. From past experience we recommend the afternoon safaris, for a couple of reasons. Firstly the spotlighting is so good here that we can be out for a few hours and so a lazy morning is a good idea and secondly the leopards are usually more active during the afternoon as they leave their daytime hide out and begin their hunting. In between jeep safaris you will return to the accommodation, level – 5* (Elephant Reach Hotel) and then after dark you will head out in search of the nocturnal mammal life. Unfortunately spotlighting is not allowed in the park but our guides have spent years searching these areas for years and know the best locations for rare and elusive species.
This morning we will begin a journey to one of the most important biological forests in the entire world. Sinharaja forest has been protected to one extent or another for nearly 2000 years and the pristine, primary rainforest is home to an unbelievable wealth of life and diversity. In fact this is one of the top 10 biodiversity hotspots in the world and many of the birds, plants, reptiles and amphibians are endemic to this forest. In fact as scientists conduct more and more research here they are quickly discovering that Sri Lanka and particularly Sinharaja maybe have the highest number and diversity of frog species in the world. Many of the species are only known from small areas of this forest. As you are transferred in our private AC vehicle west you will notice the increasing amount of forest until you arrive at one of the largest areas of primary forest in Asia. After checking in and having lunch at the accommodation, level – rainforest guesthouse (Martins Forest View Lodge) we will have a guided walk through some of this wonderful forest. The mammal life here and we usually see squirrels, purple-faced langurs. Other commonly seen animals are the various bird species as they move around in huge mixed foraging flocks (some times with 10 or more species together) and reptiles, including Sri Lanka green pit-vipers (which the local guides seem to find with superhuman like spotting skills), green vine snakes, keelback snakes, Sri Lankan kangaroo lizards, Indian garden lizards and maybe even a spectacled cobra. All in all this fantastic forest will not leave any wildlife enthusiast disappointed as its almost a case of knowing where to look and as spotlighting is forbidden here you will get a good early night here.
Today you will explore the forest further with a morning and afternoon guided walk through the forest, we hope to find the endemic Sri Lankan blue magpie as well as many other species that we did not see yesterday. All the best whilst walking through this magical rainforest it is important to remember that there are wild elephants and leopards here. They are very seldom ever seen but it adds another dimension to walks here. You will enjoy your meals at the accommodation, level – forest lodge (Martins Forest View Lodge) or we may take a packed lunch and stay inside the park for the whole day. There is a scientific research station inside the park which we will no doubt visit and find out the locations for some of the very special endemics that live here. Within the last 10 years the Serendib frogmouth and the beautifully coloured Serendib scops owl have been described from here and here alone. So we will also try and find these birds whilst here.
This morning after breakfast you will be transferred in our private AC vehicle from one forest to another (2-3 hours) and the wonderful forest of Kitulgala. Whilst not as large or famous as Sinharaja there is a good amount of bird and mammal life here and as we are able to spotlight after dark we have a chance of seeing small Indian civets, stripe-necked mongoose and golden palm-civets. With some luck we can complete spotting all 33 endemic Sri Lankan birds here as there are a number of rare endemic species that are relatively easy here during the day. We will eat at the accommodation, level – local guesthouse (Kitulgala Rest House) in between wildlife watching in the forest.
Today if your last full day in Sri Lanka and after breakfast we will travel towards Colombo and the airport (~3 hours). After a lot of early starts and late finishes throughout the tour, today is a good to catch up on some rest and relaxation as we arrive at the accommodation, level – 4* (Gateway Airport Garden Hotel) you will have lunch and the rest of the afternoon to yourselves. Tonight you will have your farewell evening meal before tomorrows departure.
After breakfast you will be transferred to International Airport so you can catch your return flight home.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.