This birdwatching tour – one of two itineraries that we offer for your consideration – is perhaps is more suited to the committed twitcher. It tends to use simpler accommodation than the Tailor-made Birding Holiday – although you can make any changes that you wish. It takes you through some of the island’s most fascinating locations including coastal wetlands, rainforests and the soaring peaks of the hill country in search of exotic species of birds.
Sri Lanka is a birdwatchers’ delight and attracts more than 400 species, nearly half of them migrants and more than 20 endemic to the island. Our bird watching holiday comes with a specialist guide and can be designed to satisfy everyone from the committed twitcher to the amateur enthusiast. The best time for birding in Sri Lanka is between November and March when the migrant birds have landed, but there is plenty to satisfy you all year round. Whether bird watching is your passion, or you merely fancy a dabble, pick up a pair of binoculars, a guidebook and a notepad and join us in this birdwatcher’s paradise.
Unique mixed-species bird flocks of the Sinharaja rainforest
Dry zone birds of Uda Walawe
Tissa’s lotus-filled lakes and numerous water birds
Bundala’s Ramsar Wetlands and Flamingos that frequent the salt pans
Big game in Yala
Himalayan migrants of Nuwara Eliya’s Victoria Park
The last surviving tropical mountain forests of Horton Plains
Ancient Sigiriya rock fortress and the surrounding sanctuary
Day 1 & 2
Transfer directly from the airport to Villa Talangama set on a quiet lakeside in the suburbs of Colombo. The villa setting is best described as a ‘village in the city’ surrounded by paddy fields and the Talangama wetlands – one of the best places near Colombo to see water birds and waders. Over a hundred species of birds have been recorded here including the Black and Yellow Bitterns, Purple Swamp hen, White-throated, Pied and Common Kingfishers, Purple Heron, Lesser Whistling-duck, and the Pheasant-tailed Jacana. The endemic and critically endangered Purple-faced Leaf Monkey is also found here as well as Water Monitors and Common Garden Lizards. Talangama is also home to numerous species of dragonflies and butterflies. We also recommend a visit to Ingiriya’s Bodhinagala Forest Reserve – the last remaining lowland rainforest in close proximity to Colombo. Endemic bird species found here include the Brown-capped Babbler, Green-billed Coucal, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Sri Lanka Jungle fowl, Sri Lanka Myna, Legge’s Flowerpacker, and the Sri Lanka Spurfolw. Here, you can also observe the Sri Lanka Gray Hornbill closely since they are used to having people approach them
Villa Talangama is a three-bedroom villa set on the banks of the Talangama Wetlands in the outskirts of Colombo. It enjoys a quiet, unspoiled lakeside setting, seemingly a world away from the commercial heart of Colombo less than half-an-hour away. Villa Talangama is located minutes away from the Kottawa entrance to the Southern highway making it en route to the west coast and southern beaches. The journey from Colombo’s international airport will take about 1.5 hours.f the North West
Day 3 & 4
Head south to the foothills of the central highlands where you will spend two nights at Martin’s Lodge, a small guesthouse located close to the entrance to the Sinharaja Rainforest. The Sinharaja, covering an area of about 110 sqkms of rainforest is Sri Lanka’s Heart of Darkness. Moist and muggy, murky and mysterious – an experience of Sinharaja is like nothing else in Sri Lanka. Trekking through this small tropical jungle – the last surviving stretch of virgin rainforest on the island – you should be ready to pour with sweat as they make their way through a bewildering land of exotic colours and wonderful sounds. From top to bottom the forest is teeming with life whether it be gushing waterfalls, gurgling streams, ants marching, leaves rustling, leeches waiting (you’ve been warned!), crickets creaking or butterflies fluttering by. Apart from the very distinct atmosphere, which is created by this great cacophony of noise and movement, Sinharaja is particularly renowned as a hotspot for bird life. There are over 140 bird species seen here including 28 of the 33 bird species endemic to Sri Lanka. Observe the unique mixed-species bird flocks. According to a study carried out, 42 individual birds occurin the flocks on average here, making it the world’s largest mixed species bird flock.Sinharaja is also excellent for butterflies and dragonflies. Endemics like the Ceylon Birdwing, Common Tree Nymph, Red Helen can be spotted here. Other specialities are Southern Duffer, Great Crow, Blue Oakleaf, Spot Swordtail and Painted Sawtooth.
Martin’s Lodge is a rustic 10-room guesthouse situated within the Sinharaja Rainforest conservation area. Located just 200 metres from the Northern entrance to the Sinharaja, Martin’s Lodge is ideal for environmentalists and birders who wish to explore this huge virgin forest reserve at leisure. The Sinharaja Rainforest – a UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site and an international Biosphere Reserve, is on the Kalawana to Rakwana roadway and can be accessed from Ratnapura or the hill country.
Travel to the Uda Walawe National Park in the in the dry zone, south of the central hills, near Embilipitiya. Check into Kalu’s Hideaway located a few minutes from the Park. Uda Walawe has a mix of habitats consisting of grassland, scrubland, tall forest and wetlands. This park is home to numerous species of dry zone birds and also provides an excellent opportunity to get up close to the Asian Elephant. Some of the birds found here include the Booted Eagle during the migrant season, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Shikra, Common Kestrel, Brown Fish Owl and Western Marsh Harrier, Plum-headed Parakeet, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Sirkeer Malkoha, Blue-faced Malkoha, Little Green Bee-eater just to mention a few. According to Wildlife reports there are also about 500 elephants in the park and they often roam in herds of up to 100. Leopards, buffalo, deer and sloth bears keep them company along with mongooses, bandicoots, foxes, water monitor lizards and crocodiles. Visit the Elephant Transit Camp at Uda Walawe run by Sri Lanka’s Wildlife Department. Here about 22 young elephants, mostly babies, who have been orphaned or recovering from injuries, are being rehabilitated before release into the wild.
Kalu’s Hideaway is a 14-room holiday retreat set amidst five acres of tropical gardens edged by the tranquil Walawe River. Located just 15 minutes from the gates of the Uda Walawe National Park, this is a comfortable resting point between Colombo and the South Coast or Arugam Bay; as well as from the Southern Highlands to the South coast. The Elephant Transit Home located close to the park, can also be easily accessed from here
Day 6 & 7
Head south east to the serene town of Tissamaharama (or `Tissa’ as it is most frequently referred to), which was the capital of the ancient Ruhunu Kingdom in the 2nd century B.C. Tissa is dominated by lakes and gigantic Buddhist Dagobas (temples), lush green paddy fields and lotus-filled lakes. The Debarawewa wetland located nearby is popular for the Black, Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Black-crowned Night-Herons, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, and also the elusive White-naped Woodpecker. If lucky, you can also spot the Brown Fish Owl in this area. Many species of water birds frequent the other wetlands in the area and you may also spot the Mugger Crocodile. Early next morning leave for Bundala National Park, a fascinating wetland near Hambantota. Bundala’s scrubland, patches of tall forests mixed with many wetland habitats including salt pans, is home to a wide array of birds including migrating shore birds and resident waders. The highlight here would be the flocks of Greater Flamingos that you may see in the saltpans. Water birds include Painted Storks, Asian Openbills, Eurasian Spoonbills, Black-headed Ibis and Wooly-necked Storks. Waders include Pacific Golden, Lesser Sand and Greater Sand, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, Little Ringed, Little Stint, Marsh, Common, Wood and Green Sandpipers, Eurasian Thick-knee and Great Thick-knee in addition to Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Snipe, Pintail Snipe and Ruddy Turnstone. If you are lucky, you may spot a Red-necked Phalarope in the saltains. A visit to this region is not complete without visiting the Yala National Park. Yala, with a total protected area of more than 1,200 sq kms, consists of scrubland, grass flats, monsoon forest and rock outcrops with waterholes. Yala is one of the best places in Asia to see the leopard. However, they are not easy to spot as there are only around 35 of them now surviving within the park. Other mammals found here include Elephant, Sloth Bear, Sambhur, Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, Stripe-necked, Brown & Ruddy Mongooses, Black-naped Hare, Grey Langers, Toque Macaques & civet cats.
Priyankara is a 40 room holiday retreat situated in Tissamaharama in the deep south. This three-star hotel is well placed to explore Tissa’s ancient cultural heritage, the jungle shrine of Kataragama, and the Yala National Park. Tissamaharama can be accessed travelling from Uda Walawe, the southern highlands, or the south coast. Those travelling directly from Colombo might wish to take a connecting Sri Lankan Airlines flight from Colombo’s international airport to the Mattala international airport.
Day 8 & 9
Today you travel north to the central highlands – a stirring land of lush tea plantations, majestic peaks and gushing waterfalls. Check into St. Andrews Hotel in Nuwara Eliya. Visit Victoria Park located in the centre of the city where you can look for the Himalayan migrants including the Kashmir Flycatcher, Pied Thrush Indian Pitta, and the Indian Blue Robin. Other highlights include the Yellow-eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka White-eye, and Dull-blue Flycatcher. Located nearby is the Gregory’s Lake, home to the Black-throated Munia, Paddyfield Pipit, Pied Bush Chat, Pintail Snipes, Zitting Cisticola, Plain Prinia, Blyth’s Reed Warbler and also the Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler. The wild expanse of Horton Plains National Park, more than 7,000 feet above sea level, offers a memorable start to the following day. The walk to ‘World’s End’ and “Little World’s End” offers one of the finest views in Sri Lanka. With a mixture of grasslands and forests, including the last montane forest in the country, Horton Plains have a healthy variety of birds to watch. Just 20 kilometres from Nuwara Eliya, the park offers the chance to observe five endemic bird species that can be seen only at this altitude. These include the Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Dull-Blue flycatcher, Yellow-eared Bulbul, the elusive Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush and the Sri Lanka Woodpigeon. Other species include the Black Bird, Indian Blue Robin, Zitting Cisticola, Pacific Swallow, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Jerdon’s Baza, Crested Goshawk and Indian Pied Bush Chat. Mammals include plenty of Sambar, the Slender Loris, Bear Monkey and, occasionally, a Leopard. The Park has a diversity of endemic lizards such as Rhino-horned Lizard, Black-lipped Lizard and Dwarf Chameleon. This is the only National Park in Sri Lanka where visitors are allowed to roam around freely inside.
St Andrews Hotel
St Andrew’s Hotel lies slightly above the centre of Nuwara Eliya, alongside the golf course – suitably so for a hotel with such a famous golfing name. Nuwara Eliya, an old colonial hill station, lies more than 6,000 feet above sea level, a town rich in tea plantations and cradled amidst misty mountains. St Andrew’s is an excellent base for exploring the delights of Sri Lanka’s spectacular hill country. Nuwara Eliya can be approached via Kandy or Hatton. The drive from Kandy is about three hours.
Journey to Kitulgala situated in the western foothills, sandwiched between the west coast and the central highlands. This is an area of rolling hills, tropical rainforests and winding rivers. Check into the Rafter’s Retreat edged by the winding Kelani River. Visit the Kelani Valley rain forest for some endemic birds, butterflies and Dragonflies. This small, lush primeval forest is home to about 54 rare species of birds, including the indigenous white owl. Kitulgala owes its popularity to the Kelani River which offers exciting Grade 3 and 4 rapids for rafting which is suitable for beginners and experienced rafters alike. Experience the thrills and spills of an exciting rafting adventure in a jungle paradise. Rafting mixes the ups and downs of rapids with calm sections that meander through the jungle clad mountains, tea and rubber plantations of the Kandyan hill country. The scenery is breath taking.
Rafters Retreat is situated in a picturesque spot on the banks of the Kelani River in Kitulgala – a destination ideal for adventurous nature lovers who are keen on white water rafting, canoeing, nature treks and bird-watching. The village of Kitulgala is sandwiched between the famous west coast and the towering central highlands, and is an ideal stopover to break up long journeys. Kitulgala can be accessed from Kandy (two hours) and Nuwara Eliya in the hill country (2.5 hours).
Day 11 & 12
Travel north to theremote village of Wepathana, which is about 45 minutes north of Kandy. Spend the next two days at the Polwatte Eco Lodge where birding is utterly rewarding. Over 60 species of birds can be spotted here including 10 endemics including Sri Lanka’s Grey Hornbill. Other animals that can be seen around the estate are barking deer, wild boar, torque monkey, porcupine, flying squirrel, and giant squirrels. Go on a trekinto the village of Narapanawa passed paddy fields and ending at the Huluganga river where you can have a river bath.
Polwaththa Eco Lodges
Polwaththa Eco Lodge is a rustic nature retreat situated on an 11-acre fruit and vegetable plantation in the remote village of Wepathana, which is about 45 minutes north of Kandy. This peaceful and rustic holiday retreat is a nature lover’s paradise and is reached via the Kandy – Mahiyangana road (route A26) via Digana. The journey to Kandy from Colombo’s international airport will take about 3.5 hours.
Day 13 & 14
As you travel to the Cultural Triangle in the dry zone, there is a marked change in the flora and fauna. Travel to the village of Sigiriya where you will stay two nights at the Sigiriya Village Hotel located just minutes away from the famous Sigiriya Rock Fortress built in the 5th century by King Kasyapa. The remains of this fortress atop the tabletop mountain, coupled with the colourful frescos and the symmetrical royal gardens, are amazing feats of this period. The surrounding Sigiriya sanctuary is home to numerous species of birds including the Orange-headed Thrush, Purple Sunbird, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, White-rumped Shama and Shahin Falcon. Look for the rare Blue-eared Kingfisher around the Sigiriya Moat. You can also get a chance to see all three types of Primates here: the dry zone race of the endemic Toque Monkey, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey and the Grey Langer. When climbing the Sigiriya Rock Fortress look out for the Shaheen Falcon (sub species of the Paragin Falcon) hawking for House Swifts close to the Rock. Visit the Minneriya National Park, best known for the biggest gathering of Asian Elephants. This 8,890 hectare park which is dominated by an ancient lake, is also home to large gatherings of water birds and migrants. Lesser Adjutants, Comarants, Spot-billed Pelicans, Painted Storks are some of the common birds here.
Situated just minutes away from the magnificent Sigiriya Rock Fortress, dating back to 6th century A.D., the Sigiriya Village is an eco-themed hotel set amidst vast acres of tropical trees, foliage, ponds and waterways – all of which attracts numerous species of birds and monkeys. The UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa are 1.5 hours away and the historic Dambulla cave temple is just 30 mins drive. The hotel is four hours drive from Colombo’s International Airport.
Head to the coastal town of Negombo for your final night’s stay at St Lachlan, a much-praised small hotel situated just 20 minutes away from the airport. Relax and unwind before your flight back home. Take a ride on a catamaran as it sets sail in to the sunset or take a boat ride into the Muthurajawela marshes teeming with bird life.
St Lachlan Hotel
St Lachlan Hotel and Suites, to use its full name, is a small, mid-range hotel with high ambitions, nicely located down a quiet lane in Negombo close to Lewis Place with its hotels, wayside shops and small beach hut restaurants. The beaches are only a 10-minute walk away. Located just 20 minutes from the international airport, this is an ideal first or last stop on a holiday in Sri Lanka. The capital city of Colombo is about 75 minutes south