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Sri Lanka Safari Holidays Leopards Yala Park

Birding & Culture in Sri Lanka


LPP16C
16 NIGHTS
FROM £2,395
International flights quoted separately
This holiday offers a combination of bird watching & sightseeing, allowing you to enjoy both the wildlife and cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. Visit Minneriya, Kandy, Horton Plains, Yala National Park, Bundala, Uduwalawe and Sinharaja Rainforest, before relaxing on the Galle Coast. English speaking driver/guide (supported by local naturalist guides), all transfers & sightseeing included.
Photo Bird Watching Sri Lanka Birding Yala Bundala Sinharaja Rainforest
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Colombo
• 
Sigiriya Rock
• 
Minneriya
• 
Kandy & Kitulgala Reserve
• 
Horton Plains
• 
Yala National Park
• 
Bundala National Park
• 
Uduwalawe Park
• 
Sinharaja Rainforest
• 
Galle Coast
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Colombo
• 
Sigiriya Rock
• 
Minneriya
• 
Kandy & Kitulgala Reserve
• 
Horton Plains
• 
Yala National Park
• 
Bundala National Park
• 
Uduwalawe Park
• 
Sinharaja Rainforest
• 
Galle Coast
Day 1
You will be met at Colombo Airport and transferred to your hotel in the commercial, industrial and cultural centre of Sri Lanka.
 
Check in and relax in this harbour city, situated on an ancient trading sea route.
Day 2
This morning your driver/guide will collect you from your Colombo hotel and introduce you to the beauty of central Sri Lanka as we travel 4.5-hours to the small town of Habarana.
 
Along the way we stop at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage that cares for baby elephants lost or abandoned in the wild. Here you can see the orphans being bottle fed with milk before they continue to the river to bathe, giving you the opportunity of close-up photographs (daily feeding times: 09.15, 13.15 and 17.00), but please be aware that for safety reasons the elephants are chained at certain times.
 
Check into your Habarana hotel and relax in your warm tropical surroundings.
Day 3
This morning we travel 30-minutes to Sigiriya - also known as Lion's Rock -  a massive 5th century fortress and palace ruins surrounded by extensive gardens and reservoirs. Here you can climb 1,200 steps to the top of this amazing fortress in the sky that is now a World Heritage site, with the reward of incredible views. Ancient rock paintings are also on display. And don’t overlook the small museum near the entrance.
 
Return to your hotel for lunch, before enjoying an afternoon jeep safari in Minneriya National Park where you can hope to see wild Asian elephants. They are particularly numerous in August and September when they migrate along a corridor from neighbouring parks to feed on the fresh grass on the lake bed - an annual event known as "The Gathering".
Day 4
This morning we travel 2.5-hours from Habarana to the bustling hill capital of Kandy.
 
Along the way we stop at Dambulla to explore its famous Golden Rock Cave Temple, a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site for 22 centuries. This vast isolated rock mass with five caverns filled with statues is the largest and best preserved cave monastery in Sri Lanka and is a World Heritage site.
 
We also stop at Matale Spice Garden, before checking into your Kandy hotel in this religious and ancient capital of kings. Here we can visit the Royal Palace.
 
In the late afternoon we visit the sacred Temple of the Tooth that houses a tooth relic of the Buddha. Religious pooja ceremonies, when the golden casket containing the tooth is revealed, are held daily at 05.00, 09.30 and 18.30 - so this is the best time to visit.
 
Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a World Heritage site partly due to this temple. Its principal Buddhist complexes have considerable importance – the high priests of the two best known, Malwatte and Asgiriya, are the most important in Sri Lanka and the Asgiriya Maha Vihara has a large reclining Buddha image.
 
In the evening enjoy a cultural show, with dancing and fire walking.
 
Please dress appropriately when visiting the temples, with shoulders and knees covered. There is a steep uphill walk to Dambulla temple, so this excursion is not suitable for people with mobility issues.
Day 5
Set out early this morning for a birding walk with a naturalist in Udawatta Kele Sanctuary, an unspoilt forest reserve on a hilly ridge overlooking the city. In addition to the birdlife, you can also see many different plant species, butterflies, monkeys and other small mammals and reptiles.
 
In the afternoon we visit the beautiful Peradeniya Botanical Gardens with its rare collection of indigenous tropical flora, including its famous Orchid House. We suggest you ask your hotel to pack a picnic today, so that you can enjoy it in the botanical gardens.
Day 6
Today travel 1.5-hours to Kitulgala Forest Reserve in the Kelani Valley, which was established to protect the watershed of the Kelani River and is home to many endemic flora and fauna species. The breathtaking scenery here was used for the famous film "Bridge over the River Kwai" and a boat trip across this river is a very special experience.
 
This area is also famous for its adventure activities, including white water rafting down the Kelani River (grade 3 and 4 rapids); trekking in the jungle and mountain biking in the jungle-clad hills.
 
Sri Lanka's most recently discovered bird, the Serendib scops owl, was first heard calling in these forests and the hills above the tea and rubber plantations host mountain hawk eagle, crested treeswift and Layard's parakeet.
Day 7
We leave Kandy early this morning and, subject to the availability of tickets, transfer to Peradeniya station to board the 2-hour train to Nuwara Eliya in the heart of tea country - travelling in the first class observation car at the rear of the train (but be warned, this is an interesting cultural experience. It is not luxurious and the views you get will depend upon the seat you are allocated).
 
Enjoy spectacular views of the countryside and the many tea plantations, as you wind through the hill country. Your guide will meet you at Nanu Oya railway station and take you to a local tea factory, before you check into your hotel.
 
Please note that train tickets can only be booked 14 days in advance, with preference given to government officials. When train tickets are not available, a scenic 2-hour road transfer through the hill country will be substituted.
Day 8
An early morning (5 am) start this morning for our 1-hour drive to Horton Plains National Park - a magnificent landscape of rolling hills covered in cloud forests, with grasslands in the valleys that eventually give way to wetlands. Situated on the highest plateau in Sri Lanka, this park is home to 24 species of mammals and 87 species of birds - including 20 of the 27 endemic species found on this island.
 
Enjoy a 5-mile (9.5-km) round trip guided hike with a naturalist along the scenic trail leading to World's End viewing point and Bakers' Falls, before returning to Nuwara Eliya - so wear trainers or walking boots.
Day 9
Today we leave Nuwara Eliya and travel 4.5-hours to Yala National Park.
 
Along the way we visit the cascading Ravana Waterfalls, with its backdrop of mountains and valleys. In Hindu mythology Sita, the wife of Rama, was hidden in caves behind these waterfalls when she was kidnapped from India and brought to Sri Lanka.
 
Time permitting, we can also detour to visit the ancient Buddhist temple at Buduruwagala with its amazing seven statues dating back to the 10th century, set in a very tranquil setting well off the beaten track.
 
We continue to Yala National Park, the premier game reserve in Sri Lanka covering an area of nearly 400 sq miles (1,000 sq.km). It is famous for having the highest density of leopards in the world, but sightings of these magnificent animals are not guaranteed and you need to take at least 2 or 3 jeep safaris for a good chance of a sighting.
Day 10
Rise early today to enjoy the wildlife of Yala National Park - home to 44 different species of mammals and also known locally as Ruhuna National Park. Whilst famous for its over 35 leopards, you can also see water buffalo, elephants, spotted & barking deer, wild boar, sambar, crocodiles, jackals, monkeys and mongoose. Sloth bears are also present but are rarely seen.
 
Bird life is particularly rewarding including excellent raptor sightings, many aquatic birds, wild peacock, jungle fowl (the national bird of Sri Lanka), hornbills, orioles, pelicans and the rare black-necked stork. Over 200 different bird species can be seen, including many that migrate to escape the northern winter such as white-winged black terns, curlews and pintails.
 
As the monsoon & thorn forests makes game viewing difficult, the best time to visit is at the end of the dry season (February to April) when water levels in the park are low and the animals come to the waterholes to drink. Two jeep safaris per day are included - one in the early morning and one in the late afternoon.
 
Yala National Park is closed during September. Please be prepared for some rough roads and be aware that it can be very busy, especially over weekends.
Day 11
Today we travel 30-minutes for a jeep safari with a naturalist in Bundala National Park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve with five shallow brackish lagoons separated by thick low scrubby forest and coastal sand dunes,.that stretches along the southern Sri Lankan coast for nearly 13 miles (20 km).
 
The first wetland to be declared a RAMSAR site in Sri Lanka, this bird sanctuary shelters nearly 200 different species - the highlight being the greater flamingo, which migrates here in large flocks. This coastal wetland is also a very important wintering ground for migratory water birds that arrive between September and March, which is the best time to visit.
 
The lagoons attract an amazing variety of aquatic birds including ibis, pelicans, painted storks, egrets and spoonbills. You will also see many peacocks perching in the branches of tall rosewood trees.
 
Bundala is also home to 32 species of mammals including the excitable grey langur monkey, civet, mongoose, wild pig, giant Indian palm squirrel and black-naped hare. There are also a few elephants, lots of land monitors, enormous crocodiles that sun themselves along the lagoons, and five species of turtle that lay their eggs on the beaches.  Although it doesn’t have the range of wildlife found in nearby Yala National Park, Bundala offers a much quieter alternative without the crowds. There will also be the opportunity to do some birding on foot outside the park, as you cannot alight from the jeep inside the national park.
Day 12
Today we travel 2-hours from Yala to Udawalawe National Park.
 
Enjoy a jeep safari on arrival at this wildlife reserve that was created to provide sanctuary for animals displaced by the Udawalawe Reservoir and offers the best sightings of wild Asian elephants in Sri Lanka. It is also an important habitat for water birds, water buffalo, spotted & barking deer, wild boar, sambar, jackal, mongoose, leopard, jungle and fishing cats - although these nocturnal animals are rarely seen.
Day 13
This morning we visit the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home that cares for orphaned calves and re-introduces them into the wild, where you can get close to these gentle giants.
 
We then travel 3-hours to the town of Deniyaya, the gateway to the Sinharaja Rainforest. On arrival enjoy some guided bird watching in the gardens of your lodge.
Day 14
Today enjoy bird watching with a naturalist in Sinharaja Rainforest, a biodiversity hotspot that is one of very few remaining virgin lowland rainforests in the world and now a World Heritage Site.
 
Although only 13 miles (21 km) wide, it is home to 95% of the endemic birds of Sri Lanka as well as many species of trees, insects, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. However wildlife is not easily seen here, because of the dense vegetation.
Day 15
This morning we travel 2.5-hours from the Sinharaja Rainforest to your hotel on the Galle Coast in the vicinity of the fortified town of Galle.
 
Galle Fort has a colourful history, as it was originally built by the Portuguese and later heavily fortified by the Dutch. It is today a World Heritage site, with a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population living within its walls. After visiting the town, your guide will drop you off at your hotel along this beautiful coast.
Day 16
At leisure to relax on the beautiful beaches of the Galle Coast, where there are many diving sites. From October to May you can hope to see whales in these waters, and from December to April sea turtles hatch on these beaches.
 
Optional day excursions are available to explore more of fascinating Galle Fort, with its many shops and markets, and walk along its ramparts. Prominent landmarks include the natural harbor, the National Maritime Museum, St. Mary's Cathedral founded by Jesuit priests and an important Shiva temple.
 
You can take a day trip to the imposing Buddhist temple at Mulkirigala, or enjoy a canal boat ride to islands where you can see water birds, monkeys and water monitors.
Day 17
Transfer 3.5-hours to Colombo Airport for your flight home.
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