As I mentioned in a previous post I had for some time wanted to visit Sri Lanka the combination of world class birding coupled with some iconic mammals makes this small Indian Ocean island a potentially excellent destination for a wildlife photographer furthermore the presence of a number of UNESCO world heritage sites coupled with the colonial history makes Sri Lanka a good all round destination.
We had originally planned to visit in 2019 but for a variety of reasons were unable to do so and subsequently were a little hesitant to book for 2020 given the terrible terrorist atrocities that incurred in Sri Lanka around Easter 2019. However things appeared to have settled down with increased security measures and we had heard that it was important for the Sri Lankan economy that visitors did return (tourism is the biggest contributor to the Sri Lankan economy). So in late 2019 we decided to book an extensive tour to comprise the major birding/wildlife destinations combined with a number of the main cultural sites.
We booked a 25 day bespoke tour with a local tour operator – “WalkWithJith” . We had met Jith on a number of occasions at the British Birdfair and had been impressed with what he had to offer and the very good reviews from others that used his services, Jith specialises in wildlife tours and has a team of expert birding guides. After a good deal of liasing over exactly what we wanted we settled on a 25 day intinerary that would take us to most of the key wildlife sites and give us a good chance of seeing the key mammal species (Leopard, Sloth Bear and Asian Elephant) coupled with excellent birding and the propect of seeing all 34 of the islands endemic bird species amongst 200+ other species, all this with hopefully some excellent photography thrown in.
For the duration of out trip we had a specialist birder/guide/driver, for us this was to be the absolutely excellent Thilli (Thilina Karunanayaka) with his modern Toyota Minivan which proved to be an excellent vehicle with plenty of space for us and or gear. Thilli simply could not have done more to improve our trip, he was an excellent birder/guide and a wonderfull host.
We can highly recommend Jith and Thilli to anyone that is planning a birding/wildlife trip to Sri Lanka. We can also highly recommend Sri Lanka, we had a wonderful trip and found the people the most friendly we have encountered anywhere – everyone has a big smile and simply could not be more helpful.
Day 1 – Arrival Colombo from Dubai (Emirates)
Day 2 – Day at leisure to acclimatise with a little light birding
Day 3 – Drive north to Wilpattu National Park – pm safari drive
Day 4 – Full day Wilpattu National Park safari drive
Day 5 – Drive to Habarana – pm local birding
Day 6 – am climb Sigiriya Rock – pm Minneriya National Park safari drive
Day 7 – Polonnarywa Temples & Ruins
Day 8 – Leisure day with light birding
Day 9 – Drive south to Kandy – pm Sacred Tooth Palace
Day 10 – am birding Royal Botanical Gardens – pm birding Udawatta Kelle Forest Reserve
Day 11 – Drive to Kitugala – pm local birding
Day 12 – birding Kitugala Rain Forest
Day 13 – Drive to Nuwara Eliya – pm local birding
Day 14 – birding Horton Plains National Park
Day 15 – Drive south to Tissamaharama – pm local birding
Day 16 – Full day safari drive Yala National Park (block 5)
Day 17 – am birding Bundala Wetlands – pm local birding
Day 18 – am safari drive Yala National Park (block 1) – pm local birding
Day 19 – am safari drive Yala National Park (block 5) – pm local birding
Day 20 – Drive to Udawalawa – pm safari drive Udawalawa National Park
Day 21 – Drive to Sinharaja – local birding
Day 22 – birding Sinharaja Rain Forest
Day 23 – birding Sinharaja Rain Forest
Day 24 – birding Sinharaja Rain Forest
Day 25 – Drive to Colombo for flight home via Dubai