Wildlife watching tours - bird watching holidays -
culture tours for independent travellers and groups
Leopard © M O'DellAsian Elephants © D BlakeleyChestnut-headed Bee-eaters © M O'DellTufted Grey Langur © M O'DellElephant Rock, Yala with Asian Elephant © D BlakeleyPurple-faced Leaf Monkey © G de Silva Wijeyeratne

Sri Lanka’s Brilliant Mammals and Birds (17 days) SLK116 SGT

Tour ref. no. SLK116 Small Group Tour
Duration: 15 nights (17) days taking into account flights which are payable directly)
Colombo – Mirissa – Yala & Bundala – Udawalawe NP – Nuwara Eliya & Horton Plains – Sigiriya – Wilpattu – Colombo
  • Sigiriya Rock Fortress – good for Grey Slender Loris and great for birds too!
  • Yala – famous for Leopard and should see White-bellied Sea Eagle and Grey-headed Fish Eagle
  • Sri Lanka Junglefowl – one of several endemics and the island’s National Bird
  • Blue Whale off Mirissa and Asian Elephant at Udawalawe are pretty much guaranteed!
  • Early morning at Horton Plains for the highland race of Purple-faced Leaf MonkeySri Lanka Whistling Thrush, Dull-blue Flycatcher and more
  • Everyone loves Bee-eaters and three species (Chestnut-headed, Green and Blue-tailed) will not disappoint!


From high to low, this is all about altitude, from the cooler highlands with endemic races of mammals, including the montane race of Purple-faced Leaf Monkey and birds like Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, down to the coast where Blue Whale is almost guaranteed on a boat trip from Mirissa in the winter months.  You will definitely come back in high spirits after this tour!

Our tour focus is mammals, so we have included several night drives and some night walks to look for Grey Slender Loris, Red Slender Lorises, Fishing and Rusty-spotted Cats.  These and other species like White-spotted Chevrotain (Mouse Deer) are difficult but we will try our hardest!

Many mammals are easy to see though and whilst on jeep safaris you should get close up views of Asian Elephant (locals say guaranteed at Udawalawe National Park, whatever the month of travel) and Yala National Park is one of the best places to see Leopard in the whole of Asia.  Endemic Toque Macaque monkeys and the more widespread Ruddy Mongoose should all put in an appearance.

Water and Land Monitor Lizards can grow to a very large size, but Marsh and the even bigger Estuarine Crocodiles win when it comes to length.  You may even watch see sea turtles and fresh water turtles with a bit of luck, and perhaps a Star Tortoise!

Areas good for mammals are also often very good for birds and you’ll see many of Sri Lanka’s endemic birds including Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill and very noisy Sri Lanka Junglefowl (their National Bird).  Many more gorgeous avian delights occur too, with Chestnut-headed, Green and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and bright green leafbirds and barbets immediately coming to mind.

Some of the wildlife watching is in the vicinity of Galle and Sigiriya Rock Fortress, both of which are World Heritage Sites.

If this tour appeals to you then please express your interest today as it is limited to just six people.



Itinerary and price

Small Group tour: Please enquire for 2020 and 2021 dates Maximum group size: 6 plus guide
Day 1: Flight to be organised by you

For help with your flight arrangements and to receive a no obligation quote, you can complete the enquiry form on our website or call 0800 280 8947 to speak to a flight advisor at StudentUniverse (in partnership with Gapyear.com), part of the Flight Centre Travel Group, a leading retailer of airfares and worldwide flights.

Day 2: Colombo
Meals: Dinner Arrive Colombo (likely to be early afternoon).  Your Sri Lankan guide will be there to meet you and will remain with you throughout the tour. From the airport you’ll drive to your hotel to check in. With any time remaining you’ll explore locally.  If time permits you'll visit Dikelle Forest where species include Red and Grey Slender Loris, three species of Civet and Fishing Cat, but you will require good luck to see them. Agree with your guide what time you will leave in the morning, have dinner and relax for the evening.
Day 3: Colombo – Hiyare Forest – Mirissa
Meals: Breakfast and dinner This morning you will head south towards Mirissa (110 kms/ 3 – 3 ½ hours journey time plus plenty of stops on route).  You'll have lunch on the way or in Galle (payable directly). After lunch you'll  visit Hiyare Forest or a local birding location near Matara where you can expect to see some good birds, but mammal sightings will be difficult. From Hiyare Forest the drive to Mirissa will take approx. 1 hour and 15 mins. Check in to your hotel for two nights. Have dinner and relax for the evening.
Day 4: Mirissa - Galle - Mirissa
Meals: Breakfast and dinner This morning you will leave the hotel around 0615 hours (to be confirmed by your guide) to arrive at the pier at 0645 hours.  Packed breakfast will be served on the boat.  Expect the excursion by whale-watching vessel in search of Blue Whales to last between 3 – 4 hours, but please bear in mind this can be cut short due to weather conditions.  Very occasionally, if the sea is too rough, the excursion can be cancelled for safety reasons.  During the peak time for whale watching (December to March inclusive) the sea conditions are usually perfect. You will be provided with a lifejacket, please ensure you wear it and behave responsibly whilst aboard.  After the boat trip, return to the hotel for lunch (on direct payment). There are no boat trips in the afternoon as outings then are less productive. At the right time of year you have a very high chance of seeing Blue Whale off Mirissa and other species seen include Spinner Dolphins, Manta Rays, Flying Fish and turtles if you are lucky.  Your guide and boat crew will help you with the identification. Note: We recommend not to sit too close to the front of the boat, as you are more likely to get wet here! In the afternoon enjoy a leisurely visit to Galle World Heritage Site.  Later in the afternoon your guide will take you to look down from the top of the cliffs to the shore below where often turtles feed on seaweed between the rocks.  Fingers crossed and you may be lucky!  Expect the drive from your hotel to Galle to take approx. 45 minutes each way, depending on traffic. Relax for the evening at your hotel. Note: Please do pack all your bags ready for tomorrow when you will check out.  Keep a spare change of clothes in an easy to access place, just in case you get wet while whale watching.
Day 5: Mirissa - Yala
Meals: Breakfast and dinner Today starts the same as yesterday with you leaving the hotel around 0615 hours (to be confirmed by your guide) to arrive at the pier at 0645 hours.  Packed breakfast will again be served on the boat and you can expect to be out between 3 - 4 hours.  The closeness of sightings partly depends on luck, but you are incredibly likely to be rewarded with good sightings of Blue Whale, the biggest mammal on earth! In the afternoon you will move on to the town of Tissamaharama (Tissa for short), close to the famous Yala National Park. Check in at your hotel and relax for a few hours, then later your guide will take you on a night drive to Debarawewa Tank or other local destinations to search for mammals.  The targets will be Fishing Cat and Rusty-spotted Cat, but both are difficult to see, so some luck will be required.  There are several species of mongoose possible and occasional Sloth Bear is seen on a night drive too! Note: Your guide will have confirmed the time to be ready early tomorrow morning for your first jeep safari inside Yala National Park.
Day 6: Yala
Meals: Breakfast, a basic lunch (of rice and curry with fruit) and dinner You should thoroughly enjoy a full day jeep safari inside Yala National Park.  Expect entry inside the Park to be around 0630 hours till around 1800 hours when the Park closes. Note: Inside Yala National Park access is restricted to the jeeps only. Walking is not permitted, except in designated picnic spots, including one by the beach and another by the river.  While at the river make sure you don’t leave your bags unattended as the Toque Macaques are likely to ransack them! Inside the Park you will be served a basic lunch of curry and rice with fruit, included in the price today. The Park is mainly semi-arid thorny-scrub, with pockets of fairly dense forest, moist monsoon forest, freshwater and marine habitats. Yala also has a few patches of mangrove vegetation along the coastal lagoons. A large number of important cultural ruins bear testimony to earlier civilisations, but most people visit Yala for its wonderful wildlife and excellent opportunities to see some great mammals.  It is reputed to have one of the highest densities of Leopard in the world and is of course home to Asian Elephant. With luck you will see wild Water Buffalo, Toque Macaque and Tufted Grey Langur as well as Asian Elephant and Leopard.  Ruddy Mongoose, Black-naped Hare and Wild Boar are also very likely to be encountered; more difficult to see are Golden Palm Civet, Red Slender Loris, Stripe-necked Mongoose, Sloth Bear, Golden Jackal, Fishing Cat and Rusty-spotted Cat. Yala is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. Of the 215 bird species recorded, some are endemic to Sri Lanka and these include Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka Swallow, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Black-capped Bulbul and Brown-capped Babbler. Other species include Blue-faced and Sirkeer Malkohas, Orange-breasted and Sri Lanka Green Pigeons, Crested Treeswift, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Indian Pitta, Chestnut-headed, Blue-tailed and Green Bee-eaters.  Many species of common waterbirds inhabit Yala’s wetlands including Great White and Spot-billed Pelicans, Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant and a wide range of other storks, egrets, herons and waders such as Yellow-wattled Lapwing and Pin-tailed Snipe. Return to your hotel/lodge.
Day 7: Yala and local area
Meals: Breakfast and dinner This morning a jeep safari is included inside Yala National Park, returning to your hotel for lunch (payable directly). It will be worth taking some time out to relax for a few hours in the heat of the day before visiting some local tanks (wetlands) in the mid to late afternoon for birdwatching.  Species likely to be seen include Watercock, Black and Yellow Bitterns, various ducks and waders. After dinner your guide will take you on a night drive close to Yala, but outside the National Park.
Day 8: Yala - Bundala - Yala
Meals: Breakfast and dinner Today you’ll leave after an early breakfast for Bundala National Park, a wetland of international importance for migratory waterfowl, mainly consisting of lagoons and dry thorny scrubland. Migratory flocks of over 1,000 Greater Flamingo are just one of many highlights.  Other species include Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Great Stone-Curlew, Yellow Bittern, Malabar Pied Hornbill and Chestnut-headed Bee-eater. Estuarine and Marsh Crocodiles occur at Bundala and you will look for them along the sides of the park’s lagoons and water courses.  The beach off Bundala is a breeding area for all five species of globally threatened Sea Turtles which visit Sri Lanka (Green, Olive Ridley, Leatherback, Loggerhead and Hawksbill Turtles).  Four of them (excluding Hawksbill) lay their eggs on the coast of the Park between October and January. There are better places to see Asian Elephant, but they do occur here along with Toque Macaque, Indian Muntjac, Black-naped Hare and the difficult to see White-spotted Chevrotain (Mouse deer).  Keep your eyes open and you might see a Star Tortoise! After lunch back at your hotel (payable directly) there will be time to enjoy birding at local tanks near Tissa, where species may include White-winged Black and Whiskered Terns, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Zitting Cisticola, Baya Weaver, herons, storks and egrets. For those who wish, your guide will arrange a night walk around one or more of the Tissa tanks to try again for Fishing Cat and other nocturnal mammals. Enjoy a final night at the Tissa hotel.
Day 9: Yala - Udawalawe
Meals: Breakfast and dinner After breakfast you'll transfer to Udawalawe. Check in at your hotel, have lunch (payable directly) and in the afternoon you'll be able to enjoy a jeep safari in Udawalawe National Park. It is said Asian Elephants are guaranteed to be been at Udawalawe, regardless of the time of year you visit, so you will most certainly encounter herds of Asian Elephant and perhaps Golden Jackal, Wild Boar and a mongoose or two.  Golden Palm Civet, Rusty-spotted Cat, Fishing Cat, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Asian Palm Civet, White-spotted Chevrotain (Mouse deer) are all present but more difficult to see. Many endemic birds occur, though several are quite tricky to see while birding by jeep. Crested Hawk Eagles sit in prominent trees – seemingly everywhere – and the Park is home to several pairs of White-bellied Sea Eagle, another species easily seen here.  The arid scrubland supports Black-headed Munia, Blue-faced Malkoha, Marshall’s Iora, Indian Pitta, Jerdon’s Bushlark, Malabar Pied Hornbill and the widespread and rather pretty Orange-breasted Green Pigeon. Return to your hotel for a one night stay.
Day 10: Udawalawe - Nuwara Eliya
Meals: Breakfast and dinner After breakfast you will drive to Nuwara Eliya, a journey of approx. 4 - 5 hours. There are lots of excellent sites in the highlands including Hakgala Botanical Gardens, located at 1,645 metres above sea level.   Species here include the highland race of endemic Purple-faced Leaf Monkey and the highland race of Toque Macaque, as well as Dusky-striped and Giant Squirrels.  Also look out for the more widespread Stripe-necked Mongoose, Sambar Deer and Southern Muntjac. Have lunch and explore the highlands with your guide for the remainder of the day.
Day 11: Nuwara Eliya - Horton Plains - Nuwara Eliya
Meals: Breakfast and dinner You'll have a very early start today with a packed breakfast to reach Horton Plains at the optimum time. Located on the highest of three peneplains (horizontal lands formed by erosion to create an area resembling a plain) Horton Plains National Park is another great place to look for highland endemics and the highland race of Purple-faced Leaf Monkey is often seen on the journey.  Endemic birds in the Park include Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Sri Lanka Thrush, Dark-fronted Babbler and Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush which is best looked for at dawn and dusk.  Other species include Hill Swallow. Return to your hotel for lunch (payable directly) and in the afternoon you'll visit Victoria Park, just a 10 minute drive away, where you may see Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka White-eye, Kashmir Flycatcher, Pied Thrush and Indian Blue Robin, to name just a few of the species.  There are other places to check for the endemics too, including waterfalls and a golf course, if time permits!  Today locally you should also see Yellow-eared Bulbul and Orange-billed Babbler. Return to your hotel for a second night and relax.
Day 12: Nuwara Eliya - Sigiriya
Meals: Breakfast and dinner Today you’ll have a 6 to 7 hour drive to Sigiriya, which will be broken with a few stops for lunch, tea and may be a bird or two! After this long drive you'll have the chance of a few hours to relax in the grounds of your hotel to recharge your batteries and get ready for a night drive around Sigiriya Forest Reserve. The target species during your stay is Grey Slender Loris and hopefully one or two other nocturnal mammals and birds that may include Jerdon's Nightjar.  During the day Indian Brown Mongoose, Tufted Grey Langur and the dry zone race of Purple-faced Leaf Monkey are likely.  You will need patience and far more luck to see the endemic Golden Palm Civet and White-spotted Chevrotain (Mouse Deer).  
Day 13: Sigiriya
Meals: Breakfast and dinner After breakfast enjoy some quality time in Sigiriya Forest Reserve, home to Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Crimson-backed Flameback and Sri Lanka Green Pigeon. You'll have a choice this afternoon to rest and enjoy the grounds, or alternatively you could visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress.  This impressive World Heritage Site is a short walk away and entry would be on direct payment. In the evening your guide will arrange the 1 hour drive (each way) to Popham's Arboretum, near Dambulla for a night walk/drive to look for nocturnal species.  This will further increase your chance of seeing Grey Slender Loris; Thick-tailed Pangolin and various bats have been recorded here too, but as with all nocturnal species they are difficult to see.
Day 14: Sigiriya
Meals: Breakfast and dinner Spend another enjoyable day locally and you’ll see plenty more including Sri Lanka Swallow, Dark-fronted Babbler, White-naped Woodpecker, Common Iora, Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, White-browed Bulbul, White-rumped Shama, Golden-fronted and Jerdon’s Leafbirds. Another (optional) visit to Popham's Arboretum is included this evening. Return for a final night at this hotel.
Day 15: Sigiriya - Wilpattu
Meals: Breakfast and dinner After breakfast a journey of approx. 5 hours will bring you to Wilpattu. A jeep safari is booked to take you inside Wilpattu National Park this afternoon. Wilpattu National Park is home to a wide range of mammals, some being highly nocturnal and more difficult to see than others. Golden Jackal, Sloth Bear, Indian Grey Mongoose, Indian Brown Mongoose, Indian Ruddy Mongoose, Sambar Deer, Spotted Deer, Southern Muntjac, Wild Boar and Indian Water Buffalo are all possible and you will have seen many of these species already. In the evening, we will try if possible, to arrange a night walk, subject to it being safe and authorities allowing.
Day 16: Wilpattu - Colombo
Meals: Breakfast and dinner After breakfast or with packed breakfast enjoy a second jeep safari.  You'll have lunch here (on direct payment) and around 1300 hours commence the journey of about 4 1/2 hours to Colombo. Relax for your final evening.
Day 17: Colombo
Meals: Breakfast Enjoy breakfast (served from 0700 hours), then your guide will take you to the airport for your international flight home.  Note: The airport has a wide range of reasonably-priced souvenirs to purchase from several stalls and most will take US$ or Sri Lankan Rupees.  Be prepared to discuss the prices! Tour ends Price per person based on a minimum group size of four and a maximum of six: $2925   Single room supplement $425 Price is based on the following hotels:
Place Hotel name No. of nights
Colombo Tamarind Tree Hotel, Standard Room 1
Mirissa Paradise Beach Club, Deluxe Room  2
Yala Hibiscus Garden or Chandrika Hotel, Standard Room 4
Udawalawe The Grand, Deluxe Room 1
Nuwara Eliya Lake View Hotel, Standard Room  2
Sigiriya Sigiriya Village Hotel, Standard Room 3
Wilpattu Mahoora Big Game Camp 1
Colombo Tamarind Tree Hotel, Standard Room  1
Price includes
  • Accommodation in the above mentioned hotels with meals as listed (breakfast and dinner)
  • Services of an accompanying birding guide and driver from Colombo to Colombo
  • All mentioned transfers by air-conditioned vehicle
  • Two whale watching boat trips from Mirissa
  • Entrances to the National Parks, Sanctuaries, Gardens mentioned in the itinerary
  • One full day and one half day jeep safari inside Yala National Park with local tracker/guide
  • One half day jeep safari inside Bundala National Park with local tracker/guide
  • One half day jeep safari inside Udawalawe National Park with local tracker/guide
  • Two half day jeep safaris inside Wilpattu National Park with local tracker/guide
  • All jeep safaris to the National Parks are by exclusive jeep
  • Two night drives outside Yala National Park
  • One jeep drive outside Udawalawe National Park
  • One or two jeep drives around Sigiriya Forest Reserve and two evening visits to Popham's Arboretum for night walks to search for nocturnal mammals.
  • Two litres of bottled water per person per day from the vehicle
  • Tips to hotel staff, jeep drivers, trackers and helpers for night walks.
  • All currently applicable taxes
Price excludes
  • Any international airfare
  • Lunch
  • Tourist visa and travel insurance
  • Camera fee where charged as extra
  • Any additional taxes levied on the tourism sector in future
  • Any expenses of personal nature such as hard/soft drinks, laundry, phone/fax calls etc.
  • Tip for your main guide and driver (we recommend approx. £120 per traveller in total to cover)
  • Any item not mentioned in the price includes section
  • Any increase in the entrance fee to National Parks or Sanctuaries in the future. The price is based on the current entrance fee
  • Cost incidental to any change in the itinerary/stay on account of flight cancellation due to bad weather, ill health, roadblocks and/or any factors beyond control

How to book

The booking of this itinerary is with Wild About Travel Limited and our booking terms and conditions apply. In order to protect your payments we operate a trust account in accordance with the requirements of the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018.

Please contact Jo Thomas at Wild About Travel (jo@wildabouttravel.co.uk) / 01480-370593 to register your interest and request a booking form.

To confirm your booking please complete the booking form and send a 25% deposit by £ sterling cheque * payable to Wild About Travel Trust to the Wild About Travel Office, 27, Reeve Way, Godmanchester, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE29 2PH, UK. The balance payment would be due 40 - 60 days (to be confirmed at the time of booking) prior to your travel dates.

* Note: Where a price is given in another currency you can pay in £ sterling. We will use the Lloyds Bank exchange rate at the time of making the deposit payment and the balance payment to convert the figure to £. If you would prefer to make a payment by internet banking please let us know and we can supply you with the bank details.


We can advise on appropriate flights and timings that you may wish to book, but we do not organise or arrange flights on our customers’ behalf. You will need to make your own flight arrangements directly with a flight retailer or the airline concerned.

For any help or advice please call or email Wild About Travel and we would be happy to assist.
Tel: +44 (0)1480 370593 Mobile: +44 (0)7817 574235
Email: jo@wildabouttravel.co.uk
Wild About Travel Limited is a company registered in England and Wales.
Reg. no. 5522066. Registered Office: 27, Reeve Way, Godmanchester, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE29 2PH, UK