Day 1 (09th December 2021) – ARRIVAL / KITULGALA
Your birding guide from Walk With Jith will meet you on arrival and depart to the forest areas of the Wet Zone in Kitulgala, famed as the spot where The Bridge on the River Kwai was filmed (around 03-hour drive).
Along the way, you will enjoy some spectacular views of Sri Lanka’s countryside. This drive will be approximately three hours, depending on stops.
Along the way, we are likely to encounter a varied selection of the commoner birds of Sri Lanka’s Wet Zone. Possibilities include Cattle and Little Egrets, White-breasted Kingfisher, Shikra, Spotted Dove, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Yellow-billed Babbler, Asian Koel, Oriental Magpie Robin, Red-vented Bulbul, Red-wattled Lapwing, White-bellied Drongo and Black-hooded Oriole
Our hotel grounds and nearby gardens and farms are home to a wealth of exciting birds. Accommodation – Plantation Hotel or Rest House, Kitulgala.
(E – Endemic / M – Migrant )
Day 2 (10th December) – BIRDING IN KITULGALA FOREST AND VILLAGE
The morning before breakfast we will go for a short and leisure bird-watching walk around the hotel area.
After breakfast, if river levels permit, we may be ferried across the river by dugout canoe or walk through a hanging bridge to explore Kitulgala’s quiet forest trails, which are home to such exciting endemics as the tiny Sri Lankan Hanging Parrot, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Orange-billed Babbler and Sri Lankan Grey Hornbill. As well as these unique Sri Lankan residents, the area is rich in other birdlife with the shy (but noisy!) Black Bulbuls, Black-rumped Flame-backed Woodpecker, Crested Goshawk and Crested Treeswifts to watch for as Indian Swiftlets swirl overhead.
Highlights – Sri Lanka Chestnut-backed Owlet (E), Sri Lanka Layard’s Parakeet (E), Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot (E), Sri Lanka Green-billed Caucal (E), Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill (E), Sri Lanka Spur Fowl (E), Brown-capped Babbler (E), Spot-winged Thrush (E), Indian Pitta (M), Dwarf kingfisher, Purple-rumped and Loten’s Sunbirds, Green Warblers, Pigmy and Black-rumped Falme backed Woodpeckers, Lesser Yellow Napped, Orange Minivet, Orange-billed Babblers (E) and many more.
We come back to the hotel for lunch. After lunch, we leave from Kitulgala and proceed to Sigiriya.
Accommodation – Inn On the Tree, Sigiriya.
Distance from Kitulgala to Sigiriya – 165 km / 5:00 hour drive
Day 3 (11th December) – MAGNIFICIENT SIGIRIYA ROCK FORTRESS / POLONNARUWA MEDIEVAL CAPITAL OF SRI LANKA
After breakfast, we will go straight from the hotel to Sigiriya rock, the main attraction for the day. Sigiriya rock is the plug from an ancient volcano which has completely eroded away. There are heaps of archaeological ruins that belongs to 05th century A.D. around the rock, at various stages up the rock, and on the summit. You approach the rock by walking along a path through ancient water gardens, then through a terrace garden. Then, the first part of the climb leads up to a slightly rocky overhang sheltering ancient wall paintings of concubines (if you believe it was a palace) or heavenly maidens – apsaras (if the monastery story takes your fancy). The paintings have been particularly well preserved as they aren’t in direct sunlight and are sheltered from the rain. So their colours are still really bright and the images are very clear.
After lunch, we will visit Polonnaruwa to see the archaeological sites and the museum. We will arrange bikes to visit the cultural site. Polonnaruwa is the medieval capital of Sri Lanka, more than one thousand years old. This city peaked during the reign of the king Parakramabahu the Great (12th century A.D.) when Sri Lanka had an empire extending into India. There you can see Palace and public halls of King Parakrama the Great, shrines, temples and pagodas, the massive but exquisite Gal Vihare sculptures carved in living granite and the mammoth ‘Sea of Parakrama’ water reservoir.
Accommodation – Inn On the Tree, Sigiriya
Day 4 (12th December) – NUWARA ELIYA (HIGHLAND)
This morning we will go for a bird-watching excursion in Sigiriya forest reserve, where is very good for dry zone forest birds. This is a very possible place to see Endemic Sri Lanka Wood Shrike.
Highlights – Sri Lanka Wood Shrike (E), Paradise Flycatcher, Indian Black Robin, Brown-headed Barbet, Oriental White Eye, Black-headed Cuckoo Shrike, Ashy Prinia, Grey-breasted Prinia, Pigmy Woodpecker, Jerdon’s Leafbird, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher.
Leaving Kandy after breakfast and travel to Nuwara Eliya highland. Along the way, we shall stop to investigate a working tea factory. We’ll take a break at the restaurant there and of course sample some tea! Hill Swallows breed around the tea plantations in this area and we should encounter some on this day.
We’ll aim to arrive at our hotel in Nuwara Eliya early evening.
Accommodation – Hill Pride Hotel, Nuwara Eliya
Distance from Sigiriya to Nuwara Eliya – 165 km / 6:00 hour drive
Day 5 (13th December) – HILL COUNTRY AND HORTON PLAINS
Bird watching in Horton Plains national park. We are spending 4 to 5 hours there.
Set at an elevation of nearly 2,000 meters, Nuwara Eliya is a famous old hill-station that lies at the hub of Sri Lanka’s tea estates. Extensive areas of superb montane forest still remain, holding hill-forest specialities such as Sri Lankan Woodpigeon, Sri Lankan White-eye, the extremely secretive Sri Lankan have any chance of seeing what is generally regarded as the island’s trickiest endemic, the rare and shy Sri Lankan Whistling Thrush. With luck, we will also encounter the highland form of Purple-faced Monkey, known as the ‘Bear Monkey’ and Giant Squirrel.
Highlights – Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon (E), Dull Blue Flycatcher (E), Sri Lanka White-eye (E), Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush (E), Yellow-eared Bulbul (E), Sri Lanka Bush Warbler (E), Greater Flameback Woodpecker (E), Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Pied Bushchat, Common Buzzard, rare Mountain Hawk Eagle and stunning Black Eagle.
We come back to the hotel for lunch. After a couple of hours rest, we will do a birding excursion in Victoria Park in the middle of town.
Highlights – Kashmir Flycatcher (M), Pied Thrush (M), Indian Blue Robin (M), Indian Pitta (M), Forest Wagtail (M), Dull Blue Flycatcher (E), Yellow-eared Bulbul (E), Sri Lanka White-eye (E), Velvet fronted Nuthatch, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher
Accommodation – Hill Pride Hotel, Nuwara Eliya
Day 6 (14th December) – TISSAMAHARAMA CLOSE TO YALA
After breakfast, we will travel on to Tissamaharama. Afternoon walk to a nearby wetland where Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Yellow and Black Bittern, Baya Weaver, Black-headed Munia, Brown Fish Owl and the scarce White-naped Woodpecker can sometimes be seen.
Accommodation – Grand Yala Hotel, Tissamaharama
Distance from Nuwara Eliya to Tissamaharama – 150 km / 4:30 hour drive
Day 7 (15th December) -BIRD AND WILDLIFE WATCHING IN YALA NATIONAL PARK (FULL DAY SAFARI)
We leave the hotel early in the morning with picnic-breakfast and lunch for a full day jeep safari in Yala national park, lies about an hour’s drive from your hotel and forms part of Sri Lanka’s oldest and most famous National Park, comprising of a diversity of habitats including scrub jungles, water reservoirs, brackish lagoons and riverine habitats.
Mugger Crocodiles frequent the river banks and, as we explore through the southern sector of the park, we’ll find plenty of Tufted Grey Langurs as we watch eagerly for mammals such as Sambar and Spotted Deer. Leopards are probably easier to see here than anywhere else in Asia, and Yala is world-famous for its large population of this most beautiful ‘big cat’. With luck, we should have at least one encounter during our stay here. Sloth Bear is also common in the park but less easily seen.
Highlights – Forest and water birds, Mammals including Elephant, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Wild Boar, Grey Langer, Marsh & Estuarine Crocodiles.
Accommodation – Grand Yala Hotel, Tissamaharama
Day 8 (16th December) – SINHARAJA RAIN FOREST
After breakfast we depart to the most impressive Sinharaja rain forest.
Sinharaja World Heritage Rain Forest is the last remaining significant primary forest patch in the island. It is home to most endemic flora & fauna species. This is the single most important site in Sri Lanka in term of endemic birds and encounters spectacular mixed feeding flocks of birds.
We check into our hotel for lunch. Afternoon we start our first birding session in Sinharaja forest or village area.
Accommodation – Rock View Motel, Sinharaja village
Distance from Tissamaharama to Sinharaja– 130 km / 5:30 hour drive
Day 9 and 10 (17th and 18th December) – SINHARAJA RAIN FOREST
This day is set aside for exploring Sinharaja rain forest site in the heart of the wet zone. The park’s extensive bird list includes most of the country’s endemics and we have a good chance of seeing the majority of them, although some are easier to find than others. The ground-dwelling Sri Lanka Spurfowl requires stealth and sharp eyes, whereas roving flocks of Ashy-headed Laughing Thrushes and Orange-billed Babblers are much more obliging. Ceylon Hill-Mynas call loudly and clearly from exposed positions while Ceylon Hanging-parrots shriek past.
The exquisite Ceylon Blue Magpie is a real gem and, several will be seen here. We’ll also be keeping a sharp eye open for Red-faced Malkoha cavorting around the tangled vines and creepers. Another rare and shy inhabitant of the forest here is the Scaly Thrush and we’ll listen carefully for the distinctive call that will betray the presence of this remarkable bird. Highlights – Green-billed Caucal (E), Red-faced Malkoha (E), Sri Lanka Blue Magpie (E), White-faced Starling (E), Orange-billed Babbler (E), Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush (E), White-throated Flowerpecker (E), Sri Lanka Myna (E), Sri Lanka Spur Fowl (E), Serendib Scops Owl (E), Brown-capped Babbler (E), Scaly Thrush (E), Spot-winged Thrush (E), Sri Lanka Crested Drongo (E) to name just a few endemics.
Accommodation – Rock View Motel, Sinharaja village.
Day 11 (19th December) – DEPARTURE
We will transfer you to the airport according to your flight time. Distance from Sinharaja to the airport – 160 km / 4:30 hour drive
The main focus of the tour is to show you around 200 birds including all 34 endemic birds and some owl species.
Internal transport including private jeeps for safaris
Entrance fees and permit for all cultural sites, national parks and other sites as per the itinerary
Meals Breakfast and dinner
Adequate bottled water in the van
Tips for hotel staff, jeep drivers and trekkers
Airfare – Visa fee – Lunch – Drinks
Any extra cost for medical requirements or tests according to travel guidelines by Sri Lankan government
Tip for your expert driver and guide at the end of the tour (recommending around 200 USD to 300 USD in total, only if you are happy with his service).
Transport: Air conditioned van.
Local tour guide: Expert bird and wildlife guide.