The Sri Lanka Travel Specialists
This birdwatching tour has been planned by experts and comes with a specialist guide. It can be designed to satisfy everyone from the committed twitcher to the amateur enthusiast and takes you to some beautiful parts of rural Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a birdwatchers’ delight and attracts more than 400 species. The best time for birding in Sri Lanka is between November and March when the migrant birds have landed, but two distinct monsoon seasons and a hilly interior means there is plenty to satisfy you all year round.
Transfer directly from the airport to Villa Talangama, which is set on the outskirts of Colombo by the Talangama Wetlands. 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.
If you want to pack in extra when you leave the following morning, you can visit 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 Spurfowl.
Your main target, though, is Sinharaja Rainforest. Moist, muggy and mysterious, this 110 sq kms of rain forest is Sri Lanka's Heart of Darkness. Trekking through this last surviving stretch of virgin rainforest on the island, you will be enclosed in a cacophony of natural life. There are over 140 bird species here including 28 of the 33 bird species endemic to Sri Lanka. Observe the largest flocks of mixed species in the world. This mutual relationship is a method by which birds improve their feeding chances: the food preferred by one species does not necessarily interest another. 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.
Head south east to the serene town of Tissamaharama (or `Tissa' as it is most frequently referred to), which is dominated by lotus-filled lakes, large temples and lush paddy fields. 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 as well as many different water birds, such as Painted Storks, Asian Openbills, Eurasian Spoonbills and Black-headed Ibis. Waders include plovers, sandpipers and curlews. If you are lucky, you may spot a Red-necked Phalarope in the saltains.
Kumana National Park – once known as East Yala – is prized by eco travellers as one of Sri Lanka's finest birdwatching destinations. It is particularly renowned for large flocks of migratory waterfowl and wading birds which arrive on the shallow lagoons between April and June. This is a captivating spot, off the main tourist beat, with largely deserted beaches on one side and lush, lake-strewn jungle on the other. Kumana's 18,000 hectares are unspoilt and untouched, apart from the coastal road which now provides easier access. Even in off-season, there is much to enjoy and you will have the pleasant sensation of having the park virtually to yourself.
Today you travel north to the central highlands - a stirring land of lush tea plantations, majestic peaks and gushing waterfalls. Your destination is the famous hill country town of Nuwara Eliya, once the home of colonial tea planters. You can visit the centrally-placed Victoria Park where you can look for the Himalayan migrants including the Kashmir Flycatcher, Pied Thrush Indian Pitta, and the Indian Blue Robin, or head to nearby Gregory's Lake, home to pipits, snipes and warblers. 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, 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 – the Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Dull-Blue flycatcher, Yellow-eared Bulbul, the elusive Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush and the Sri Lanka Woodpigeon.
As you travel into the dry zone of the Cultural Triangle, there is a marked change in the landscape. If you visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress, keep your eyes peeled for the rare Blue-eared Kingfisher around the moat. Climbing the rock, look out for the Shaheen Falcon hawking for House Swifts. Minneriya National Park, best known for the biggest gathering of Asian Elephants, is dominated by an ancient lake and is home to large gatherings of water birds and migrants.
Today you travel to the north-west of this ever-changing island. Since the end of the war, the north-west wetlands of Mannar – and the Vankalai Bird Sanctuary, which attracts more than 20,000 birds during the migratory season - are again growing in popularity. Here is another wonderfully peaceful spot for birdwatching enthusiasts. Rise at dawn to watch spoonbills, terns and ducks, and the unusual Northern Shovelor – so called because of its shovel-shaped beak. Watch out for the rare Western Reef Egret and an array of godwits, pintails and gulls.
Wilpattu is one of Sri Lanka's most serene national parks and what it may lack in big game it can make up for in beauty. To enjoy birdwatching, it is important to relax into the silence and at Wilpattu you can do just that. Wetland species include the Whistling Teal, Spoonbill, White Ibis, Large White Egret and Cattle Egret. You can commonly see eagles, gulls, owls and terns as well as the Sri Lankan Jungle Fowl, Little Cormorant and Painted Stork. Your final night's stay leaves you a couple of hours away from the international airport.
Set on a quiet lakeside where sights and sounds of nature reign supreme, Villa Talangama is a luxurious Sri Lankan home meticulously laid out from its architecture and furnishings to the caring service of its staff. This villa is an ideal last stop on your holiday itinerary, an alternative to Colombo city. The airport is about 75 minutes drive.
Rainforest Edge, perched above the rolling hills of Waddagala, offers one of the most restful panoramas in Sri Lanka. From this appealing eco and ayurveda property, you can gaze upon rolling tea plantations, studded with tea bungalows and factories. Rustic style in harmony with nature is the essence of its appeal, an isolated, pollution-free environment without discomfort.
The Safari occupies a scenic position on the banks of the ancient Tissa Wewa. Previously known as Tissamaharama Resort, this four-star hotel with 50 rooms underwent a complete refurbishment. Located minutes from Tissamaharama town, this is a convenient base from which to explore Kataragama, Bundala and Yala.
Hideaway is a homely guesthouse with comfortable cottages and some a/c rooms situated on a six-acre estate which attracts plenty of birds and even the occasional monkey. Although Hideaway doesn’t have direct access to the beach, a five minute stroll takes you to one of the main surf points in Arugam Bay.
St Andrew's Hotel is perched above Nuwara Eliya town centre adjoining the picturesque golf course. This stately Tudor-style colonial mansion has a stern exterior, but inside is a world of open fires and candlelit dinners.
Amaya Lake is a simple hotel of four-star standard, which enjoys a peaceful and beautiful setting by the banks of Kandalama lake, in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle. An excellent eco hotel, which retains a personal feel and offers low-level cabanas in tranquil woodland.
Palmyrah House is a 14-bedroom boutique hotel on Mannar Island in the north west of Sri Lanka. This remote region is popular for birdwatching during the season from October to March when migrant birds in their thousands line the lagoons and water holes.
Bethany 101 is a 170-year-old Moorish villa facing the tranquil Puttalam Lagoon in the North West. This refurbished boutique villa has six bedrooms and is centrally placed to enjoy the natural splendor of the Kalpitiya peninsula as well as Wilpattu game park.
Red Dot selects only the best accommodation in Sri Lanka, in its particular price range. Please suggest which of the three categories might most appeal to you. (You can tick more than one box).
Would you like to sign up for the Red Dot Tours Newsletter ?