The Sri Lanka Travel Specialists
Our Wilds of Sri Lanka tour takes you on a journey of discovery through Sri Lanka’s most enchanting landscapes in search of Sri Lanka’s most astounding wildlife. From the virgin rainforest Sinharaja, home to over 140 species of bird, to a camping safari at Yala National Park, home to herds of wild elephants, the elusive Leopard, Sloth Bear and Mugger Crocodile, and the spectacular coves of the south where you can support efforts to protect the endangered marine turtles that come ashore to nest. This itinerary also includes a boat excursion into the deep seas in search of the giant Blue Whale, Sperm Whale and dolphins that roam the Indian Ocean. All of Red Dot’s itineraries can be customised any way you wish, both in terms of accommodation and duration.
Travel from the airport straight to Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka’s central hill country. Spend the rest of the day recuperating and taking in the stunning views of the tea-covered hills which dominate the landscape in this region. On the second day visit Horton Plains National Park, a gently undulating highland plateau just south of the island’s central mountain massif. The highlight for walkers is the trek to ‘World’s End’, the point at which the plateau comes to an abrupt end with a 1000m vertical drop. Horton Plains is covered in grasslands interspersed with patches of dense forest and is well known for its rich biodiversity – almost 5% of the flora species are endemic to Sri Lanka. Horton Plains supports a wide variety of wildlife, including Leopard, Sambar Deer and Barking Deer, Wild Boar, Bear Monkey and Toque Monkey, Fishing Cat, Slender Loris and otters. It is also a hotbed for birdlife; all of the highland endemics are found here. Horton Plains is best explored in the morning, by jeep or on foot, before the landscape becomes shrouded in the midday mist.
Journey to Knuckles Mountain Range, which lies on the opposite side of Sri Lanka’s central hills. Named after its resemblance to the knuckles of a clenched fist, Knuckles spans an extensive 155 sq. km of the island and is comprised of five mountain peaks and several other smaller peaks. The highest point is about 6,000 ft above sea level. Trek beside tea plantations and paddy fields, through dense forests and rural villages, listening to the soothing sounds of rushing rivers and cascading waterfalls and keeping an eye out for the extensive animal and plant life that is housed here. Mist-shrouded mountains, ancient rock formations and lush forests provide an utterly breath-taking backdrop to this remote wilderness. Knuckles, almost untouched by the tourist trail, is an incredible blend of culture, nature and venture. Whilst here you will stay at Sir John’s Bungalow, a friendly guesthouse positioned 1,000 metres above sea level.
Today head to an even more remote part of the island – Gal Oya National Park, which lies in Sri Lanka’s untouched east. You will stay two nights at Gal Oya Lodge, a tranquil eco retreat spread across a 20-acre forest edged by Gal Oya National Park and the Senanayake Samudraya, one of Sri Lanka's largest lakes. This lake is home to large herds of elephants: take an evening boat safari and, as the sun begins to set, watch elephants swimming between the tiny islands that are scattered across the reservoir.
Begin the following day with a unique experience – meeting the Veddas, Sri Lanka’s aboriginal people. This area of the island is one of the last remaining homes of the Vedda people, who have repeatedly been forced to choose between assimilating with the mainstream way of living or maintaining their traditional lifestyle. On this nature walk with Gal Oya’s Vedda chief you will see their hunting weapons, witness how they gather honey and listen to songs sung in their indigenous language. This experience provides a unique insight into a culture which is rapidly disappearing. Finish your day with a late-afternoon game drive in the park, which contains elephants, water buffalo, deer, crocodile and numerous species of birds.
Although we do have Simply Red and Classically Red options for this tour, we recommend staying at Noel Rodrigo’s Leopard Safaris for the next two nights for a complete immersion in the ‘wilds’ of Sri Lanka. Leopard Safaris is an eco-friendly mobile camping experience based on the border of Yala National Park, just 15 minutes away from the main entrance. Live in the wilderness for two days: listen to the sound of bird call echoing through the trees, dine on traditional Sri Lankan cuisine and go on game drives twice daily into the park, accompanied by an experienced naturalist. Strict eco-friendly policies are followed here: hurricane lamps light the tents and water from the well is used for cooking and bathing. Run by a wildlife specialist with a passion for nature conservation, a stay at Leopard Safaris is an informative experience which enhances your time spent at Yala National Park. Leopard Safaris offers an all-inclusive rate that covers: accommodation (spacious tents complete with bed, w/c and shower); all meals, snacks and beverages; trekking accompanied by an expert naturalist, and minimum three-hour game drives twice daily.
Yala National Park is one of the island’s largest and most popular parks and is home to the greatest variety of Sri Lanka’s wildlife. It boasts one of the world’s densest leopard populations, but don’t expect to see them prowling through the park in their thousands – there are still fewer than fifty in this area. Yala also houses elephants, Sloth Bear, Sambar Deer and Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, crocodiles, monkeys and buffalos, as well as a wide variety of different birds. Early morning or dusk safaris are ideal times to visit, when the animals come out to the waterholes.
Leave the wilderness of the Deep South behind and journey to Sinharaja, Sri Lanka’s last remaining stretch of virgin rainforest. Prepare to be astounded as you trek through this mysterious jungle, which is so unlike the rest of the island it is hard to believe you are still in Sri Lanka. Overrun with startling exotic colours, Sinharaja is teeming with life from top to bottom, from the butterflies that flutter through the air to the leeches that hide in the undergrowth. Make your way through this muggy wilderness with the strange, musical accompaniment of gushing waterfalls, babbling streams and rustling leaves. Sinharaja is a UNESCO International Man and Biosphere Reserve, home to an incredible array of flora and fauna and 73 endemic species of birds, butterflies, fish, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Today you travel to Tangalle, a town on Sri Lanka’s picturesque south coast which boasts one of the most beautiful beach stretches on the island. Spend the next three days relaxing on the golden sands and soaking up some sun. Go on a morning boat ride deep into the Indian Ocean: set off early from Mirissa Harbour in search of whales and dolphins – the waters around Sri Lanka’s southern coastline are home to Sperm Whale, Spinner Dolphin and even the mighty Blue Whale. Whilst you’re in Mirissa, visit Mirissa Water Sports and indulge in some of the exciting activities on offer, which include snorkelling, sailing and sea kayaking. At night, head 10km down the coastal road and visit the Turtle Conservation Project in Rekawa to witness the amazing process of marine turtles nesting. Globally, all seven species of marine turtles are endangered – out of these seven, five species come ashore to nest in Sri Lanka. The ‘turtle watch’ is an incredible opportunity to observe the remarkable nesting ritual of this endangered animal without interfering with its natural breeding habits. If you can manage to tear yourself away from the sun-kissed beaches during your stay here, visit nearby Uda Walawe National Park which is home to about 500 elephants, which often roam in herds of up to 100, as well as Leopards, buffalo, deer, sloth bears, monitor lizards and crocodiles.
Your last day is spent at Villa Talangama, which enjoys a picturesque setting in the rural south-east outskirts of the capital city but is still a convenient base for the airport. This villa, surrounded by paddy fields and lotus-strewn lakes, is a haven for birdlife. Relax and unwind on the veranda whilst watching the birds flitting between the trees in the secluded garden and perching on the buffalo which loiter by the lakeside.
Located amidst the mountains of Ambewela, on a six-acre estate, Warwick Gardens is a beautifully-restored bungalow with a beautiful, solitary setting on the road to Horton Plains.
Sir John’s bungalow is a century-old planter’s bungalow that was opened for guests in May 2011 following a complete refurbishment by caring Sri Lankan owners. Nestled into the north face of the Knuckles, the bungalow is surrounded by picturesque mountains and the Knuckles wilderness
Gal Oya Lodge is a tranquil eco retreat made up of several bungalows and villas spread across a 20-acre forest. The property is edged by Gal Oya National Park and the Senanayake Samudraya, one of Sri Lanka's largest lakes. This is an escapist choice for wildlife lovers.
An atmospheric wildlife hotel with well-appointed cabanas on the fringes of Yala game park which is highly regarded by upmarket package tourists and by independent travellers.
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 Last House, so called because it was Geoffrey Bawa's architectural swansong, is positioned on an idyllic strip of land - lagoon on one side, beach on the other - on the outskirts of Tangalle. It has long been one of best villas in the south coast and also operates as a small boutique hotel. Few villas have a better beach.
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.
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 ?