Sri Lanka is a birdwatcher’s paradise. With an avifauna of over 400 species of which 34 are endemic with many more being shared with the Indian subcontinent. The best time to visit for birdwatching is from December through to March when large numbers of Palaearctic migrants swell the numbers of resident birds and when the onset of the dry season makes traveling around the country easier. Sri Lanka is also an excellent place for photographers.
This is not a difficult itinerary. Distances are not great so time spent traveling between venues is not great. Transport is in comfortable air conditioned minibuses. While the lowland coastal areas are likely to be hot the mountainous interior has a far more temperate climate which should be very pleasant at this time of year.
Accommodation throughout the tour is in western style hotels with en-suite bathrooms. Rooms are either air-conditioned or cooled by fans depending on the hotel location.
Day 1: Arrive Colombo. Travel to Wilpattu NP area for a 2 night stay, afternoon birding in the park, a good area for raptors and also Leopard and Sloth Bear.
Day 2: Explore the Wilpattu region. Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Indian Peafowl, Small Minivet, Brown Fish & Brown Wood Owl.
Day 3: Transfer to the Habarana and spend the balance of the day birding around the hotel. Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Indian Pitta, Sri Lanka Grey and Malabar Pied Hornbills and Jordan’s Nightjar are all possibilities.
Day 4: Full day birding the Habarana area. Highlights could include Shaheen Falcon, Blue-Faced Malkoha, Red-backed Flameback, Indian Pygmy Woodpecker and Orange-headed Thrush.
Day 5: After breakfast we head off to the central Sri Lankan city of Kandy, birdwatching en route. Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya and look for Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Sri Lanka Small Barbet and Forest Wagtail. Optional visit to the famous Temple of the Tooth.
Day 6: Visit the Udattakele Sanctuary where we hope to find Layard’s Parakeet, Indian Blue Robin and Yellow-fronted Barbet. Afterwards travel to Kitulgala and bird the Kitulgala Village area. We hope to see Indian Scops Owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet and Spot-winged Thrush.
Day 7: Full day birding the Kitulgala village area and nearby Forest Reserve for Plum-headed Parakeet, Green-billed Coucal, Sri Lanka Hill Myna and Chestnut-headed Bee-eater.
Day 8: Travel to Sinharaja UNESCO World Heritage Wilderness area. This has the important wet forest species – Red-faced Malkoha, White-faced Starling, Malabar Trogon, Ashy-headed Laughing-thrush and Serendib Scops Owl.
Day 9: Full day birding Sinharaja. We hope to see some mammals today including Toque Macaque and Purple-faced Monkeys as well as Sri Lanka Frogmouth and Sri Lanka Spurfowl.
Day 10: Second day bird and mammal watching at Sinharaja. Other Sri Lankan endemics here include Sri Lankan Scaly Thrush, Sri Lankan Crested Drongo, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and Sri Lanka Giant Squirrel.
Day 11: Transfer to Udawalawe. Take a jeep safari in the afternoon. A good chance of Asian Elephant, Spotted Deer, Water Buffalo and Golden Jackal as well as all the prinias and Sri Lankan Woodshrike.
Day 12: After a morning around Udawalawe National Park head over to the Tissa wetlands near Tissamaharama to look for Spot-billed Pelican, Watercock and Jungle Owlet.
Day 13: Spend a full day exploring the Yala National Park. As well as having a great birdlist which includes Lesser Adjutant, Painted Stork and Brahminy Starling it is also a good place to see Leopard, Sloth Bear, Wild Boar and a number of other mammals.
Day 14: Take a morning jeep safari in Bundalla National Park. This is another good place for mammals. In the afternoon visit a nearby wetlands which has a number of shore and seabirds with a number of terns and sandpipers. Today we hope to see Indian Stone Curlew and Great Thick-knee and also species like Malabar Pied Hornbill, Indian Pygmy Woodpecker and Ashy-crowned Finch-lark. Mammals could include Sambar, Sri Lankan Giant Squirrel, Black-naped Hare and Ruddy and Stripe-necked Mongoose.
Day 15: After some local birding proceed to the Nuwara Eliya birding area. Afternoon to birding in the Victoria Park Possible species include Pied Thrush, Kashmir Flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin and Sri Lanka White-eye.
Days 16: Make an early start to reach Horton Plains NP at first light. Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lankan Whistling Thrush and Sri Lankan Bush Warbler can be found here. Picnic breakfast returning to hotel for lunch. Afternoon birding the Nuwera Eliya where we have another chance for many of the birds we may have missed previously.
Day 17: Morning birding the Bomuru Ella Reserve before returning to the airport for departure that evening.