Wildlife Tour in Sri Lanka
14 Days /13 Night
Travel from the airport to the north-west coastal town of Chilaw, a journey of not much more than an hour. If you arrived on an early-morning flight, you can rest for a few hours and then visit the nearby Anawilundawa Wetland Sanctuary, a rare eco-system of coastal landscapes, mangrove forests and freshwater reservoirs. This is a haven for wildlife, especially bird species.
Taking a half or full day’s excursion in Wilpattu national park is an inviting way to set your wildlife holiday in motion. Wilpattu is one of the oldest and quietest Sri Lanka national parks and one of the most beautiful – a place to relax and enjoy the surroundings ahead of the pleasures to follow. Leopard spotting will be your chief target, but you may also see some of the other approximately 30 species of mammals in the Wilpattu National Park which include elephants, water buffalos, jackal, sloth beer, deer and monkeys.
Journey to the Knuckles Mountain Range, which lies east of the hill-country capital of Kandy. Named after its resemblance to the knuckles of a clenched fist, Sri Lanka’s “misty mountains” attract few tourists. Trek beside tea plantations and paddy fields, through dense forests and rural villages, listening to the soothing sounds of rushing rivers and cascading waterfalls. You might see barking deer, mouse deer, wild boar, giant squirrel and monkeys.
Today head further east to an even more remote part of the island – Gal Oya National Park. Your tranquil eco retreat for two nights is 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.
You can begin today with a unique experience – meeting the Veddas, Sri Lanka’s aboriginal people. This area is one of the last remaining homes of the Vedda people, whose traditional lifestyles face tension with the mainstream way of living. On this nature walk with Gal Oya’s Vedda chief you will see hunting weapons; witness how they gather honey, and listen to songs sung in their indigenous language. A unique insight into a declining culture. Finish your day with a late-afternoon game drive in the park, which contains elephants, water buffalo, deer, crocodile and numerous species of birds.
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.
As you begin to join the south coast, stay near Rekewa so after nightfall you can 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. Take a beach break on your second day.
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. Make your way through this muggy wilderness (leech socks recommended today!) with the strange, musical accompaniment of gushing waterfalls, babbling streams and rustling leaves.
Beach time – and your options are extensive as you spend your final three days relaxing on the golden sands of the South Coast or Galle Coast and soaking up some sun. Set off from Mirissa Harbour on your second morning in search of whales and dolphins – the waters around Sri Lanka’s southern coastline are home to sperm whales, spinner dolphins and even the mighty blue whale. Go snorkelling, sailing, sea kayaking or take a surfing lesson, or visit Galle Fort.