Natural Wonders of Sri Lanka

March 12, 2015 - March 30, 2015

Based on the expeditionary nature of our trips, there may be ongoing enhancements to this itinerary.

Below please find the day-by-day itinerary for this expedition. Unless otherwise noted, daily excursion options are included in the cost of the trip. We do our best to adhere to the scheduled itinerary, but in the spirit of our expeditionary style of travel we may deviate slightly to take full advantage of encounters with the destination and its people, culture, and wildlife.

Mar 12 - Mar 13 Depart USA / En Route

Board your independent flight to Sri Lanka.

March 14 Colombo, Sri Lanka

Arrive Colombo in the very early morning and transfer to The Gateway Airport Garden Hotel, your home for two nights. After a welcome lunch and briefing, spend the afternoon searching for indigenous fauna and flora in the woodlands and wetlands near the hotel.

March 15 Colombo / Negombo

This morning visit the fascinating fish and street markets of Negombo. In the afternoon explore nearby wetlands by boat to search for pheasant-tailed jacanas, blue-tailed bee-eaters, and stork-billed kingfishers. 

March 16 Colombo / Sigiriya

After breakfast, depart overland to the heart of Sri Lanka’s “cultural triangle.” Here visit Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, a huge granite monolith rising out of the jungle. This stunning World Heritage Site features the ruins of a 5th-century fortress and palace, colorful murals, and the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and fountains. Dinner and overnight for the next two nights at the pleasant Sigiriya Village Hotel.

March 17 Sigiriya / Polonnaruwa

Today drive to the magnificent ruined city of Polonnaruwa for a full day tour. A former Buddhist kingdom, Polonnaruwa is famous for its intricately carved stonework, including a stunningly beautiful reclining Buddha. As you wander the archaeological sites watch for troops of endemic toque macaques and, with luck, Sri Lanka gray hornbills. 

March 18 Sigiriya / Kandy

After breakfast, depart for the highlands, stopping en route to visit a spice garden and batik factory. After lunch in Kandy, spend the afternoon in the Peradeniya Botanic Gardens before checking in to Earl’s Regency Hotel for dinner.

March 19 Kandy

This morning visit Udawattakele Sanctuary to search for the endemic Layard’s parakeet, yellow-fronted barbet, and brown-capped babbler, among other species. Return to the hotel for lunch. This afternoon tour the Temple of the Tooth, said to house a tooth of Buddha. This World Heritage Site was originally part of the Royal Palace complex of the Kandyan Kingdom, and is one of the holiest places of worship and pilgrimage for Buddhists around the world.

March 20 Kandy / Nuwara Eliya

We then climb higher into Sri Lanka’s “Hill Country” to learn about the crop that has become almost synonymous with the island—tea. Verdant plantations stretch out in every direction and you will have the opportunity to investigate one of the colonial-era tea factories, where we will have lunch. Continue on to Nuwara Eliya, known locally as “Little England,” a hill station that was home to over 200 British families. Dinner and overnight for two nights at the splendid St. Andrew’s Hotel.

March 21 Nuwara Eliya / Horton Plains

Depart before dawn to appreciate the beauty of early morning at Horton Plains, a grassy highland plateau studded with rhododendrons and surrounded by cool, mossy forests. Wildlife found here includes sambar deer, grizzled giant squirrels, and the endemic purple-faced leaf monkey. Also keep an eye out for avian endemics such as the yellow-eared bulbul, Sri Lanka white-eye, and the Ceylon whistling-thrush. Return to Nuwara Eliya for lunch, then spend the afternoon in Victoria Park, a great place to spot wintering birds from the sub-continent.

March 22 Nuwara Eliya / Sinharaja

A scenic drive with lunch along the way brings you to the fabled Sinharaja Biosphere Reserve. Sri Lanka’s single most important conservation area, Sinharaja protects the largest remaining area of tropical forest on the island. An incredible two-thirds of the plants in the forest are found nowhere else on earth, along with all but one of Sri Lanka’s bird endemics. Dinner and overnight for two nights at the Rainforest Edge Resort.

March 23 Sinharaja

A full day walking tour of this scenic park may reveal such spectacular creatures as Sri Lanka junglefowl (the national bird), yellow-fronted barbet, bizarre red-faced malkoha, and the exquisite Sri Lanka blue magpie.

March 24 Sinharaja / Yala National Park

Today, head east, descending into the lowlands of Yala, Sri Lanka’s most celebrated national park, with lunch en route. Arrive at Yala in the late afternoon, with time for a short nature walk, and check in to the Cinnamon Wild Yala Hotel, your base for three nights.

March 25 Yala National Park

Take morning and afternoon safaris into Yala; with over 100,000 hectares of thorn scrub and coastal wetlands, this park boasts the highest density of leopards in Asia. It is also home to healthy populations of wild water buffalo, Asian elephants, and spotted deer.

March 26 Yala National Park / Tissa

Enjoy your last safari in Yala, before an afternoon visit to the wetlands of Tissa to seek out colorful wetland birds including storks, egrets, herons, and kingfishers.

March 27 Yala National Park / Bundala National Park / Mirissa

After breakfast drive to nearby Bundala National Park, famous for its concentrations of shorebirds and waterbirds. Resident painted storks and gray-headed fish eagles are joined by migrant shorebirds, terns, and ospreys, while the surrounding thorn bush supports chestnut-headed and green bee-eaters, and Sri Lanka woodshrikes. Make a stop for lunch in Tangalle then continue westward to Mirissa and check in to the beachside Mandara Resort.

March 28 Mirissa

Southern Sri Lanka is one of the very best places in the world to encounter blue whales. Enjoy a morning cruise to view these leviathans, along with the spinner dolphins that are often sighted here. 

Mar 29 - Mar 30 Mirissa / Colombo / USA

This morning enjoy a second whale-watching cruise. In the early afternoon drive to Colombo and check in to The Gateway Airport Garden Hotel for dinner and a chance to relax. Board your late evening flight, arriving in the USA the next day.