Sri Lanka Birding Safari 2021

13 - 28 January 2021

Covid 19 has affected all our tours for 2020. We have this tour still available, please contact us if you are interested. We are preparing departure dates for 2021 with our friends in Sri Lanka, who are eager to provide safe travel. We hope you support this tour. In the meantime please stay safe. 

Sri Lanka, a small island, shaped almost like a tiny tear drop, lies in the Indian Ocean is often known as "The Lost Paradise", "The Land Of Serendipity" and "The Pearl Of The Indian Ocean".  Formerly called "Ceylon", Sri Lanka, situated southwest of the Bay of Bengal, southeast of the Arabian Sea and 10 degrees north of the equator, basks in warm tropical climate, excellent conditions to house one of the world's largest bio-diversities. 

Sri Lanka is a birder’s paradise. In an area slightly smaller than Tasmania are 8 UNESCO  World Heritage Sites, 15 national parks, 350 waterfalls, a haven for 439 species of birds of which 236 are breeding residents, 203 migrants and the rest vagrants.  With tropical climatic conditions and diverse natural habitats; forests, scrublands, grasslands, wetlands, seas and agricultural lands, Sri Lanka has 33 endemic species and 68 endemic subspecies of birds with a species endemism of 11%, clearly demonstrating why this island nation is the finest birding destinations in the world. 

Sri Lanka is much more, with Asian Elephants, Sri Lanka Leopard, Sloth Bear . . . and Blue Whales. Included is a day of Blue Whale-watching as they play and feed on krill in the rich sea grounds of Mirissa.  A truly spectacular experience. 


Hosted from beginning to end by Tropical Treks owner and guide, Steve Grainger, and lead by professional guides who designed this tour for Tropical Treks - this tour will be an unforgettable experience incorporating elements of the history, culture and cuisine of Sri Lanka. 

Our guide will be by our side as we explore Sinharaja, Kandy, Tissamaharama, Mirissa, providing local knowledge and insight to wildlife, history and associated folklore of the destinations we will be visiting including (4) famous national parks and (4) UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

You will find diversity not only in birds or habitats, but in food you eat and the places you stay too. Let’s face it, I love birds and I love food, so why not combine the two!  Savour the beauty and aroma of traditional food prepared with famous Ceylon spices, and better yet, see how they are prepared.  It will nearly be compulsory to taste Sri Lankan fruit - being an island, they are always tastier than fruits on the continent. Our guide will help to select and understand what they are.

Join Steve to explore Sri Lanka, the fascinating land of birds, culture and cuisine - the birding hot spot you have always dreamt about. 



Day 1,  Wed 13th Jan. Colombo Airport - Veyangoda

You will be met at the airport and transferred to The Covanro for a much needed rest. Refreshed, shift into explore gear and get ready for the tour ahead.

Bird Species we are likely to see almost everywhere every day, include House Crow, Large-billed Crow, Spotted Dove, Indian Pond Heron, Eastern Cattle Egret, Brahminy Kite, Rock Pigeon, Rose-ringed Parakeet, White-throated Kingfisher, Black-hooded Oriole, Red-vented Bulbul, Yellow-billed Babbler, Oriental Magpie-robin and House Sparrow.

Day 2, Thur 14th Jan. Veyangoda - Sinharaja 

After breakfast, we leave Veyangoda for Sinharaja, birding en-route looking for -

Target Species: Ceylon Grey Hornbill and a selection of woodpeckers such as the striking crimson form of Black-rumped,  Flameback and White-naped Woodpecker.

Birding in the afternoon at Sinharaja.  Dinner and overnight stay at Martin’s Lodge located at the fringe of a rainforest, a fantastic location to see some endemic birds while having your morning coffee. Also, one of the best places to enjoy traditional Sri Lankan food, prepared with local produce for your enjoyment. 

Day 3, Fri 15th Jan. Sinharaja 

Full day birding at Sinharaja Rainforest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Target Species: Oriental Scops, Brown Fish, and Forest Eagle Owls, Jerdon’s Nightjar, Blue-faced Malkoha, Drongo and Banded Bay Cuckoos, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Indian Pitta, Ceylon Woodshrike, Large and Black-headed Cuckooshrikes, Blue-winged Leafbird, Orange-headed Thrush, White-rumped Shama, Indian Black and Indian Blue Robins, Jungle, Ashy, and Grey-breasted Prinias, Green and Large-billed Leaf Warblers, and Brown-capped Babbler. Overnight at Martin's Lodge.

Day 4, Sat 16th Jan. Sinharaja – Kitulgala 

After breakfast, depart for Kitulgala.  Keep both eyes open for -

Target Species:  Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Black-capped Bulbul, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Stork-billed Kingfisher.

Dinner and overnight stay at Kitulgala Rest House, an excellent example of a typical rest house established during the colonial era on the banks of Kelani river offering a picturesque location.  Kitulgala is also famous as the site of the filming most parts of the Academy Award-winning, World War II movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).

Day 5, Sun 17th Jan. Kitulgala – Kandy 

Morning birding at Kitulgala, looking for the Chestnut-backed Owlet. Lunch at the Rest House.  We depart that afternoon for Kandy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, birding en-route for -

Target Species: Brown Fish Owl, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Alexandrine Parakeet, Layard’s Parakeet, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Lesser Yellownape, Lesser Sri Lanka Flameback, Sri Lanka Greater Flameback, Brown-capped Babbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Southern Hill Myna, Indian Blue Robin, White-rumped Shama and Tickell's Blue Flycatcher.

This evening we visit Temple of Tooth Relic, one of the most venerated places in the Buddhist world, housing a tooth of Lord Buddha.  We attend the colourful Kandyan Cultural Show of traditional dance and music.  Overnight at Senani Hotel with easy access to Kandy city and attractions.

Day 6, Mon 18th Jan. Kandy – Udawattakele, Ambekke & Lankatilake

After breakfast, birding at Udawattakelle sanctuary, a forest with rich canopy and ground layer vegetation.

Target Species: Brown Fish Owl, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Alexandrine Parakeet, Layard’s Parakeet, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Lesser Yellownape, Lesser Sri Lanka Flameback, Sri Lanka Greater Flameback, Brown-capped Babbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Southern Hill Myna, Indian Blue Robin, White-rumped Shama and Tickell's Blue Flycatcher.

We marvel at the intricate artwork at Kandyan and Lankatilake temples and enjoy the finest wood carvings at Embekke temple. Overnight at Senani Hotel.

Day 7, Tue 19th Jan. Kandy – Nuwara Eliya 

We visit Royal Botanical Garden in Peradeniya, one of the oldest botanic gardens from the British colonial era, and do a bit of birding there, of course. During the World War II, this Garden was used by the Lord Louis Mountbatten, the supreme commander of the Allied forces in the South East Asia, as the headquarters of the Command.  Depart for Nuwara Eliya and keep our eyes peeled for Indian Pitta and Pied Thrush, while on the Horton Plains we’ll search for Jerdon’s Baza, Yellow-eared Bulbul, Ceylon Scimitar-babbler, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, and Sri Lanka White-eye.  Overnight at Lake View Hotel.

Day 8, Wed 20th Jan. Nuwara Eliya – Horton Plains – Nuwara Eliya 

We leave early this morning to Horton Plains to do a bit of birding at Horton Plains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Return to Lake View for lunch, then birding at Victoria Park. We will visit a tea factory in Nuwara Eliya, the heart of the tea growing region in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka.  Overnight at Lake View Hotel 

Day 9, Thur 21st Jan. Nuwara Eliya – Udawalawe 

After breakfast we leave for Udawalawe via Ella and visit Udawalawe National Park, a sanctuary for wild animals such as the Asian Elephant, monkeys, leopards and an abundance of bird species.  

Target species: Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Jerdon's Baza, Himalayan Buzzard, Black Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Legge’s Hawk-Eagle, Sri Lanka Woodpigeon, Hill Swallow, Yellow-eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Sri Lanka White-eye, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, Pied Thrush, Indian Blackbird, Indian Blue Robin, Pied Bushchat, Kashmir Flycatcher, Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Black-throated Munia.  Overnight at Butterfly Homestead. 

Day 10, Fri 22nd Jan. Udawalawe – Tissamaharama 

After breakfast we leave for Tissamaharama to visit an example of Ellanga Gammana or cascaded tank-village system, designated as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), a haven for birdlife. We bird this ancient landscape. 

Target species: Coppersmith Barbet, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Jerdon’s Leafbird, Small Minivet, Ashy-crowned Sparrowlark, Oriental Skylark, and Yellow Wagtail, Black Bittern, Yellow Bittern. Jungle Owlet, Brown Fish Owl, Indian Scops Owl, Barred Button-quail, Asian Elephant, Golden Jackal, Spotted Deer, Mugger Crocodile

Overnight at Hotel Tamarind Tree, centrally located to the Yala National Park with opportunities to see ancient stupas and birding at picturesque Tissa Wetlands.

Day 11, Sat 23rd Jan.  Tissamaharama – Yala – Tissamaharama  

We leave early today on a full day safari at Yala National Park Block 1, an open wildlife reserve, home to the Sri Lanka leopard and other major mammals and birdlife - a true Animal Kingdom. Enjoy a typical Sri Lankan picnic lunch inside the park. 

Target Species: Lesser Adjutant, Asian Openbill, Spot-billed Pelican, Great Thick-knee, and Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, among others. Yala is also home to many mammals, inWcluding Indian Elephant, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Wild Boar, Tufted Grey Langur, Sambar, and Spotted Deer. Jerdon’s Nightjar and the more common Indian Nightjar.   Overnight at Hotel Tamarind Tree.

Day 12, Sun 24th Jan. Tissa – Yala – Bundala - Tissa 

We visit Yala National Park, Block 3 or 5, then Bundala National Park in the afternoon, an extensive area of marsh and coastal lagoons. 

Target Species:  Black and Yellow Bitterns, Watercock, Ruddy-breasted Crake, a variety of waders including Pacific Golden Plover and Pintail Snipe, and hordes of stunning Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. 

In the evening we explore the ancient reservoirs (tanks) in the Tissa area to see more waterbirds, especially the Watercock and any species of bittern we may miss during our previous birding sessions.  Overnight at Hotel Tamarind Tree.

Day 13, Mon 25th Jan. Tissa – Tangalle 

After breakfast we leave for the palm-fringed coastal town of Tangalle and visit the ancient rock temple  Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara.  Overnight at Back of Beyond Kahandamodera Retreat; highly personalized lodges in an environmentally sensitive wilderness retreat.

Day 14, Tue 26th Jan.  Tangalle – Mirissa 

This morning we birdwatch at Tangalle beach and mangroves. After lunch we leave for the coastal town of Mirissa.  We explore Galle Fort in the evening, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest remaining fortress in Asia.  Depending on time, availability and what may pique our interest, there are few side attractions to take in. There will be many opportunities for photography, observing and interacting with day-to-day life in Sri Lanka.  Overnight at Paradise Beach Hotel, Mirissa.

Day 15, Wed 27th Jan. Tangalle – Veyangoda 

Today, an early morning whale watching tour from Mirissa with packed breakfast. Sri Lanka’s waters are rich in marine life, and among the most notable occurrences is the annual migratory presence of one of the world’s most magnificent sea creatures, the Blue Whale. Overnight at Hotel Covanro, Veyangoda.

Day 16, Thur 28th Jan. Veyangoda - Depart Sri Lanka

After an early breafast we leave for the airport for the return journey home and reflect on our time in Sri Lanka, Nature's treasure chest, a rich blend of religion and cultures, home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world.

Overview Of Notable Sites 

1. Sinharaja Rainforest 

The vegetation of Sinharaja is that of humid wet evergreen forest type with a high degree of endemism. About 282 species of birds are recorded in Sinharaja and many endemic species could be seen there. Many species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, and fishes too are present there. It is home to 139 endemic plant species as well. Since Sri Lanka was once a part of old continent of Gondwanaland, many ancient Gondwanan taxonomic groups of species are present and due to long period of ecological isolation many of the species have developed area specific adaptations, which resulted in high endemism. Therefore, it is an excellent place to study the process of biological evolution. Sinharaja rain forest was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage Site in 1988.  

2. Kandy 

Kandy, the hill capital of Sri Lanka is the second largest city of the country. It is famous for its natural beauty and rich historical value and cultural heritage. It is the home to the ’Temple of the Tooth Relic’, one of the most venerated places in the Buddhist world. Kandy was also the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings. Sri Lanka fully fell into the hands of a foreign power with the signing of the Kandyan Convention with the English in Kandy in 1815. Remarkably, it was the only kingdom in the African and Asian continents that three European empires, Portuguese, Dutch and the English could not capture by war during the colonial era.  (UNESCO World Heritage Site)  

3. Udawattakele Sanctuary 

Once being a pleasure garden for the Kandyan Royals, Udawattakele is a forested tranquil area surrounded by the busy Kandy city and its suburbs. It is on a hill ridge stretching from the Temple of Tooth. It has many flora and fauna species and is a famous birding site recording approximately 80 bird species including some endemics. Also, several small mammals including several troops of toque macaque call it home.  

 A few Buddhist forest monasteries are located within the sanctuary. Some remnants of the British garrisons too are present there. Some of the paths within are named after wives of British Governors posted to the country. Historical records say this practice started in 1834, Governor Horton building a path in remembrance of his wife, which was named as Lady Horton’s Drive. Udawattakele, presently managed by the forest Department of Sri Lanka, was designated as a forest reserve in 1856, and a sanctuary in 1938. 

4. Lankatilake Temple, Gadaladeniya Temple and Ambekke Devalaya

Lankatilake Temple, Ambekke Devalaya and Gadaladeniya Temple, all with intricate artwork and examples of Kandy / Gampola era architecture, are located at proximity to each other and can be visited from Kandy on a day trip. Gadaladeniya temple built in 1344 AD, during the reign of Gampola Kingdom is located at a hilltop with a spectacular view of the surrounding area. Lankatilake temple is considered one of the best-preserved sites of temple architecture. Embekke Devalaya, is the best place to see finest Sri Lankan wood carvings. 

5. Royal Botanical Garden, Peradeniya 

Royal Botanical Garden at Peradeniya is the Sri Lanka’s largest Garden set in an area of 60 hectares by the Mahaweli, the longest river in Sri Lanka. It showcases around 4,000 species, most of the Sri Lanka’s flora and representative species from the rest of the tropical world. The groundwork was set in 1821 and the botanical garden was formally established in 1843. There are many trees planted by visiting dignitaries. One with a significant history is the Cannonball tree planted by King George V and Queen Mary of the United Kingdom in 1901. During the World War II the botanical garden was used as the headquarters of the South East Asia Command headed by the Lord Louis Mountbatten, the supreme commander of the allied forces in the South Asia. 

6. Nuwara Eliya 

Set amidst the tea plantation country, Nuwara Eliya is a town with picturesque landscapes and a temperate climate. It is at an altitude of 1,868 m and is overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya was founded by the British in the 19th century and was fondly known as ‘Little England’ for its temperate, cool climate and old British inspired architecture. It was popular as the hill country retreat of the British civil servants and planters and has facilitated their past times such as hunting, polo, golf and cricket. Nowadays it is famous for the spring festival in April when flower shows, horse racing, and auto rally attract big crowds to the place. The main attractions in the city are the Victoria Park, Gregory’s Lake and the Golf course. 

7. Horton Plains National Park 

Horton Plains is a large plateau approximately of 3,000 ha at an altitude of 2,100–2,300 metres. Horton Plains contains the most extensive area of cloud forest still existing in Sri Lanka. It is quite rich in biodiversity and many species found here are endemic to the region. It is an important birding area too. This region was designated as a national park in 1988. The sheer precipice of World’s End with an 870 m drop, situated at the southern boundary of the park and the Baker’s Fall, named after Sir Samuel Baker, a hunter and explorer, are popular tourist attractions of the park. The Central Highlands of Sri Lanka which incorporates Horton Plains National Park, Peak Wilderness Sanctuary and Knuckles Mountain Range have been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. 

8. Tissa 

Tissa was the capital of the ancient Ruhunu Kingdom since the 3rd century B.C. Ancient records mention the irrigation systems in the area and the prosperous agricultural economy prevailed then. There is a cluster of Stupa’s built during the hey-day of the kingdom, still amid the town. The Tissa wewa, a part of the ancient irrigation system, adds charm to the town while being an attractive bird-watching site. Presently, Tissa is a more of a commercial town centre for the area, and a gateway to the many national parks and other attractions near-by. 

9. Yala National Park 

Yala National Park (Ruhuna National Park) is the most visited and the second largest national park in Sri Lanka and is known for the large variety of wild animals. It is a popular place to observe the Sri Lankan elephants and leopards. A popular hunting ground during the colonial era, Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and a national park in 1938. The vast number of abandoned tanks present there indicates that the area had a thriving agricultural and hydraulic civilization in the ancient times. Sithulpahuwa, a monastery located within the protected area, believed to have been built in the 2nd century BC and is said to have been home for 12,000 monks at that time. 

10.  Bundala National Park 

Bundala national park covers approximately 3,500 hectares with around 20 km beach front. The terrain is generally flat and with vegetation mainly of dry thorny scrub and sand dunes closer to the coast. It also encloses a few shallow and brackish lagoons offering a variety of habitats for its fauna, more importantly for birds. It is an important wintering ground for migratory birds. Bundala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1969 and as a national park in 1993. It is the first wetland declared as a Ramsar site in Sri Lanka. In 2005, Bundala was declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO 

11.  Galle 

Galle had been an important seaport and a trading point over two millennia and played its role in ancient spice trade and later in the famous maritime silk route. Many nationalities, Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays, Indians and Chinese have done business through Galle port before it fell to European colonialists, Portuguese, Dutch and English in that order.  The Galle fort was first built by the Portuguese in 1588 and the Dutch extensively fortified it in the 17th century. The Fort is built on a small rocky peninsula and covers an area of 52 hectares. The British took over the fort in 1796 and preserved and used it as their administrative centre for the area. It has a multi-ethnic, multi – religious population and is a popular tourist destination. (UNESCO World Heritage Site) 


1.   Fare:

  • AUD $6400 per person, sharing double/twin room basis. (Flights to Sri lanka are not included)
  • Additional AUD $1,200 for single supplement for anyone requiring a single room.
  • 10 places available
  • Maximum group size is 12 

2.   Non-Refundable Deposit: Deposit of 25% of the total fare to Tropical Treks will confirm your booking and reserve guides, vehicles and accommodation.  Early confirmation is advised.

3.  Full Payment due 75 days prior to the departure date.

4.  Late Bookings made less than 75 days of the departure date will require payment in full at the time of booking, subject to availability.

  • Accommodation.  From 14:00 on Day 1   to 1100 on Day 16
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner during the tour.
  • Air-conditioned transportation
  • Experienced, professional guide 
  • Entry fees to cultural, religious attractions and national parks listed in the itinerary
  • Safari vehicle fees (Udawalawe NP, Yala NP Block 1 and Block 3 or 5,  Bundala NP)
  • Tips at the hotels and other outdoor locations
  • Bottled drinking water while travelling, as much as you need.

 Not Included: 

  • Beverages/drinks other than water.
  • Personal expenses (purchases, laundry, telephone etc.)
  • Gratuity to Interpreter (if you so wish) 
  • Travel insurance 
  • Insurance for any photographic and/or other equipment
  • Round-trip flights Sri Lanka. 


1.   Cancellations must be submitted in writing to Tropical Treks, signed by the person(s) on the Booking form.

2.   No refund of payments of fares due to cancellations made up to 90 days prior to departure date. Therefore, all Guests are strongly advised to obtain adequate medical cover prior to any tour, to take steps to ensure that all valuables are covered against damage, loss or theft and to obtain travel insurance for loss of luggage, unforeseen delay or cancellation of their trip due to events such as delayed flights, adverse weather conditions or civil unrest.

3.   No refunds for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features should you decide not to participate fully, or should it be necessary to make changes during the tour. No refunds will be made in case of a cancellation of a private tour by the client. 


  • Passport:  A current passport is required to enter Sri Lanka. There MUST be at least 6 months remaining on the Passport before expiry.
  • Guests are required to provide valid passport details at the time of purchase to avoid cancellation of the booking.  Cancellation of booking due to not meeting this requirement may result in the Guest any costs and fees incurred in relation to the Guest’s booking.
  • Visa:  Information is available at the Sri Lanka Online Visa Application website.
  • Travel Status: Check the Australian Government Smartraveller  website for current travel status of Sri Lanka.  We will not be travelling to the Northern or Eastern provinces. 


All Guests are advised to purchase comprehensive trip cancellation insurance as Tropical Treks shall not refund on the deposit or balance payment if you cancel your participation in the trip.  We do not make travel insurance compulsory, but the 25 % initial deposit and 75 % balance payment are strictly non-refundable, so we urge you to purchase travel insurance as unforeseen events (e.g. illness just prior to a tour, or accidents/illnesses at the destination) do occur from time to time.


  • Dress code: There is no specific dress code in Sri Lanka, however recognizing religious and cultural sensitivities is highly encouraged.  When visiting religious sites we highly recommend;
    • Trousers /dresses covering knees
    • Shirts /blouses covering shoulders
    • Remove headwear and footwear before entering a religious site.
  • Check-in/Check-out times are normally: 14:00 hour / 11:00 hour
  • Wildlife Park Visits:  Any activity outside of Tropical Treks itinerary is at Guest’s own risk and cost.  You are strongly advised to obey the instructions from the interpreter and the Park Officers while within national parks. 
  • Bring:
    • Clothing: Comfortable outdoor clothing suitable for tropical humid conditions. We recommend quick-dry, light weight and breathable long sleeves and shorts or long trousers.
    • Shoes: Comfortable walking shoes, sandals, hat/cap, sunscreen
    • Personal Items: for warm, windy and rainy conditions
    • Camera
    • Binoculars
    • Insect repellent
    • Medications and prescriptions
    • Evening wear: Casual smart attire for evening dinner.
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