Group Tour 13 days from £2345 per person

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  Places Visited: Colombo, Negombo, Anuradhapura, Kandy, Sinharaja, Udawalawe, Yala, Galle, Colombo

Discover the remarkable natural diversity of Sri Lanka, from its ancient history to the huge variety of birds and reptiles in the rainforests to large mammals in the National Parks to the abundant marine life of its waters off the south coast. Starting from the Waikkal biosphere, renowned for its endemic birds, this tour visits the national parks of Wilpattu, Udawalawe and Yala in search of wild leopards, elephants, sloth bears and more. You continue to the west of the island in search of blue whales and sperm whales off the coast of Galle and experience turtles hatching in Kosgoda before returning to Colombo.

Yala, leopard

Holiday Types

Cultural Holidays Wildlife Holidays Family Holidays Honeymoons Beach Holidays Adventure Holidays


Travel Arrangements

  • Group Size 4 - 12 people
  • Internal Travel Arrival & departure transfers, internal travel by road
  • Accompanying Guide English-speaking guides and naturalists (accompanying tour escort when minimum group size achieved)
  • Accommodation 12 nights
  • Meal Plan Half Board


Itinerary for Sri Lanka Wildlife Tour

Day 1
Colombo - Negombo

Greeted on arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport and transferred to your hotel in Negombo. Stay overnight at Jetwing Lagoon or similar. Late afternoon enjoy a boat ride on Negombo lagoon to observe the bird life.

Only minutes from Katunayake Airport, Negombo is the closest resort to the international terminal and a convenient place to recover from your journey. The beach is at its most picturesque around sunset time when local Karava fishermen mend their nets and prepare their boats ahead of night fishing trips. The strip of restaurants and cafés behind the beach, Lewis Place, is lively after dark and a great place to sample local seafood.

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Day 2
Negombo – Wilpattu – Anuradhapura

Drive to Wilpattu National Park in time for an afternoon game drive. The park has a rich bird life and wildlife including spotted deer, barking deer, wild boar, wild buffalo etc. Wilpattu also has a healthy population of Sri Lankan sloth bears. Later drive on for another hour to Anuradhapura and stay for two nights at The Lake Forest of similar.

In the far northeast of Sri Lanka, Wilpattu is Sri Lanka’s largest national park, covering an amazing 130,000 hectares. The area was off-limits to tourists for nearly thirty years during the war, but re-opened again in 2009 and is fast regaining its popularity as a wildlife destination.

In addition to leopards, the park supports 30 species of mammal, including elephant, sloth bear, jackal, sambar deer, spotted deer, buffalo, mongoose and jackal. You won’t enjoy the same frequency of sightings as Yala –populations are more spread out, and less used to people. This is, rather, somewhere to come to savour wild, empty beaches, jungle and freshwater lakes – in short, a taste of proper tropical wilderness.

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Day 3
Anuradhapura (Wilpattu)

Rise early this morning and head to Wilpattu National Park for another game drive in the morning. In the afternoon enjoy a guided tour of Anuradhapura - the ancient Sinhalese capital.

Anuradhapura, the vast capital that endured for nearly a millennium from around 377BC and today it remains a sacred city as Buddhism’s initial home on the island. The famous ‘Tooth Relic’ - a canine of the Buddha retrieved from his funeral pyre - reputedly came first to what is now Mihintale, where a small but charming temple was built around a sunken water pool hollowed out of a dark, boulder-strewn hillock.

Today, Anuradhapura retains great appeal for both tourists and pilgrims. It’s the sheer scale of the dagobas which impresses most. Sri Lanka is dotted with these typically bell-shaped and whitewashed memorial stupas but the most impressive are found here, among them the world’s largest, Abhayagiri Dagoba.

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Day 4
Anuradhapura – Kandy

Drive to Kandy this morning and stay overnight at Cinnamon Citadel. Explore the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya in the afternoon. Later visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic.

The prominence of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s highland capital and second largest city, rests on its role as repository of the famous ‘Tooth Relic’ of the Buddha, one of Asia’s most sacred objects. The holy canine is enshrined in the illustrious Sacred Temple of the Tooth, or ‘Dalada Mahagana’ – a fabulously atmospheric place to visit. Three times each day, a special offering, or ‘Thevada’, takes place in the shrine, accompanied by the temple orchestra in traditional Kandyan dress.

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Day 5
Kandy – Sinharaja

This morning’s drive brings you to Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve, the largest forest reserve in Sri Lanka and a UNESCO Natural Site. Stay overnight at Rainforest Eco Lodge or similar. Enjoy a bird-watching walk in the evening. The forest is home to rich birdlife including exotic species like Sri Lankan Blue Magpie and Red-faced Malkoha as well as a large variety of mammals, insects, butterflies, reptiles, and rare amphibians.

In complete contrast to the more arid country to its east, the 34-sq-mile (88-sq-km) Sinharaja Forest Reserve is the country’s last viable area of primary tropical rainforest. The hilly area has long featured in local legends and lore. Its name (literally ‘lion king’) is believed to be a reference to its former fame as the last redoubt of the now extinct Asiatic lion.

Birders should note the striking phenomenon of mixed species of foraging bird flocks, with up to an astonishing 48 species noted on occasion. Several nature trails, ranging from gentle walks to strenuous full-day hikes, offer a wonderfully intimate, if not soggy, experience of this special forest.

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Day 6
Sinharaja – Udawalawe

Another bird-watching walk this morning before driving to Udawalawe National Park. Stay for two nights at Centauria Wild or similar. Visit Elephant Transit Home in the afternoon.

Udawalawe National Park attracts large herds of Elephants to its lakes. And for closer interaction, the park’s Transit Centre, where orphaned elephants are looked after until they are strong enough to be released back into the wild, is wonderful. 

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Day 7

Enjoy morning and afternoon safaris in the park. Udawalawe National Park is a wonderful place to see wild Asian elephants in their natural habitat. The park is home to approximately five hundred elephants. Other wildlife includes sambar deer, water buffalo, jackals and monkeys including the grey langur and the endemic toque macaque. A total of 183 species of birds have been recorded here, some of which are resident and the others, migrant. The endemic Sri Lanka jungle fowl, brown-capped babbler, Malabar pied hornbill and the Sri Lanka spurfowl are all excellent sightings for birdwatchers. Of the water birds, the rare osprey and Indian cormorant are also of note.

Dominated by extensive plains interspersed with occasional hills and rocky outcrops, Udawalawe National Park is among the most popular in Sri Lanka. Created in the early 1970s as a sanctuary for animals displaced by a new reservoir on the Walawe River, its savannah-like grasslands have an almost African appearance while slender riverside marshlands are the ideal habitat for many birds.

The largely open terrain is riddled with streams and, at least for elephants (whose surprisingly dense resident population has been estimated at up to 600), makes for excellent game-viewing. Other species include various wild cats and leopard, several deer including sambar, jackals, civets and boar. Birders are amply rewarded with nearly 200 recorded species, most around or close to several water tanks.

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Day 8
Udawalawe - Yala

After a leisurely breakfast, drive to Lunugamwehera National Park for a game drive. Drive on to Yala National Park and stay for two nights at Cinnamon Wild or similar.

Yala is the country’s oldest and most popular reserve, with varied landscapes ranging from forest, parkland, rocky outcrops, small lakes and lagoons to coastal dunes. Despite the prolific birdlife, herds of roaming elephants and chances of spotting the elusive sloth bear, most visitors come here to see the leopards. There are an estimated 350 of them – among the highest population densities anywhere in the world. Crocodiles and elephant are also plentiful.

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Day 9

Enjoy morning and afternoon safaris in Yala Park. One of Sri Lanka’s oldest and largest national parks, Yala covers an area of 1500 sq km and has one of the highest densities of leopards in the World. The park is home to variety of wildlife including spotted deer, crocodiles, wild boar, wild buffaloes, langurs, peacocks and over 200 species of birds.

When it comes to spotting Sri Lanka’s leopards, the dry woodlands and scrub of Yala National Park are unsurpassed. Sri Lanka’s leopards have no natural predators, which is why they have evolved to become so much larger than their African cousins. Around 1,000 inhabit the island’s national parks, and although not 100% guaranteed, the odds of sightings are higher than almost anywhere else in Asia.

Solitary, nocturnal hunters, the leopards tend to seek shade in the midday heat: for this reason early morning and late afternoon are the best times to see them. Guides in the parks know their most frequented lairs and patterns of movement. Rest assured yours will speak fluent English and have access to the latest information regarding their whereabouts, providing engaging and informative commentary on the species and its natural history. 

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Day 10
Yala - Galle

Visit Bundala National Park this morning, before driving to Weligama to see stilt fishing, a tradition unique to Sri Lanka. Later drive on to Galle. Stay for three nights at Le Grand Galle.

Stilt fishing is actually much less ancient than it looks. Local men started the practice during World War II, when food supplies were squeezed.

Like much else in Sri Lanka, the tradition was transformed by the 2004 tsunami, since when the locals have found they make more money posing for pictures than actually fishing. Some aren’t even fishermen at all, just opportunists posing for tips! Even so, the custom makes for an enthralling spectacle, especially for any teens, who can expect to be invited to scale a pole and pose for a snap – perfect Instagram fodder!

Serious photographers, however, need not worry.  Your TransIndus guide will know where to find bona fide stilt fishers at work on a quiet stretch of coast near Matara – the last practitioners of this quirky Sri Lanka tradition.

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Day 11

Today we have an option to visit Mirissa for a whale watching expedition (November to April) or cycling tour through Eluvila bird sanctuary. In the afternoon visit a turtle hatchery at Kosgoda. In the evening enjoy a walk through Galle city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to visit Galle Fort, Maritime Museum, the old Church, the Sun and the Moon bastions and the lighthouse.

Sri Lanka ranks among the best places in the world to see whales. Ten different species are present in the deep waters off the island’s shoreline, including the largest mammal on the planet: the mighty blue whale. If it’s the big blue you’re keenest to see, then you’ll have to plan to be on the south coast, around Galle and Mirissa, between February and mid-March, when the whales pause on their annual migration to feed on the krill that appears here at this time.

Jutting like a small peninsula into the Indian Ocean from Sri Lanka's southwestern tip, Galle is one of the finest fortified examples of the colonial-era city of its kind in all of Southeast Asia. Featured on the UNESCO World Heritage list, Galle has been a port since ancient times but expanded rapidly under the Portuguese. Later, in the 18th century, the Dutch added curtain walls and bastions linked by splendid ramparts and solid gateways. These can still be enjoyed today and form a charismatic backdrop for easy ambles around the old town, which preserves an almost village-like atmosphere, rather at odds with its modern avatar on its landward side.

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Day 12

Day at leisure.

Galle's grid-planned streets are lined with traditional houses and mansions, their arched verandas and shuttered windows offering much-needed shade against the hot tropical sun. Among them lies a charming jumble of cafes, shops and guesthouses.

For lunch, try Poonie's Kitchen on Pedlar Street, which serves organic salads, spicy squash fritters and to-die-for pumpkin, prawn and coconut soup in a stylishly decorated courtyard shaded by flowering plumeria trees. The Terrace at the über-chic Amangalla boutique hotel is a also great place to linger over a long drink or latté, soaking up the old colonial-era architecture and make time for a cocktail at the elegant 'Ropewalk,' Sri Lanka's first speciality, Arrack Bar, and Galle's latest addition to its vibrant Bar Scene, serving cocktails based on the local coconut based local alcohol.

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Day 13
Galle - Colombo

Today morning we drive to Colombo airport in time to board our return flight home.

Accommodation Options

Group Tour 13 days from £2345 per person

What's included

✓   12 nights accommodation
✓   Arrival & departure transfers, internal travel by road
✓   English-speaking guides and naturalists (accompanying tour escort when minimum group size achieved)
✓   Meal Plan: Half Board
✓   Entrance fees, game drives and nature activities listed in tour itinerary

2024/2025 tour prices for Sri Lanka Wildlife Tour

Sun 20 Oct 2024 £2345 £855 Good
Sun 17 Nov 2024 £2525 £995 Good
Sun 19 Jan 2025 £2525 £995 Limited
Sun 09 Feb 2025 £2525 £995 Good
Sun 23 Feb 2025 £2525 £995 Good
Sun 09 Mar 2025 £2525 £995 Good
Sun 30 Mar 2025 £2525 £995 Good
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