Natural Heritage & Wild Landscapes of Sri Lanka

FEBRUARY 22-MARCH 7, 2022

 

An Introduction

 

A lot of us are already aware of the diversity of wildlife found in India, but what many do not realize is that Sri Lanka too is a biodiversity hotspot with 26 national parks and very high level of endemism – 16% of the fauna and 23% of flowering plants are endemic. This program takes you to Wilpattu National Park along with Sinharaja Wildlife Sanctuary.

But this program is not just about wildlife. We have interspersed it with cultural sites which include many unique UNESCO world heritage sites.

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2022 Sri Lanka

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Trip Details

 

Program Itinerary

February 22, 2022 Day 1:    

Arrive in Colombo. Our team at Colombo will receive you at the airport and transfer you to your lodge in Wilpattu – Leopard Trails. We have kept the remainder of the evening at leisure so that the group can recover from the long journey to Sri Lanka. Should people feel up to it you can always explore the lodge surroundings which will be abound with birds and other fauna.

Overnight stay will be at Mahoora Camp (Elite Tents).

 

February 23–26 Day 2, 3, 4 & 5:   

 

This morning we begin exploring Wilpattu National Park. Wilpattu is located on the north-eastern side of the island and because of its more remote location and still quite recent reopening to the public; it remains a much less visited park in contrast to Yala, Udawalawe and Minneriya. After years of being off-limits during the civil war it re-opened to tourists just a few years ago and remains largely unspoiled and unerringly wild for all its years of isolation. The numbers of leopards within the park are still unknown but sightings are quite frequent. It is also believed to have the highest sloth bear population in the country. The lack of crowds leads to almost private viewings of wildlife,

and the topography of Wilpattu, which is mostly made up of lakes, appeals to a colourful range of aquatic birds. Safaris here make for a very special experience; sightings may occur less than in Yala but are much more spontaneous and natural!

Key wildlife that we look out for today are Leopard, Asian Elephants, Wild Water Buffalos, Mugger Crocodiles (freshwater crocodiles), Purple-faced Langur, Sloth Bear, different species of deer, mongoose, birds, reptiles and butterflies. In terms of photography we will offer you opportunity of not just larger mammal and bird photography but also macro photography (though a lot of that will be while exploring in and around the lodge).

In the evening we propose that you explore the buffer forest around the lodge searching for the lesser cats of Sri Lanka – Fishing Cat, Rusty-spotted Cat and the Jungle Cat. As the light goes down Civets too will get active.

Overnight stay will be at Mahoora Camp (Elite Tents).

 

 

 

February 27 Day 6:     

This morning take you last safari into Wilpattu National Park. On return have your breakfast, check-out and head out to Sigiriya. Enroute to Sigiriya lies Kalawewa National Park.

Declared as a national park in 2015 this expanse of forest is surrounding the giant Kalawewa and Balalu Wewa tanks which were constructed by King Datusena in the 5th Century and is another location where herds of Asian Elephant can be encountered. The specialty about the herd in this park is the high number of tuskers (male elephants with ivory). Tuskers are a rarity in Sri Lanka and only a small percentage of pachyderms carrying ivory are found, hence the genetic structure of these elephants are unique.

SRI LANKA, NEAR COLOMBO, ELEPHANTS BATHING IN RIVER

Further the park has a beautiful landscape lined with massive Kumbuk Trees, and during certain dry seasons, thousands upon thousands of open billed storks.

We have planned an afternoon safari in Kalawewa to photograph these tuskers before moving onwards to your hotel in Sigiriya.

Overnight will be at Wild Grass Nature Resort.

February 28 Day 7:     

SRI LANKA, SIGIRIYA, ANCIENT FORTRESS, ENTRANCE TO FORTRESS AT LION’S FEET

This morning we visit the ancient city of Sigiriya. This premier historical destination in Sri Lanka designated as a cultural World Heritage Site in 1982. It is also proposed that the site should be named the eighth wonder of the

World, indicating it is in the same league as other international wonders such as the Grand Canyon and Ancient Pyramids. Translated as ‘Lion Rock’ into

English, the name of the monument indicates the way in which visitors used to begin their final ascent to the top – through the open jaws and throat “giriya” of a lion “sinha”. Unfortunately, the only remains of this lion figure are the gigantic paws, sculpted into the side of the rock. The topography of the area is flat except for the massive rock outcrop of the fortress itself (which rises an incredible 600 feet up from the green scrub jungle). Almost half a day is spent climbing up to the fort and coming down.

SRI LANKA, SIGIRIA ANCIENT FORTRESS, OVERVIEW

SRI LANKA, SIGIRIA ANCIENT FORTRESS, FRESCOES PAINTED ON ROCK WALLS IN FORMER LIVING QUARTERS

After the visit we will break for lunch before heading to Dambulla. Dambulla Rock Cave Temples (also known as “Golden Temple”) consists of the 5 caves, containing over 150 images of Buddha, goes back to 1st century BC when king Valagambahu took refuge here. The second cave, the most elaborate and most spectacular of the five, is the largest which is 170ft long, 75ft broad and 21ft high. There is a large reclining Buddha statue and statues of two kings namely, Valagambahu who took first took refuge there and did most of the constructions and Nissankamalla who later did more work. In the center of this cave is a large container to collect the water that drips from the rock ceiling even during the dry season. This place is worth visiting not only for the cave temple, but also for the beautiful view over the countryside we get from near the caves situated at around 150m above the road.

We return to the hotel in the evening. Overnight will be at Wild Grass Nature Resort, Sigiriya.

 

March 1 Day 8:  

After breakfast we continue onwards to Kandy. The journey should take about 2.5 hours.

Kandy, possibly the country’s most charming city, was the last Royal capital. Cradled by hills and surrounding a lake this beautiful city is also a holy city. Ever since it was founded in 16AD, it has housed one of the most sacred relics of Buddhism, a tooth of Buddha collected from his funeral pyre and which is now protected within the gold-roofed Temple of the Tooth. Close by in Peradeniya, beside the Mahaweli Ganga are the splendid Royal Botanical Gardens.

SRI LANKA, KANDY, TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH, IMPORTANT BUDDHIST TEMPLE

Initially a royal park, in 1821 under British rule it became a botanical garden. Here, exotic crops such as coffee, tea, nutmeg, rubber and cinchona (quinine) – all of which were to become important to the country economy were first tested. The gardens are spread over 60 hectares and home to a remarkable arboretum and orchid house.

You visit the Temple of Tooth Relic. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. It is located in the royal palace complex which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a UNESCO world heritage site partly due to the temple. Monks of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple. Rituals are performed three times daily: at dawn, at noon and in the evenings. On Wednesdays there is a symbolic bathing of the Sacred Relic with an herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers, called Nanumura Mangallaya. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present.

In the evening, enjoy a cultural show with traditional Kandyan dance performances: the dancers, will be dressed in rich costumes and will perform before you various folk dances of the country (the dance of harvest, fire, offerings …) accompanied by musicians within, is just about to begin. We conclude our Tour before the Drumming commences.

Overnight will be at Earl’s Regency.

 

March 2 Day 9:  

This morning after breakfast we depart for Sinharaja National Park. Sinharaja rainforest has been designated as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and also a Biodiversity Hotspot by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). All these titles are highlighting the importance of the forest reserve in terms of its exceptional biodiversity as well as its fragility. Birding in Sinharaja is particularly interesting since it is home to 95% of the endemic birds of Sri Lanka!

The journey to Sinharaja should take 4 hours. Check in to your hotel – Boulder Garden Resort. In the evening explore Sinharaja Rainforest with an experienced naturalist. Overnight will be at Boulder Garden Resort.

 

March 3-6 Day 10, 11, 12 & 13:   

Today we have planned a full day inside Sinharaja National Park. From the calls of birds and the rumbling noise of the Gin Ganga River to the fresh air filtered by its ancient trees, the colourful species of frogs and the bright flowers, Sinharaja leaves you in awe of nature and how species have evolved to suit the environment. It is said that in Sinharaja one square mile may have higher biodiversity than the entire North American continent. Most importantly, this area has a high concentration of endemic species. 20 out of Sri Lanka’s 26 endemic bird species, including the Sri Lanka blue magpie and the green-billed coucal, are found in Sinharaja. In addition, it is home to several species of reptiles, such as green-pit and hump-nosed vipers, and some rare species of horned lizards. Also, a few elephants and leopards and many smaller mammals including the rusty spotted cat, purple-faced leaf monkey, fishing cat, mongooses and civets inhabit the forests of Sinharaja.

 

We will be carrying packed lunch that we can have inside the park. In the evening we return to the lodge.

Overnight will be at Boulder Garden Resort.

 

 

 

March 7 Day 14:

This morning we leave for Colombo Airport by road (a journey of 4 hours). Connect on to your international flight back home.

 

END OF THE TOUR.