Rainforest and Big Game Safaris in Sri Lanka
The rainforests situated in the south-west of the island are amongst the richest in South Asia and make Sri Lanka one of the world’s bio-diversity hyper hot spots. The relatively small size and varied topography of the island makes it possible to be in a rainforest in the morning and be watching big game elephants and leopards by evening.
Arrival and transfer to Villa Talangama, Colombo for one night. Visit Talangama Wetland and surrounding paddy fields for an assortment of brilliant red Dragonflies such as Elusive Adjutant, Eastern Scarlet Darter and Spine-legged Redbolt and with luck two rare gomphids. Around the lake and canals we find many pond damselflies including endemic species of Gems, Sprites, and Threadtails. The list of species for the wetland is around 24 and growing. At Talangama one will encounter common species of beautiful butterflies, such as Tailed Jay, Common Crow, Common Palmfly, Common Rose, Common Sailor, Plain Tiger and Common Tiger.
After breakfast leave for Martins Simple Lodge, Sinharaja for two nights. Afternoon birding at Sinharaja Rainforest, (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) for lowland endemics and mixed species bird flocks.
Full day birding at Sinharaja Rainforest. According to a study of the mixed species bird on average 42 individual birds occur in the flocks, which makes this world’s largest mixed species bird flock. The mixed species Bird flock study of Sinharaja forest has been continuing since 1981 and is considered as the World’s longest studied bird flock study. Birding highlights include Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, White-faced Starling and Scaly Thrush.
After breakfast leave for The Ark, Matugama for two nights. In rural Sri Lanka, a ‘watch-hut’ is adopted as an elevated refuge for the farmer to protect the cultivation overnight. In retrospect ‘The Ark’ is a contemporary style elevated estate villa nestled on a raised terrain of a 40 acre estate in Mathugama, where the rubber plantation stops and the jungle begins. It’s unique and elevated sitting allows a breathtaking view of the estate, the valley below and hills beyond, leaving you in lush green seclusion. Spend the rest of the day discovering nature trails, bird watching, exploring the rain forest, photography and filming. You might want to try your hand at the centuries old art of tea-plucking & rubber-tapping, or perhaps you’d fancy a dip by the secluded, refreshing stream that runs alongside the boundary of the property.
After breakfast leave to visit Kanneliya Forest Reserve, an excellent forest reserve of logged secondary & virgin forest in the interior and forest ridges. Kanneliya is one of the last remaining large tracts of lowland rainforest in Sri Lanka. Its importance is on par with Sinharaja, with similar fauna and flora. It is a mix of logged secondary and virgin forest. Look for lowland endemic birds such as Ceylon Rufous Babbler are missing, although other scarce endemic species such as the Serendib Scops Owl are present. Mammals likely to be seen are Grizzled Indian and Layard’s Striped Squirrel. The southern race of the endemic Purple-faced Leaf Monkey can also be seen. Endemic lizards seen include the Rough-nosed Horned and Hump-nosed Lizard. Butterflies include Tree Nymphs and Commanders. The Gal Karandha (Humboldtia laurifolia) is common. It has hollow stems in which ants live, an example of a symbiotic relationship.
After breakfast leave for Kirinda Beach Resort, Kirinda for two nights. En-route visit Kottawa Arboretum, which is a lowland tropical rainforest rich in biodiversity. The Kottawa Rainforest and Arboretum is no more than half an hour’s drive from Galle. It is a part of the Kottawa Kombala Conservation Forest of 1,800 hectares. It has a wide track which runs for a kilometer or less through the gloom of the rainforest. Its close proximity to Galle and the ease of access for visitors of varying ages and physical mobility, make it a superb introduction to the rainforest. As it is also an arboretum, many of the trees are identified with name boards at the entrance. Giant Dipterocarps tower overhead, engaged in a bitter race for light. The canopy can absorb as much as ninety per cent of the incident light, robbing the plants below of the life giving energy of the sun. Seedlings lie in the darkened floor in a state of arrested growth. Some of the seedlings may look only a few weeks old, but long-term research in rainforests have found that they may be as old as thirty five years. They are waiting patiently for one of the forest giants to die and rot away or to fall in a storm. The gap in the canopy will allow sunlight to pour through and begin a fresh race to the canopy, where the edge of darkness meets the god of light.
Morning & Afternoon game drives to Yala National Park. According to the Leopard Research, under the Jetwing Research Initiative Yala Block 1 has the highest density of Leopards in the world. Yala therefore offers one of the best chances in Asia to see Leopards. You may also see Elephant, Sloth Bear, Sambhur, Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, Stripe-necked, Brown & Ruddy Mongooses, Black-naped Hare & several civet species. In the water holes you may see Mugger Crocodile, Painted Stork, Lesser Whistling Teal, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Great, Median & Little Egrets & the rare Black-necked Stork. Also drive up to the Buttuwa Tank to see the rare winter visitor, Bay-backed Shrike. The migrant bird species that you are likely to see include Indian Pitta, Brahminy Myna & large flocks of Rosy Starling flying for roost. The monsoon forest vegetation of the park is dominated by Palu Trees. (Manilkara hexandra) and the thick undergrowth is dominated by thorny bushes.
After breakfast leave for Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort, Udawalawe for one night. Afternoon game drive to Udawalawe National Park by safari jeeps. Udawalawe presents you with first dry zone experience on the tour with Elephants and fantastic birding. In a visit to Udawalawe National Park close to 50-60 Elephants can be seen and the Nursery Herd which comprise of many baby Elephants is one of the key attractions. The park is good for birds of prey and we will look for Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Shikra, Common Kestrel, Brown Fish Owl and Western Marsh Harrier. Also look for Malabar-pied Hornbill, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Plum-headed Parakeet, Common Hoopoe, Sirkeer Malkoha, Blue-faced Malkoha, Little Green Bee-eater, Barred Buttonquail (sub species leggei, which is one of the 18 sub species worldwide!), Indian Silverbill and Black-headed Munia. Also look for the migrants which include Black-capped Purple Kingfisher, Blyth’s Pipit and Orange-headed Thrush.
After breakfast leave for Ranweli Holiday Village, Waikkal for one night.
Transfer to International Airport for departure