The success of any specialist wild life holiday depends hugely on the expertise of the guide. We were therefore extremely fortunate to spend two weeks in the company of Upali Nissanka who has both long experience and detailed knowledge of not only the birds and their habitats and calls, but also the plants, trees , animals and other wildlife we encountered.
With respect to the weather we were not so fortunate as we encountered the unusual pattern that Sri Lanka has been experiencing since the start of 2011. Our advice to other travellers would be to pack an umbrella whatever time of year you go! Our bird watching was hampered by the torrential rain particularly in the north east in the Sigiriya area, but also ‘up country’ near Kandy. Bird watching round the Tanks [reservoirs] and historical sites is a real joy and we were sorry that it was somewhat spoilt by the weather. The rain also produced an unwelcome increase in the leech population and we encountered them at a number of locations. Leech socks help to keep these harmless but unpleasant creatures at bay and should be provided by Jetwing at the start of the trip.
Despite these drawbacks we saw 198 species in our two weeks of which 28 were endemics. Possibly the most exciting were the pair of roosting Serendib Scops Owls in Kelani Valley Forest Reserve. This sighting would never have been possible without Upali’s knowledge and keen eyesight; his broad grin at finding them was matched by our delight at such a rare sighting.
In Sinharaja rain forest we experienced the joys and difficulties of canopy bird watching, as, with the help of Upali and the sharp-eyed local ranger, we spotted a number of the endangered endemic species such as white faced starling, ashy headed laughing thrush and of course the red faced malkoha. On the forest floor we saw glimpses of the rare and shy scaly thrush .
Wildlife in Yala was easier to see and more plentiful and we saw 90+ species in a single day as well as a brief view of a male leopard [ along with about 30 other jeeps!] For us the colourful diversity of Sri Lanka’s birds brings possibly the greatest pleasure; for example watching a pair of Malabar pied hornbills, with the three different species of bee eaters hawking for insects and colourful rollers, orioles and hoopoes in the scrub.
This was a well planned and efficiently organised trip in a comfortable vehicle and all the arrangements went smoothly. Thank you to Jetwing Eco and especially to Upali for this Sri Lankan experience.