Wildlife of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Wildlife

Tropical birds, leopards & elephant gatherings

14 days £1,895 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

Experience the incredible natural beauty of Sri Lanka as you delve into the island's spectacularly diverse wilderness. Discover the mystical ruins of Anuradhapura, learn of the Kandyan Kings in the Udawatte Kele Sanctuary and explore some of Sri Lanka's most iconic ecosystems, from freshwater wetlands to verdant rainforests. Venture away from popular nature trails to the undisturbed Wilpattu National Park and search for native wild elephants in Minneriya National Park. Soak up the colonial charm of Nuware Eliya. Enjoy panoramic views across the tea plantations of the Horton Plains before wandering through the quaint colonial streets of Galle.. Finally, indulge in island life as you relax on the tranquil beaches of Hikkaduwa.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • The beach town of Negombo
  • Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka
  • UNESCO World Heritage site of Anuradhapura
  • Undisturbed wildlife at Wilpattu National Park
  • Home of ancient Sri Lankan kings at Kandy
  • The Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya
  • Tea plantations in the Horton Plains
  • Gem stone mines in Ratnapura
  • Spot endemic species in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve
  • Visit Sri Lanka's iconic National Parks

Places Visited

Negombo - Colombo - Anuradhapura - Wilpattu National Park - Habarana - Minneriya National Park - Kandy - Udawatte Kele Sanctuary - Nuwara Eliya - Horton Plains - Kalawana - Ratnapura - Sinharaja Forest Reserve - Yala National Park - Bundala National Park - Galle - Hikkaduwa

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Accommodation
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Arrive in Negombo

Arrive in Colombo International airport, where you will be met by a Travel the Unknown representative and transferred to Negombo. Dinner and overnight in Negombo.

Meal plan: Dinner

Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, is a vibrant city that has a mixture of modern and colonial architecture that has been influenced by Portuguese, Dutch, British, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Indian styles. This is most visible in the Fort district. Other interesting sights in Colombo include the Galle Face Green, Viharamahadevi Park, Old Parliament Building and the Independence Hall.
 


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Day 2 : Negombo - Anuradhapura

Depart for Anuradhapura. On arrival take a tour of the city. Dinner and overnight in Anuradhapura. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Anuradhapura was Sri Lanka’s first city and the capital for over 100 kings. The ancient kingdom has a remarkably sophisticated history – the prestigious civilization used advanced science, technology and health care systems (Ayurveda). The city has dozens of monasteries that follow ancient teachings, practice tranquility and keep ancient rituals and festivals alive. You can see the 2,200-year-old cutting from the ‘Bo Tree’ (the fig tree under which the Buddha was enlightened). The first Buddha statues of the country and many other ancient pagodas that make this city one the holiest cities for Buddhists. 

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Day 3 : Anuradhapura - Wilpattu - Anuradhapura

Take a day trip to Wilpattu National Park, where you will enjoy an afternoon safari. Return to Anuradhapura for dinner and overnight. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Wilpattu is the largest National Park in Sri Lanka. Its name derives from 'villu-pattu', meaning 'land of lakes' after its many distinctive 'villus' . These natural depressions fill with rainwater, forming natural lakes that attract a rich array of birds and wildlife. Wilpattu lies between the Sinhalese and Tamil areas of Sri Lanka, which led it to suffer from the destruction of the civil war (1983-2009). The park was reopened in 2009, but it is still rarely visited by those travelling in the region. With few visitors, Wilpattu has become the perfect location to spot undisturbed sloth bears, elephants, deer and leopards. 

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Day 4 : Anuradhapura - Minneriya - Habarana

Depart Anuradhapura for Habarana. Stop en route at Minneriya National Park and take an afternoon safari through the park. Continue to Habarana, where you will check in to your hotel and enjoy dinner. Overnight in Habarana. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Minneriya National Park is located in the central province of Sri Lanka. The park is made up of a mixture of scrub land, forests and wetlands. It is home to around 160 species of birds, 25 reptile species, 26 fish species and more than 78 butterfly species. The Minneriya National Park is one of the best places in the country to see wild elephants and is famed for its elephant gatherings, where elephants come together to feed and bathe in numbers of up to 200.

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Day 5 : Habarana - Kandy - Udawatta Kele - Kandy

Travel to Kandy, where you will spend the afternoon exploring the Udawatta Kele Sanctuary. Dinner and overnight in Kandy. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Kandy was the last capital of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka and is one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage sites in the country. The city is surrounded by misty mountains and lush forests. The picturesque region of Kandy is home to the longest river in the country, the Mahaweli River. 

The Udawatte Kele Sanctuary is a forest reserve set on the hillside behind the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. It was formerly known as 'Uda Wasala Watta', which translates in Sinhalese to 'the garden above the royal palace' - in the days of the Kandyan kings (15th - 19th century), the forest was reserved for the use of the Royal family. The reserve is now open to the public, who can escape the bustle of the city by exploring and enjoying the natural surroundings of Udawatte Kele.

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Day 6 : Kandy - Ramboda - Nuwara Eliya

Make the journey to Nuwara Eliya. Stopping en route to see the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens and the iconic Ramboda Waterfalls, before visiting a local tea factory and plantation. Continue to Nuwara Eliya for dinner and overnight stay at hotel. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Nuwara Eliya, meaning 'City of Light', is a town in the highlands of the Central Province of Sri Lanka. It is also called 'Little England' - as, historically, the region's temperate climates attracted British colonialists who came to run Nuwara Eliya's many tea plantations. The buildings and houses in the town still retain features from this colonial period, whilst private gardens and parks continue to be maintained and manicured in an old-English style. 

The Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya lie near to the Maheweli River, just outside of the city of Kandy. Historically, these gardens were kept closed and reserved for Kandyan royalty. They are known today as the largest and most impressive botanical gardens in Sri Lanka - with over 4000 species of plants, including a beautiful collection of orchids. 

The Ramboda Waterfalls are situated in the Pussellawa region of Sri Lanka. Water from the Panna Oya tributary falls over 100 metres from an elevation of almost 1000 metres above sea level. Visitors can walk up to the top of the Ramdoda waterfall, where they can enjoy scenic views of the valley and surrounding forests.

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Day 7 : Nuwara Eliya - Horton Plains - Nuwara Eliya

Depart for the Horton Plains, where you will spend the morning trekking through the scenic landscape. The rest of the afternoon will be free to spend at your leisure. Overnight in Nuwara Eliya. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The Horton Plains are a nationally protected park in the highlands of Sri Lanka. Designated as a national park in 1988, the plateau is home to a rich array of biodiversity - many species are endemic to this region. The plateau stands at an altitude of over 2,000 metres and provides panoramic views across the lush green valleys. The park is home to large herds of Sri Lankan sambar deer, along with many rare and migratory bird species. 

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Day 8 : Nuwara Eliya - Ratnapura - Kalawana

Drive to Ratnapura and spend the afternoon visiting the Sinharaja Rainforest. Overnight in Kalawana. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The city of Ratnapura lies in the valleys between Adam's Peak and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Ratnapura translates to 'City of Gems', as the city's wet and humid climate has created the perfect environment for developing precious gem stones. This has resulted in Ratnapura becoming an important trading centre. Today, it is home to many gem mines, museums and markets, where visitors can learn more about the local industry. 

Sinharaja Forest Reserve is situated in the wetlands of Sri Lanka and is considered to be one of the last undisturbed areas of rainforest on the island. Sinharaja has a rich array of flora and fauna, where over 60% of the trees and 50% of the animals are thought to be endemic species. The tropical rainforest has been declared a protected UNESCO site, which visitors can only access and explore by foot. Some of the species spotted in Sinharaja Forest Reserve include the purple-faced langur and orange-billed babbler.

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Day 9 : Kalawana - Yala

Spend the morning travelling to Yala National Park. On arrival, spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Overnight in Yala.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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Day 10 : Yala

Enjoy a full day of exploring Yala as you embark on safari drives through the National Park. Dinner and overnight in Yala.  

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Yala National Park is one of the most impressive national parks in Sri Lanka. The park spans 979 sq. km. and consists of five blocks, two of which are open to the public. It is famous for having the highest leopard density in the world, as well as for the conservation of elephants and aquatic birds. It is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas of the country, being home to over 200 different bird species. Yala's ecosystems range from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. Two important pilgrim sites are also located within the park, Sithulpahuwa and Magul Vihara.

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Day 11 : Yala - Bundala - Yala

Travel to Bundala National Park, where you will look out for rare birds on a safari through the jungle. Later, return to Yala National Park for dinner. Overnight in Yala. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Bundala National Park lies along the coast of Sri Lanka, spanning 20km from Kirinda to Hambantota. Bundala is quieter than many other national parks in Sri Lanka, yet it is open all year round to visitors exploring the island. The park supports a unique ecosystem. Its jungles, lagoons and coastal stretches are home to an array of endemic and rare species. Bundala attracts a remarkable variety of aquatic and migratory birds including flocks of greater flamingoes and Indian peafowl. The national park is also known for its growing turtle population, which lay their eggs along Bundala's many beaches. 

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Day 12 : Yala - Galle - Hikkaduwa

Drive to Hikkaduwa, stopping en route in Galle. Enjoy taking a tour of the city before continuing your journey. Dinner and overnight in Hikkaduwa. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

In 1505, the Portuguese anchored in Galle, ruling for 135 years before they were defeated by the Dutch, who then went on to build the UNESCO-listed Galle Fort. In 1796, the British took over from the Dutch and made the Galle Fort their headquarters. Evidence of this rich history can be found in the quaint colonial-style architecture and old-world charm of Galle Fort. A city of trade and art, Galle is full of little boutique shops selling antique jewellery, collectibles and hand woven garments. 

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Day 13 : Hikkaduwa

Enjoy a free day which you can spend at your leisure, either relaxing on the beach, at your hotel, or exploring your surroundings. Overnight in Hikkaduwa. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The small town of Hikkaduwa lies in southern Sri Lanka. Nestled on the coast, Hikkaduwa is famed for its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters and colourful coral reefs. This tranquil seaside town is the perfect location for surfing, snorkeling and relaxing.

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Day 14 : Departure

Transfer to Colombo International airport for your departure flight. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation Title

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Arie Lagoon

The Arie Lagoon in Negombo is a luxury hotel nestled between the shimmering waters of the lagoon and the vast Indian Ocean, in the fishing village of Thalahena. The Banana Prawn restaurant offers a wide range of dishes, including succulent seafood and Sri Lankan favorites. The hotel also offers 3 bars, so you will never be short on choice of where to sit and have a drink on an evening. 

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Rajarata Hotel

The Rajarata Hotel is located within the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka in Anuradhapura. The bedrooms are equipped with modern amenities that offer guests a comfortable stay. The on-site restaurant offers traditional Sri Lankan and international cuisine options. Guests can also choose to relax in the bar area or hotel swimming pool.

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Cinnamon Lodge

Nestled amidst lush green forests, Cinnamon Lodge provides a comfortable and relaxing retreat for guests, complete with a large outdoor pool, spa and butterfly garden. There are multiple dining options available onsite: Restaurant Ehala and The Lotus offer international and local cuisine, whilst guests can enjoy a traditional tea at the Veranda and relax in the Tuskers Bar.

Visit hotel's site
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Earls Regent Hotel

The Earls Regent Hotel is nestled in the lush forests and hills of Kandy. It has been decorated in a modern style that also hints towards its Sri Lankan heritage. Each bedroom offers air conditioning, wifi and satellite television to guests, along with traditional Sri Lankan tea. There is a choice of three dining venues - the main restaurant offers an international buffet, Regent Bar & Lounge provides a more relaxed environment for drinks and snacks, whilst the Fine Dining Restaurant serves a variety of A la Carte options. Guests are also welcome to use the hotel swimming pool, spa and fitness facilities during their stay. 

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St. Andrew's Hotel

St. Andrew's Hotel is situated amongst the tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya. The former country house still very much displays a sense of colonial elegance and old world charm. The bedrooms have similarly been decorated in an old-English style and are fitted with necessary modern comforts including air-conditioning and satellite television. Guests can either dine in the Old Course Restaurant or choose to enjoy the more informal atmosphere of the Road Hole Bar. Other hotel facilities include access to wifi, a Snooker room and a neighbouring golf course. 

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Rainforest Edge

Rainforest Edge offers a tranquil space to relax in the remote Kalawana region. The decor has been inspired by its rural setting. The bedrooms are spacious and fitted with modern amenities to allow for a relaxing stay. The on-site restaurant serves a variety of local and traditional Sri Lankan dishes to guests. Rainforest Edge also has an infinity swimming pool, which boats panoramic views across the surrounding rainforests and valleys. 

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Grand Tamarind Lake

Stay lakeside in intimate luxury in a region renowned for its natural beauty and breathtaking safaris. Tamarind Lake in southern Sri Lanka is perfectly positioned within reach of the untamed wildlife of Yala National Park, and each room looks out over the serene expanse of Detagamuwa Lake. The hotel also has a restaurant offering local delights as well as dishes from around the globe. 

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Citrus Hikkaduwa Hotel

Citrus Hikkaduwa Hotel is the perfect place from which to explore the surrounding countryside and beaches of Hikkaduwa. Its interior has a simple, yet contemporary design. The spacious bedrooms are fitted with modern facilities to allow for a comfortable stay. Guests can dine at Lemon Fish, the hotel restaurant, and enjoy an evening of relaxed drinks at the bar, Summer Salt. The hotel also has an on site spa and a swimming pool, which provides guests with picturesque views across the sea.

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Reviews

I'm delighted with all the trips that I have arranged through Travel the Unknown for myself and a couple of friends. We've stayed in some wonderful places and have had exceptional encounters with local people. Our guide was very good about checking in with us about what we wanted to do.

Joan Edmunds (USA) , Tailormade Sri Lanka
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