Enjoyed Clayton very much. He has great potential as a leader.
Our Sri Lanka birding and wildlife tour takes us to without doubt one of the world’s most pleasurable birdwatching and game viewing destinations. This friendly island nation boasts verdant scenery, characterised by terraced tea plantations and forest patches, and is blessed with many surprisingly large national parks brimming with game and birds. These attractions, coupled with a fascinating history and vibrant culture, make this a truly exotic destination and a pleasure to explore. From the central highlands to the rich lowland rainforests, Sri Lanka is one of only a handful of magical destinations where it is possible to see every single country endemic in a well-planned trip such as this, making this extension a ‘must’ for the keen birder!
Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Wood & Sri Lanka Green Pigeons, Green-billed Coucal, Red-faced Malkoha, Serendib Scops Owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted & Crimson-fronted Barbets, Red-backed & Crimson-backed Flamebacks, Layard’s Parakeet, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Sri Lanka Drongo, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Black-capped & Yellow-eared Bulbuls, Sri Lanka Swallow, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Sri Lanka Scimitar, Brown-capped & Orange-billed Babblers, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Sri Lanka White-eye, Sri Lanka Hill Myna, White-faced Starling, Spot-winged, Sri Lanka Whistling & Sri Lanka Thrushes and Dull-blue Flycatcher.
Leopard, Sloth Bear, Purple-faced Langur, Water Buffalo, Asian Elephant, Stripe-necked Mongoose
lowland dipterocarp forest, teak woodlands, montane forest, lakes, wetlands, mudflats, saltpans
warm in lowlands, cool in highlands, chance of rain in forest areas
Yala National Park, Sinharaja Rainforest, tea plantations
Day 1: Colombo and transfer to Kitulgala
We begin our adventure in Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka. From here we journey on paved roads through local towns and rubber plantations to the Kelani River Forest Reserve. Occasional stops en route could produce White-throated Kingfisher, Indian Swiftlet, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Greater Coucal, Crested Serpent Eagle and Indian Pond Heron.
Our lodge here is perched on the edge of the scenic and peaceful Kelani River, the location where the classic “Bridge over the River Kwai” was filmed. Garden birds include Green Imperial and Sri Lanka Green Pigeons, flocks of Sri Lanka Hanging Parrots feeding in the flowering trees, Brown-headed Barbet, Orange Minivet, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Yellow-billed Babbler, Oriental Magpie Robin, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, and Purple-rumped and Loten’s Sunbirds.
Day 2: Kitulgala Rainforest
We will awake this morning to the pleasant sounds of the surrounding tropical forest. After breakfast, we will then cross the Kelani River in dugout canoes and spend time walking in the surrounding lowland tropical rainforest in search of the diurnal Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Alexandrine and Layard’s Parakeet, the shy Green-billed Coucal, and Brown-capped and noisy flocks of Orange-billed Babblers. The stunning Sri Lanka Blue Magpie gives itself away by its striking call and may be found feeding at eye-level, sometimes allowing very close approach and excellent photographic opportunities. Other scarce inhabitants include Sri Lanka Spurfowl and Red-faced Malkoha, but we will count ourselves lucky to see either of these species.
With perseverance, Legge’s Flowerpecker and the secretive Spot-winged Thrush can also be found during our Sri Lanka birding tour. Brahminy Kite, Crested Serpent Eagle and Black Eagle may be viewed soaring over the surrounding forest, while large numbers of swifts can sometimes be seen skimming the river. These include Indian Swiftlet, Asian Palm Swift and the huge Brown-backed Needletail. The enigmatic Serendib Scops Owl, discovered as recently as 2004, also occurs here, and we will try hard to find this elusive endemic.
Day 3: Kitulgala to Nuwara Eliya
Today on our Sri Lanka birding tour, we journey southwards, ascending into the cooler highlands of central Sri Lanka. If time permits, we will visit the beautiful Hakgala Botanical Gardens where a selection of localised endemics, restricted to these higher elevations, can be found. We will then continue on to our accommodation in the Nuwara Eliya.
Day 4: Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains
The surrounding highlands of Nuwara Eliya are home to an exciting variety of species and this morning we will be up bright and early in order to make the most of our time in the area. Our port of call for today is the stunning Horton Plains National Park, where we will be in search of one of Sri Lanka’s most endangered and secretive endemics, the Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush. This highly prized endemic, which inhabits the fringes of high altitude forested pools, is tricky to pin down and we will be happy with any sighting of this enigmatic species. Other exciting specialities of this stunted and twisted forest include Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Crimson-backed Flameback, Indian Blackbird, the reclusive Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, the stunning and localised Kashmir Flycatcher, here at its winter quarters and often associating with mixed flocks, the endemic Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka White-eye, the flashy Indian Blue Robin, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, the stunning Yellow-eared Bulbul and possibly Legge’s (Mountain) Hawk-Eagle.
In the late morning, we will return to the lodge for lunch and will then pass the remainder of the day in Victoria Park. Here we will search the manicured gardens for the secretive Indian Pitta and shy Pied Thrush, both on their wintering grounds. Other noteworthy specials include Forest Wagtail, Greenish Warbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and if we are very lucky, the secretive Slaty-legged Crake.
Day 5: Nuwara Eliya to Yala via Tissamaharama
This morning on our Sri Lanka birding tour, we visit Victoria Park once again for any species we may have missed. After breakfast, we will then depart the highlands and make our way south into the lowlands of Sri Lanka. En route we will keep our eyes peeled for any interesting species, which may include Jungle Prinia, Small Minivet, Blue-faced Malkoha and Sri Lanka Woodshrike.
The afternoon will be spent visiting the reservoirs and saltpans of Tissamaharama, home to an amazing variety of water-associated birds. Scanning through the swathes of waterfowl we may find the localised Spot-billed Pelican, Little and Indian Cormorants, Greater Flamingo, the secretive Black Bittern, Oriental Darter – often seen sunning itself on dead snags, numerous Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Black-headed Ibis, Yellow Bittern in the thick reeds, Lesser Whistling Duck, the spectacular Pheasant-tailed Jacana in open areas of lily-covered wetland, and, if we are fortunate, Saunders’ Tern and the endangered Lesser Adjutant. In the late afternoon, we will settle into our lovely accommodations bordering Yala NP.
Day 6: Yala National Park
Today on our Sri Lanka birding tour, we will board open safari jeeps for a full day of game viewing and birding in the fabulous Yala National Park. This wonderful reserve supports superb mammals, including healthy numbers of Asian Elephant, Water Buffalo, Sambar, Spotted Deer, sounders of Wild Boar, skulking Golden Jackal, Stripe-necked and Ruddy Mongoose, Hanuman Langur, Toque Macaque and even Leopard! In fact, Yala claims the highest density of Leopard of any site in the world and is one of the very best places in Asia to see this elusive feline.
Birding the woodlands of Yala should prove rewarding and we will search for the rare White-naped Woodpecker, flocks of noisy Yellow-billed Babbler, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Chestnut-headed and Green Bee-eaters, Grey-bellied and Jacobin Cuckoos, skulky Sirkeer Malkoha, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Jerdon’s Bush Lark, White-browed Bulbul and flocks of migratory Rosy Starling. Indian Peafowl are common in the park and we may be fortunate enough to see the males in full display, one of nature’s greatest and most spectacular events!
Wetlands and coastal areas literally teem with birds, including the oversized Great Thick-knee, Little Ringed Plover and the incomparable Black-necked Stork, with Painted Stork and Lesser Adjutant occurring in smaller numbers.
Day 7: Yala to Embilipitiya and Uda Walawe NP via Bundala NP
Departing early this morning we will continue our way westward to our accommodation in Embilipitiya. Most of the morning will be spent at the saltpans of Bundala National Park, giving us a chance for more coastal species such as the impressive White-bellied Sea Eagle, Whimbrel, Curlew Sandpiper, congregations of Black-tailed Godwit, Little Stint, the uncommon Small Pratincole, Caspian, Swift, Lesser Crested, Little, White-winged, Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns. Scarcer waders include Great Knot, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover, and Red-necked and Temminck’s Stints. Scanning carefully around the numerous pans and reedbeds in this area may produce Black Bittern, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Watercock and Greater Painted-snipe, while wintering Blyth’s Pipit may be found in open fields of shorter grass. Exploring forested strips and shallow pools we will be on the lookout for a variety of mammal species as well as Swamp Crocodile.
In the afternoon we will visit the sanctuary of Uda Walawe National Park. This extensive reserve of open grassland and scattered woodland is home to over three-hundred Asian Elephants and some scarce bird species, including the localised Malabar Pied Hornbill and near-endemic Blue-faced Malkoha. Barred Buttonquail is usually very conspicuous and can sometimes be seen in the late afternoon foraging on the roadsides. This is also the best area in Sri Lanka to observe the uncommon Jungle Cat! After a full afternoon enjoying the splendours of this reserve we will settle into our accommodation near Embilipitiya.
Day 8: Embilipitiya to Sinharaja Rainforest
We depart Embilipitiya for the Sinharaja Rainforest, well known among birders for hosting the widest variety of forest-associated birds in Sri Lanka. The Sinharaja Forest was selectively logged more than twenty years ago but has recovered well since its protection and is now the largest area of lowland rainforest in all of Sri Lanka and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We have the late afternoon to begin birding the area around our lodge. Birds here may include Layard’s Parakeet, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Crested Treeswift, Sri Lanka Hill and Southern Myna, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Orange Minivet, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Lesser Goldenback (Black-rumped Flameback), Sri Lanka Swallow, Asian Brown Flycatcher, and Scaly-breasted and White-rumped Munias.
Days 9 & 10: Sinharaja Rainforest
Some of the special birds we will be looking for during our time in this extensive forest include Brown-capped, Dark-fronted and Orange-billed Babblers, the very secretive Sri Lanka Spurfowl – usually tracked down by its call, Layard’s Parakeet screeching overhead, the migratory Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Green-billed Coucal, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, the scarce Red-faced Malkoha, striking Malabar Trogon – often perched motionless high overhead, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, and several species of munia, including the uncommon and localised Black-throated Munia.
Forest clearings will afford us views of the canopy and it is here where we will scan for the scarce and very localised White-faced Starling, while watching the forest fringes we will keep our eyes peeled for the magnificent Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Spot-winged and Sri Lanka Thrush, Sri Lanka Drongo, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Legge’s Flowerpecker, Brown-backed Needletail flying overhead, and Black, Yellow-browed and Black-capped Bulbuls. Possible mammals include Sri Lanka Giant Squirrel and Purple-faced Leaf Monkey.
A night walk in the area may yield a sighting of Sri Lanka Frogmouth, a truly outrageous bird, and we will again make a concerted effort to find the inexplicably localised Serendib Scops Owl. This area is also home to a colourful variety of butterflies as well as a fine selection of vividly patterned frogs, lizards and snakes – we may even be lucky enough to encounter Hump-nosed Pit Viper or Indian Rock Python!
Day 11: Sinharaja to Colombo
After some final birding around our lodge grounds, this morning we will depart Sinharaja and drive back toward the capital city of Colombo where our Sri Lanka birding tour will conclude.
What our clients say about tours to Sri Lanka
- BT, Sri Lanka 2013
Clayton is a wonderful addition to the Rockjumper family. I look forward to being on tour with him again. He is highly skilled, friendly and aware of the participant’s needs.SP, Sri Lanka 2013
I hope to go again with Clayton.MO, Sri Lanka 2013
Rich Lindie and Stephan Lorenz were both excellent in both birding and handling of logistics, and were ever-resourceful if a problem arose. I would gladly bird again with either of them. We saw all of the endemic species and many of the regional endemics, most of them very well, and my list easily exceeded my expectations. The mammal show was also very good.BB, Sri Lanka 2017
Loved Clayton, his bird skills and all-over knowledge of everything.Sri Lanka 2013
The guides for the tour, both the local guide and David Erterius, were exactly what I had hoped for: extremely skilled birders with extensive knowledge, who can find birds that I would never have seen on my own. On top of that, they are both very nice guys. I especially appreciated that both of them volunteered to skip lunch and go with me in search of Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, a bird I had dipped the day before. Don’t ask me how they did it, but we managed to find it and I was able to make a great movie clip of the bird. This anecdote is a perfect illustration of the kind of dedication they had towards the participants.GM, Sri Lanka