This 13 – day Sri Lanka Wildlife itinerary visits Wilpattu National Park to see the leopards, Minneriya to view the magnificent elephants, Yala National Park to observe leopards, elephants and aquatic birds, and Sinharaja Rain Forest for its birds. In addition, visit the cultural triangle to see Dambulla and Sigiriya, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Finally visit and stay in Galle, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Welcome to Sri Lanka!
Arrive Colombo International Airport.
Be met and escorted through immigration (express check out) by VIP Silk Route service. A porter will collect your bags while you are seated in the comfortable VIP lounge. Afterwards, meet the local representative and drive to Negombo, a coastal town.
Rest of the day is at leisure.
After breakfast leave for Wilpattu (approx. 3 hours). En route stop at places of interest for local sightseeing or photography. Arrive at Wilpaatu and check into the hotel.
In the afternoon, proceed on a jeep safari in Wilpattu National Park starting at 3pm.
The unique feature of Wilpattu National Park is the existence of natural lakes, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater. The park is 131, 693 hectares and ranges from 0 to 152 meters above sea level. Nearly sixty lakes and tanks are found spread throughout Wilpattu, which is the largest and one of the oldest national parks in Sri Lanka. Wilpattu is also among the top national park’s world renowned for its leopard population
Proceed for your morning safari with a packed breakfast
Wilpattu National Park is the land haunted by big cats of the island paradise. Recording a vast number of Sri Lankan leopards, Wilpattu National Park has been named due to ‘Willus’ (natural lakes) studded throughout the park. Apart from big cats and precious flora, the park is well known for a healthy population of elephants, sloth bears, spotted deer, mongoose and water buffalo.
Return to the lodge.
Afternoon safari in Wilpattu National Park.
After breakfast leave for Dambulla (approx. 2 hours) and check into the hotel. En route visit Dambulla Cave Temple.
Dambulla is famous for the five cave temples on a rock. The first 3 caves are better, older and larger than the other two. Some caves date back to the first century B.C. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There is a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings, and four statues of gods and goddesses. Depictions on the walls of the caves include the temptation by the demon Mara, and Lord Buddha’s first sermon.
Rest of the day is at leisure.
After breakfast, visit Sigiriya Rock fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sigiriya is home to the famous “Fortress in the Sky”, known as a contender for the eighth wonder of the world, ages back to the 5th century. At its summit are the foundations of what was once a great and sumptuous palace including a garden complete with a swimming pool. On one of the stairways, the only known ancient artwork of Sinhala secular painting is preserved in the form of frescoes of life – sized damsels in all the delicacy of their original color.
Afterwards, proceed to Minneriya to view the magnificent elephants.
Embark on a jeep safari in Minneriya National Park. The most spectacular wildlife event In Sri Lanka is known as the ‘Gathering’. During the dry season when water supplies start to diminish, more and more animals congregate around the Minneriya reservoir where the grasses are rich and fertile. For several months of this drought season, different herds of wild elephants gather at the reservoir. They come from areas beyond Minneriya, and at any one time, it is possible to witness up to 300 to 400 elephants. They are not migrating, they are simply ‘gathering’, to socialize, bathe, drink, feed, and possibly mate.
Rest of the day at leisure.
After breakfast, transfer to the Royal City of Kandy (approx. 2 hours). Upon arrival proceed on a city tour including a visit to the Sacred Temple of Tooth Relic.
Kandy, the laidback capital of the hill country, and the historical bastion of Buddhist power, is built around a peaceful lake and set in a picturesque bowl of hills. Today, it is the center of Buddhism, arts, crafts, and culture.
If time permits, visit the Udawatta Kele Sanctuary. Also known as the Royal Forest Park of Kandy, the Udawatta Kele Sanctuary is located on the hillside behind the Temple of the Tooth Relic. Being a very populated city, this forest reserve serves as a vital Bio Reserve for Kandy, and extends to 257 acres. It is a home to a huge variety of plants and animals and offers lush green paths for quiet explorations. This park is famous as a bird-watcher’s paradise since there are over 80 types of endemic and threatened species found here.
After breakfast, drive to Nuwara Eliya (approx. 3 hours).
Nuwara Eliya is surrounded by hills and tea plantations. The town of Nuwara Eliya enjoys spring-like weather throughout the year. A favorite retreat of the British during colonial times, the town is dotted with English country style houses and half-timbered bungalows, with names like Sun hill Cottage or Windsor Hotel. No surprise it’s earned the name “Little England”. The Holy Trinity Church might have stepped out of any village in England, with its Gothic architecture and eclectic collection of memorials, while the “pink post office” features a clock tower. The Grand Hotel, Hill Club and Golf Club also hark back to a previous era, where tea by a log fire, overlooking the lawns with topiary and roses, might be followed by a spot of billiards.
This morning with packed breakfast visit Horton Plains National Park.
Horton Plains, known to be the highest plateau at 7,000 ft (2,134 meters), is a national park visited by tourists and a large number of Sri Lanka tourists. The Patnas in the lower parts, rising from the marshes and streams extend up to the tree-line. The trees, stunted by the wind and mist, covered with ‘Sphagnum moss ‘or old man’s beard is a sight to see, in addition the jungle is full of rare and endemic plants. The red flowered rhododendrons or the ‘Niloos’ that blooms once in 12 years, the butterflies, birds, Bear monkey, large herds of Sambhur, leopards and other animals are few of the magnificent sights around the plains. The ‘Worlds End’ and ‘Little Worlds End” with sheer drops of 3,000 ft to the plantation below and the beautiful scenery, are not found anywhere else in the country.
Afterwards, transfer to Yala National Park. If time permits proceed on a late afternoon safari at Yala National Park commencing at 3pm.
Check into the hotel and relax.
Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. It is situated in the southeast region of the country. The park covers 979 square kilometers (378 sq mi) and is located about 300 kilometers (190 mi) from Colombo. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and as a national park in 1938, along with Wilpattu. These were the first two national parks in Sri Lanka. The park, apart from being imperative for the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants and aquatic birds, is best known for its variety of wild animals ranging from leopards to elephants to peacocks.
Breakfast is at the hotel and the day is at leisure.
Optional: Morning / Afternoon Safari at Yala National Park.
Optional actvities in Yala:
Village tour: Curd making and farmer’s lunch
Bird Watching: Weerawila Lake
Bundala Bird watching: Half day
Bird watching: Lakes Excursion
After breakfast, transfer to Sinharaja (approx 3 hours). Check into the lodge.
Sinharaja Rainforest is a primeval forest for meditation, relaxation, and for scientific exploration. This relatively undisturbed expanse of primary forest is a Sri Lankan heritage. This is the last patch of sizeable lowland evergreen rain forest still remaining undisturbed in the island. The forest is steeped in deep legend and mystery. The word Sinharaja means lion king. A popular belief it that the legendary origin of the Sinhala people in Sri Lanka is from the descendants of the union of the lion king who once lived in the forest and a princess.
After breakfast, enjoy bird watching and take the butterfly observation trail.
The easiest way to enjoy the great outdoors, rich biodiversity, and lovely unspoiled scenery is along the already established roadway. The trail starts from a disturbed vegetation with pioneering species and penetrates into an undisturbed secondary tropical sub-montane rain forest. Gradually sloping terrain at the beginning of the trail makes for an easy treck.
After breakfast, drive to Galle (2 ½ hours) and check into the hotel.
In the afternoon, stroll around Galle Dutch fort.
Galle is the prime example of a fortified city built by Europeans in south and southeast Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and south Asian traditions. The Galle fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers. Other prominent landmarks in Galle include the natural harbor, the National Maritime Museum, St. Mary’s Cathedral founded by Jesuit priests, and the Clock Tower.
Day is at leisure until time to transfer to the airport for the departure flight. The drive is 1 ½ hours.