Sri Lanka -Absolute Birding!
A 14 Day (land only) Birding Holiday

Itinerary in brief
Overnight stay
Day 1
Arrival /Kithulgala
Day 2
Day 3-5
Sinharaja rain forest
Day 6
Udawalawe National Park
Day 7
Day 8
Bundala/Yala National Parks
Day 9
Local birding/Yala National Park
Day 10-11
Nuwara Eliya
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14


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Situated just 6 degrees north of the equator in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a delightful island with a land area of 65,610 A continental island, it had been connected to India for much of its geological past through times of lower sea levels. Despite these land bridge connections, faunal exchange between the endemic-rich rain forests found in southwestern India and Sri Lanka’s wet zone—in the south western and central hills—had been minimal. This is likely to have occurred due to the inability of rainforest organisms to disperse through the intervening dry lowlands in the northern half of Sri Lanka, which receives its rain largely by one major rain system: North East Monsoon. By contrast, the wet zone is drained by two monsoons; plus other tropical weather systems—leaving it wet almost throughout the year. 

Therefore, it is little surprising why Sri Lanka’s wet zone, covering an area of 22,000, is regarded as the only “aseasonal ever-wet region of the whole of South Asia.” It is believed that organisms in this part of Sri Lanka have got isolated for longer period of time—in an island within an island—due to the aforementioned climatic & geological facts.  

Long insularity, high rainfall, and year-round warm temperatures can mean one thing—a splendid array of endemic biodiversity! This explains why southwestern Sri Lanka and Western Ghats of southwestern India are jointly regarded as one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots in the world. Despite losing 70% of its original habitat, this region still contains 0.7 % of the world’s known vascular plants and 1.3 % of the known vertebrate animals endemic to it. Sri Lanka is the western-most representative of Indo-Malayan flora, and its abundant birdlife shows many such affinities. 

During May to September, this tour will focus on the resident birdlife  and other wildlife such as Leopards. June-mid October is also good to see the "gathering" of Asian Elephants at the Minneriya National Park and other parks nearby. Butterfly and dragonfly enthusiasts should consider April—May; August–Oct., as those periods mark the peaks for them. Those who like to see the Blue Whales should time their arrival between Dec.–April (Dec., and April are the two peak months).

The Absolute Birding tour mainly focuses on the island’s abundant avifauna—especially the 33 endemics currently recognised, and Indian sub-continent & Oriental specialties including migrants. We aim to see over 75% of the 53 or so species of birds endemic to Sri Lanka and India. This birding tour ideal during late October to April, when the northern winter migrants supplement the island’s resident birds. Therefore, this period is most likely to produce good numbers and great birding. We aim to see 230-250 species of birds during this period.   

With four game drives in Sri Lanka’s top  dry zone National Parks: Udawalawe, Bundala & Yala, you may see plenty of  wildlife on this holiday including Sri Lanka’s big three: Leopard, Elephant, and Sloth Bear. We will also be visiting the Sinharaja "world heritage" rain  forests and the cloud forests of central hills in search of the endemics and regional  specialties. 

One  of the key attributes of this holiday is its high-quality interpretive  ornithological & natural history guiding by Amila Salgado, who counts over  20 years field experience in the wilds of Sri Lanka. In addition to birds,  which are his main interest, Amila is also conversant in many other aspects of  natural history such as mammals, reptiles, amphibians, dragonflies,  butterflies, other insects, fish, botany; plus related interests such as ecology,  biogeography,  behaviour, and photography. 

Amila is passionate about Sri Lanka’s history and culture and is also  licensed to guide in all cultural sites in Sri Lanka. He will be flexible to  accommodate your needs, whether you are a hardcore birder needing just specific  target birds, or a birder with broader interests in natural history, macro  photography, digiscoping, culture, or—even—Scrabble! Looking into every aspect  of the tour, Amila will be with you in person throughout your Absolute Birding  adventure.

The  itinerary covers a variety of habitats, which include pristine lowland rainforests,  lily-covered inland reservoirs/wetlands, dry-country  big game parks, tall grasslands, thorny scrublands, dense monsoon forests, coastal  mudflats, imposing riverine forests, and misty cloud forests. As such, the tour  combines a variety of local avifaunal zones and ensures highly profitable  birding. There will be plenty of walking, particularly in the lowland  rainforests, where we will look for the endemics and mixed-species bird flocks.  These comfortably paced walks create great opportunities to spot and enjoy the  birds. Almost 95% of our walks will be on flat or gently sloping terrain. Amila  will carry his Kowa TSN 823 Swarovski ATM 80 HD telescope with 25-50 X eye  piece during most birding walks to scope the birds that stay long enough for  better appreciation. This will be particularly helpful for those new to tropics,  or for those who simply do not wanting to lug a telescope along.

The  typical birding day includes catching the early morning activity before  breakfast, a longer walk later in the morning, an early afternoon break for  “recharging the batteries,” and a late afternoon walk until dusk to focus on crepuscular activity. 

In  order to save up precious birding time, a variety of accommodation is used  closer to the birding sites visited with the aim of keeping the drive time to a  minimum and to make efficient use of the time for proper birding. These include  an eco lodge, colonial Rest-house, a family-run guest house, a safari game lodge, a star class nature resort,  & several star class  hotels fit for overseas travellers. High quality of dining experiences  complement great birding in this excellent holiday with a fine mix of western  and eastern delicacies from Sri Lankan rice and curry to western-styled meals. Your  breakfasts will be western-styled; however, the more adventurous could try local breakfast delights  such as hoppers, egg hoppers, string hoppers (comes with no strings attached!),  roti, and/or milk rice!

Itinerary in Detail

Day 01 After your arrival in Sri Lanka (at the Bandaranaiyake International Airport in Katunayake), you will be transferred to the lush lowlands of Kithulgala for endemics and sub-continental specialties. A 2 1/2 hour drive is in prospect to reach our overnight retreat, which overlooks the Kelani River—the setting for the Hollywood blockbuster in the 50's, “Bridge of the River Kwai.”

Birding: Black-capped Bulbul, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Layard’s Parakeet, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Green-billed Coucal, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Crimson-backed Flameback, Sri Lanka Crested Drongo, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Orange-billed Babbler, Serendib Scops Owl, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Malabar Trogon, Brown-headed Barbet, Brown Hawk Owl, Black-backed Dwarf Kingfisher, Crested Serpent Eagle, Jerdon’s Leafbird, Gold-fronted Leafbird, Dark-fronted Babbler, Orange Minivet, “Square-tailed” Black Bulbul, Lesser Hill Myna, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Indian Pitta, Forest Wagtail, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Long-billed Sunbird, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Oriental White-eye, Lesser Yellownape, Rufous Woodpecker, Black-rumped Flameback, “Southern” Coucal, Asian Palm & House Swifts, Indian Swiftlet, Crested Treeswift, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue Flycacther, Green Imperial Pigeon, Black Eagle & Rufous-bellied Hawk Eagle. (In a 18-day birds, wildlife and culture tour done with 2 British birders (24 Jan-9 Feb, 2009), we managed to score 19 of the 33 endemics at Kithulgala on the first 2-days. This tally was equalled in April, 2010 with a single U.S. birder.)

Non-birding highlights: Dragonflies and Damselflies: Spine-tufted Skimmer, Pied Parasol, Black-tipped Flashwing, Asian Pintail, Yerbury’s Elf, & Shining Gossamerwing; Butterflies: Sri Lanka Birdwing, Clipper, Cruiser, Glad-eye Bushbrown, Plum Judy, Blue Bottle, Red Helan & Blue Mormon; Mammals: Grizzly Giant Squirrel, Palm Squirrel, Layard’s Squirrel and Toque Macaque.

Overnight: at a resthouse or a birding lodge.

Day 02 Full day explore Kithulgala for lowland endemics and specialties with a midday break. 

Overnight: at a resthouse or a birding lodge.

Day 03 After this excellent introduction to the island’s avifauna, we will drive to the amazing Sinharaja World Heritage Site Reserve, which represents the largest expanse of lowland rainforest in Sri Lanka and the premier site for endemics. We will check into our rain forest accommodation, which overlooks the climax rain forest–just 200m from the forest’s main entrance for 3 nights. And from there, we will make several walks to the forest along former logging trails, which provide the main access to the good birding areas.

Birding: A highlight of birding in Sinharaja is seeing mixed-species bird flocks, which is a strategy adopted by birds in the tropics to maximize feeding efficiency and to reduce the risk of predation. Studied since 1981, Sinharaja’s are the world’s longest studied bird flock. On average, 12 species occur in the flocks, comprising of 42 individuals. Orange-billed Babbler and Sri Lanka Crested Drongo, found 92 % & 89 % respectively, are jointly regarded as the “nuclear-species” of the flock.  We will look for such mouth-watering delights as Red-faced Malkoha, Legge’s Flowerpecker, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush, White-faced Starling, Sri Lanka Myna, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush, Spot-winged Thrush, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Crimson-backed Flameback, Sri Lanka Swallow, Hill Munia, Besra, , Legge’s Hawk Eagle, Rufous-bellied Hawk Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Black-naped Monarch, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Indian Cuckoo, Brown-backed Needletail, Alpine Swift, and Chestnut-winged Crested Cuckoo. 

Non-birding highlights: Dragonflies: Asian Skimmer, Marsh Skimmer, Sapphire Flutterer, Wall’s Grappletail, Dark-glittering Threadtail, and Jungle Threadtail; Butterflies: Giant King Crow, Tawny Rajah, Red-spot Duke, Five-bar Swordtail (seasonal), Great Eggfly, Rustic, Three-spot Grass Yellow, One-spot Grass Yellow (seasonal), Tailed Jay, Blue Glassy Tiger, and Sri Lanka Tree Nymph; Botany: Ant plant, 45m canopy giants of various Dipterocarp species, and the alien Bamboo orchid; Mammals: “Western” Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Red Slender Loris (if lucky), Giant Squirrel, Layard’s Squirrel, and Dusky-striped Squirrel.

Overnight: at a family-run guest house just 200 m from the virgin forest.

Day 04-05 Full day birding in  Sinharaja for lowland and peripheral patches for endemics/mixed species bird  flocks. 

Overnight: at a family-run guest house just 200 m from the virgin forest.

Day 06 In the morning, we will explore several patches in the periphery of the reserve, before driving to the dry lowlands of Udawalawe National Park, where a totally different avi-fauna await us. We will check in to our cosy game lodge accommodation, and after a tasty Sri Lankan rice and curry lunch (& other food options for those not into curries), we will board an “open topped” safari jeep and visit Udawalawe National Park. This dry zone park is made up with open grasslands interspersed with shrubs and trees, gallery forests, smaller water hols, monsoon forests, vast freshwater bodies to name a few. As such the park will provide an excellent introduction to dry zone birding; therefore today’s birding will see steep rise in our bird tally. 

In  addition to excellent birding, a visit to Udawalawe would also present a good  opportunity to observe Asian Elephant, which are found in good numbers in the  park.

Birding: Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Blue-faced Malkoha, Sirkeer Malkoha, Malabar  Pied Hornbill, Green Bee-eater, Coppersmith Barbet, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Tawny-bellied  Babbler, Indian Robin, Brown Fish Owl, Indian Scops Owl, Rosy Starling,  Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Jungle Prinia, Baya Weaver, Streaked Weaver,  Black-headed Munia, Indian Silverbill, Plum-headed Parakeet, Oriental Darter,  Paddyfield Pipit, Richard's Pipit & Blyth’s Pipit, Jerdon’s Bushlark,  Oriental Skylark, Ashy-crowned Sparrow Lark, Lesser Cuckoo, Grey-bellied  Cuckoo, Orange-headed Thrush, Barred Buttonquail, “Indian” Red-rumped Swallow,  White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, Pied Kingfisher, Spot-billed  Pelican, Woolly-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Painted Stork, Pallid Harrier,  Western Marsh Harrier, Osprey, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Crested Hawk Eagle,  Common Kestrel, Black-shouldered Kite, and Grey-headed Fish Eagle.

Non-birding highlights: Dragonflies: Variable Flutterer, Dancing Dropwing,  Wandering Glider, Foggy-winged Twister, Scarlet Basker, Blue Percher, Blue  Pursuer, and Oriental Scarlet; Butterflies: Lime Butterfly, Blue Wanderer, Plain  Tiger, Glassy Tiger, Blue Tiger, Tamil Bushbrown, Small Salmon Arab, Pioneer,  Crimson Rose, Common Rose, Common Gull, Common Jezebel, Tawny Coster, Common  Cerulean, Grey Pansy, Lemon Pansy, Peacock Pansy, Lemon Emigrant, & Psyche;  Mammals: Asian Elephant, which is present in fair numbers in this park, Golden  Jackal, Wild Boar, Wild Buffalo, Ruddy Mongoose, Jungle Cat & Spotted Deer. 

Overnight: in a game lodge just 15 minutes from the park's entrance.

Day 07 Today we will penetrate deeper  into the dry zone and reach Tissamaharama (affectionately, Tissa!), which lies  superimposed on the ancient provincial capital of “Magama,” with its stupas,  inscriptions, and ancient man-made “tanks” (reservoirs) some of which date back  to the 3rd century B.C.! Some of these lily & reed covered tanks—evidence  of a once thriving hydraulic civilization—are excellent for birding. En route,  we will pause at several hotspots known to Amila looking for among other things,  the newly re-discovered breeding resident, White-tailed Iora. Amila was the  first guide to show this speciality to an overseas birding audience, which he  did in Dec, 2007. 

Thereafter,  we will visit two of the tanks at Tissa, until dusk. Finally, we will reach our  comfortable nature resort, nestled in a quaint dry zone village, where we will  be based for three nights. 

Birding: Cotton Pygmy-goose, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Yellow Bittern, Black  Bittern, Purple Swamphen, Purple Heron, Painted Stork, Cotton Pygmy-goose,  Watercock, “Western” Black-tailed Gotwit, Black-winged Stilt, Pintail Snipe,  Indian Pygmy Woodpecker, Ashy Woodswallow, White-naped Woodpecker, Jungle  Owlet, Indian Scops Owl, White-rumped Shama, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Oriental  Honey Buzzard, Indian Reed Warbler, and Yellow-wattled Lapwing.

Non-birding highlights: Dragonflies: Common Bluetail, Painted Waxtail,  Yellow Waxtail, Pruinosed Bloodtail, Sombre Lieutenant, Pink Skimmer, and  Paddyfield Parasol; Butterflies: Lime Blue, Common Pierrot, Red Pierrot,  Metallic Cerulean, Chocolate Soldier, Tiny Grass Blue, Blue Mormon, and Common  Lascar; Reptiles: Common & Green Forest Lizards, Land Monitor, Water  Monitor, and Mugger Crocodile. 

Overnight: a nature resort at Tissa—offering fantastic garden birding,  and great lodging.

Day 08 After an early cuppa, we will  collect packed breakfasts and visit Bundala   National Park, which is  the first “Ramsar Wetland” and a premier site for waterbirds including waders. The  park comprises of large extents of dry zone scrub jungles, freshwater bodies,  brackish water bodies, lagoons, and plain old mud flats. This visit should  boost our tally with a great many shorebirds and more dry zone specials.  Thereafter, we will retreat to our air-conditioned comforts of our nature  resort for a midday break and to chill by the pool. 

After  recharging our batteries, we will explore the wilderness expanse of Yala National    Park. Yala comprise of a bewildering array of  habitats including monsoon forests, scrub jungle, mud flats, lagoons, riverine  forests, lily-covered inland fresh-water bodies, open grassy plains, and rock  outcrops. Consequently,  these ecosystems harbour a rich diversity of wildlife, which makes Yala the  premier National Park in Sri    Lanka for birds and wildlife. In fact, Yala  Block 1, comprising of 141, has close to 40 Leopards identified individually  by their unique facial spot patterns and other characteristics. This therefore,  makes this area of Yala, a premier Leopard hotspot with probably the highest  density of Leopards anywhere in the world. 

Birding: Western Reef Egret, Red-necked Phalarope, Small Pratincole, Little  Heron, Garganey, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveller, Caspian Tern,  White-winged Tern, Whiskered Tern, Common Tern, Large Crested Tern, Lesser  Crested Tern, Little Terns, Indian Cormorant, Brown-headed Gull, Greater  Flamingo, Great Thick-knee, Indian Thick-knee, Eurasian Curlew, Marsh  Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpipers, Lesser Sand Plover, Greater Sand  Plover, Little-ringed Plover, Black-necked Stork, Common Hoopoe, Ashy-crowned  Sparrow-lark, Brown Fish Owl, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, and  Ashy Drongo. (And many of the species recorded  in day 6 & 7.)

Non-birding highlights: Mammals: Leopard, Elephant, Sloth Bear, Spotted  deer, Sambar, Wild buffalo, Wild Boar, Hanuman Langur, Toque Macaque,  Stripe-necked & Ruddy Mongooses & Jackal; Reptiles: Mugger Crocodile  and Land monitor.

Day 09 This morning, we will visit some of the  wetlands/forest patches at Tissa. And as yesterday, we will retreat to our  air-conditioned comforts of our nature resort at midday. After recharging our  batteries, we will visit Yala   National Park, again, in  search of missing dry zone specials. We will also visit a stake out of a pair  of Indian Scops Owls.

Birding: Same as days 6-8.

Day 10 The day  in a nutshell: “A long drive day marked with  regular stops at key birding sites.” 

After  breakfast, we will say goodbye to the friendly staff at our hotel, and drive up  to the cooler hills of Nuwara Eliya, where several montane endemics await us.  En route, we will make several strategic stops to bag several “high-value  targets.” First, it will be a private patch of Amila holding many specialties  including Sirkeer Malkoha, White-tailed Iora, Jungle Owlet, Orange-headed  Thrush, and White-naped Woodpecker! And one thing he has experienced here is  each visit brings new species to the trip list! Thereafter, we will continue  climbing and pause at the Ella Resthouse, which faces the spectacular Ella gap, for lunch.

Continuing  our search for “high-value targets,” we will drive to a privately-owned  well-wooded birding patch holding a “few surprises.” Situated in the eastern  direr hills of the central mountain massif, birding at Welimada presents a  mixture of lowland wet zone, highland wet zone, and lowland dry zone avian elements.  One of our prime targets here is the mountain endemic, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, which  can at times, prove tough further up. There is also a day roost of a pair of Brown Wood Owls,  which may need more careful approach as they are very wary of bipeds. A special  Woodpecker is also recorded here in the form of Steak-throated Woodpecker, which  is an “Uva-avifaunal zone’ specialty”—a restricted range species in Sri Lanka. We  could also see a few montane migrants here including the highly sought-after  Pied Thrush, which we plan to see in locations further up.  

Thereafter,  we will continue our ascent to reach the cooler interiors of Nuwara Eliya  (1,890-m), the famous hill station of Sri Lanka, popularly nicknamed: “Little  England,” still bearing evidence of its colonial past with its English-style  holiday homes, a racecourse, vegetable gardens, shooting ranges, an urban park,  a few of pubs, flower gardens, and a fine 18-hole golf course to name a few.

As  we ascend, vast stretches of tea gardens dominate the landscape—a cash crop  introduced by the British which is currently the country’s third highest  revenue earner, which is followed by tourism. We will reach a patch closer to  our accommodation in time to anticipate the arrival of the ultra-secretive montane  endemic: Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, which is one of the two “endangered”  endemics. Finally, we will reach our overnight accommodation for two nights. It  is a hotel patronized by bird watchers for many years. 

Drop  in temperature (around 10-15 degrees centigrade) at Nuwara Eliya will  necessitate sweaters, although some of you may welcome this change coming from  the warmer lowlands.

Birding: Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Dull-blue  Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Woodshrike, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka  Junglefowl, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, White-tailed Iora  (aka. Marshall’s Iora), Lesser Hill Myna, Crested Hawk Eagle, Yellow-crowned  Woodpecker, Indian Pygmy Woodpecker, Lesser Yellownape, Streak-throated  Woodpecker, Crimson-backed Flameback, White-rumped Shama, Grey-bellied Cuckoo,  Indian Cuckoo, Grey Tit, Grey-breasted Prinia, Jungle Prinia, Velvet-fronted  Nuthatch, Jungle Owlet, Brown Wood Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Orange-headed Thrush,  Indian Pitta, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Pied Thrush, and Thick-billed  Flowerpecker. 

Overnight: in a cosy lodge patronised by bird watchers for many years. 

Day 11 In the morning we will combine  several of “patches” to bag the remaining montane targets. One of these is  Victoria Park, known to many, which is a fine urban park established in 1897 to  commemorate the 60th coronation jubilee of Queen Victoria. As far as urban parks go, this  should be one of the best in Asia for birding, judging by the swarms of  overseas birders that visit it during late October–early April to bag Himalayan  migrants: Kashmir Flycatcher, Pied Thrush, Indian Blue Robin, and Indian Pitta. 

Birding: Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Yellow-eared Bulbul, Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri  Lanka White-eye, Kashmir Flycatcher, Pied Thrush, Indian Blue Robin, Forest  & Grey Wagtails, Great Tit, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Grey-headed Canary  Flycatcher Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush, Jerdon’s Baza, Zitting Cisticola, Pied  Bushchat, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, newly spit Himalayan Buzzard & the  potential splits; Indian Blackbird & Black-throated Munia & if patient;  Slaty-legged Crake. 

Non-birding highlights: Dragonflies: Triangle Skimmer, Red-veined Darter;  Mammals: Sambar, and Bear Monkey—the montane race of the vegetarian  Purple-faced Leaf Monkey of lowlands; Botany: Endemic variety of Rhododendron;  Reptiles: Rhino-horned Lizard, Black-lipped Lizard and if lucky, Dwarf  Chameleon. 

Overnight: in a cosy lodge patronized by bird watchers for many  years. 

Day 12 After an enjoyable birding  breakfast, we will drive to Kandy (477m), the  cultural-epicentre of Sri Lanka,  where age-old rituals continue at the Temple  of the sacred Tooth Relic. Kandy was the last  Sinhalese kingdom in Sri    Lanka, which was ceded to the British in  1815. En route, we will pause at a tea factory to see the newly-split Hill  Swallow, which nests inside the factory; plus optionally go on a guided tour in  the factory to see the production process of “Ceylon tea.” And we will also try their  complimentary cuppa. Common Hawk Cuckoo is often heard in the tea plantation nearby,  but don’t worry if it doesn’t cooperate as chances are better at locations  further down. 

Reaching  the “World Heritage  City” Kandy, we will pause at a restaurant, with a  commanding view of the city, with its lake and the temple nicely visible, for  our lunch. Next, we will drive for a short duration to reach our comfortable  overnight accommodation, with its swimming pool overlooking a forest.

This  afternoon, we will visit a couple of patches to bag any missing targets. One of  these patches holds Spot-bellied Eagle Owl and Brown Wood Owl, among things. I  have shown these two large owls on two back to back tours done in March, and  April, 2010. Here, I have also had a lot of success Crimson-backed  Flameback—showing it as the last endemic of the 33-endemics on two serious  birding tours. 

Birding: Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Brown Wood Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Hill Swallow,  Lesser Hill-myna, Rufous-bellied Hawk Eagle (seen sometimes during the descent  to Kandy), Common Hawk Cuckoo, Sri Lanka Small Barbet, Yellow-fronted Barbet,  Layard’s Parakeet, Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon,  Black-naped Monarch, White-browed Fantail, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Bar-winged  Flycatcher-shrike, Black Eagle, Crested Hawk Eagle, Besra, and Plum-headed  Parakeet.

Overnight: A cosy hotel close to the birding sites/city centre. 

Day 13 We will check out after breakfast,  and visit the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kandy.  This magnificent garden covers an area of 147 acres, and is an absolute  botanical paradise. We will also look for several special birds here namely the  newly-spilt Sri Lanka Small Barbet, and the potential split Common Hawk Cuckoo—the  latter is an uncommon resident.

A  noisy colony of Giant Fruit bats will be hard to ignore with quarrelsome arguments  over landing rights. You will be able to see them in their thousands laying  claim to several large trees closer to the river that adjoins. 

After  lunch, we will drive to our final accommodation at Katunayake, which is  just 5 minutes from the airport. A spot nearby also holds Brown Hawk Owl and  Indian Scops Owl, and so, we will go for them, if they are missing. 

After  a farewell dinner and final log, you will be transferred to the airport later  tonight or early hours of the following day for departure, marking the end of  this excellent birding holiday. 

Birding: Common Hawk Cuckoo, Sri Lanka Small Barbet, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Sri Lanka Swallow, Lesser Hill Myna, Orange Minivet, Alexandrine Parakeet, and Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher..

Non-birding highlights: Dragonflies including Dawn Dropwing, Spine-legged  Redbolt, Blue Pursuer, Dingy Duskfly, Indian Duskhawker, Elusive Adjutant, Sri  Lanka Forktail, Pale-faced Forestskimmer; Mammals: Giant Fruit Bat aka  Flying fox; Botany: including Giant Jawa Fig, which covers an area of 1,600  sq.ft, Double coconut, Drunken Pine avenue, Cannon-ball tree & orchid house  in the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Overnight:  A transit hotel just 5 minutes from the airport.

Day 14 Departure.

This tour can be amended to include an additional site fitted into day 13 in the form  of Sigiriya. 

Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the surrounding Sigiriya  Sanctuary offer superb birding. Species recorded on previous tours include Orange-headed  Thrush, "Fork-tailed" Drongo Cuckoo, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Oriental Scops Owl,  Jerdon’s Nightjar, “Shaheen”—local race of Peregrine, Black Eagle, Sri Lanka  Small Barbet, Crimson-backed Flameback, and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. 

Sigiriya Rock Fortress—a pleasure capital of a single king named  Kashyapa in the 5th century A.D. This is one of the 7 cultural  ‘World Heritage’ sites in Sri    Lanka. The Sigiriya Sanctuary, which envelopes  this inselberg is great for birding. 

Note: Sigiriya is 4 ½ hours away from the airport; thus will ideally suit for  inclusion, if your departure flight fall on the evening of day 14, or early next  day. Change rooms/overnight accommodation will be provided as required. 

Tour Leader: Amila Salgado

Amila holds a record as the first birder from Colombo to visit Sinharaja rain forest in a tuktuk—a feat achieved to bag the ultra-secretive Bay Owl in a daytime roost in Jan., 2007. He got hooked on birds in 1989 after a school project in St Peter’s College, and made his first trip to Sinharaja the following year with a group of schoolmates, which earned him his first glimpses of the rare birding jewels, and a host of birdie nicknames. He joined YZA, a local nature club at an early age, which was the beginning of the road to turn him into an all-round naturalist. Amila is a certified “National Guide” under Sri Lanka Tourist Board. Before turning a full time naturalist guide, he was a Manager of a Wildlife tour company. He holds memberships in several local as well as overseas bird clubs, and contributes articles to their ornithological publications. Apart from birding, Amila enjoys thrashing his clients at Scrabble. He blogs his exploits at

For rates and to book  this directly as a private tour for dates of your choice e-mail: or phone: 0094-777-591155. Skype  ID: amila.salgado

To read a trip report of a similar tour done in Feb., 2008, click here

For a tour report of a "Birding in Style—family holiday" in Dec.,  2009, click here