Ultimate Endemic Birding Tour

8 days in Sri Lanka

ultimate_endemic_bird_toursThe itinerary of this 08-day tour is ideally tailored for observing all ultimate endemic bird toursthe Sri Lankan endemics together with many other Asian bird specialities. This tour is slower in pace than the other tours in the category. At the most, the tour is the best deliberated tour for its price, a selection of the best localities for the most difficult birds was selected enabling a high rate of success in observing these endemics and other birds. The tour will be led by one of our expert tour leaders who are considered to be the most experienced in the country.

This 08-day tour with one of our expert guides provides excellent chances of finding approximately 165 species of birds including all 33 Island’s endemics, about 45 other Indian Subcontinental endemics and about 108 other Asian species.

Preceding day: Arrival and transfer to a hotel near airport, the hotel accommodation is included only from afternoon onwards on this day. Overnight stay at the hotel near airport.

Day 01: After breakfast at the hotel checkout and leave for Kitulgala. Check in and lunch at Kitulgala Rest House. Evening birding. Overnight stay at Kitukgala Rest House.

The drive to Kitulgala is about four hours from the hotel and would take us through lush wet zone home gardens containing small scale spice cultivations, rubber plantations, over perennial rivers and streams. This journey is your first glimpse in to the wet zone of the country and its people whose life style and livelihood which is in contrast to what you’d witness later on.

Kitulgala is in the vicinity of the film location of the classic “Bridge over river Kwai”. We check into to the rest house located beside the river Kalani which is fascinating. Villages use a dugout canoe with an outrigger unique to the island, for ferrying across the river. We will use this same mode of transport in order get across for our evening session of birding in Kitulgala forest or Kelani Valley Forest Reserve.

The Kelani Valley FR is low country rainforest containing a host of endemic birds and other wildlife unique to the Island. Some of the birds are found around home gardens and will be a fascinating experience. Two of the most sort after endemics are the Chestnut-backed Owlet for which we will head in the direction to a known stakeout of it, and then to the Serendib Scops Owl stakeout. Discovery of the latter owl by one of our tour leaders created a sensation in the birding world in 2001. Other endemic birds found here is the Yellow-fronted Barbet, Ceylon Spurfowl, Green-billed Coucal, Red-faced Malkoha, Ceylon Hanging Parrot, Layard’s Parakeet, Spot-winged Thrush, Ceylon Rufous (or Orange-billed) Babbler and Ceylon Blue Magpie to name a few.

As for mammals encountered commonly would be the Sri Lankan or Grizzled-tailed Giant Squirrel the endemic race to the island

Day 02: Full day birding in Kitulgala.Overnight stay at Kitukgala Rest House.
Today we spend more time seeking species missed out yesterday and may also venture out into localities we did not visit yesterday looking for target birds, which will too give us a chance to get a better idea of the village culture. Today we will also look out for other subcontinental endemics such as Malabar Trogon, Ceylon Frogmouth, Indian Pitta, etc. Kitulgala Forest reserve holds a myriad of Butterflies, Amphibians and Reptiles, we would not pursue in search of them unless it is necessary but as and when sightings of these animals occur.

Day 03: After a short birding session and breakfast in the morning, checkout and leave for Nuwara Eliya in the high hills. Lunch at a hotel in Nuwara Eliya. Evening birding in Nuwara Eliya. Overnight stay at the hotel in Nuwara Eliya.

Nuwara Eliya is a well known hill station during the British Raj and climatic conditions here is a total contrast from the lowlands so is the terrain and lifestyle of the people. The drive is approximately four hours but with regular stops, this could take a little longer. Off all the drives up to now, this probably would be the most picturesque, as it would take us through lush tea plantations, what the country inherited from the British. The architecture of some buildings goes back to the colonial era, so is the gardens.

After lunch we head in the direction of the Victoria Park in the town, a well known site amongst birders world over for some subcontinental specialties migrating from the Himalayan foothills. This is probably the best location anywhere in the world to see them. It is well known that the majority of Kashmir Flycatchers migrate in winter to this part of Sri Lanka, even in there breeding areas in Kashmir it’s known to be difficult observing these birds thus many birders visit this park in order to tick this species. Another interesting bird is the Pied Ground Thrush, once again a difficult bird in its breeding area. This is also good site for migrating Indian Pitta, and the country’s hill endemics such as Yellow-eared Bulbul and Ceylon White-eye

Day 04: Early morning excursion to Horton Plains National Park. Lunch at Hotel. Evening Birding in Nuwara Eliya. Overnight stay at the hotel in Nuwara Eliya.

Horton plains were discovered during the colonial period by a hunting party and named after the then governor of the Island and until recently was a popular tourist destination. Out of all days, today would be considerably an early one, as the drive to Horton Plains National park is essentially important for a few reasons. Principle being seeing the elusive Ceylon Whistling-thrush, a bird on every birders wish list, also the best time to witness the beauty of the place is in the morning. We also look for endemic Ceylon Wood Pigeon, Ceylon Bush Warbler and Dusky Blue Flycatcher amongst other hill birds.

The forest type is mountain cloud forest and nowhere else could you see such a beautiful forest type so rich. The park consists of many endemic plant species and most vital being its Orchids. Apart from floral aspects the amphibians and reptiles found here are endemic too and second to no other place, the Rhino horned lizard resembles a denizen from the past. It is not rare encountering these creatures here.

Smooth coated Otter sometimes frequent the pools and streams found here and our venturing out here very early may give the chances of seeing this elusive mammal. The mornings also bring out large herds of Sambur a spectacle seldom seen elsewhere.

We will return to Nuwara Eliya in time for lunch. And spend the evening at a few stakeouts for some target birds.

Day 05: After breakfast checkout and leave for Udawalawa in the dry lowlands. Lunch at a hotel in Embilipitiya. Evening birding. Overnight stay at the hotel in Embilipitiya

The observant traveller may witness the changing of three climatic zones as you descend gradually in to the low country. The changing life styles, industries and agriculture of the people is very interesting, if it is on a right day we may passing through a village trading fair. These trading fairs are very interesting as they would have varieties of vegetables little known elsewhere, grains, utensils used in cooking clothing footwear, and more. Usually Embilipitiya is the place where tourists base themselves in order to visit Udawalawe National Park.

On rout we visit a site for Marshall’s Iora a sort after subcontinental endemic whose occurrence in the country was discovered very recently. The evening will be spent at a wetland where Bitterns, Watercock and other waterbirds are seen on a regular basis, after which we visit a site known to have White-naped Woodpecker.

Day 06: Morning visit Udawalawa National Park. After Lunch leave for Sinharaja. Overnight stay at a forest lodge in Sinharaja.

The morning session we will visit Udawalawe National Park in jeeps. The Park has a reputation for harbouring a large stock of Asian Elephants. Also the Department of wildlife conservation’s orphaned wild elephant rehabilitation centre is situated bordering the park at a different location from the park entrance.

At the National Park we are bound to encounter wild Elephants, Chital or Spotted Deer, and occasionally if lucky we will be able to come upon small wild cats such as Jungle and Rusty-spotted Cats.

As far as the birds are concerned the park consists of some interesting raptors. Crested Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Shikra, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Grey-headed Fish-eagle are regularly seen. Montague’s Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Booted Eagle, Shaheen Falcon a race of the peregrine are also recorded.

For those birders more sort after species would be Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Sirkeer Malkoha, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Pied Woodpecker, and an array of other passerines to be included on their life lists. Also this is the best place to see migrating Blyth’s Pipit which presents a chalange in identification.

Udawalawe NP would certainly be a delicacy for birders and wild elephant fanatics as well as those interested in butterflies.
After lunch at the hotel we drive to Sinharaja. This drive is about five hours and we may encounter some birding opportunities on the way.

Day 07: Full day at Sinharaja. Overnight stay at the forest lodge in Sinharaja.
Sinharaja Forest reserves a must to any visitor to Sri Lanka for birding. Sinharaja is a tropical lowland rainforest and a renowned world heritage site. Its faunal and floral diversity is considered to be one of the highest in the world. Enthusiast world over visit this wonderful forest as it harbours a significant number of birds endemic to the island, further more insects, reptiles, plants and trees found here are unique to the island.

The chances of seeing the Red-faced Malkoha, Ceylon Blue Magpie, White-faced Starling, Ashy-headed Laughingthrush and Ceylon Scaly Thrush are the highest here and would be hard to encountered elsewhere. The unique aspect here would be to come upon mixed species feeding flocks of birds (bird waves), up to twenty plus species could be observed including some Island and subcontinental endemics. The possibility of seeing some good raptors such as Black Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Crested Goshawk and Besra would be high on the agenda.

The diversity of butterflies in Sinharaja is highest considering most sites we visited, thus we will use all opportunities depending on the interests for observing these wonderful creations of nature. Some of the more rare species we are bound to see would be the Blue Oakleaf, Five-bar Swordtail, Great Crow, and The Tree Nymph.

As for mammals, the dense Rainforests tends to keep them more elusive, but the Endemic Purple-faced Leaf Monkey and Ruddy Mongoose enters the tick lists regularly so is the endemic race of the Sri Lankan or Grizzled-tailed Giant Squirrel.

The amphibian and reptile fauna is unique too with many species being peculiar to this forest alone, and many opportunities may arise where we will see them without any effort.

Day 08: Morning birding in Sinharaja. After lunch leave for a hotel near airport to end the tour.
We will spend morning in Sinharaja, thus maximising opportunities to see the splendour of this forest and its fauna.
After lunch at the lodge we leave for a hotel near airport for dinner and overnight stay, and for subsequent departures (staying at the hotel is included until 11.00 am on next day).

Group size: The tour is operated with minimum of 02 persons and maximum of 06 persons.

With a bird tour guide –
Please inquire

Another option for a further low budget:

Tour with a well experienced birdwatching chauffeur-guide –
Please inquire

Cost for early arrivals and late departures: Please inquire per person sharing a twin room, per day. Single room supplement: Please inquire

Accommodation: Standard tourist hotels, rest houses and forest lodges with private facilities are used throughout the tour.

Tour cost includes all transport services, accommodation on Half Board basis (breakfast & dinner), entrance fees to parks and an expert local bird tour leader or well experienced birdwatching chauffeur-guide.

Tour cost does not include international flights, tipping, and all items of a more personal nature such as drinks, laundry, etc.

Please E-mail to us for information on availability and booking.

Please inquire for tailor made extensions if required.