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Sri Lanka Safari


Unearth a region of wild delights and rich biodiversity through the depths of Sri Lanka’s forests and national parks. With safaris on land, water, and by foot, you’ll have the best chance of spotting some of Sri Lanka's iconic wildlife, including herds of native elephants in their natural habitat, leopards, thousands of birds, slender lorises, monkeys, crocodiles, buffalo, deer and jackals. You’ll also see the epic UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sigiriya, exploring the ruined fortress. Couple these experiences with a cruise on a natural lake, some delicious local food and a night spent in an eco-lodge among the sounds of the forest, and you’ll delight on a wildlife-focused and nature-filled itinerary in one of Asia’s best selections of jungle and forest.

12 days, from

$3,303

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: HPKW
Style: Comfort
Theme: Wildlife

Details

Countries Visited:  Sri Lanka
Accommodation: Permanent Tented Camp (with facilities) (1 night), Eco Lodge (1 night), Hotel (9 nights)
Transportation: Private vehicle
Included Meals:

  • 11 breakfasts
  • 1 lunches
  • 4 dinners

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12

  • Head out on multiple safaris in 4WDs through Wilpattu, Minneriya, Gal Oya, Kumuna and Yala National Parks, looking out for herds of native elephants, leopards, buffalo, deer, crocodiles, hundreds of species of birds and more.

  • Don infrared night goggles and witness sea turtles coming ashore at Rekawa beach to lay their eggs while hatchlings dash down to the water to start their new life.

  • Visit Singharaja Forest Reserve – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and spend the night in a nearby lodge in the misty rainforest. Head out on nature walks here, looking out for butterflies, jackals, big cats, wild boars and toque monkeys.

  • Explore the biodiverse Anawilundawa Bird Sanctuary, unique due to its three vastly different ecosystems – the coast, the mangroves and the freshwater tanks.

  • See the incredible site of Sigiriya – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this ruined fortress is one of Sri Lanka's most famous spots. Discover the ruins among thousands of birds, who thrive in the surrounding forests.

  • By travelling on this trip, you’ll directly support our Intrepid Foundation partner, Zero Plastic. Donations help them educate Sri Lankan communities about the impact of plastic on the environment and reduce plastic pollution in the UNESCO-listed Sigiriya.

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Negombo

Ayubowan! Welcome to Sri Lanka. You’ll be met at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo and transferred to your hotel in nearby Negombo, where your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early, maybe relax on the golden sand beaches and soak up some sun or feast on fresh seafood. The surrounding countryside is also perfect to explore on a bicycle (which you can rent with help from hotel reception). Tonight, maybe ask your trip leader for the best local restaurants for dinner.

Day 2: Wilpattu National Park

Drive to Wilpattu this morning, visiting Anawilundawa Bird Sanctuary on the way. Anawilundawa is unique because it borders three vastly different ecosystems – the coast, the mangroves and the freshwater tanks. This makes it one of the six RAMSAR Wetlands in Sri Lanka and a favourable nesting and breeding ground for hundreds of species of birds. Some of the species found here include herons, open-bills, great cormorants, white ibis, egrets, stalks, pheasant-tailed jacnas and the purple swamp hen. A total of 20 species of mammals have been recorded here, too, including the rusty-spotted cat, the fishing cat, the Indian otter, the slender loris, the toque monkey and 74 species of butterflies. Continue to Wilpattu and when you arrive, set out for an evening safari in the national park. This thick, dry jungle features floodplain lakes and boasts an impressive variety of flora in the huge expanses of forest. Look out for deer, elephants, wild boar, sloth bears and leopards.

Day 3: Habarana

Set off after breakfast this morning for Dambulla. On the way, visit the Vessagiriya Aramaic Complex in Anuradhapura – where 500 monks lived during the reign of the Anuradhapura kingdom. Explore the caves and then carry on to Minneriya National Park for an afternoon safari. Home to Sri Lankan elephants and Sri Lankan sloth bears, Minneriya is said to be the best national park in the world for spotting elephants in large herds in their natural habitat (between July and August is your best bet). Tonight, you’ll drive to Dambulla for a free evening to rest and recharge.

Day 4: Habarana (Sigiriya)

Beat the heat with an early wake-up this morning and head to Sigiriya – this ruined fortress is one of Sri Lanka's most famous sights and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Those who make it to the top will be rewarded with epic views. This is also a popular spot for birdlife, due to the surrounding forests. Here, you’ll also learn about the Intrepid Foundation partner Zero Plastic – which works in this area to eliminate single-use plastic, educating local communities on sustainability practices and limiting the impact of plastic in and around Sigiriya. After exploring, you’ll head back to your hotel for a late breakfast. After recharging (nap, anyone?), head to a local’s home for a cooking demonstration of traditional dishes like x and y, which you’ll enjoy for lunch. Tonight, visit Popham’s Arboretum for a night-time nature walk, looking out for the slender loris and pangolin.

Day 5: Ampara - Gal Oya National Park

Make the drive to Ampara and enter the unspoiled splendour of Gal Oya National Park. This park is home to elephants, axis deer, muntjacs, water buffalo, mugger crocodiles and more than 150 species of birds. Set against the massive Senanayake Samudraya Lake, the park is framed by high mountain peaks. When you arrive, spend some time exploring the lush landscape on foot. Then, you’ll hop on a boat to cruise on the lake, heading for the spot where local elephants come for their nightly splash to cool off. What a sight!

Day 6: Arugam Bay

Arise nice and early this morning for a dawn safari in Gal Oya National Park. You’ll hop in a 4WD and ride into the Kossapola section of the park – once the settlement of ancient royalty, due to the abundant medicinal plants and birdlife that are unique to this ecosystem. The wildlife here can be shy and hard to spot, so look closely for herds of elephants passing by, as well as the four species of deer that call this park home. Listen to the constant chatter of diverse birdlife above as you cruise this unique landscape. After, you’ll transfer to Arugam Bay where you’ll spend the night. When you arrive, check in to your hotel and settle into your free evening. Maybe chill out by the beach or visit the nearby Kumana National Park.

Day 7: Kataragama - Yala National Park

Head out on a morning safari through Kumuna National Park. Because of the many waterways that thread through the landscape, you’ll have a pretty good shot of spotting some local wildlife. You'll also have the chance to stop by Arugam Bay Lagoon or Panama Lake to see some crocodiles, before leaving the area for Kataragama. When you arrive, you’ll head out on today’s second safari drive in Yala National Park – Sri Lanka’s second-largest national park. There's a good chance of spotting crocodiles, elephants, monkeys and buffaloes, and if you are lucky, you may even spot a leopard – the park is considered one of the best places in the world to see these ever-elusive beauties. Keep an eye out for the 215 species of birds that call this place home, including the Sri Lankan wood pigeon, painted stork, crimson-fronted barbet and prideful peacocks strutting their way through the park. Tonight, enjoy an included dinner at your resort with your group.

Day 8: Kataragama - Yala National Park

Head out on another 4WD safari this morning through the varied landscape of Yala National Park. Look out for elephants, deer, leopards, crocodiles and birds, before heading back to your accommodation for a relaxing afternoon. In your free time, maybe visit Kataragama Temple – dedicated to the Buddhist guardian deity Kataragama deviyo and the Hindu War God Murugan. For those who just can’t get enough of wildlife spotting, you can book another safari through the national park and triple your chances of spotting the local animals.

Day 9: Sinharaja

Drive to Singharaja Forest Reserve today – a biodiversity hotspot and UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you arrive, settle into the Rainforest Eco Lodge, your accommodation for the night. Set among the misty rainforest, these eco-lodges sit on stilts for optimum harmony with the natural environment. In the evening, head out on a nature walk through the forest with your leader, immersing yourself in the tropical surroundings and looking out for local beasts like jackals, big cats, wild boars and toque monkeys. Tonight, fall asleep to the sounds of the forest.

Day 10: Tangalle

Wake up with the morning birds and head out on a forest walk with your trip leader. Follow the leafy pathway, keeping an eye out for butterflies, multi-coloured blue magpies, squirrels, mongoose and birdlife. After, you’ll make the drive to Rekawa, visiting the hidden Mulgirigala Monastery on the way. This ancient Buddhist temple was built on a 205 m high natural rock face, surrounded by another four rocks known as Benagala, Kondagala, Bisogala and Seelawathiegala. Discover the fascinating interiors of the temple and then carry on to Rekawa, where you’ll spend the night. As the sun goes down, you’ll head out to the beach with your group to look for nesting turtles.

Day 11: Colombo

Today is a bit of a long travel day, as you head for your last stop in Colombo. To break up the journey, you’ll visit Galle Fort on the way – the fortified city with a mixture of Portuguese and Dutch charm, narrow laneways and popular promenades. Spend some time exploring the area on foot, taking in the local architecture that dates from between the 16th and 19th centuries. Grab some lunch from one of the many cafes here, serving traditional Sri Lankan meals with a contemporary twist. When you arrive in Colombo, you have a free evening to choose your own adventure. Maybe head out to sample some of the city's renowned street food like crispy vegetable samosas, hoppers and kotthu (sliced roti, vegetables and eggs or meat) or find a bar and toast to a trip well-travelled.

Day 12: Colombo

Your trip comes to an end after breakfast this morning. If you’d like to stay in Colombo, just speak to your booking agent.