Sri Lanka birding & cultural tour

“Our only 14 day tailor made trip that specialises in both birding and cultural highlights. Run by top Sri Lankan birding expert and qualified tour guide. ”

Highlights

Kitulgala rain forest | Sinharaja Man & Biosphere Reserve | Bundala Ramsar Wetlands Yala NP | Nuwara-eliya (Highlands) Hakgala Gardens | Horton Plains | Kandy | Sigiriya rock fortress | Polonnaruwa

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

01273 823 700

Departure information

This trip can be tailormade at a time to suit you throughout the year. The best time for birding is September to April, when thousand upon thousands of northern winter migrants arrive.
Our top tip:
Best time for birding is September to April, when migratory season kicks in.
Trip type:
Tailor made.
Activity level:
Leisurely with early starts.
Accomm:
Small, locally owned guesthouses.
Included:
Half board accommodation, transfers, A/C van or car, expert guide, entrance tickets.
Meals:
For lunch, budget £1-1.50 for great street food.
Solos:
Solo travellers welcome. Tailor made to include any surcharges.
Vouchers
Accepted

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Sri Lanka birding & cultural tour

The aim of this tour is to provide a natural package of birding without the use of undesirable and harmful methods such as audio play backs, which are detrimental to both the community of rare birds and tourist industry in the long run.

We do not promote commercial sales aimed at tourists, rather we ensure that our rates are reasonable, and some of money you spend will directly and positively affect people at village level.

We seek to improve the lives of the people who affect & conserve the birding habitats by buying products and service of local guiding etc. If the visitor decides to have no meat products (to avoid health risks & other reasons), we make sure that he gets quality organic vegetarian dishes.

Reviews of Sri Lanka birding & cultural tour

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 09 May 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


There isn't really one single aspect we can pick out. The people were so friendly and cheerful, the standard of some of the hotels we stayed in was excellent, others very good. It was a real joy seeing lots of new things and to experience climbing the Lion Rock at Sigiriya; visiting the Temple of the Tooth at Kandy, and Polonaruwa. Obviously to see the elephants in Yala, and our brief glimpse of a leopard along with the other animals was exciting together with our whale watching trip when we had several sightings of a blue whale and hundreds of dolphins. The many species of birds, many of them seen for the first time, was the main reason for choosing this holiday, but generally the whole holiday was memorable and exciting.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Go along with the advice given and you will have a worry free very enjoyable trip. Our trip was organised by Prasanjith Caldera, and our guide/driver was Upali Nisanka and we couldn't have wished for a better combination. Upali is incredibly knowledgeable about his country, and pointed out so many things along the way that we learned a great deal. Allow them to lead you, they know what they are talking about.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


When we stopped for lunch en route we called at small local cafes etc., our jeep driver in Yala and Bundala were local people, we stopped at roadside stalls for fruit and small shops for drinks. One of our hotels in particular, the Sigiriya Village Hotel is very conservation minded, as is the Ranweli Holiday Village, and so yes, we did feel that we were making the right impact on the country. Sri Lanka needs the revenue brought in by tourism and to holiday in the manner we did, ensures that the income goes to the local people and not large tourism organisations.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


This was the most fantastic holiday. I was not that keen on going, but my husband is a very keen birder and he really wanted to go. I am now so glad he persuaded me, and will definitely visit Sri Lanka again, and Prasanjith Caldera will be the person we would want to organise it for us. If you want to try Sri Lanka to see the wildlife and wonderful cultural sites do not hesitate to go with this operartor
I thought the best holiday we have ever been on was a cruise down the River Nile in Egypt, but this one has definitely equalled it.

Reviewed on 15 May 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Most of it was very stimulating. Yala National Park is one of the best parks I have been to, despite the state of the appalling roads that one must use to travel through it.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Sri Lanka and southern India are both excellent venues for those interested in wildlife. We have excellent vehicles, excellent drivers and great guides who knew so much about the flora, fauna, farming practices, local economy and culture that we came away feeling that we had learned a great deal and that most of our questions were comprehensively answered.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


I think that our holiday ticked all of these boxes and the local people were almost to a person very helpful and friendly.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


This was a really excellent holiday. We had fun, we were stimulated, we were educated and we made good friends with our locals who showed us their country. We also feel that we had excellent value for money with two locals, a new vehicle, most meals, all entrance fees and other extras included for a very inexpensive daily rate.

Reviewed on 02 Mar 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The most memorable was the smiles of all the people in Sri Lanka whom we passed in our bird walks and the children who got all excited and waved and called to us. The most exciting was seeing men up in palm trees collecting sap.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Do not have expectations re what you are going to see if you are going for nature. If you are going for culture, you'll be wowed by all the temples.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


I think it definitely benefited local people as the employees of the hotels were local; the places we stopped at to eat were local; our guide and driver are Sri Lankans; the occasional tips to locals.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was great and our guide, Jith, was an incredible birder, funny, and generous. He went out of is way to respond to our needs and wants.

Reviewed on 19 Dec 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


2 weeks birding in Sri Lanka with a truly professional local guide made the entire experience both memorable and exciting. Any true birder would probably be appalled at the idea of returning home relaxed and refreshed - for us the whole point was to return exhausted and inspired, and this we did. We have relaxed and been refreshed since returning home.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Just do it. The operator knows how to put a good programme together. If you think you have a better suggestion it can be accommodated. Be prepared for the early starts which are really necessary (and some late finishes). Take an alarm clock. Sleeping pills will not be necessary. You will enjoy it.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The entire holiday was managed and delivered by local people with none of the frequently experienced evidence of larger multi national companies creaming off profits from the community. All holidays must have a degree of environmental impact but I think we trod very lightly and would hope that the degree of contact with local people had a positive benefit.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


This was a truly excellent holiday. 200+ bird species (and birding in the rain forest is hard work) as well as an interesting range of accommodation from the sublime to the shall we say 'unusually interesting' gave us a sense of the real Sri Lanka.

Reviewed on 18 Jan 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Our holiday was the birding and cultural tour. The whole two weeks were packed with so many memorable moments. Every day there was something new to experience but we can try and pick out a few highlights. First of all the birds, birds and more birds. My surprise at being got by a leech on the very first day! (Never felt a thing.) Sharing breakfast time at Martin’s Lodge with fabulous blue magpies. Our delight when the clouds and mist disappeared to give us clear views at World’s End. Actually seeing Leopards at Yala (a birthday treat). Beautiful scenery as we’d imagined but even more verdant and colourful and of course we’ll never forget the friendliness of all the people we met.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take leech socks and raincoats. Although Nandana, our guide, did have some socks available. As the national speed limit is only 35mph – 45mph on most roads, it takes longer than you think to get from one place to another. Be prepared to have to tip often so try to have small denomination notes to hand. Eat local dishes – the food is delicious. If you can, spend a little time either side of the tour dates to acclimatise/relax.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes. Local tour company and local guides, promoting eco-tourism in a responsible way.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


The tour was very well organised. Jith is a really nice guy who genuinely has the interests of his clients at heart. We had Nandana as our guide and couldn’t have been happier with his skill, knowledge and enthusiasm. Overall a great holiday; great value, great fun, great experiences and great memories.

Reviewed on 25 May 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Hard to choose as so many highlights and memorable experiences. Bundala Wetlands and Yala National Park were brilliant. So many birds and animals, such as Yellow Bittern, Intermediate Egret, various eagles, endangered Lesser Adjutant Stork. We didn't manage to see the leopards, got to the sighting spot a bit late, but everyone else we spoke to, who our guide had taken had seen them. Many Blue Magpies at Sinharaja rainforest. Polonnaruwa Recumbent Budda, a stone carving of magnificence and age. Releasing baby turtles back to the Indian Ocean, hope one or two are still around in two or three hundred years !!!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


If you take a tour with this operator you can trust him implicitly. He will arrange a tour of your own specification, and provide in depth information on his country, its history, archeological sites and relics, birds, flora and fauna, etc. He will provide and organise everything you request, and be available at any hour. There will be no need to be concerned about anything at all. You can have full confidence in his organisation, his staff, kindness, generosity, tact, and his associates. Sri Lankan people are pleasant and kind.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


We had local drivers, all local staff where ever we stayed. Local produce used by local people. Apart from the airfare (Sri Lankan Airlines) all our money as far as we could see went totally to local concerns - not to a large tour operator. At National Parks, patrolled by local people, and supervised by scientific research units locally, we had local guides as well as our own guide. Our air-con van and driver drove everywhere at the required 36 mph, and at this speed you can see a lot of the local scenery at ease.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


An excellent holiday. With personal service, our own vehicle at our service to go where ever we pleased, at what ever time we wanted. Our own very pleasant guide who could not have done more for us. Our best ever holiday. Some friends of ours have returned to Sri Lanka several times now, and we can certainly see why. Thoroughly recommend this tour to anyone, as he will organise it to anyone's taste and needs. But superb for all bird watchers.

Reviewed on 24 Apr 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The whole holiday was fabulous! The country is a beautiful place, our guide Jith really knew his stuff so much information about his country, the people, the culture, flora and fauna and the birdlife! We had one week visiting 5 different environments and saw so many birds and animals and lots of different areas of the island and learnt so much.Then we had 5 days at a beach hotel to relax and unwind, wish we could have had longer exploring the rest of the island.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Go prepared to see some amazing sights, lots of early mornings to see all the birds with a terrific guide who offers so much for your money!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Local people were used as drivers, guides and jith used locals that he knew for various activities.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was a really good holiday, tailored to our specific needs and we had a really good time. I cannot wait to go again and visit the places we didn't have time for and see some more of this lovely country. Jith is a very good guide who cares for his guests, making sure they are happy at all times. The country sells it self, its a beautiful place and so friendly and welcoming and the birdlife is amazing!

Reviewed on 18 Feb 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


This was a first class trip throughout and so no particular moment stood out.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


None. The operator had everything so well organised that travellers should just relax (as much as a demanding schedule permits) and enjoy the experience. The cultural part of the tour did not adversely affect the bird watching side as we saw a great deal en route to and from the palaces and temples. However, learning about the history and culture of Sri Lanka made the whole tour more interesting. The people we met en route were always friendly and helpful.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, very much so. Apart from all the hotels that we stayed at we had a driver and a general factotum who were excellent, we enjoyed a boat trip, visited bakeries for lunch, purchased fruit from wayside stalls, used several local guides, etc. I believe that the way the operator ran this tour would have caused the absolute minimum possible impact on the environment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


One of the best of very many wildlife tours we have done over the years. The operator really is an excellent organiser and tour leader who does all he can to give his clients a first class tour. Thanks to his determination I also saw many more birds than I had expected.

Reviewed on 01 Dec 2009 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The most memorable and exciting part of my holiday was the wildlife at Yala National Park. I was able to photograph several leopards and many other mammals and birds. We also visited several cultural sites and learned much history of Sri Lanka and of Buddism. I was also very impressed with the lushness and cleanliness of the countryside.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Try to get a taste of the different aspects of the country - the beaches, the tea growing areas, the cultural sites, etc. Be prepared for rain in November.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes. We stayed in several small hotel/resorts which had great local flavor. We stopped along the way and bought and sampled various fruits and vegetables and buffalo curd from local fruit stands.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


We had a wonderful holiday. The tour operator was a perfect company for us as Jith and Mr. Silva were very kind and accommodating to our wishes. We had a wonderful variety of experiences and certainly learned a lot.

Reviewed on 19 Aug 2007 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


It is difficult to pick an individual part of these amazing 2 weeks - Jith made sure that the holiday was packed with memories. The Elephant Transit Camp in Udawalawe was a fantastic example of the care Sri Lankans take of their wildlife, allowing close up views of baby elephants both in the camp and later in the National Park where the elephants are eventually re-released. Climbing the steps of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress was highly memorable and gave a sense of achievement when you reached the top! The history of the area is impressive and the scale of the building work unbelievable.

Equally memorable were the sights and sounds of Sri Lanka's only rainforest, Sinharaja, where birds, cicadas and monkeys created an exotic soundtrack while we looked at the huge range of wildlife and plants that are found there, particularly the large number of endemics.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take a range of clothing to fit the range of climates. The dry zone is hot but you need to cover your shoulders when you visit the temples. The mountains are cool and we used our jumpers and water-proof coats while walking in Horton Plains. In the rainforest walking boots and light coloured trousers are good for keeping off the leeches! Don't worry too much about them - Jith gives you leech stockings while you are there and we didn't get bitten at all. If you are interested in birding an alarm clock would also be useful for those early morning starts!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


This operator runs a small local business so paying the money directly to him ensures it goes straight to Sri Lanka. During the holiday he made sure that we hired local guides at each attraction and many of the hotels we stayed in were small family businesses. At every stage it was very clear where our money was being spent and that it was benefiting the local tourist industry, which has struggled since the tsunami. Most of the hotels had clear information about how they are minimising their impact on the environment, from water conservation to the use of renewable energy.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


This was an amazing experience. To travel as a couple with our own guide and driver for 2 weeks was a real luxury and Jith was keen to discuss anything and answer all our questions about Sri Lanka. I feel we experienced the 'real' Sri Lanka and learnt a huge amount about its culture. From a bird watching point of view, we went during the 'off' season and still saw 154 species, including 18 endemics. Perhaps the best thing about this holiday was the flexibility. We were able to discuss our itinerary before we booked and adapt it to fit our interests. Even while we were out there Jith was happy to stay longer when we were really interested and move on if we weren't. I can't think of a better way to see Sri Lanka.

Reviewed on 04 Mar 2007 by

Ten people, all very different, all with an interest of flora, fauna and life! We all had expectations and conceptions of what and where we were going to visit, what some of the group wanted to participate in and what the others did not! Usual mix!

Sri Lanka elephantWhat none of expected was the tremendous impact Sri Lanka has left on us, all because of the skill and professionalism of our guide!

You know, that one visit over 2 weeks and none of us really need to go back - it would have taken 10 or more trips to Sri Lanka to have found the quality of accommodation (absolutely delightful, picturesque, even the "colonialism" was unique) and most importantly the combination of wildlife and Sri Lanka's cultural history. We are not born again, just simply "stunned" by the beauty of the Island and everything we were shown by our guide!

I am writing this 2 weeks after our return and I am still remembering experiences, flavours, incidents - all of which, when first witnessed did not seem to be able to be surpassed at the time, yet, each new discovery, activity, drive was able to do just that - there is just so much variety, vibrancy and goodwill on the Island that any world traveller has to experience Sri Lanka at least once!

Ten people in the guided group, ten different best memories and places of most stunning impact - yet we would all probably agree the following are memories that will last to senility, Alzheimer's or the grave!

Wild leopard in Yala national Park from 3 metres away (a heart stopper for naturalists), the stunning view from Sigiriya rock fortress after a 1,000 foot vertical climb up a narrow bolted on walkway on the side of the vertical rock (quite safe in reality, but not for the faint hearted), becoming embroiled in a wild herd of 60 Asian Elephants in Wasgomuwa National Park with babies from 2 weeks of age to the Matriarch and being moved on by a very pregnant and touchy cow, the fascination of the surviving culture.

Also, artefacts and history remaining in sacred religious sites such as the Dambulla caves or the Temple of the Tooth, watching a tropical thunderstorm flash lightning over a lake that the hotel rooms opened onto at night while some of the group were pushing a land rover out of the mud in Uda Walawe National Park (you had to be there, participate and enjoy the warm rain and the mud as it oozed up through your toes), walking over Horton Plains in mountain rain forest at 7,000ft, tracking leopard and looking at endemic fauna then experiencing the precipice of "World End" (a vertical drop in excess of 1,500 feet - with no safety barrier), the noise of 10,000 plus fruit bats stumbled upon in the royal Botanic Gardens in Kandy, the experience of the mountain town "Nuwara Eliya" - a little Britain with night times cold enough to sit around a log fire at night, with a race-course.

Wildlife in Sri LankaAnd Friesian cows by the road, strawberries and cream for sale and guest houses complete with the odd plastic deer and gnomes in the front garden (absolutely bizarre on a tropical island), watching turtles haul onto the beach at Bentota, lay their eggs and return to sea by torchlight and participate in the release of hatchling turtles at dusk with the conservation turtle hatcheries (then having a 4 star meal and accommodation only 50 metres away), watching the parade of Pinwala's elephant orphan herd too and from the river and scrubbing an elephant with it's mahout in the river at the Millennium Elephant Foundation, staying in an "eco-lodge" virtually in Sinharaja rain forest and waking up to a flock of endemic Sri Lankan magpies raiding the overnight insects from turned off night lights, and so on - you must have got the gist of this by now!

We would thoroughly recommend this destination and especially our guide who so professionally organised and designed our tailored tour around the Island. All our requirements, desires and problems were managed and catered for, which in retrospect was a significant part of the enjoyment and appreciation of the whole experience!

As for our tourist footprint, we genuinely believe that with the exception of the necessary evil of diesel consumption for travel in the air-conditioned coach, that the fees for local guides, the way the government has entrusted and trained local villagers to escort visitors as Park rangers, the ways in which the hotels accommodate "eco-tourism" and explain themselves to their guests, the endeavours of the "Celanese" to promote their understanding and their will to save their natural environment (over 1/5th of the land surface is protected as National Parks) that any visitor can feel that their revenue is perhaps more positively utilised here, than anywhere else in the world! Now that is something!!

Well done Prasanjith Caldera (from the operator) and a big, big thank you for the introduction from yourselves to this local company. Oh, the cost an airflight return with Sri Lankan airlines plus about GB £850 (EU €1,275) per person - the best value for money holiday we have ever had and that is from all ten of us in the touring group! We will return - but not straight away! It has got to be 5 stars, still talking about it now!!!! Not just the holiday but our guide, the people, the culture, just everything.....

Ps. "Tamil Tigers" are in the north - just do not go there, it is not a problem for the tourist, very similar to the recent problems in Ireland but without so much violence!

PPs. Keep a diary, so much to take in, so much variety, you will need it on your return!

Thanks very much for recommending them to us.

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