Tailored from £3,600 per person excl. flights
15 days Talangama, Cultural Triangle, Gal Oya, Kandy, Ambewela, Galle
15 days Talangama, Cultural Triangle, Gal Oya, Kandy, Ambewela, Galle
Sri Lanka offers unrivalled diversity and is one of the only destinations in the world to offer a range of experiences from ancient kingdoms to a wide range wildlife.
On this wildlife holiday in Sri Lanka, you will encounter endemic animals, birdlife in Talangama, primates in the lost city of Polonnaruwa, wild elephants in Gal Oya National Park and if you're lucky, the elusive leopard in Yala National Park.
As well as boat & jeep safaris, expect hikes with our expert naturalist, who will share insight into the fauna & flora of the region.
This 15-day itinerary, which can be tailored to your unique needs, also includes tours in Kandy & the Cultural Triangle. Experience all this on your Sri Lankan wildlife tour whilst staying in luxury accommodations.
Welcome to India's Teardrop! Upon arriving at Colombo Airport, you’ll be transferred directly to Talangama, which takes around an hour and a half.
Your accommodation, Villa Talangama, is a meticulous Sri Lankan home set in green paddy fields and peaceful lakeside ambiance.
You’ll be visited by some of the many species of birds that call Talangama home, as they love to perch on the verandah and in the shady trees of the property’s gardens. The farmer next door will also bring you a daily delivery of curd and treacle, courtesy of the buffalo you see relaxing by the lake.
On your first full day on the island, you’ll continue with bird watching at Talangama, as these wetlands stretch out for over a kilometre and are a true paradise for the 45 species of bird inhabiting the area.
The next stop on your Sri Lankan adventure will take you to the iconic and mysterious monument of Sigiriya, Lion Rock, which dates back to the 5th century.
The transfer takes around four and a half hours, so you’ll arrive at the Sigiriya Rock Fortress in the evening and see the structure and surrounding landscapes lit up in sunset colours.
You’ll be staying at the luxurious Water Garden, a 35-acre expanse of beautiful gardens that once occupied the lands surrounding Sigiriya. Today, the Water Garden has been transformed into a tribute to ancient Sri Lankan water gardens by local architect Channa Dasawatte and furnished with creative pieces by local artists.
It’s an early rise to take a transfer to the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa, home to a huge monkey population that lives within the impressively preserved ruins.
Featured in the Disney film Monkey Kingdom and described as “a secret land of magic few humans have ever seen,” the archaeological site of Polonnaruwa is the best place to observe Sri Lanka’s three diurnal primates: the grey langur, the toque macaque and the purple-faced leaf monkey.
These primates are becoming increasingly difficult to see in other countries due to declining habitats, however Polonnaruwa’s primate population has flourished under the protection of the Smithsonian Primate Research Center.
The research centre has been conducting research and working on conservation in Sri Lanka’s dry zone for 50 years and provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about Sri Lankan primates, especially on the importance of protecting these intelligent and fascinating creatures.
You will next journey on to Gal Oya National Park, which is around four hours away.
You’ll stay at Gal Oya Lodge, a rustic eco-retreat right on the edge of the park and the tranquil waters of Senanayake Samudraya, one of the country’s largest lakes. From your private villa or bungalow, which has been constructed using locally sourced materials, you can look out at the picturesque mountains and acres of untouched wilderness. You may even be able to spot wild elephants roaming the jungle or swimming in the lake.
In the evening, you’ll join the chief veddha, the leader of a local tribe of hunter-gatherers that has lived in the area since ancient times, and who will take you on a walk through the jungle. Watch the forest come alive as the chief explains the veddha’s traditional way of life, the ancient hunting grounds and cave dwellings, as well as the tribe’s use of medicinal plants
Set off on an adventurous Jeep ride into the “forgotten” Nilgala area of Gal Oya National Park. In ancient times, Nilgala was once protected by royalty due to the endemic birdlife, abundant medicinal plants and the area’s unique ecosystem. Here, you’ll observe herds of elephants, four species of deer, sloth beers, wild boar, jackals, marsh mugger crocodiles and a beautiful array of rare, exotic birds.
If you’re feeling a little more on the wild side, you can choose to couple the Jeep safari with a safari on foot. With this option, you’ll be able to hike through the park and explore hidden corners, getting up close and personal with the local wildlife with our expert naturalist guides.
Next, you’ll move onto the UNESCO World Heritage city of Kandy, which is home to the Royal Palace complex and the sacred site of Sri Dalada Maligawa, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. As the name implies, this houses a relic of the tooth of Buddha, which holds a particular significance in Sri Lankan history; since ancient times, it has been believed that whomever holds the relic may govern the country.
You will stay at Kings Pavilion, a nine-bedroom boutique hotel nestled in quiet Aniwatte, a residential area in the suburbs of Kandy. The three acres of the property include a large garden overlooking the Hunnasgiriya and Knuckles mountain range, and is home to a wide range of birdlife.
A four-hour transfer will move you on to Ambewela or you can take the option of the train from Peradeniya to Nunu Oya for scenic views of the tea plantations from your train window.
You’ll stay at Nuwara Eliya, which is comprised of five elegant bedrooms named Braemer, Oakleigh, Glenoch, Warwick and Netherleigh (the grandest, also known as the White Room). All five feature antique beds, fine linen and working fireplaces.
The drive from Ambewela takes around an hour to the Horton Plains National Park, a protected area of mountain grassland and cloud forest. You’ll reach an impressive altitude of 2,100 to 2,300 metres (6,900 to 7,500 feet) and the plateau will make you think for a moment that you’ve arrived at the African savannah.
Horton Plains National Park is unlike any other park in Sri Lanka; beautiful and eerie, the plains stretch out as an oddly different and other-worldly landscape. The park is rich in biodiversity, as many of the species of plants and animals you’ll see here are endemic to the region. Known locally as the Maha Eliya Plains, the Horton Plains are also where the headwaters of three major Sri Lankan rivers meet: the Walawe, the Kelani and the Mahaweli.
From the plains, you’ll take a six-hour transfer to Yala National Park, famed for having the highest leopard density in the world.
You’ll be staying in one of eight spacious, waterproof tents which can accommodate up to three guests and include comfortable twin or double beds with Egyptian cotton bed linen, a private verandah and an en-suite bathroom with a sink and flushing toilet. The two larger tents also feature wooden double-door entry, air conditioning and tempered glass shower cubicles with solar-powered hot water – quite a luxury out in the wilderness!
The tents do contain small safes, but if you prefer valuables can be handed over to the Camp Manager upon arrival for safekeeping.
The best times of day for a game drive is in the morning or evening, which is when you’ll be taking part in shared drives around the 100,000 hectares of scrubland. Yala’s dry parklands, scattered with boulders and interspersed with patches of shady glades, are very different to the lush jungles and paddy fields which cover the majority of Sri Lanka.
Yala National Park is home to much of the island’s wildlife, including “big game” such as elephants spotted deer, sloth bears, wild boar and crocodiles. Also look out for the stunning plumages of colourful peacocks.
Take a break from the wild side and step into the past with a visit to UNESCO World Heritage site Galle Fort. Your four-hour transfer will take you along Sri Lanka’s scenic southern coastline, where you’ll be able to stop to watch the famous stilt fisherman at work.
Fort Bazaar, an 18-room luxury boutique hotel located right inside the historical Galle Fort, is where you’ll be staying. The hotel is fast becoming a stop on the Fort’s sightseeing circuit itself, with beautiful Portuguese-style design, handmade Vietnamese floor tiles and stylish furnishings.
Experience the local side of Galle with a tour around a nearby village by bike and boat, ending the day with a typical Sri Lankan meal in an authentic mud hut. Start with a serene boat journey down the Kapu Ela River, accompanied by a local naturalist who will point out the local bird and reptile life along the way, such as swooping grey fish eagles and water monitors lying in wait for their prey.
Pass through rubber and cinnamon plantations and perhaps you’ll see a few low bushes of tea as well. Where your ride ends you’ll see small mounds of coconut husk drying in the sun, ready to be made into coir rope.
From here, you will mount your bike ready for a nine-kilometre ride through Sri Lanka’s paddy fields, southern villages and rural Galle. Stop at local markets to observe villagers trading and take a rest in a cool mud hut to refresh yourself with homemade herbal teas. You also have the option to take a traditional breakfast, or even try your hand at a cooking lesson – making curries in the traditional way. Depending on your energy level, you can continue to cycle or be driven back to the pickup point.
On your last full day in Sri Lanka, you may wish to unwind or explore at your own leisure, collecting souvenirs or sampling Sri Lankan cuisine. On the other hand, if you’re eager to fit as much into your Sri Lanka itinerary as possible, we would recommend a visit to a local cinnamon plantation on this day.
Depending on when you flight departs, you will check out of your hotel and head to the airport, which is around two and a half hours away. Hopefully you will be leaving with a camera full of breath-taking wildlife photography and a wealth of exciting tales to relay to loved ones back home.