Sri Lankan Wildlife, History and Culture

Colombo – Colombo
AUD $8,875.00


Next Tour: 3rd - 18th March 2025


๏  Historic Sigirya – an ancient rock fortress

๏  The historic town and ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa

๏  Experience the history, natural history and local culture of Kandy city

๏  Yala National Park – the most famous national park in Sri Lanka and home to a rich diversity of

species including leopards, elephants, bears, buffalo, jackals, and wild boars

๏  Bundala National Park – Away from the crowds, Bundala is an excellent spot for birders and

spotting wildlife such as crocs, wild boar, mongooses, monitor lizards, monkeys and elephants

๏  Sinharaja Rainforest – a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to many endemic species

๏  Whale watching from the coastal port of Mirissa


Off the southern coast of India lies the enchanting island of Sri Lanka. It is beautiful and boasts an abundance of exotic, natural riches.

Sri Lanka’s ancient Buddhist traditions, teaching compassion for all living creatures, have paved the way for the country’s long history of conservation.

The island abounds with magnificent scenery and historic fortresses, temples and monasteries. Throughout your tour you will explore both the natural wonders and the island’s fascinating culture and history.


Sri Lanka’s wildlife is varied, including 86 mammal species, 16 of which are endemic to the island. Sri Lanka is home to several wild elephant herds, leopards, sloth bears, mouse deer and many monkey species. The birdlife and butterflies are colourful and plentiful. The island is home to over 400 recorded bird species, 33 of which are endemic.

A day of whale watching off the coast at Mirissa will be a highlight of the tour. Blue and Sperm Whales plus pods of dolphins are regularly seen in these waters.

For those interested in botany, Sri Lanka is a land of plenty. The island features diverse habitats, including wet zone tropical forests and shrub lands. In the hills, vegetation varies from almost treeless pantanas (plains) to dark rhododendron forests.

The tour will be led by Coates Wildlife Tours Managing Director, Tom Grove, and Saman Veediyabandara, one of Sri Lanka’s leading birding/naturalist guides.

Sri Lanka is an island paradise for nature enthusiasts, so come and join Tom and 12 like-minded travellers on this unforgettable tour!

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Extended Trip Details


Day 1

Arrive Colombo - Sigiriya Area

Today you’ll arrive at Colombo at around 1:00 am. You’ll be met at the airport and transferred to the Tamarind Tree Hotel, close to the airport. After a rest and lunch, we will head north to the historic Sigirya area. Accommodation: Tamarind Tree Hotel / Amaya Lake Hotel BLD
Day 2

Sigiriya - Polonnaruwa - Sigiriya Area

This morning, we’ll visit Polonnaruwa to see ancient ruins. The city was built in the 11th century during an Indian invasion when Polonnaruwa became the next seat of rule. In its day, the city was fortified with three concentric walls; within these walls were beautiful parks and four carved rock Buddha statues. The ruins are now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lunch is at a local Restaurant in Polonnaruwa. After lunch, we will take a 3-hour jeep safari ride into Minneriva National Park. The park provides critical habitat for Sri Lanka’s two endemic monkeys, the purple-faced langur and the toque macaque. Large herbivorous mammals such as Asian Elephants, Sri Lankan sambar deer and Sri Lankan axis deer frequent the park. Rare and endangered species, such as the Sri Lankan leopard and Sri Lankan sloth bear, inhabit Minneriya. Accommodation: Amaya Lake Hotel BLD
Day 3


After breakfast, we’ll visit the Rock Fortress of Sigiriya. Remains of this 70-hectare fortified town include a castle, fort, moat and extensive gardens. We will see the famous frescoes of the ‘Heavenly Maidens of Sigiriya’ on our rock ascent. In the afternoon we will undertake a canoe trip and look for waterbirds, before heading to a local village to see the traditional cooking methods used to produce local foods. Accommodation: Amaya Lake Hotel BLD
Day 4

Sigiriya Area - Kandy

As we leave Sigiriya, we’ll visit the caves of Dambulla, which date back to the 1st century BC. They sheltered a king in exile, and when the king regained his throne, he built Dambulla, a magnificent rock temple consisting of five caves. The temple boasts over 2,000 square metres of painted walls. The temple ceilings are painted with intricate patterns of religious images following the contours of the rock, including many images of the Lord Buddha. We then proceed on to Kandy and check-in to our hotel. We’ll enjoy a cultural Kandyan dance performance at the Kandy Arts Association Hall this evening. After the cultural show, we visit the Temple of the Tooth. The Temple of the Tooth contains the most sacred relic of Buddhism and the most precious symbol of Sinhalese pride, the tooth of the Buddha. Carried by the ancient Kings, the tooth is never seen, but puja veneration ceremonies are held at dawn and dusk every day. Accommodation: Thilanka Hotel, Kandy BLD
Day 5


This morning we will visit the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya. This 147-acre garden is the largest in Sri Lanka, hosting a variety of plants and animals, including Flying Foxes and a giant Java fig tree, which covers 1,600 m2. After lunch, there will be time to visit Lake Kandy or to shop and explore this historic town. Accommodation: Thilanka Hotel, Kandy BLD
Day 6

Kandy - Nuwara Eliya

Today we leave Kandy, enjoying the undulating scenery of Sri Lanka’s famous tea plantations as we head to Nuwara Eliya, known as the ‘city of lights’. Nuwara Eliya is the highest town in Sri Lanka (around 2,000 metres above sea level), and is surrounded by lush tea plantations. Along the way, we’ll visit a tea factory set against beautiful mountains, valleys and waterfalls. We’ll have time to visit Victoria Park and wander around the town this afternoon. Accommodation: Araliya Red Hotel, Nuwara Eliya BLD
Day 7

Nuwara Eliya - Horton Plains - Nuwara Eliya

Today we take a full-day excursion to Horton Plains National Park, Sri Lanka’s highest and most isolated plateau. This fascinating place features open grassy expanses and patches of mountain forest. The plateau drops steeply to the plains over 2,000 metres below at World's End. We should undoubtedly hear and hopefully see the extremely handsome Purple-faced Leaf Monkey in the forest, and we will keep our eyes peeled for Dusky Squirrels. Birds to look for include the Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike. Accommodation: Araliya Red Hotel, Nuwara Eliya BLD
Day 8

Nuwara Eliya - Tissamaharama

We leave the high country behind this morning and head south towards the coast. After checking in to our accommodation and lunch, we’ll head to Bundala National Park, known for its birdlife including Black-necked Storks, Spoonbills, Fish Eagles and Hawk Eagles. We’ll also look for monkeys, crocodiles, deer and elephants. This afternoon, we explore the park before returning to our accommodation. Accommodation: Mandara Rosen Hotel BLD
Day 9

Tissamaharama - Yala - Tissamaharama

After a very early breakfast, we take a half-day excursion to Yala National Park to view some local flora and fauna. Yala National Park covers 1,297 square km, with ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to white sandy beaches. It is home to many animals, including elephants, leopards, peacocks, bears, wild boars, spotted deer, buffalo, monkeys, and resident and migrant water birds. This afternoon will be spent exploring the wildlife found around the Tissa wetlands. Accommodation: Mandara Rosen Hotel BLD
Day 10

Tissamaharama - Lungamvehera National Park - Tissamaharama

After a very early breakfast, we take a half-day excursion to Lungamvehera National Park, a small national park interconnected with Yala. As it is less well known, there are fewer tourists. It is possible to see leopards, crocodiles, elephants, various birdlife, deer, and some incredible scenery in the park. Late this afternoon we will visit the Tissamaharama Temple, which is a very peaceful experience. Accommodation: Mandara Rosen Hotel BLD
Day 11

Tissamaharama - Udawalawe

This morning we travel to Udawalawe and take in the natural history of the area as we travel. After lunch we’ll visit Udawalawe National Park. This park features different landscapes: a teak plantation, grasslands, scrub jungle and wetlands. This park is well known for its herds of Elephants. Accommodation: Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort BLD
Day 12

Udawalawe - Mirissa

After breakfast, we’ll leave Udawalawe and head to Mirissa. On the way we will stop at the Elephant Transfer Station in Udawalawe where orphaned elephants are cared for until they can be released into the National Park. We then continue on to our accomodation in Mirissa. Accommodation: Paradise Beach Club, Mirissa BLD
Day 13


We’ll head to Mirissa Harbour early this morning to start our whale-watching expedition. On a boat specifically designed for whale watching, we’ll travel the seas off the south coast of Sri Lanka, known to be one of the best locations in the world to see Blue Whales and Sperm Whales. Pods of dolphins are also regularly seen in these waters. Accommodation: Paradise Beach Club, Mirissa BLD
Day 14

Mirissa - Galle - Sinharaja

After breakfast, we’ll leave Mirissa and head to Galle, a coastal town that has grown around its historic Portuguese fort. We will have a few hours to explore the old fort area on foot and enjoy lunch. Mid- afternoon, we will continue our trip onto Sinharaja rainforest, looking at the area's natural history as we travel. The rainforest was designated as a Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. At Sinharaja, 75% of the flora is endemic, and 30 of Sri Lanka’s 33 endemic bird species can be found there, including the Red-faced Malkoha, Blue Magpie, Orange-billed Babbler and the White-faced Starling. Accommodation: Blue Magpie Lodge, Sinharaja BLD
Day 15


A full-day birding and botanising in the Sinharaja rainforest and surrounding areas. Accommodation: Blue Magpie Lodge, Sinharaja BLD
Day 16

Sinharaja - Colombo - Home

This morning we’ll leave Sinharaja and head back to Colombo. After lunch, we’ll take a tour of the city. We will have a farewell dinner in Colombo this evening at a 5-star hotel. After dinner, we will be transferred to the Colombo terminal for evening departures. This marks the end of your wonderful Sri Lankan experience. BLD

NOTE: the above itinerary may be varied according to conditions and advice.




  • Land content as set out in the itinerary  
  • Whale watching cruise
  • Meals as per itinerary: breakfast (B), lunch (L), dinner (D)
  • Tips and gratuities during the tour
  • Village Life experience          
  • Entrance fees to the elephant transfer station

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