Day 1 Depart UK
- Upon arrival in Sri Lanka, we will transfer to our hotel in Kalpitya, two to three hours drive from the airport
- Accommodation: Kalpitya, 3-nights including breakfast.
- Over the next two mornings we will head out early on a small local boat for your dolphin-watching excursion, staying out at sea for some three hours. Between December and April, Kalpitiya is home to hundreds of spinner dolphins, and with any luck they can be seen just a few minutes offshore. Sticking together in pods, they often swim alongside the boat or ride the bow wave as they frolic in the ocean – a thrilling sight! On this outing, there’s a chance of encountering blue, and sperm whales, as the deep offshore waters are ideal for these gentle giants.
- Returning late morning, the afternoon is free to explore this fascinating area further. In Kalpitiya the fort and church of St Peter's are interesting relics of Sri Lanka's Dutch colonial past. Alternatively it is possible to take an optional leisurely boat ride on the lagoon, or a canoe trip down the river – both pleasant ways to explore the waterways of the coastline. Fishing dominates the lives of the inhabitants of this small, close-knit community, and during our stay in Kalpitiya we can get a real insight into the everyday lives of people outside the cities and towns.
- Today is a long drive – some eight hours in all – to Uda Walawe, with a stop en route to explore the centre of Sri Lanka’s gem mining district. At one of Rathnapura’s gem mines there is an opportunity to watch a demonstration by a gem cutter and polisher, and see the various precious stones found in the area – including sapphires, rubies, amethysts and tourmalines. A bustling market town, Rathnapura stands at a major crossroads between the southern plains and hill country to the east and makes an interesting and scenic break in your journey. After this we will continue to Udawalawe.
- Accommodation: Udawalawe, 1-night including breakfast.
- This morning we continue to Udawalawe National Park for a wildlife jeep safari. The park is home to many elephants – it’s not uncommon to see herds of 50 to 60 at one time. It also has sizeable populations of sambar, chital and wild boar, and abundant birdlife including grey-headed fish, and crested serpent eagles, and black-shouldered kite. Following the jeep safari, we continue on to Tissamaharama.
- Accommodation: Tissamaharsma, 2-nights including breakfast
- Today we will explore Yala National Park on two jeep safaris, each of some three hours. Yala is Sri Lanka’s oldest wildlife reserve, famous for having one of the highest densities of leopard in the world, and some of the world’s largest and most visible specimens. During the morning and evening safaris we may also see elephant, sloth bear, sambar, chital, wild boar, as well as striped-necked, brown and ruddy mongoose, black-naped hare, marsh mugger crocodile and several civet species. Birding highlights include the southern sirkeer, blue-faced malkoha, yellow-wattled lapwing, rufous-winged bush lark, thick-billed flower-pecker, purple sunbird, little minivet, white-rumped shama and rare black-necked stork.
- This morning we will enjoy another jeep safari in Yala National Park – with a final chance to spot leopard and the other resident animals. In the afternoon, we continue for around three hours to Mirissa, stopping en route to visit Weherahena Temple with its 25 metre high colourful Buddha statue. The temple also boasts artificial caves decorated with 200 scenes illustrated in comic book style that relate episodes from the life of Buddha.
- Accommodation: Mirissa area, 5-nights including dinner and breakfast.
- Over the next four days, we will enjoy a daily morning boat excursion (weather dependent) to sight blue whales. Each trip will last around three hours, giving us the best chance of seeing cetaceans, accompanied by a whale specialist. These whale and dolphin trips are practically unique to Mirissa, on the south coast of Sri Lanka. This is the premier spot for seeing blue, and sometimes sperm, whales, and our trips operate at times that are particularly good for spotting blue whales (the season is from November to April), which are present because the nutrient-rich waters create exceptionally good feeding grounds. These are the largest animals in the world – reaching up to 33 metres in length; a blue whale’s tongue alone can weigh up to three tonnes!
- One afternoon we’ll visit a tea plantation. The southern part of Sri Lanka is not traditionally known for tea cultivation, however the tea grown from sea level up to an altitude of 600 metres in these parts is exceptional in quality. The local soil condition gives the leaves a black colour and imparts a strong and distinctive taste. We will be shown around the tea estate and see the entire production process – from bush to cup.
- Today it’s time to head back to Colombo, via Galle, a drive of around four hours. At one time Galle was Sri Lanka’s most important port, and was protected by a fort erected by the Portuguese who first colonised the area. The impressive Galle Fort was later extended by the Dutch in 1663 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During our stop in Galle we may have an opportunity to see lace being made by hand. On the way north there should be time to stop at the lovely Madu River, whose hundreds of islets, separated by a maze of mangrove-filled creeks, are home to several species of indigenous aquatic birds and fish – a real tropical paradise in miniature.
- On arrival at Katunayake, to the north of Colombo, we will check in to our hotel and be able to enjoy a final farewell dinner with our guide and travelling companions of the previous fortnight!
- Accommodation: Katunayake, 1-night including breakfast.
Day 14 Transfer to Colombo airport & fly back to the UK
All prices are per person and include:
- Services of the naturalist leader
- Breakfast daily
- Some dinners
- Guided activities (one leader – name TBC)
Accommodation is in hotels, all with en suite facilities
Daily breakfast is included.
Price includes return schedulec flights London – Colombo – London.
Spinner dolphins can be seen in huge numbers off Kalpitiya in the north-west, and the south coast of Sri Lanka is possibly the best place in the world to see blue whales and sperm whales.
- Sperm whale
- Spinner dolphin
- Asian elephant
This tour also includes time to see land-based mammals in Uda Walawe and Yala National Parks.
As well as whale and dolphin encounters, this tour offers some great birding highlights, particularly at Yala National Park, home to such species as the southern sirkeer, blue-faced malkoha and yellow-wattled lapwing.
- Purple sunbird
- Thick-billed flower-pecker
- Black-necked stork
- Rufous-winged bush lark