This is a short Summer itinerary which is ideal for a short wildlife holiday which features the best wildlife highlights of the season. From the largest gathering of Asian Elephants in the world, to encounters with Leopard and Sloth bear in the deep dark forests of Wilpattu, this is also a great season for night safaris which bring out the mysterious and elusive nocturnal mammal species seldom seen during daytime.
Safaris in Wilpattu National Park, the largest and most iconic safari destination in Sri Lanka. The land of dark forests and white sandy lakes, and home to the enigmatic Sri Lankan Leopard the apex predator of the island and the mysterious Sloth Bear.
Night safaris in search of the elusive 3 species of wild cats – Fishing Cat, Jungle Cat and Rusty Spotted Cat
Safaris in Minneriya/Kaudulla National Parks which are home to Asia’s largest gathering of elephants with herds numbers over 300 individuals during certain times of the season.
Venture into Polonnaruwa with an expert primatologist as you walk the ruins which is home to the 3 species of monkey in Sri Lanka and observe their social behavior and learn about their individual stories related by an expert from the Primate Research Center. Meet the stars of the famous Disney documentary “Monkey Kingdom”.
Night walk into a mysterious world after dark to come face to face with the “Elves of the Forest, the bizzare Slender Loris.
Upon arrival you will be welcomed by your naturalist guide, with a warm welcome of “Ayubowan”, which is the Sri Lankan word for “May you Live Long”, which is the universal greeting across the island. He will escort you outside where you will onboard the comfortable vehicle arranged for you. Journey to the nearby town of Makanduwa (30-40 min drive), and check into your hotel and spend the remainder of the day at leisure.
After checkout, journey towards the North Central Region of Sri Lanka, where Wilpattu National Park, the largest park in the island is located. Upon reaching the village of Hunuwilgama, switch to a safari jeep which will take you on a short drive across a jungle road to your safari camp. After a warm welcome you will be escorted to your tents, and thereafter served a succulent Sri Lankan lunch at the camp dining area. By 2.30 PM it is time for you to hop on your safari jeep with your naturalist, and head into Wilpattu National Park for your first game drive.
Popularly dubbed as ‘the land of the lakes’, Wilpattu National Park is famous for watching wildlife within its picturesque villus and dry evergreen forests. It is Sri Lanka’s oldest and largest national park which re-opened in 2010 after being closed for nearly three decades due to the civil war. Wilpattu is one of the top spots in Sri Lanka for watching Leopard and Sloth Bear. Other larger animals seen regularly here include Elephant, Jackal, Mugger Crocodile, Sambar, Spotted Deer and Buffalo are among the larger animals regularly encountered.
Return back to camp by dusk. After dark, head out on a night safari in the buffer zone of the park. This is the best time of year to spot the elusive Fishing Cat, Jungle Cat and the extremely rare Rusty Spotted Cat. If you are truly lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a leopard prowling the night.
Return back to camp for your overnight stay.
The next two days, will encompass full day safaris into Wilpattu National Park with packed breakfast and Lunch. The longer you spend in the park the better the chances of some captivating sightings.
Wilpattu is also an excellent birding location particularly in the winter months with over 200 recorded species including a variety of raptors such as Crested Serpent, Changeable Hawk and White-bellied Sea Eagles, Brown Fish Owl; the endemic Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Woodshrike and a large number of water birds and waders by the water’s edge near the villus.
Return on both days back to camp at dusk.
Night drives will be organized during your stay. These night drives are around the buffer zones of the park are an excellent time and opportunity to try and catch an eye on rare nocturnal animals especial the small cat species the Fishing Cat, Jungle Cat and Rusty Spotted Cat
After one more safari early morning, you will checkout from camp and head towards Habarana (2 hours drive),
Check into your hotel in Habarana
Afterwards, you will head to either Kaudulla or Minneriya National Parks to witness the largest gathering of Asian Elephants in the world.
The Gathering of Elephants’, which is ranked among the world’s top wildlife viewing spectacles runs from June – October each year. Each afternoon, around 150 - 200 individual elephants come out of the forest in to the open to graze on the fresh green pasture by the water’s edge at Minneriya and Kaudulla national parks. You have excellent opportunities here to observe the social dynamics of the Asian Elephant as the large bulls in musth compete among each other and seek the females within the herd, while young calves with carefree abandon get up to their mischievous antics often to the displeasure of its alert mothers within the herd. Water birds such as Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Woolly-necked Stork along with raptors such as White-bellied Sea Eagles and Grey-headed Fishing Eagles are abundant around these large man-made lakes.
Return back to your hotel for Dinner and overnight stay
Early morning head to Polonnaruwa, for a guided primate walk,
Walk with a primatologist amongst the ruins in Polonnaruwa to observe the antics of the Langurs and Macaques and get to meet some of the characters within the troops who the researchers know personally. All three species of monkey- the toque Macaque and the canopy dwelling Purple-faced Leaf Monkey (both endemics) and the Grey Langur can be observed here. Polonnaruwa’s ‘Temple Troop of Toque Macaques’ have been featured in numerous natural history documentaries are a part of the world’s longest running study on primates which has run continuously since 1968. The monkeys here are habituated to the presence of humans enabling excellent opportunities to observe their social interactions at close-range. Whether play fighting, feeding or grooming each other there is never a dull moment when watching monkeys.
Return back to your hotel for a late breakfast.
In the afternoon depending on the water conditions of Kalawewa Lake, head towards the newly proposed park which is home to another elephant gathering. This gathering is lesser known and with much fewer visitors. The specialty of this herd of elephants is the high number of tuskers. Only bulls in the Asian Elephant produces ivory unlike in the African Elephant, and among Sri Lankan Elephants, it is very rare to have males with ivory. It is estimated that only 7% of the bulls have tusks in Sri Lanka. Hence the herd in Kalawewa is unique that there is a higher number of tuskers in comparison to other parts of the country.
If the waters are too high, visit Minneriya or Kaudulla National Park once again depending on the locations of the herds of elephants
Return back to your hotel at dusk. After some refreshments, head back out towards Dambulla to a patch of forest where you naturalist will take you on a wildlife walk like no other. Come face to face with the “Elves of the Forest” the bizzare Grey Slender Loris. These animals are primates which are strictly nocturnal which can be clearly noticed with their large round eyes. Despite their cute appearance they are fearsome predators and known to kill and eat small birds, lizards and insects.
Return back to your lodge afterwards for dinner and overnight stay.
Today after you checkout, you will drive towards airport, where you will onboard your flight back home (4 hours drive)
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