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irdwatching
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Sri Lanka: Butterflies, Leopards, Blue Whales



Summary and recommendation
: "...173 days long leisurely tour, covering the premier butterfly habitats of Sri Lanka (former Ceylon), a must destination for every butterfly enthusiast. Incredible culture, temples, great food, very high number of endemics, and the easiest leopard-watching place on Earth invite us. The top of the icecream? I guess the Blue Whales!..."


 

Destination country: Sri Lanka. Arrival and departure to/from Columbo.

Next schedule: TBA.

Duration: 13 days.


Price: £TBA. Single supplement: £TBA. Price includes: accommodations and meals, vehicle hire with fuel and driver guide, forest walk fees, park entrance fees and ranger guides. Apart from a few occasions we spend the entire day in the field, where picnic lunch will be organised. The price exclude: bank transfer loss, international flight, visa, tips, drinks, personal travel insurance and any other activities of personal request e.g. laundry, phone calls, toalet fees, etc.

Accommodation: Three star hotels and good lodges all the way with private facility.

Numbers: Min. 6 person, max. 12 person, with two guides.

Transport: Toyota Coaster minibus with optional 4x4 when its necessary.

Recommended literature: However not portable at all, the magnificent coffe-table opus, "The Butterflies of Ceylon" by Bernard d'Abrera is definitely something to look for! "Butterflies of Sri Lanka" by Arittha Wikramanayake and Ariesha Wikramanayake is far the best bet for the field. "Butterflies of India" by Thomas Gay, Isaac David Kehimkar and Jagdish Punetha also highly recommended. For a one volume bird book I suggest to have the "Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka" by John Harrison and Tim Worfolk. The famed "Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide" is a two volume detailed work by Pamela C Rasmussen and John C Anderton. "A Photographic Guide to the Mammals of Sri Lanka" by Gehan De Silva Wijeyeratne can be also very useful.

Tour description: "... Sri Lanka has a lot to commend it as a holiday destination. Only 30 miles off the coast of mainland India and covering an area roughly the size of Belgium and the Netherlands combined, Sri Lanka is a great place to see butterflies with 243 species recorded so far and late February/early March, which is at the end of the monsoon season, should be a very good time to see them. There is no shortage of fantastic butterflies to be found, including species with names as exotic as their appearance like Tawny Rajah, Common Bluebottle, Blue Pansy, Dark Blue Tiger, Painted Sawtooth and Southern Duffer. It is also one of the best places for seeing the world’s largest mammal, the Blue Whale, and Leopard which we will also target. One of the attractions of Sri Lanka is the wide range of different habitats within a small area, with fantastic rainforest at Sinharaja, open savannah at Yala national park, impressive mountain ranges and, of course, miles of pristine beaches. Birdlife is also pretty prolific with a large number of endemic species (33) and we should see a good range of mammals including several different monkeys, deer, Sambar and Elephant..."


Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival day. Early morning arrival at Columbo after our overnight flight. Here we will be met with our naturalist guide. After breakfast, we leave for Martin’s Simple Lodge, Sinharaja for three nights. Staying here means that the rainforest is right on our doorstep and avoids having to drive in each day over rough and difficult tracks. The Lodge is in a terrific setting with the dining area overlooking the jungle.

Day 2-3: Full day visits to Sinharaja Rainforest which is a World Heritage Site. Sri Lanka holds almost 250 species of butterfly and Sinharaja is a hotspot for many Asian species. Over the two days, we should see many butterflies including Ceylon Hedge Blue, Red Spot, Dark Palm Dart, Rustic, Indian Palm Bob, Ceylon Snow Flat, Common Jay and also look for rare and endemic butterflies in the open areas outside the Forest Reserve. This is the end of the monsoon season and newly emerged butterflies should be plentiful on the luxuriant foliage. There should be plenty of other insects to admire (Sri Lanka also has 118 species of dragonfly) and the lights of the accommodation should attract plenty of moths at night. Good birds are to be found here as well including some of the 33 species endemic to Sri Lanka. Sinharaja is well known for its mixed feeding flocks and target species include Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and Scaly Thrush. Small mammals to look out for include at least three different varieties of squirrel.
Overnights at Martin’s Simple Lodge.

Day 4: After breakfast, we leave for the Mandara Resort at Weligama for one night. The hotel is quite a contrast to our accommodation in Sinharaja with many rooms complete with their own private plunge pool or Jacuzzi. This is a great location on Sri Lanka’s southern tip with views straight out to the Indian Ocean. Weligama has a lovely sandy beach but is also a busy fishing village and we shall be able to watch the boats returning in the evening to unload their catch.

Day 5: The following morning, we take the boat from the fishery harbour out to sea in search of Blue Whales and Dolphins. Blue whales are often seen relatively close to shore as the continental shelf narrows to the south of Dondra Point. If conditions allow, we will also venture a little further out to sea to look for sperm whales although sometimes even these come within a few kilometres of the shore. In the afternoon, we head for the east coast to the Elephant Reach Hotel, Yala for three nights. This is a new hotel set in landscaped gardens with its own swimming pool.

Day 6-7: Safari time – our hotel is fairly close to the entrance of Yala National Park and each morning and afternoon we will head for the Park by landrover in search of Elephants, Leopards, Deer, Sambhur, Wild Boar, Sloth Bear, Buffalo, Crocodiles, and a large number of birds, including Malabar Pied Hornbill, Painted Stork, Lesser Adjutant and Black-necked Stork. Leopard is the top predator at Yala and with an average density of one per square kilometer we have a reasonable chance of finding them. Yala also has a good selection of dry zone butterflies and we will particularly look for the Tailed Jay, Dark Wanderer, Cruiser, Common Tiger, Plain Tiger, Gladeye Bush Brown, Little Banded Swift, Common Rose, Dark Blue Tiger, Small Salmon Arab, Tawny Coaster and the Common Leopard butterflies in the park. Our hotel is close to the beach and between safari drives a stroll to the south should prove productive with Zebra Blue, Cornelian, Mottled Emigrant, Common Emigrant, Danaid Eggfly, Great Eggfly, Common Indian Crow, Brown King Crow and Dark Blue Tiger all recorded from this area. Overnights at Elephant Reach.

Day 8: After breakfast, we leave for St.Andrew’s Hotel, Nuwara Eliya for two nights. Nuwara Eliya is an old hill station and the town and our hotel which is around 100 years old still has a distinct colonial feel with even four poster beds in some rooms! Situated on a plateau at around 6,000 feet, the town is surrounded by tea plantations and a ring of high mountains. This provides a rather different habitat for butterflies and we hope to target a number of species that we will not have previously come across including Tailless Line Blue, Ceylon Tiger, Forget-me-not, Blue Pansy, Large Oakblue, Common Jezebel, Common Laser, Indian Awl King, Common Sailor, Chestnut Streaked Sailor, the very beautiful Tree Nymph and Red Helen in the Lunugamvehera Sanctuary and near Ravana Ella waterfall. In the afternoon, we will visit Victoria Park which was originally built by prisoners after the Boer War and drive around the attractive lake, visiting the rather quaintly called Elk plains & Moon plains. In the evening, we will visit Hakgala Botanical Gardens about 6 miles south-east of the town. This was originally an experimental plantation for many spices and other plants including cinchona, an important source for the anti-malarial drug quinine. Today, the gardens are home to many exotic trees and flowers with many interesting butterflies and birds. We shall also look out for the montane races of both Purple-faced Leaf Monkey and Toque Macaque which occur here.

Day 9: Another very contrasting habitat is provided by Horton Plains National Park which is our destination for today. This is a very mountainous area with extensive areas of cloud forest. We shall walk both within the National Park area as well as outside in dwarf Bamboo groves. There are a number of butterflies which are endemic, very rare or peculiar to the Plains including Ceylon Tree Brown, Ceylon Forester, Ceylon Tiger, Blue Admiral, Cruiser, Tamil Lace Wing, Aberrant Bushblue, Blue Mormon, Hedge Hopper and Rare Ace. After our picnic lunch at Horton Plains, if conditions are suitable, we will walk up to "Little World's End" and "World's End" and enjoy the incredible view over the park. There are many beautiful trees and plants, including orchids, and wild animals such as Sambar (more than 3000 in the plains), Giant Squirrel and Bear Monkey plus large number of birds including some rare and endemic species like the endangered Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush. Another species to look out for is the Rhino-horned Lizard which is one of the species featured in Darwin’s “Evolution of Species”.
Overnight at St. Andrews (and yes there is a golf course!).

Day 10: After breakfast, we leave for the Hunas Falls Hotel, Kandy for two nights. En route, if people are interested there will be an opportunity to visit a Tea Plantation & Factory and to see Ramboda Waterfall which is 329 ft. high. At Peradeniya, we will visit the Royal Botanical Gardens, extending to147 acres, which were founded as long ago as 1371 by the Kings of Kandy. The gardens are in a beautiful setting surrounded on three sides by the waters of the Mahaweli Ganga. The gardens are home to Metallic Cerulean, Plumbeous Silverline, Yamfly, Great Orange Tip, Indian Red Admiral, Ceylon Lesser Albatross, Ceylon Palmfly, Common Tree Brown, Blue Admiral, Common Banded Peacock and Common Blue Bottle among the flowering bushes and trees. The hotel is in a very scenic spot with lots of outside terracing to enable us to take in the views.

Day 11:
After breakfast, we head for the Knuckles Range of mountains to the east via Hunasgiriya and Looloowatta carrying a picnic lunch. We will spend the whole day in the mountain range looking for butterflies and other wildlife. Common Line Blue, Indian Dart, Common Banded Awl, Clipper, Ceylon Tiger, Indian Fritillary and Common Banded Demon are all recorded from here.
Overnight at Hunas Falls.

Day 12: After breakfast, we head back to the west coast where we spend our final day and night at the Seashells Hotel, Negombo. The hotel is situated on a picturesque stretch of beach with great views out to sea. It should be a good spot to unwind and chill out in preparation for our return journey tomorrow.

Day 13: Early morning transfer to Airport for departure, arriving back in the UK later the same day.

   



Upcoming trips & Expeditions

Slovenia butterflying (21 - 28 July, 2022)

Bears and Butterflies o Transylvania. With Danube Clouded Yellow and High Carpathian extension; 30 July - 06, Aug. , 2022)

Crane weekends of Hungary (October, 2022)

2023' dates are coming in late August

Full tour calendar


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