Whilst this safari goes to some of Sri Lanka's greatest wild places, most spectacular scenery and cultural highlights, it will also take you beyond great wildlife to really understand and help the plight of the country's most enigmatic of species: the Sri Lankan subspecies of Asian elephant (Elephus maximus maximus).
If we ran this safari without comment, you could easily come away from Sri Lanka thinking that all is well, with lots of wildlife to see: large herds of elephants, samba deer, perhaps a leopard or sloth bears, vibrant birdlife including many endemics; and some vast preserved areas of habitat.
Alas, as you will discover from our expert guide and leaders in Sri Lankan conservation who will host you on some of the days of this trip, Sri Lanka and its wildlife, especially its elephants, have seen huge changes over the years and their habitat is under growing pressure. Of greatest current threat is invasive species of plant, which are taking over thousands of hectares of prime grazing land. There is also deadly conflict with their human neighbours; and ingestion of plastic rubbish for which Sri Lanka struggles to establish a solution.
This trip and the funds we raise from it, helps Aqua-Firma and its local NGO partners to tackle these issues. Our greatest financial assistance goes towards the eradication of invasive species of plant in the Udawalawe Reserve, where three types of bush, including the Lantana house plant, are smothering the growth of Guinea & Napia Grasses which elephants rely on for food. These plants are also preventing native trees from emerging from the ground. A fourth plant is taking over prime wetland grazing at the water margins of lakes and ponds.
Where hungry elephants break out of parks and reserves to follow their natural migration routes, they take the opportunity to feed on crops. In so doing, they often encounter traps set by angry farmers who are desperate to protect the crops on which they rely for the repayment of bank loans and their ability to feed themselves. Traps rarely kill an elephant straight away. Instead they cause injury which leads to a slow painful death. Sometimes villagers fill pumpkins with explosives, primarily targeted at wild boar. When an elephant eats one, it usually blows away their tongue and teeth, making it impossible to feed. Death will come quickly.
A trip line attached to a gun will shoot a hole into an elephant's thick skin, which through daily contact with muddy water, leads to a growing infection which kills them weeks later. On some occasions, our local conservation partners, or the Wildlife Department discover injured animals and are able to treat them at one of a couple of wildlife hospitals. There are many cases where the mother dies, leaving behind an orphan which needs to be taken to a rehabilitation centres and tended until the age of five when they are ready to be released into the wild.
We will visit communities neighbouring the Sigiriya monument and Minneriya National Park, to learn first-hand about the problem of crop damage and conflict which has led to both human and elephant deaths. We will conduct nature walks here along electric fences, helping to repair them so that conflict is averted, looking out for wildlife, birdlife and flora along the way. We will then enter the Minneriya National Park to take photos of wild elephants, which will help a local team to identify and track the movements of individuals. We will also conduct photo surveys for identification in perhaps Sri Lanka's great wilderness area of the Wilpattu National Park. We will do the same in the little visited Lunugamwehra National Park.
In travelling from the central region to the south, we will take the opportunity to trek in the Knuckles Mountain Range; visit the Temple of the Tooth in Sri Lanka's second city of Kandy; and the highland town of Nuwara Eliya. Depending upon the time of year, we will head out into the Indian Ocean; either in the south west, or the east coast, in search of Blue Whales, Sperm Whales, Pilot Whales, Dolphins and more.
Price per person (sharing)
Single room occupancy: £585/ US$695
- All transportation
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners
- All accommodation
- Expert guiding
- Contributions to conservation projects you will visit
- National park entry fees
- International flights