Elephant Conservation & Wildlife Safari


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.

Itinerary

September Itinerary with Whale Watching in North Eastern Sri Lanka

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Day 1 - Arrive Colombo / Negombo

You can fly into Colombo at any time today. An airport transfer is included and we will fit around your flight timings and watch out for any delays in your arrival time

You will be met at the airport and then be transferred to a beachside hotel in Negombo, north of Colombo.

The team will assemble for a welcome dinner and introduction to the Nature of Sri Lanka and in particular, the Sri Lankan sub species of Asian Elephant. If some people are arriving late then we will postpone this introduction to the morning of Day 2.

Day 2 - Negombo to Wilpattu National Park

After breakfast we will drive north to a tented camp inside the Wilpattu National Park.

Day 3 - Wilpattu National Park

We will set out early in search of wildlife in Wilpattu; and where we spot elephants, any photos you can take can be used to help ID the individual. If we head into the park early, our chances of seeing leopards will be much increased.

Day 4 - Wilpattu National Park / Anuradhapura / Sigiriya

We will once again head into the Wilpattu National Park in search of wildlife and to take elephant ID photos.

In the afternoon, we will travel to a hotel right in front of the Sigiriya Rock national monument. On the way, we will pass the ancient city monuments of Anuradhapura.

Day 5 - Sigiriya, Pidurangala & Minneriya National Park

Early morning you will head out on nature walks, checking as you go the state or repair of electric fencing designed to separate elephants and crops. A team will accompany you to mend any broken electric fences. Feel free to pick up any litter you see.

You will have a late breakfast at a bush research and conservation station. We will introduce our local NGO partners in the area, who will explain the focus of their work here. You will then visit a local school to discuss ideas on plastic reduction in your society and theirs.

Your lunch will be a delicious local spread which you will see being made using local plants, coconuts and spices.

In the afternoon, we will head to a stunning area along the edge of the Minneriya National Park in view of Sigiriya Rock & Pidurangala Rock for nature walks and electric fence inspection and repair.

Day 6 - Sigiriya, Minneriya & Nilaveli

This morning we you will be taken to see the Sigiriya Rock monument up close. You can climb to the top if you wish.

In the afternoon, we will head into the Minneriya National Park to observe its wildlife, take elephant photo IDs. We will also take a look at some huge invasive bamboo whose spread requires heavy machinery to put in check.

Later in the day you will drive to the north east coast and stay at a beach hotel.

Day 7 - Trincomalee Whale Watching

Whale watching at Trincomalee.

Day 8 - Trincomalee Whale Watching - Kandy

Whale watching at Trincomalee.

In the afternoon you will drive south west to Sri Lanka's second city of Kandy.

Day 9 - Kandy Temple of the Tooth & Nuwara Eliya

This morning we will visit one of Sri Lanka's most important cultural sites: the Temple of the Tooth.

We will then drive to the famous hill country town of Nuwara Eliya.

Late afternoon: you can join some nature walks and birdwatching; or we can help you to arrange some hill country golf.

Day 10 - Nuwara Eliya & Udawalawe National Park

Early morning birdwatching will be available.

After breakfast, drive to the Udawalawe National Park. On this visit we will focus first on exploring the park's wildlife and birdlife - in particular its elephants. As the safari progresses we will start to point out invasive species and the impact they are having.

PM: We will go to a rehabilitation centre to watch the feeding of orphaned elephants.

In the evening, our local conservation partners will share more detailed information about the natural history, history and invasive species of Udawalawe.

Day 11 - Udawalawe National Park

There is some abundant birdlife close to where you will be staying, so some pre-breakfast birding will be available.

After breakfast you will head into Udawalawe for the whole day. In addition to wildlife watching, you will meet the team who this trip will be employing to clear as many acres as possible of invasive plants. You will be able to 'get to grips' with the plants causing the problem yourself too.

Day 12 - Lunugamwehra National Park

Early start for full day at Lunugamwehra National Park for nature watching and elephant photo IDs.

We will spend the night at Tissamaharama.

Day 13 - Tissamaharama & Weligama Bay

Today we will conduct some birdwatching and cultural visits around Tissamaharama. Later, we will drive to the south coast for a relaxing late afternoon.

Day 14 - Weligama Bay to Colombo airport

Transfer to Colombo airport for your flight home.

February Itinerary with Whale Watching in South Western Sri Lanka

Day 1 - Arrive Colombo / Negombo

You can fly into Colombo at any time today. An airport transfer is included and we will fit around your flight timings and watch out for any delays in your arrival time

You will be met at the airport and then be transferred to a beachside hotel in Negombo, north of Colombo.

The team will assemble for a welcome dinner and introduction to the Nature of Sri Lanka and in particular, the Sri Lankan sub species of Asian Elephant. If some people are arriving late then we will postpone this introduction to the morning of Day 2.

Day 2 - Negombo to Wilpattu National Park

After breakfast we will drive north to a tented camp inside the Wilpattu National Park.

Day 3 - Wilpattu National Park

We will set out early in search of wildlife in Wilpattu; and where we spot elephants, any photos you can take can be used to help ID the individual. If we head into the park early, our chances of seeing leopards will be much increased.

Day 4 - Wilpattu National Park / Anuradhapura / Sigiriya

We will once again head into the Wilpattu National Park in search of wildlife and to take elephant ID photos.

In the afternoon, we will travel to a hotel right in front of the Sigiriya Rock national monument. On the way, we will pass the ancient city monuments of Anuradhapura.

Day 5 - Sigiriya - Pidurangala - Minneriya

Early morning you will head out on nature walks, checking as you go the state or repair of electric fencing designed to separate elephants and crops. A team will accompany you to mend any broken electric fences. Feel free to pick up any litter you see.

You will have a late breakfast at a bush research and conservation station. We will introduce our local NGO partners in the area, who will explain the focus of their work here. You will then visit a local school to discuss ideas on plastic reduction in your society and theirs.

Your lunch will be a delicious local spread which you will see being made using local plants, coconuts and spices.

In the afternoon, we will head to a stunning area along the edge of the Minneriya National Park in view of Sigiriya Rock & Pidurangala Rock for nature walks and electric fence inspection and repair.

Day 6 - Sigiriya & Minneriya National Park

This morning we you will be taken to see the Sigiriya Rock monument up close. You can climb to the top if you wish.

In the afternoon, we will head into the Minneriya National Park to observe its wildlife, take elephant photo IDs. We will also take a look at some huge invasive bamboo whose spread requires heavy machinery to put in check.

Day 7 - Sigiriya / Knuckles Range

You will once again wake up with a spectacular view of Sigiriya Rock. We will have a leisurely breakfast before driving south to one of Sri Lanka's most scenic area: the Knuckles Range. Here you will be taken out by our expert nature and birdwatching guide to explore the many forest habitats this area possesses. Expect to see lots of butterflies!

Day 8 - Knuckles to Temple of the Tooth, kandy to Nuwara Eliya

You can head out on an early morning walk before breakfast and a drive to Sri Lanka's second city of Kandy to visit Temple of the Tooth.

You will then drive to the famous hill country town of Nuwara Eliya.

Late afternoon: you can join some nature walks and birdwatching; or we can help you to arrange some hill country golf.

Day 9 - Nuwara Eliya to Udawalawe National Park

Early morning birdwatching will be available.

After breakfast, drive to the Udawalawe National Park. On this visit first we will focus on exploring the park's wildlife and birdlife - in particular its elephants. As the safari progresses we will start to point out invasive species and the impact they are having.

PM: We will go to a rehabilitation centre to watch the feeding of orphaned elephants.

In the evening, our local conservation partners will share more detailed information about the natural history, history and invasive species of Udawalawe.

Day 10 - Udawalawe National Park

There is some abundant birdlife close to where you will be staying, so some pre-breakfast birding will be available.

After breakfast you will head into Udawalawe for the whole day. In addition to wildlife watching, you will meet the team who this trip will be employing to clear as many acres as possible of invasive plants. You will be able to 'get to grips' with the plants causing the problem yourself too.

Day 11 - Lunugamwehra National Park

Early start for full day at Lunugamwehra National Park for nature watching and elephant photo IDs.

We will spend the night at Tissamaharama.

Day 12 - Tissamaharama to Weligama Bay

Pre-breakfast birdwatching will again be available. You will then drive to the south coast for a relaxing late afternoon.

Day 13 - Weligama Bay & Mirissa

Early morning we will head out for whale and dolphin watching.

Day 14 - Weligama Bay - Colombo airport

Transfer to Colombo airport for your flight home.

Dates

15 - 28 Sep 2019 - £ 2,250
US$ 2,690

Small Group trip (14 Days)
with Whale Watching & Cultural highlights
led by wildlife & birdlife experts and hosted by leaders in Sri Lankan conservation

09 - 22 Feb 2020 - £ 2,350
US$ 2,790

Small Group trip (14 Days)
with Whale Watching & Cultural highlights
led by wildlife & birdlife experts and hosted by leaders in Sri Lankan conservation

Notes:
Price per person (sharing)

Single room occupancy:
Sep 2019:  £585/ US$695
Feb 2020:  £590/ US$695

Prices include:
- All transportation
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners
- All accommodation
- Expert guiding
- Contributions to conservation projects you will visit
- National park entry fees

Not included:
- International flights
- Tips
- Drinks

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