Wildlife & Culture - Central & South Sri Lanka

There is a lot to take in on a visit to Sri Lanka. It has some highly diverse natural areas, ranging from bushlands, savannah, mangroves, lakes, tropical coastlines and primary rainforests; and some of Asia's greatest cultural sites, of which the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, is considered by many as next in line as a Wonder of the World.

This journey distils the many options available to create a wonderfully diverse and colourful experience of the central and southern parts of the country. Below is a summary of the main protected areas and cultural hotspots incorporated. This is a privately guided itinerary, available at any time of the year, so we can change the areas you visit, how long you travel for and tailor the focus of your guides. We assume a general interest in all aspect of nature, wildlife, culture and history, but we can steer the expertise of your guide towards any areas of special interest we know in advance.

Bundala National Park

Bundala National Park lies on Sri Lanka's southeastern coast. Beaches here attract nesting turtles whilst extensive wetlands attract crocodiles, flamingos and all of Sri Lanka's species of wetland birds - often in large numbers. Away from the wetlands, short thorny forest predominates... more

Kitulgala Forest Reserve

Kitulgala Forest Reserve is home both to excellent birdlife and as a base for some of Sri Lanka's best adventure travel.  Our adventure options here include white water rafting, mountain biking and white water abseiling. It is equally ideal for slow river descents and nature walks... more

Minneriya National Park

Minneriya National Park is a dry zone forest not far from the city of Polonnarauwa. A dominant aspect of the park is the 'tank'; a water catchment built on the 3rd Century BC. In the dry season in particular, grasslands surrounding the tank attract large herds of elephants... more

Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve


Sinharaja is Sri Lanka's last area of primary (unlogged) lowland rainforest. Amongst trees reaching 45m, reside 19 out of Sri Lanka 20 endemic birds, primates, orchids, tree frogs. Sinharaja is a highly rewarding rainforest experience with one of our expert guides... more

Tissamaharama Wetlands

Tissamaharama Wetlands are adjacent to the pretty Tissa Wewa Reservoir which was built in the 2nd Century BC by King Kavantissa. Along the shore  we can find flocks of aquatic birds including spot-billed pelicans, stork-billed kingfishers and lesser whistling ducks... more

Udawalawe National Park

Udawalawe National Park is famous primarily for great opportunities to see Asian elephants. This 308 km2 park comprises of open grassy plains and a huge lake which was created by a dam. Here we can see crocodiles, monitor lizards and a large array of birds... more

Udawattakele Rainforest, Kandy

Udawattakele Forest borders Sri Lanka's second city of Kandy. There is a surprising variety of flora and fauna here, including several endemic species of plant. About 80 types of bird can be found here including the endemic Layard's parakeet and Sri Lanka hanging parrot. Mammals include... more

Yala National Park

Yala National Park is most famous for its concentrated population of leopards and elephants. Your chances of seeing leopards here are pretty much as high as anywhere in the world. This beautiful coastal savannah and woodland reserve in southern Sri Lanka... more

Dambulla: The Cave Temple

Dambulla is most famous for its Cave Temple Complex, which is the largest and best preserved of its kind in Sri Lanka. There are more than 80 documented caves in the area, but there are five major caves which contain statues... more

Sigiriya: The Temple Fortress

Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, is a temple fortress carved literally from a solid piece of rock nearly 200m high. Lying in the north central region of Sri Lanka, this is perhaps the single most famous monument in Sri Lanka... more

Polonnaruwa's ancient city is a World Heritage Site and the second site ever to be declared as the capital of Sri Lanka, when King Vijaybahu I defeated Chola invaders in 1070. There are hundreds of ancient structures to visit here, including tombs, temples, stupas and statues.... more

Temple of the Tooth

The Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) in Kandy is Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist religious monument - a symbolic, cultural centre of Sri Lankan independence and pride… more

There is great scenic variety within this itinerary. In addition to the natural environments you will experience, Sri Lanka's core has many rolling green hills covered in team plantations. You will journey through some of the most scenic sections of this by train, riding across nine arch bridges. Overland, you will drive through the Ella Gap and see the Rayana Waterfalls. The majority of your journey will be overland, including 4 wheel drives in bush and savannah areas.

Accommodation we use is comfortable, but can be both downgraded and upgraded in order to meet your expectations of comfort and budget. At the more exclusive end, we can operate private luxury camping should you like the idea of a being consumed by the natural environment.


Sample 12 Day Itinerary

This is a privately guided tailor made itinerary which can be adjusted according to your interests and time you have. Please Contact Us to discuss.

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo

Arrive Colombo where you will be met by one of our drivers, who will take you, privately, to a beach hotel in Negombo.

Day 2: Sigiriya

After breakfast, your guide will collect you from your hotel and set out on your journey north east to Sri Lanka's most famous cultural highlight: Sigiriya, or Lion Rock. Here you will be able to visit the temple and walk to the top of the rock and admire some fantastic views. There are also some lovely gardens surrounding the rock with some surprisingly prolific birdlife.

Day 3: Minneriya & Polonnaruwa

This morning you will be driven to the Minneriya National Park, famous in particular for its wild Asian Elephants.

In the afternoon, visit the many tombs, temples, stupas and statues of Polonnaruwa.

Day 4: Dambulla

This morning you will be driven to explore the cave temples and artworks of Dambulla.

From here you will be driven to Kandy where you will spend the night.

Day 5: Kandy's Udawattakale Forest & Temple of the Buddha's Tooth Relic

You will spend a full day in Kandy where very close together you can visit the golden-roofed Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Buddha's Tooth Relic) and Udawattakale Forest, which rises from behind it. You can agree with your private guide which location you visit first … or indeed head to the forest early morning and later in the day, visiting the temple in between. You may also wish to explore something of Sri Lanka's second city.

Day 6: Train to Nuwara Eliya

This morning you will sample an alternative form of transport: a train, which from Kandy passes through some wonderful scenery of tea plantations, hills and scatted woodlands to Nuwara Eliya.

You will be staying in a country house amongst tea plantations which your guide will take you to see. Late afternoon your guide will take you birdwatching.

Day 7: Tissamaharama & the Ravana Waterfalls

You will travel overland again today, through the scenic Ella Gap, stopping at the impressive Ravana Waterfall before arriving at the southern city, famous for its lakes and temples of Tissamaharama.

In the afternoon you will be taken to visit the temples here, as well as conduct some birdwatching amongst the many lakes and wetlands if you wish.

Day 8: Yala National Park, Leopards & Bundala

We will take you to the Yala National Park early today, when there are fewer people in the park and the chances to spot wildlife are usually best. We can steer your focus as you wish, but this is the best place in the world to see leopards.

After lunch you will drive into the neighbouring Bundala National Park. … or if you prefer, stay longer in Yala.

Day 9: Udawalawe

In the morning you will drive to Udawalawe where you will spend the rest of the day on safari.

Day 10: Sinharaja Lowland Rainforest

This morning you will drive to Sri Lanka's most important lowland rainforest area of Sinharaja. You will explore this rich and precious rainforest on foot, focusing as you wish, be that birds, or primate, insect, butterflies, frog, flora, scenery or a combination of everything.

Day 11: Sinharaja

At dawn, you will have a quick snack and tea or coffee and then set off on foot in search of wildlife, birds and whatever presents itself.

You will come back to your forest lodge for breakfast and then engage in further walks. As the day moves on, there will be less wildlife and birdlife activity, but this can provide time to focus more on other aspects of the forest.

PM: Drive back to Colombo and check into your same hotel in the city.

Day 12: Depart Colombo

Private transfer to the airport.


Price per person sharing (based on 2 people travelling)
Prices will be less for 3 or more travelling together

Single room occupancy: add £450 / US$490

Prices include:
- All accommodation
- All breakfasts & evening meals
- All lunches outside of Colombo
- Private transportation & guiding
- Entry fees to all natural areas and monuments listed in the itinerary

Not included:
- International flights
- Items of a personal nature, such as telephone calls, laundry etc
- Tips
- Camera & video fees where required
- Drinks

Ranging from premium to more basic at Sinharaja. Upgrades available including private luxury tented camps.

  • Lotens Sunbird
  • Purple Faced Langur - Charlotte Caffrey
  • Sri Lanka Blue Magpie
  • Lizard in Sinharaja - Ralph Pannell
  • Sigiriya, The Lion Rock
  • White Throated Kingfisher - Ralph Pannell
  • Tea Plantations in Nuwara Eliya - Charlotte Caffrey
  • Green Imperial Pigeon

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka National Park & Reserve Guides

Sri Lanka Cultural Sites & Monuments Guide

  • Toque Macaque - Charlotte Caffrey
  • Oriental Darter - Ralph Pannell
  • Grey Headed Fish Eagle - Ralph Pannell
  • Temple of the Tooth, Kandy
  • Temple of the Tooth - Charlotte Caffrey
  • Elephant Sanctuary in Udawalawe
  • St Clair Waterfall, Nuwara Eliya - Jane Coleman
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