• 19 FEBRUARY - 1 MARCH 2023

Beyond Average Birding in Sri Lanka

Curated for a keen birder and their not-so-keen birding partner

Waikkal | Kitulgala | Nuwara Eliya | Yala | Weligama

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Starting out at the National Aquatic Resources Agency as a research assistant, engaged in cetaceans and the nesting behaviour of marine turtles, Lester has been leading birding and wildlife tours in Sri Lanka and India since 2001.  A fanatical birder and naturalist, Lester has authored and co-authored many articles and several papers as well. As well as a naturalist, he is a very talented artist and for over three decades has produced more than a dozen painting solo exhibitions in Sri Lanka and collective exhibitions in the UK and France.

Read more about Lester


Ramani comes with a BA Major in Biology from Smith College in Massachusetts USA, and is passionate about the world of the wild. Working as a research officer at the National Aquatic Resources Agency on the documentation and identification of Sri Lankan corals and fish life of the Bar Reef off the North Western coast, she has also carried out a survey of whales and dolphins in Bangladesh as well as in the Myeik Archipelago and Burma under Brian D. Smith of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), UK. She also ran a dedicated marine mammal survey of the Bar Reef, Mirissa and Beruwala under Anouk Ilangakoon for the Coast Conservation Department of Sri Lanka.

Read more about Ramani

See the unseen
Trial your favourite SWAROVSKI OPTIK product

What better way to enjoy a prized birding expedition than with the opportunity to use one of the world’s most sought-after pairs of binoculars? Enjoy the use of a pair of SWAROVSKI OPTIK binoculars, which will allow you to view the most intricate of details.

You will have the opportunity to choose your favourite SWAROVSKI OPTIK product, which will be sent to your home prior to departure, so that you can familiarise yourself with the equipment beforehand, trial it for the duration of your journey and have the option to purchase it on your return if you would like to keep it.

NL 10×32

Groundbreaking optical performance – packed into the smallest possible package: the NL Pure 32 accompanies you wherever you may go for unprecedented viewing experiences.

NL 8×32

Keep the overview. The 8x magnification in combination with the enormous field of view lets you completely immerse yourself in nature – even during the late hours of the night.

CL 8×30

You’ll never miss out with the new CL Companion. These elegant binoculars with impressive optics fit perfectly in your hand. They are always with you to ensure you make the most of every sighting.

Your journey at a glance

Immerse yourself in an extraordinary adventure of birding, wildlife and culture in the magical Hill Country and tea estates of Sri Lanka.

A must for avid birders (and their not-so-birding-specific partners); this adventure-filled journey explores some of the country’s fascinating habitats, which are ready to unveil a kaleidoscope of species. What’s more, this itinerary also offers memorable wildlife sightings and a host of cultural immersions. Join &Beyond specialist birding guides, Lester Perera and Ramani Jayewardene, on this captivating 11-day &Beyond 30 year Limited Edition itinerary.

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Your journey begins in Waikkal, a charming beach resort with access to forests, shimmering waterways, sun-kissed beaches and carved out colonial canals.

Explore the Gin Oya River and part of an 18th-century Dutch canal, lined with patches of mangrove forests and riverine forest which, together with the Gin Oya estuary, provide a variety of habitats for a range of birds. Non-birders can venture to the bustling fish market and discover the old Dutch fort of Negombo. Your exciting tour continues to Kitulgala to a private woodland retreat.

Traverse the Kelani Valley Forest Reserve, established to protect the watershed of the Kelani River, where many of Sri Lanka’s endemic birds and amphibians are found. Non-birders can be brave on a white water rafting trip on the Kelani River, the spot where David Lean’s Oscar-winning Bridge on the River Kwai was filmed.

Continue to Nuwara Eliya and explore the unique bird diversity and varied habitats at Victoria Park and Horton Plains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With your naturalist guide, stroll through the Hakgala Botanical Gardens, abundant with thousands of flora varieties, including various orchids and roses, but also a great birding spot. Non-birders can learn the art of tea cultivation on a guided tour at a nearby tea estate and factory to see how Ceylon Tea, regarded as the world’s finest, is grown.

A veritable paradise for birdwatchers, enjoy Yala National Park with close to 300 species recorded. Visit Bundala National Park, Sri Lanka’s first RAMSAR (Convention on Wetlands of International Importance) declared wetland; consisting of brackish lagoons, salt pans and scrub jungle, and an important destination for migrant species.

Your itinerary culminates at Cape Weligama, overlooking the Indian Ocean. Here you will find pelagic birds, magnificent blue whales, and dolphins. Lastly, be sure to explore the labyrinth of narrow streets and atmospheric alleyways of Galle’s 18th century Dutch Fort.

Be sure to peruse through the day-by-day highlights below, which documents the avian species you may encounter as well as a host of activities for both you and your non-birding partner to enjoy.

  • There is the option to extend this itinerary with two nights in Colombo.

2 nights Waikkal | 2 nights Kitulgala | 2 nights Nuwara Eliya | 2 nights Yala National Park | 2 nights Weligama

Are you ready?


This unforgettable journey is hosted and departs on a set date. Should you wish to travel on different dates with your own party, please contact one of our dedicated Travel Specialists to plan your adventure.

A taste of what to expect

Arrival in Waikkal
19 February 2023
  • Upon arrival at Colombo’s Bandaranayake International Airport, you will be welcomed and driven to Waikkal (approximately 1-hour drive).
  • Arrive in Waikkal and check in to Wattura Resort and Spa, a tranquil escape set on a sun-kissed stretch of sand, tucked away between the Waikkal Beach and Gin Oya Estuary. The sublime architecture of this luxury boutique resort blends water elements throughout the property, creating an immersive water-themed experience. 
  • Enjoy a delicious lunch and in the afternoon there will be options for both the birders and the non-birders.
For the Birders
  • Observe pelagic birds and shorebirds and a limited number of terns and gulls will be seen with white-bellied sea-eagles and brahminy kites. 
For the Non-Birders
  • Relax at the resort enjoying the facilities or take a walk on the beach and a dip in the ocean – pure bliss!
20 February 2023

Today, birders and non-birders go off on different adventures depending on your interests for the day. Birders set off early with a packed breakfast, while non-birders enjoy a scrumptious breakfast overlooking the magnificent pool area of your resort’s deck, before setting off with the group on an adventure through Negombo.

For the Birders
  • Enjoy early morning and late afternoon boat rides at the Dutch Canal off Waikkal through the mangroves to view a variety of water birds.    
  • Explore the Gin Oya River and part of an 18th century Dutch canal lined with patches of mangrove, at least ten species in the area, riparian grasses, old trees overhanging the water with nest holes, and patches of farmland.
  • A variety of water birds including grey heron, purple heron, four species of kingfisher; white-throated kingfisher, common kingfisher, stork-billed and pied kingfisher, purple swamphen, black bittern, yellow bittern, Indian pond heron, lesser cormorant, Indian darter are often seen.  Migrant species seen here include rosy starling, blue-tailed bee-eater, barn swallows and the Indian paradise flycatcher. Endemics including the Ceylon swallow and the crimson-fronted barbet.
For the Non-Birders
  • Enjoy a visit to Negombo and explore the vibrant Negombo Fish Market and the charming old Dutch Fort. 
  • Negombo is a bustling beach town located at the mouth of the Negombo Lagoon and brims with the finest seafood restaurants and liveliest places for entertainment along the coast. 
  • Be captivated at the Negombo Fish Market, teeming with activities from early morning. This is the main fish market of Negombo where fishermen haul in their catch for auctioning. In the mornings it is usually filled with a frenzy of activity with quick bargains and negotiations between buyers and sellers. While the fish market has plenty of fresh tuna, shark and seer from the Indian Ocean, it also has some of the island’s finest jumbo prawns, mud crabs, ribbon fish lobsters as well as squid on sale.
  • Explore the ruins of the old Dutch Fort, initially built as a trading post with fortification by the Portuguese. The visible remains of the fort are a part of the eastern wall with the main gate inscribed with the date 1678.
21 February 2023
  • After a delicious breakfast at Wattura Resort and Spa, leave for Kitulgala (approximately 3-hour drive). 
  • On the way, enjoy various birding spots.
  • Arrive in Kitulgala and check-in to Moksha Resort and enjoy lunch.
  • This luxurious boutique hotel is nestled in acres of private woodlands to offer you a quiet and peaceful retreat. Moksha understands the positive impact nature has on one’s health and wellbeing and has a carefully curated space where one can rest and recuperate.
  • Moksha is home to nature’s wonders if you look close enough – from crested serpent eagles, brahminy kites and crested hawk eagles scouting their day’s prey from the skies to Asian giant squirrels feeding their young with jackfruit growing around the property. From a host of endemic fish including the critically endangered asoka barbs that make the “Liyan Oya” rivulet their home, to a host of rare trees such as the ebony, nedun, kitul and hora trees, a delight for all nature lovers.
For the Birders
  • Enjoy afternoon birding at the Kelani Valley Forest Reserve (Access to the reserve is via a river crossing on a dug-out canoe) for lowland endemics.
  • The Kelani Valley Forest Reserve in Kitulgala was established to protect the watershed of the Kelani River and is home to many of Sri Lanka’s endemic birds and amphibians. The endemics seen here include Sri Lanka hanging parrot, Layard’s parakeet, green-billed coucal, chestnut-backed owlet, orange-billed babbler, spot-winged thrush and sub continental endemics such as the Malabar trogon and Sri Lanka frogmouth. It is also one of the few locations where the elusive Serendib scops owl may be seen.
For the Non-birders
  • Enjoy the stunning resort at leisure or go on a hike.
22 February 2023
  • Once again, birders and non-birders take separate routes for the day, but days are flexible and can be tailored to suit the interests of all.
For the Birders
  • Early morning and afternoon birding around Kitulgala and the nearby Kelani Valley Forest Reserve in search of lowland endemics.
  • Target birds here include Sri Lanka hanging parrot, Layard’s parakeet, green-billed coucal, chestnut-backed owlet, orange-billed babbler, spot-winged thrush and sub continental endemics such as the Malabar trogon and Sri Lanka frogmouth. It is also one of the few locations where the elusive Serendib scops owl may be seen.
For the Non-Birders
  • After breakfast go on a white water rafting session on Kelani River. It is also where the WW2-epic ‘Bridge on the river Kwai’, which won seven academy awards and is regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, was filmed.
  • Seven high quality, class II and III rapids and temperate waters make the Kelani a premier introduction to the sport of white-water or an exciting choice for experienced rafters. With the Kelani’s special “Killer Fall” and “Butter Crunch” rapids, rafters are guaranteed a challenge, but are also offered a chance to relax, with small calm stretches allowing a refreshing swim in the river to unwind. 
  • After lunch enjoy optional visits to nearby archaeological sites such as the Belilena Caves dating to c.26,500 BCE, prehistoric cave settlements and the ruins of a nearby ancient kingdom dating back to the year 1521. 
  • Or simply take in the tranquillity and relax at the resort.
Nurawa Eliya
23 February 2023
  • Following breakfast at Moksha Resort, leave for Nuwara Eliya (approximately 3-hour drive). As always there will be opportunistic birding spots en route.
  • Arrive in Nuwara Eliya and check-in to The Oliphant Bungalow, spectacularly placed within tea gardens and mountains. Nestled in Sri Lanka’s highest elevated village, Shanthipura, the bungalow is your home in the countryside.
  • Enjoy a delicious lunch and then in the afternoon there will be activities for the birders and non-birders.
For the Birders
  • In the afternoon, go birding in Victoria Park for highland species and endemics such as yellow-eared bulbul, Sri Lanka white-eye, velvet nuthatch and pied thrush. Migratory species such as Indian pita, Kashmir flycatcher and forest wagtail are also seen here during the winter months.
For the Non-Birders
  • Visit the charming town of Nuwara Eliya, locally nicknamed as little England due to its cooler weather and its history for producing tea since colonial times. The views across Nuwara Eliya are quite breathtaking and it is a delightful place to explore.
Nurawa Eliya
24 February 2023
  • This morning both the birders and the non-birders make a pre-dawn start with a packed breakfast to visit Horton Plains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for primates, deer, highland bird species and endemics.
  • Horton Plains is Sri Lanka’s highest elevated national park and comprises cloud forests and open grassland. 
  • Sambar, Sri Lanka’s largest species of deer are encountered regularly in the plains close to the entrance while the shaggy coated bear monkey (the montane race of the purple-faced leaf monkey) is occasionally seen within the forested areas.
  • A variety of wildlife including endemic rhino-horned and hump-nosed lizards, highland bird species including the Sri Lanka white-eye, dull-blue flycatcher and yellow-eared bulbul are found here and can be seen close to the entrance. Black eagles and Himalayan buzzards are also seen. 
  • Horton Plains is one of the few known locations where elusive highland endemics such as the ‘arrenga’ or Sri Lanka whistling thrush and Sri Lanka bush warbler can be observed. 
  • It is possible to take a longer walk along the nature trails to a viewpoint known as World’s End with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. On the walk back you can view the impressive Baker’s Falls in full flow. This takes around three hours and can delay the return to the Bungalow.
  • Enjoy a delectable lunch back at Oliphant Bungalow.
For the Birders
  • In the afternoon, visit the Hakgala Botanical Gardens for endemic primates and the possibility of more highland species, including another chance for the Sri Lanka whistling thrush.
  • Explore the thousands of flora varieties, including various orchids and roses with your naturalist guide as you can look for wildlife such as coated shaggy bear monkey and abundant highland avian endemics such as rufous-bellied eagle, pied thrush, large-billed leaf warbler, velvet-fronted nuthatch, various flycatchers, woodpecker’s and the Sri Lanka wood pigeon.
For the Non-Birders
  • Learn the art of tea cultivation and take a guided tour at a nearby tea estate and factory to see how Ceylon Tea, regarded as the world’s finest, is grown. 
  • Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of tea with a history dating back to 1867 when it was first introduced to the country.  The hill country is abundant with many tea plantations and factories along its picturesque countryside, which provides the ideal climate for high quality tea grown at altitude. 
  • Estate Tea Pluckers can be seen deftly plucking tea which they fill into large baskets carried on their backs.  On the way, you will pass estate trucks, each embossed with their estate names, taking the freshly collected tea leaves to the factories for processing. 
  • Visiting a tea plantation and factory is a rewarding experience as you get to learn more about the process of making tea as well as some interesting bits of history on its introduction to the country.
Yala National Park
25 February 2023
  • After an early breakfast at Oliphant Bungalow, proceed to Yala National Park (approximately 4½-hour drive). There will be opportunistic birding spots en route and garganey, lesser whistling-duck, pygmy goose, swamphens, moorhen, pheasant-tailed jacanas and kingfishers should be seen at roadside water bodies. 
  • Upon arrival check-in to Wild Coast Tented Lodge in time for a late lunch.
  • Wild Coast, a luxurious tented lodge sits on a deserted beach on the edge of Yala National Park, the leopard hot spot in south eastern Sri Lanka. 
  • A bamboo-clad bar and restaurant serves creative daily changing menus, whilst a delicious “picnic tea” forms part of the safari drive experience. 
For Birders and Non-Birders
  • Enjoy an introductory afternoon drive into Yala National Park.
  • Explore a range of habitats ranging from shrub jungle, plains, wetlands and riverine forests that offer a rich array of biodiversity as well as some extraordinary geological formations. The park drives are guided by rangers who interpret all aspects of the wilderness, paying attention to the entire spectrum of nature from the tiniest critters, plant species, birds, reptiles and amphibians, to the larger, and charismatic animals such as elephants, bears, and leopards. 
  • Later enjoy delicious, authentic Sri Lankan cuisine in the Dining Pavilion, and sip colourful cocktails in the Ten Tuskers Bar.
Yala National Park
26 February 2023
  • Today the birders and non-birders set their sights on different experiences.
For the Birders
  • Be captivated by early morning and late afternoon wildlife viewing and birding in Yala National Park. 
  • Located in the southeast corner of Sri Lanka, this is the most popular destination for wildlife viewing. Leopards are the star attraction at Yala and Block I is believed to have one of the highest concentrations of these big cats in the world. Leopards however are elusive by nature and any sighting is a special occasion. Asian elephant, sloth bear, jackal, sambar, spotted deer, buffalo, wild boar, and the grey langur are among the other larger mammals that may be seen. 
  • Yala is also an excellent birding destination with close to 300 avian species recorded; Indian peafowl and Sri Lanka jungle fowl, changeable hawk-eagle, painted stork, Malabar-pied hornbills, chestnut, green and blue-tailed bee-eaters are among the species regularly seen.
  • The varied landscapes from lagoons, beaches to rocky outcrops immersed among the scrub jungle are a fascinating backdrop as you search out the park’s birdlife.
For the Non-Birders
  • You have the fascinating option to visit the 12th to 14th-century Buddhist sites around the nearby town of Thissamaharama (35-minute drive) or spend the day at leisure and indulge in a glorious spa treatment with oils and scrubs that are created by Ceylon Tea and Ceylon cinnamon (Spa treatments are for your own expense).
27 February 2023
  • After a packed breakfast, head to Cape Weligama, a gorgeous village-style environment gazing out to the pristine Indian Ocean (approximately 2½- hour drive).
  • A great day awaits for both birders and non-birders.
  • Enjoy early morning wildlife viewing from jeeps and birding for wetland species and winter migrants at Bundala National Park (approximately 1-hour drive en route to Weligama).
  • Bundala is Sri Lanka’s first RAMSAR declared wetland comprising brackish lagoons, salt pans, and scrub jungle and is a popular destination for birders. Bundala winter migrants including caspian plover, red-necked phalarope, terek sandpiper, northern pintail, garganey, glossy ibis may be seen. A large number of water birds and resident dry-zone species such as little grebe, watercock, greater thick-knees and yellow-wattled lapwing can be seen year-round at Bundala.  
  • Mugger crocodiles and the larger and rarer estuarine crocodile may both be observed and Asian elephant are also encountered here throughout the year in small numbers.
For Birders and Non-Birders
  • Visit Top House which is a working Cinnamon Plantation and learn the whole process followed by a delicious lunch with the owner.
  • Top House is a beautiful, working cinnamon estate producing true Ceylon cinnamon, which grows on the steep slopes of a high hill. The main house is perched on the hilltop with spectacular views over the jungle to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south. 
  • The owners have also built an artisan distillery where they extract pure cinnamon leaf oil according to age-old techniques fine-tuned with modern technology where they offer a variety of tour options of the cinnamon plantation.
  • The tour covers the nursery, the plantation, the peeling hut and the oil distillery. It explains the history of Ceylon cinnamon as well as showing the planting, harvest, peeling and preparation of quills. They will also demonstrate cinnamon leaf bundling and the entire process of cinnamon oil extraction, as well as the surprising uses of this very special essential oil. The tour shows an eco-friendly and perfectly self-sustaining farming process, with every part of the plant used or recycled, and a completely natural and health-giving result.
  • Afterwards check in to Cape Weligama Resort, a luxurious resort, with spectacular views of the Indian Ocean and rugged coastline.
  • There are two adjacent public beaches. West Beach is accessed via a specially built cliff staircase while East Beach is next to the Dive Centre, a 5-minute walk from the resort. A reef provides safe swimming conditions and with no large resorts nearby, the beaches are not busy. 
  • The Beach Club and Dive Centre is staffed by professionals and is the embarkation point for all land and water-based activities. Offering first-rate PADI dive courses and exciting dives, other activities include private cruises, big game fishing, seasonal whale and dolphin watching trips and banana boating.
  • Spend the rest of the day at the hotel, view Weligama’s iconic sunsets from the infinity pool that appears to flow seamlessly into the shimmering sea – unforgettable.
28 February 2023
  • Another exciting day ahead for the birders and non-birders. 
  • Glide over the deep and enjoy a private whale watching from Mirissa Harbour (approximately 4-hour experience – duration depends on sightings)
  • Sri Lanka is regarded as one of the world’s top locations for watching blue whales, with sightings occurring on most mornings during the season which spans from mid-November through to mid-April. The blue whales are resident to the Indian Ocean and live year-round in these waters and encounters of mother and calves, pairs of males and females are recorded throughout the season. 
  • Pods of spinner dolphin are seen on some mornings while sperm whales are occasionally seen. Bryde’s whale, orca, Risso’s dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and striped dolphin are among the other species of cetaceans which are seen a few times each season.
  • Return to Cape Weligama for lunch. 
  • Spend the afternoon exploring the fascinating old Dutch Fort in Galle. (approximately 1-hour drive).
  • Set off on a guided walking tour of the Galle Fort, which was built by the Dutch in 1663. Take a leisurely stroll along the ramparts with its panoramic views at sunset. The once sleepy Galle Fort is now a vibrant and bustling area with a distinctively Mediterranean feel to it and is abuzz with activity. You can explore its narrow streets and laneways bustling with jewellery shops, numerous boutiques, cafes, and family homes.
o1 March 2023
  • You will be collected for your departure to the airport for your flight onwards.
  • Flutter a last farewell as your sensational birding adventure comes to an end.
  • 01 March to 02 March (2 nights)

            Tintagel, Colombo


  • 01 March to 02 March (2 nights)

            Shangri-La Hotel 

Colombo is the largest city on the island and is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. Teeming with a vibrant and intoxicating mix of cultures, incredibly deep historic and religious diversity, Colombo is in many ways the melting pot that best reflects a modernised Sri Lanka. The main streets, lined with colonial buildings and ancient trees, the 17th century Dutch canal system and lakes interwoven between grand houses and high-rise buildings are the landscape of the city. The famous Galle Road, which leads to the southern city of Galle along the south-west coast, is a neon pathway lined with shops and buildings and just a stone’s throw away from the Indian Ocean.

FEBRUARY 2023 | 10 Nights
USD 6,560 per person

Max 10 Guests

USD 6,560 per person

Single supplement

USD 3,900 per person

Extension: 1-3 March

USD 520 per person

What's included
  • Accommodation at the Hotels and as per the meal plans mentioned above.
  • All transport services using 01 Air-conditioned Vehicle based on options provided.
  • All sightseeing and related entrance charges as mentioned in the itinerary.
  • We will be providing an English-speaking birding and naturalist guides throughout the tour.
  • Bottle water during sightseeing tours and long drives.
  • Private departure transfers for extended tours
  • All presently applicable government taxes.
  • Tips to airport and hotel porters and restaurants.
  • At Wild Coast Lodge, the all-inclusive package includes breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner, beverages (house spirits & wines), safari victuals, one daily game drive & Wi-Fi.
What's not included
  • Sri Lankan Visa
  • Lunch and Dinner unless stated otherwise
  • Beverages, unless stated otherwise
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, phone calls, etc.
  • Any hotel early check-ins or late check-outs unless stated otherwise.
  • Any Insurance
  • International and domestic airfare unless stated otherwise.
  • Any change in tax structure resulting from the hike in published tariff.
  • Any other item not explicitly mentioned under included price.
  • Should you wish to travel on different dates with your own party, please contact one of our dedicated Travel Specialists to plan your adventure

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