Wildlife JourneysGems of Sri Lanka & India

17 Days

  • Overview
  • Tour Itinerary
  • How to Reach
  • Where to Stay

Guest: Phillip J Kushner

An Introduction
The Indian subcontinent is home to slightly over 10% of the total diversity of wildlife in the world. It also has the highest diversity of wildcats in the world, surpassing even the number of wildcat species found in the continent of Africa. There are 37 species of wildcats found in the world and of these India is home to 15 species (approximately 40% of the total wildcat species). Four of these wildcats can be found in Sri Lanka Leopard, Jungle Cat, Fishing Cat and the Rusty-spotted Cat. India is home to all 15 species of wildcats.
A lot of us are already aware of the diversity of wildlife found in India, but what many do not realize is that Sri Lanka too is a biodiversity hotspot with 26 national parks and very high level of endemism – 16% of the fauna and 23% of flowering plants are endemic. This program takes you to Wilpattu National Park along with Sinharaja Wildlife Sanctuary, at the same time you visit Satpura Tiger Reserve in India. Key wildlife to look out for on this trip are tiger, leopard, jungle cat, rusty-spotted cat, elephants, wild dogs, sloth bears, gaur (Indian bison), wild water buffaloes and much more.
But this program is not just about wildlife. We have interspersed it with cultural sites which includes many unique UNESCO world heritage sites.

Day 1

: You arrive in Mumbai early morning (around 00:15am). You have already organized your stay at ITC Grand Maratha and are also arranging your own pick-up and drop to and from the airport. Late afternoon you have a flight from Mumbai to Colombo. (recommended flight: 9W 252 1730/2005) Our team at Colombo will receive you and transfer you to your hotel – Heritance Negombo. Note: we will provide a separate pick-up for Ms. Nanda as she arrives into Colombo by 1705 on Sri Lankan 315. Overnight will be at Heritance Negombo. Negombo: The town is of historical importance, strongly influenced by Catholic Church. The narrow strip of land between the lagoon and the sea and many canals make for a good exploring. The Dutch captured the town from the Portuguese in 1640, lost it again the same year, and captured it again in 1644. The British then took it from them in 1796 without a struggle. Negombo was one of the most important sources of cinnamon during the Dutch era, and there are still reminders of that period in history.

Day 2

: You begin your day with an interaction with the fishing community at the Negombo Fish Market. The market is held every day of the week except Sunday and is a colourful place to observe the lives of this small but vibrant fishing community. Return to the hotel for breakfast before checking out and transferring to Wilpattu National Park. At Wilpattu your stay will be at Mahoora Camp. Once settled in enjoy a Sri Lanka lunch at the campsite. This evening we begin exploring Wilpattu National Park. This is the largest and the oldest National Park in Sri Lanka, however, it still is relatively private as it does not attract the crowds that visit Yala National Park. The park is known for good sightings of the Sri Lankan leopard along with the sloth bear. Return to the camp for dinner and an overnight stay at Mahoora Camp (Elite Tents)

Day 3

: This morning we have planned for a full day safari in Wilpattu National Park. After tea/coffee we head into the park. We will be carrying a packed breakfast which we can have at a scenic spot within the park. We continue exploring the park through the morning. A supply jeep will ensure that lunch is ready by the lakeside so that we can maximize the time in the park. Continue exploring the park through the day and return to the campsite in the evening. Should you feel up to it, explore the surrounding area to the campsite on a guided walk with the lodge naturalist. These guided night walks often are fruitful for seeing jungle cats, fishing cats and rusty-spotted cats along with other nocturnal species such as civets and owls. Overnight stay will be at Mahoora Camp (Elite Tents).

Day 4

: Our exploration of Wilpattu National Park continues. The program of the day will be similar to the day before – a full day safari into the park. Overnight stay will be at Mahoora Camp (Elite Tents).

Day 5

: This morning take you last safari into Wilpattu National Park. On returning to the camp check out a move to the next destination on our itinerary – Sigriya. The drive to Sigriya should take us 3.4-4 hours. Check-in to Wild Grass Nature Resort, Sigriya. The remainder of the evening is at leisure. Overnight will be at Wild Grass Nature Resort. Wild Grass Nature Resort

Day 6

: Today we explore the city of Polonnaruwa. We leave our hotel early and break for breakfast at Cinnamon Lodge. We continue onwards to Polonnaruwa. Nearly 1000 years old the Polonnaruwa is one of Sri Lanka’s ancient capital cities. Although King Vijayabahu was the first to claim the city as his capital, it was King Parakramabahu who made it what it is today. With its massive buildings, ornate parks and the 'pièce de resistance' - a 2500-hectare tank called 'Parakrama Samudra' ('Sea of Parakrama'). The city itself is divided into new and old town with the impressively preserved ruins split into five main areas including 'The Quadrangle' (a.k.a. 'Terrace of the Tooth Relic'), the Northern City group and the Rest House group (with the royal palace ruins of 'Nissanka Malla'). Due to its reasonably compact layout, the ruins can be easily explored on foot, and with the surrounding area's flat well-maintained roads, you can leave the car behind and jump on a bicycle to get around. Return to the lodge in the evening. Overnight will be at Wild Grass Nature Resort, Sigriya.

Day 7

: This morning we visit the ancient city of Sigriya. This premier historical destination in Sri Lanka, designated as a cultural World Heritage Site in 1982. It is also proposed that the site should be named the eighth wonder of the world, indicating it is in the same league as other international wonders such as the Grand Canyon and Ancient Pyramids. Translated as 'Lion Rock' into English, the name of the monument indicates the way in which visitors used to begin their final ascent to the top - through the open jaws and throat “giriya" of a lion “sinha”. Unfortunately, the only remains of this lion figure are the gigantic paws, sculpted into the side of the rock. The topography of the area is flat except for the massive rock outcrop of the fortress itself (which rises an incredible 600 feet up from the green scrub jungle). Almost half a day is spent climbing up to the fort and coming down.

Day 8

: After breakfast we continue onwards to Kandy. The journey should take about 2.5 hours. Check in to your hotel – Elephant Stables (http://elephantstables.com/ ). After lunch visit Sri Dalada Maligawa – Famously known worldwide as The Temple of the Tooth, Sri Dalada Maligawa dates back to the 16th century, though most of the present buildings were built in the 19th century. Venerated as the most important object in the Buddhist world, the Sacred Relic of the Tooth of Buddha is enshrined at the Temple. It was brought from India 2500years ago and it’s said that the possessor of the Relic had the right to rule in the country. The Relic is kept in a gold casket and stored amidst great security in the Inner Chamber. The Temple complex is made up of numerous buildings most of which are highly decorated with paintings and carvings depicting Buddha. Rich in history and tradition, the Sri Dalada Maligawa is a religious centre where daily worship is a colourful and joyful way of everyday life. At several times throughout the day different services are held and with the large numbers of worshippers’ present, it is clear to see why Buddhists are so piously devoted towards the Sacred Tooth Relic. Spine-tingling traditional drumming to be heard coming from the Inner Chamber, will signal that the ceremonial opening of the window for the public viewing of the casket with the Relic within, is just about to begin. We conclude our Tour before the Drumming commences. During the day we will also organize an interaction with a Buddhist Monk. Overnight will be at Elephant Stables, Kandy

Day 9

: This morning after breakfast we depart for Sinharaja National Park. Sinharaja rainforest has been designated as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and also a Biodiversity Hotspot by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). All these titles are highlighting the importance of the forest reserve in terms of its exceptional biodiversity as well as its fragility. Birding in Sinharaja is particularly interesting since it is home to 95% of the endemic birds of Sri Lanka! The journey to Sinharaja should take 4 hours. Check in to your hotel – Boulder Garden Resort. In the evening explore Sinharaja Rainforest with an experienced naturalist. Overnight will be at Boulder Garden Resort.

Day 10

: Today we have planned a full day inside Sinharaja National Park. From the calls of birds and the rumbling noise of the Gin Ganga River to the fresh air filtered by its ancient trees, the colourful species of frogs and the bright flowers, Sinharaja leaves you in awe of nature and how species have evolved to suit the environment. It is said that in Sinharaja one square mile may have higher biodiversity than the entire North American continent. Most importantly, this area has a high concentration of endemic species. 20 out of Sri Lanka's 26 endemic bird species, including the Sri Lanka blue magpie and the green-billed coucal, are found in Sinharaja. In addition, it is home to several species of reptiles, such as green-pit and hump-nosed vipers, and some rare species of horned lizards. Also, a few elephants and leopards and many smaller mammals including the rusty spotted cat, purple-faced leaf monkey, fishing cat, mongooses and civets inhabit the forests of Sinharaja. We will be carrying packed lunch that we can have inside the park. In the evening we return to the lodge. Overnight will be at Boulder Garden Resort.

Day 11

: Early this morning explore one of the trails in Sinharaja. We will be carrying packed breakfast with us. Once we return to the hotel, we leave for Colombo by road (a journey of 4 hours). Once in Colombo we have organized a short driving tour of the city. Towards the evening check-in to Heritance Negombo (Super Deluxe Room).

Day 12

: Early this morning we transfer to Colombo airport and catch a flight to Delhi (recommended flight AI 282 0820/1150 – Please note – I have already booked this flight as only one seat was left and needed to get you on to this flight for rest of the plan to flow well). On arrival I and hopefully Rajeev will meet you for lunch. We will meet at a hotel restaurant at Aerocity, New Delhi so that you are close to the airport. Around 1430 return to the airport to catch a flight to Bhopal (recommended flight: 9W 927 1755/1905). On arrival you will transfer by road to Satpura Tiger Reserve. Overnight will be at Forsyth Lodge.

Day 13

: Forsyth Lodge: Nestled amidst of 44 acres of jungle at the end of the Satpura Tiger Reserve, Forsyth Lodge is your gateway into verdant surroundings coupled with the allure of natural living. Their focus lies in being able to deliver to you, a wholesome and sustainable wildlife experience. Through constant partnership with the park administration and the local community, they have crafted a bespoke wilderness experience that suits every need. After lunch we begin exploring Satpura Tiger Reserve. The tiger reserve is formed by combining 3 wildlife sanctuaries – Satpura, Pachmarhi and Bori. It is one of the only parks in the country that allows the guest to explore the park in many different ways – walking safaris, canoe safaris, night safari, multiple day trek through the park while camping along with jeep safaris. In our stay on this trip we have included jeep safaris and walking safari. Today we begin exploring Satpura. Since our query is very last minute, we are unable to get permit to Churna Zone. So instead we will offer safaris in different areas. This morning begins with a walking safari. In the afternoon we will take a jeep safari. Overnight will be at Forsyth Lodge.

Day 14

: Instead of Churna Zone as planned for this morning we will take two safaris in different areas in order to explore the various regions of the park. Overnight will be at Forsyth Lodge.

Day 15

: This morning take our last safari into Satpura Tiger Reserve. We return to the lodge and after brunch transfer by road to Bhopal airport. We catch a flight to Mumbai (recommended flight: 9W 2896 2035/2210). On arrival you will be met by our representative who will accompany you to the hotel to ensure a swift check-in. Overnight will be at Intercontinental (we have provided a supplement and have put in a tentative booking as there seems to be great demand and only a few rooms were available).

Day 16

: We have planned a full day of sightseeing in Mumbai today. Mumbai has a very interesting history about how it grew from a fishing village to the commercial capital of the country. The city also has some spectacular architecture – Indo-Saracenic, Gothic revival and today is home to the second largest collection of Art deco buildings, second only to Miami. Overnight will be at The Trident, Nariman Point.

Day 17

: Early morning check-out and transfer to the international airport to catch your international flight back home

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