Blue whale Sri Lanka © Stephen Meese 2011
Wildlife Holiday in Sri Lanka
Elephants, Egrets and the Deep Blue Sea

On this 2-week Sri Lanka itinerary by Tell Tale Travel you will get the chance to see the larger animals who live or journey around the tiny island of Sri Lanka, including elephants, dolphins and whales. We've designed this tour to give you several experiences in different areas. Best taken November to May. Contact us to discuss pros and cons of travelling at other times of the year.

This trip is 'Tell Tale light' trip — it is still a soft adventure, taking you away from the tourist trail, but it's less immersive, for example there are no stays in private homes (which many of our itineraries include). However, it is for wildlife enthusiasts i.e. used to early starts! We have tried to balance this out where possible. This trip is topped off with eco luxury by the sea, in an area of Sri Lanka unlike any other, with pristine nature. We've included meals where we feel it is best on the itinerary and not in areas where you can find local meals and support the local economies. We have put a lot of thought and care into designing this itinerary, however, we are happy to customise.

Day 1
Fly from the UK to Colombo with a choice of airports including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Day 2
You'll be met at the airport and driven south. The newish 'expressway' takes you through Sri Lanka's lush interior; we like to spend the journey spotting snowy-white egrets and peacocks. You'll arrive at the coast just past Galle, a historic town. Arrival at Ocean Crest and settle into your spacious room, sit back on the verandah and enjoy the views of the deep blue sea. The pool is lovely and affords great views! You may even spot some of the stilt fishermen Sri Lanka is famous for (the ones here are genuine). The food is delicious here, but if you'd like to go out for dinner, just let your driver know. There are some excellent seafood restaurants in this part of Sri Lanka.

Day 3 breakfast (included)
Up early! You will be driven to nearby Mirissa for a boat trip to look for whales and dolphins. By nature, blue whales are rare, however, Mirissa is one of the best places to spot them and we work with the best in the business who also view them in a responsible manner. The boat ride can be a little bit bumpy, but worth it if you see some of the magnificent blue whales — uniquely, there is a pod which lives off the coast of Mirissa all year around (rather than the whales in the rest of the world, passing through on a migration). They are pygmy blue whale Balaenoptera musculus brevicaudam which reach 24 metres when fully grown. They like eating tiny crustaceans, mainly krill, which are in abundance here. They're joined by migratory whales, if you're lucky you will be able to spot up to 10 types of whales and dolphins.

"How cool was this... to actually see blue whales. We had seven around the boats! I don't use 'awesome' but for this, I'll make an exception!"
– Gary Baxter
See more

Then time at leisure for lunch and a swim in the ocean. In the afternoon, you'll visit Koggala lake for a boat trip to see life on the little islands including a temple and a cinnamon smallholding. The birds become more active as the heat of the day disperses and the sunset is lovely on the lake.

Day 4 breakfast
This morning, you'll go to Galle for a walk around the historic Dutch fort with our expert guide. The 'living fort' is well preserved, walking on the ramparts gives you a good perspective, and seeing the old law courts in use makes history seem alive. No elephants or egrets in the fort, but you can find out all about the deep blue sea at the maritime museum. We recommend exploring the fort at your leisure afterwards, it's a great place for little cafes and restaurants. Your driver will wait for you and take you back whenever you like.

Day 5 breakfast
Time to head off for some elephant encounters. You'll be driven to Uda Walawe park which is home to many of these gentle giants living free. You'll visit the Elephant Transit Home, an initiative to introduce orphaned elephants back into the wild, you'll get there just in time to watch them being fed, which always produces some funny moments. Then it's onto your hotel.

Day 6 breakfast, lunch
A full-day safari in Uda Walawe national park to see elephants. There are over 250 elephants roaming the park and if you're lucky enough to see one swim across the reservoir, it is a memory you'll cherish forever. Uda Walawe is also an excellent place for spotting birds, particularly water birds and birds of prey.
Video by Matt Wedge, taken on this Tell Tale trip

Day 7 breakfast
Pack up and drive northwards to stay near Sri Lanka's famous 'rock fortress', Sigiriya. You are welcome to stop at points of interest along the way, although we recommend making the journey in better time if you can, so you have time to have a quick dip in the pool at the end of the day.

Day 8 breakfast
Today, you'll explore Sigiriya with our local guide. This rock is said to be home to a palace in ancient times. Climbing the rock using the steps is achievable for most moderately fit people, from ages 5 to 75, but you can explore the ancient gardens, marvel at the irrigation system and visit the museum without doing so.

Day 9 breakfast
Day at leisure to break up the classic sightseeing. If you are feeling more active, you are welcome to visit nearby Dambulla, the best-preserved cave temple complex on the island (please note steep walk to reach them) and/or a reforestation project we like to support, Popham Arboretum. Here you can walk the nature trails which are relatively easy (comparable to English woods). There is also a chance to visit in the evening for a chance to see slow loris.

Day 10 breakfast, dinner
Time to pack up and journey to the west coast. On your way, you'll see elephants of a different kind. You'll head to the ancient capital city of Anuradhapura for some 'classic' sightseeing with our local guide. One of our favourite temples is decorated with hundreds of elephants, demonstrating how they have been revered since ancient times. Anuradhapura is home to a sacred bodhi tree, grown from a sapling of the tree in India under which according to legend, the Buddha reached enlightenment. It is also the oldest tree in the world with a written history.

Then it's onto Kalpitiya, a unique peninsula on Sri Lanka's west coast, north of Colombo. The coastal scenery here is quite unlike most of Sri Lanka, drier and less humid (and certainly different to the southwest beach overdevelopment). Your driver will take you to a rustic eco-style luxury beach resort. Settle in, have a dip in the beautiful pool, or relax watching some colourful visitors of a feathery persuasion.

"Thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Amazing! Great food too."
– Carla Bower, London

Day 11 breakfast, dinner
Early morning boat trip to see dolphins. The area is famed for its spinner dolphins. See if you can count them all! There are also whales around hee sometimes, but they are harder to find as they are migratory ones. These boat trips are with the local fishermen/boatmen. Kalpitiya is very much a developing place.

Video by Tell Tale Traveller, Matt Wedge

Day 12 breakfast, dinner
Take a magical boat trip along hidden channels through dense forest at the edge of the Wilpattu national park. Animals are hard to spot but you will see birds in the serene mangroves and if you are lucky, a wild elephant. The nomadic fisher folk who live on the small islands say they sometimes see elephants swimming in the sea. You'll get off the boat at another ancient tree - this time a 900-year-old baobab, before the boat journey back.

"I've had many Tell Tale experiences, but this day was truly one of the highlights of my life, truly magical. Seeing a wild elephant was the cherry on top."

Day 13 breakfast, dinner
Day at leisure, relax in the lovely pool and spot wildlife in the trees. If you are feeling more active, it is also possible to arrange extra activities whilst you're here (pay at resort). This includes visiting Wilpattu for a jeep safari. This is a fantastic wild animal reserve and home to leopards and elephants and sloth bear.

Day 14 breakfast
Transfer from Kalpitiya to Colombo airport and fly back. Depending on flight timings and the day of the week, you may be able to stop on the way in the Marawila area, known for batik. A great way to support this local industry and they make fantastic lightweight souvenirs!

This two-week private tour costs from £2,195 per person*, based on two adults sharing a private tour. Prices include flights from the UK to Colombo, accommodation, activities/excursions, dedicated chauffeur-driven vehicle days 2-10 and private transfer to the airport on Day 14, and meals where specified.
*Price applies as advertised on most bookings, but travelling at certain times, particularly Christmas, may involve extra costs. Early booking is advised.

Please allow approximately £70 to £100 per person for government entrance fees, payable at the office on the days. These aren't payable if you opt out of any activities/excursions (other costs for activities such as jeeps, guides and boats are included in the tour and non refundable).

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galle fort sri lanka © Fred Barrington 2014
koggala lake sri lanka © Carla Bower 2014
elephants sri lanka © Gary Baxter

egret in sri lanka © Fred Barrington 2014
dolphins in Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka