Bespoke and connoisseur holidays to Thailand
Wildlife and Culture Holiday in Sri Lanka

On this 15-day (2 weeks) Tell Tale Travel private tour on the island of Sri Lanka you will explore vast nature reserves for the chance to see wild animals and birds, such as the leopard, in their natural habitats.

This trip is a private tour (not a group tour) and this particular itinerary is designed to work at any time of the year.

As with all Tell Tale Travel trips, this is a soft adventure which means that you will get away from the tourist trail, but in more comfort than a typical adventure holiday. We also ensure that our itineraries our perfectly balanced, so you will have a blend of time with expert guides, time with our unique network of local people and time on your own to explore and relax. Your holiday is designed as an overall experience.

Most private tours in Sri Lanka depend on 'chauffeur guides' from Colombo, a single person you are dependent on to drive and guide you throughout your whole holiday. This isn't the Tell Tale way. When travelling with us, you will be driven around of course, but you'll also get to meet lots more people and genuinely support local economies at the same time.

"An authentic non-touristy holiday! From the moment we were met until the time we were dropped off at the airport we had a wonderful experience, one that we know we wouldn't have got if we had gone on a package holiday or travelling on our own."
– Mick Bellini
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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; just look for a sign with the Tell Tale pink peacock. You'll be whisked away from Colombo, straight down south on the newish 'expressway.' This is a fast two-lane road which goes through the country's lucious green interior and offers lots of opportunities for wildlife spotting. On arrival near historic Galle you'll be taken into the hills and have time to enjoy the pool or take a walk in the local area. It's a residential neighbourhood, yet you can spot all sorts of wildlife including monkeys (usually langurs) and monitor lizards lazing by the side of the road.

Day 3 (includes breakfast)
Sightseeing. One of our local guides will take you on a guided tour of Galle fort, a UNESCO heritage site. Originally a Portugese fort, much of it was built during the time of the Dutch occupation, and later British; it's fascinating to see buildings from both periods still in use today. It's possible to walk around most of the fort on the ramparts, and there's always time for tea in a charming café. Galle was an important harbour and we recommend taking in the maritime museum to learn more of city's naval history, as well as learning about our sea-dwelling friends. Time for lunch on the fort or drive to a beach.

In the afternoon, you'll be taken to have a boat trip on Koggala lake, this is a great place to spot colourful tropical birds, and life on the small islands on the lake are a world away from modern Sri Lanka. You'll meet a family who have a cinammon smallholding. Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka: while the trees were taken around the world by Portuguese traders to be grown in far-flung countries in South America, the cinnamon grown in Sri Lanka is still considered the best in the world and bought by those same countries.

Day 4 (breakfast & dinner)
A leisurely start so you can take your time packing or have a swim. Then you will be taken to Sinharaja Rainforest. The word Sinha in Sri Lanka's Sinhala language means lion and the word Raja means king, but don't worry there aren't any lions here! It is thought the last of the island's lived here before becoming extinct. Sinharaja is the last virgin rainforest in Sri Lanka, and is one of the most untouched areas of national beauty in the country. Please note that your accommodation for the next two nights will be fairly rustic, but we feel it is worth the trade-off for the rainforest location. The food is also delicious.
If this experience isn't for you, we can customise the itinerary.

Day 5 (breakfast, lunch & dinner)
A very early start and a day exploring Sinharaja's nature trails with a local naturalist guide. This rainforest, part of UNESCO's International Network of Biosphere Reserves, really does showcase a rainforest's fragile ecosystem and is home to much of Sri Lanka's native flora and fauna, under the gigantic trees. Although you would have to be extremely lucky to see a leopard in this particular forest due to the denseness of the vegetation, you may see monkeys, squirrels and perhaps a fishing cat. You'll certainly see a variety of tropical birds: Sinharaja is home to 95% of Sri Lanka's native birds such as Layard's Parakeet, Psittacula calthropae and the Ceylon Blue Magpie, Cissa oronata. We like looking for Gallus lafayetii, Sri Lanka's national bird. It's a junglefowl that looks like a chicken, but a very majestic-looking one.

Sinharaja is also a great place for seeing orchids growing in the wild and colourful butterflies, including the rare Fivebar Swordtail, Graphium antiphates ceylonicus.

Day 6 (breakfast)
Time for your next adventure! Pack up this morning and then head towards Yala National Park. Sri Lanka's second national park and just under 1,300 sq km, it is teeming with wildlife including elephants, and is considered one of the best places in the world to spot leopards in the wild. On the way there you will stop at another national park, Uda Walawe, where you will visit the Elephant Transit Home. This is an initiative by the government's conservation department to reintroduce abandoned baby elephants into their natural habitat (this park is famous for its herds of wild elephants, of up to 50 individuals). Please note that as the baby elephants are being reintroduced, you'll be observing them from a distance and not touching them. When you arrive near Yala National Park you'll have time to settle into a small resort and have a dip in the pool.

Day 7 (breakfast & lunch)
Early start for a full day in Yala National Park for the chance to spot leopards in the wild, as well as herds of elephants, deer, peacocks, crocodiles and more. This day can be taken at your own pace. You'll have to stay in your jeep as the animals are genuinely wild, but there a couple of designated areas you can walk around, including the beach, where you'll stop for lunch. Perhaps you're happy to spend a long time looking at some elephants frolicking in the water, or you'd like to see as many animals and as much of the park as you can – it's up to you. You can also head back to the resort earlier if you prefer. You'll have the evening at leisure; we recommend having dinner at a particular local restaurant we like to support, although it is quite rustic! There is a more tourist-friendly restaurant nearby, and you can always eat at your resort, or one of others in the vicinity.

Day 8 (breakfast)
Early start for a morning safari in Bundala reserve. Bundala is a real contrast to Yala, much cooler, it is a wetland haven for birds and much less visited. There are birds here all year around, although during our winter months, there are many species of migrant birds here. Bundala is also perfect for those who are not quite so into birdwatching, as there are so many birds all around.

You will have most of the afternoon free to relax by the pool or enjoy the gardens to recover from the early starts. (If you're feeling more active, your driver can take you to explore nearby Tissamaharama, an ancient capital of Lanka with temples and a unique centuries-old man-made lake). In the late afternoon, you will be taken to the nearby town of Kataragama, probably the most important religious town in Sri Lanka for people of many faiths. It is one of the 16 places in Sri Lanka which Buddhist pilgrims visit and unusually there are also Hindhu and Islamic monuments/temples in the same area. You can walk along the river, which people believe is sacred so you may see some of them bathing in it, and then you will be taken to watch (or take part in, if you wish) the evening Buddhist 'puja' religious ceremony. You may also see some elephants as they play an important role in temples.

"Being wildlife nutters, all of the trips into the national parks were brilliant."
– Gary & Susan Baxter
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Day 9 (breakfast, lunch & dinner)
This morning you will be driven to Sri Lanka's hill country. Hill country has considerably cooler weather than the rest of Sri Lanka, but this is the warmer end of it. You'll stop to look at Ravana waterfalls, accessible from the road. These falls are famous in Sri Lanka – the nearby cave is in the ancient Ramayana legend as the place where the 'demon king' of Sri Lanka, Ravana kept the Indian lord Rama's wife Sita who he had abducted. The cave is thought to be part of a network of tunnels which King Ravana designed as a network of transport through hill country.

You'll then arrive in the town of Bandarawela. Originally Bandarawela was at the end of the train line built by the British to transport the all-important tea crop from hill country 'down' to Colombo. The train line was later extended to Badulla, which is the largest commercial centre. Bandarawela remains a charming market town and you can imagine how it would have been from its colourful colonial buildings.

You'll be staying just up from the train station with our friends. They own a stunning home in a garden filled with tropical fruit trees including mango and avocado, as well as lots of English roses. You'll meet your host and enjoy a welcoming home-cooked lunch. Then settle into your bedroom (with private bathroom) and sit in the garden to enjoy the visiting wildlife, including monkeys and porcupines.

"Individual insights into Sri Lanka and its history and culture helped to give us a much clearer understanding of its people and the general way of life."

Day 10 (breakfast & dinner)
One of our local guides will take you around the hidden part of Bandarawela. You'll walk around smallholdings, seeing local people and oxen at work. You'll have the inside track of a tea estate, not only will you get insight into what happens from leaf to your pot back at home, you'll see how the workers live and meet the young children. And on a literal track with a charming train journey through this scenic countryside to Demodara. Then you'll visit Ella where you can walk up Little Adam's Peak for stunning views.

Day 11 (breakfast & dinner)
Time to move on. You'll take a train through hill country to Kandy, the capital of Sri Lanka's ancient kingdom. This journey is through windy hill country and we think this part of the line is the most beautiful. The single line track runs the Tyer's tablet system, a safe system from the British who designed these tracks and tunnels. We'll pre-book reserved seating so you can sit back and enjoy the journey.

At the other end, you'll be met at the train station and taken to a private home in a residential area. You'll meet your hosts and then walk around the local area before enjoying a delicious home-cooked dinner (authentic Sri Lankan fare).
You can also stay in the centre of town, however, you'll have to stay in a hotel and your evenings will be at leisure to have dinner at a restaurant of your choice (excluded, as will be the informal cooking lesson).

"I adored her and wished we could have spent more time together, hearing about their lives, exchanging experiences. We're VERY glad we took this trip."
– Laura Sokol
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Day 12 (breakfast & dinner)
Sightseeing with a local guide. You'll start at the beautiful lake and then visit the 'Temple of the Tooth', a temple overlooking the lake which houses one of the world's most important Buddhist relics, a tooth said to have belonged to the Lord Buddha. You'll also visit Kandy's bustling market and then Udawatta Kele, the gardens of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka, a forest reserve. This evening you can have an (optional) informal cooking lesson.

Day 13 (breakfast & dinner)
Time to pack up. First you will visit Sri Lanka's famous Royal Peradeniya botanical gardens. The gardens were originally created in the 14th century by a Kandyan king, and developed further in the 19th century during British times. The 150-acre gardens are home to a scientific centre for conservation and ecology, as well as herbs, gigantic ferns, 300 types of orchids and our favourite – over 10,000 fruit bats.

Then you'll have an afternoon transfer to colonial boutique hotel, Rosyth Estate House which is a perfect place to relax from your adventures.
It is also possible to change this part of your holiday to a stay at a beach hotel.

Day 14 (breakfast & dinner)
Free day to relax by the pool or walk around the estate.

Day 15 (breakfast)
Transfer from Rosyth Estate House to the airport and fly back to the UK.

This two-week trip costs from £2,325 per person, based on two people sharing a private tour.

This price includes international flights from the UK to Colombo, accommodation, activities/excursions with guides, time with local people, private transfers and meals as specified. If you would like to take this trip as a family, please contact us for a quote, including ages of any children.

Price applies as advertised on most bookings, but travelling at certain times may involve extra costs, particularly at times like Christmas, January and UK school holidays. Early booking is advised.

Flight upgrades and beach extensions are possible.
Please allow approximately £60 for government/site entrance fees, payable on the day at the site office (in local currency). If you opt out of any excursions, you don't need to pay the entrance fee.

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turtle sanctuary in Sri Lanka
elephants in sri lanka
leopard in Sri Lanka
hill country in Sri Lanka
bats in Sri Lanka
Photo credits of small photos: 2 to 5 Gary Baxter.
Large leopard photo: Fred Barrington.