From £2,336 pp incl. UK flights
- Gal Oya National Park: Slightly off the beaten track so less visited and swimming elephants!
- Yala National Park: Famous for its Leopards but also worth visiting for the incredible landscapes
- Uda Walawawe National Park: Far more open scenery giving more panoramic views and large population of elephants
- Sinharaja Forest Reserve: One of last remaining areas of virgin rainforest, great birdlife
Day 1: Depart on a choice of flights to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Day 2: Arrive Colombo. Private transfer into tea country (Hatton or Nuwara Eliya) for 2 nights
Day 3: Private guided tour to tea plantation & scenic train ride.
Day 4: Ella - Private transfer to Gal Oya National Park for 2 nights. Afternoon boat safari
Day 5: Gal Oya National Park - Morning jeep safari with picnic lunch
Day 6: Monkey Mountain walk. Transfer to Yala National Park for 1 night. Afternoon private safari
Day 7: Yala - Morning private safari - Udawalawe NP Afternoon Safari. Overnight Kalu's Hideaway
Day 8: Elephant Transit Home visit. Private transfer to Sinharaja Forest Reserve for 2 nights
Day 9: Sinharaja Forest Reserve - Escorted forest day walk
Days 10: Transfer to Galle for 2 nights at your choice of hotel. Afternoon private walking tour
Day 11: Free day to explore Galle or perhaps add dolphin / whale watching tour
Day 12: Private transfer back up to Colombo in time for your flight home.
Day 13: Arrive home.
Day 1: UK Airport / Colombo, Sri Lanka
Depart on a choice of overnight flights to Colombo. Direct flights are with Sri Lanka Airlines from Heathrow, otherwise there are a range of one stop options with such airlines as British Airways, Qatar and Emirates.
Day 2: Arrive Colombo - Transfer to Nuwara Eliya / Hatton Tea Country
Depending on your arrival time and energy levels you may like to break your journey for 1 night before taking the 4 hour private transfer out to Nuwara Eliya, but as a starting point we’ve transferred you straight out. This can be amended and suggestions can be made.
On arrival you’ll be met by your private guide and transferred straight out to Hatton or Nuwara Eliya (approx. 4 hours). The transfer is a beautiful route leaving the flat coastal strip behind as you rise up into the hills that are famous for Sri Lanka’s majestic tea plantations. You’ll soon see why as tea bushes seem to cover every square inch, to create mile upon mile of perfectly manicured tea terraces that are systematically swept of their tender top leaves by gangs of pickers. On arrival check-in to your choice of hotel for 2 nights. The rest of the day’s free to recover from the journey.
Day 3: Nuwara Eliya / Hatton Tea Country (B) - Tea Plantation & Train Ride
Nuwara Eliya is colloquially known as ‘Little England’ and does have a lot of Colonial character, with a village post office, an English church & the St Andrew’s golf club, along with the race course. This morning combine a private guided tour of the town with a tour of a tea factory to learn more about the processes that go into manufacturing some of the best tea in world.
Lunch with be in a local restaurant (own expense), then swap the car for the train that travels through the hills to Ella. Travelling by train allows you to immerse yourself more into Sri Lankan life and from Nuwara Eliya to Ella riding the rails offers the best views of the tea estates, forests, waterfalls and village life. The journey takes about 4 hours as you follow the beautiful curves and ridges of the hill country landscape. Your guide will continue on to Ella where they will meet and transfer you back to the hotel.
Day 4: Ella - Gal Oya National Park - Afternoon Boat Safari (B / L / D)
This morning your private guide will collect and transfer you (2 hours) out through the hills to Gal Oya National Park. On arrival check-in to the Gal Oya Lodge for 2 nights, currently the only place to stay near the park, that offers a very comfortable base from which to enjoy a selection of excursions.
Time to settle in and enjoy lunch (all meals are included, drinks extra) then join your guide for a 40 minute drive into Gal Orya National Park where you’ll board your boat for a rather unusual 2.5 hour boat safari!
Gal Oya is one of the less visited national parks, but as visitors look for less trammeled areas that offer more nature and fewer tourists, it stands out for its beautiful landscapes, abundant wildlife and even the chance to spot a swimming elephant. Senanayake Samudraya is the largest man-made lake in Sri Lanka that’s dotted with a series of islands and is one of the best birding sites in Sri Lanka. The islands offer tantalising grazing for the park’s crown jewels, swimming elephants that travel from island to island eating their fill (best seen from March to July). Back at the lodge late afternoon and rest of the day at leisure to enjoy the wonderful setting.
Day 5: Gal Oya National Park - Morning Jeep Safari with Picnic Lunch (B / L / D)
This morning you’ll probably be woken up by the abundant birdlife and today we’ve included a return to park, this time by jeep. If you’d rather explore on foot then this can be arranged with the resident naturalist.
50% of Gal Oya is evergreen forest and a third is savanna, so when combined with the lake you can see why wildlife thrives in this environment. Join your jeep driver this morning to explore the Nilgala section of Gal Oya National Park. Once protected by ancient royalty for the abundant medicinal plants and endemic birdlife, the park’s unique ecosystem is home to herds of elephants, wild boar, four species of deer, jackals, sloth bears, marsh mugger crocodiles and an array of rare endemic birds. The safari will last about 4 hours and then you’ll stop by the river, waterfall or other scenic spot to enjoy a picnic lunch in a shady corner. Chance to enjoy a quick swim in the river before heading back to the lodge. The rest of the afternoon’s free or explore tours / walks can be suggested before you travel or locally.
For example we can add a 1-2 hour walk of discovery with the Veddha people, one of the last remaining communities of the forest-dwelling, indigenous people of Sri Lanka. The village Chief is invited to take you on a walk through the jungles of his ancestors. Discover and learn about local nature as he brings the forest alive, explaining his tribe’s use of medicinal plants, ancient hunting grounds and cave dwellings. It’s a fascinating insight into how the hunter-gatherers lived in the jungles of Gal Oya. Other options include cycling tours, night safari, cooking course and animal monitoring program.
Day 6: Gal Oya (B) - Monkey Mountain Morning Walk - Yala NP - Afternoon Jeep Safari
If you’re an early riser why not join the walk to the top of Monkey Mountain. Enjoy a 1.5 hour hike to the top to enjoy a dramatic 180 degree view over the forested valley below and watch the sun rise over the jungle covered hills. Back in time for breakfast (or just have a lie in!) and then you leave for the 3 hour transfer with your private guide south east to Yala, Sri Lanka’s iconic national park.On arrival check-in to your choice of accommodation for 1 night.
Time to settle in and enjoy lunch (own expense) then join your private guide for an afternoon jeep safari. First established as a hunting reserve Yala has come a long way as now established as the place to see leopards. Yala is unique within Sri Lanka because of the range of habitats it offers from dense to scrub jungle, open savannah to semi-arid areas, rock pools, ravines and fresh water lakes strewn with prominent rocky outcrops, all bordered by a snaking coastline.
It’s not just about leopards; the park is teeming with an incredible variety of wildlife, including elephants, buffalo, crocodiles, sloth bears and diverse tropical birdlife. Back at the hotel as the sun sets.
Day 7: Yala (B) - Morning Private Safari - Udawalawe NP Afternoon Safari
Up early this morning to re-enter the park and enjoy another 3 hour safari through Yala. Hopefully you spotted a leopard yesterday, but if not fingers’ crossed today. If you’d like to spend longer here there’s the option to upgrade the tour to a full day tour. This is the best way to escape the crowds as between 12 and 4 you’ll have the park largely to yourselves, although you will have parked up to enjoy a leisurely picnic lunch.
Back to the hotel for a late breakfast and then your guide will collect you for the next stage of your adventure travelling 2.5 hours cross country towards Udawalawe National Park. The dry scrubland of Yala is soon replaced by wide flat coastal plains full of paddy fields and dotted with coconut plantations. On arrival check in to Kalu’s Hideaway for 1 night, a lodge like hotel on the banks of the Walawe River.Time to settle in and enjoy lunch, then re-join your guide for a late afternoon safari through beautiful Udawalawe National Park. Udawalawe National Park is an area of 31,800 hectares, which was declared a protected sanctuary with full national park status in 1972. Surrounded by mountain ranges, the terrain of the park is a mixture of grassland, which of all Sri Lanka’s wildlife reserves, best rivals the Savanna of Africa and shrub jungle. Teak plantations, water holes and two important factors make this park special - the large Udawalawe Reservoir and the Walewe River, which ensure a supply of water for the fauna within. Internationally renowned for its large herd of elephants, the park is also known for several species of deer, wild boar, buffalo, jackal and very rare sightings of leopard. Back at hotel early evening.
Day 8: Udawalawe (B) - Elephant Transit Home - Sinharaja Forest Reserve
A short drive from the hotel you’ll find the Elephant Transit Home and this morning you’ll visit during feeding time. As you drive past the Udawalawe Reservoir keep your eyes out for the “beggars”; adult elephants from the park who skirt the reservoir and beg for food over the fence.
The Elephant Transit Home is sponsored by the Born Free Trust and was established in 1995 with the primary objective of the rehabilitation of orphaned baby elephants and their release back to the wild. There’s no riding or real interaction with the babies, just the pure joy and anarchy of feeding time. The elephants are largely free to wander around the grounds of the home and because it’s just across the lake to the national park it’s a much easier transition when they’re ready to join the herd.
Back to the hotel, enjoy an early lunch then leave for the adventurous journey (3 hours) further cross country to the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. More of a tour than a transfer, the drive will take you off the main tourist trail and so be all the more enjoyable for it. The last 10kms is along a narrow road up into the hills and gives you an early insight into what a special place this is. On arrival check-in to the Rainforest Eco Lodge for 2 nights.
The setting is superb in one of the island’s most beautiful locations rich in endemic birdlife and tropical forest. Set on a hillside looking out towards Sinharaja’s UNESCO Biosphere it offers easy access to one of Sri Lanka’s last remaining areas of virgin rainforest. A sense of adventure and engagement will definitely help get the most from your stay, a must for bird-watchers. Late afternoon & evening free to immerse yourself in your new environment.
Day 9: Sinharaja Forest Reserve - Guided Day Walk (B / L)
Sinharaja's upland landscape, with rolling ridges and valleys of dense forest, threaded with streams, pools and rivers, is a perfect refuge for birds. The climate is hot and wet, ideal for leeches and exotic tropical birds, including 18 of Sri Lanka's 20 endemic rainforest species such as the Dusky Blue Flycatcher, Yellow-eared Bulbul and Blue Magpie. Sinharaja is also famous for its unusual mixed feeding flocks, usually dominated by Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and the Orange-billed Babbler. Wildlife also includes Purple-faced Langurs, Toque Monkeys, wild pigs, Mouse and Barking Deer, and very rare sightings of leopards and Fishing Cats.
This morning join a local tracker for a private guided tour of the rainforest. The exact tour can be adapted to suit your interests and energy levels, but the guide will help you understand what makes Sinharaja so special and point out the wildlife, birds, plants and trees that thrive here. If you go for the day the walk will also include Kekuna Ella and Pathan Oya, 2 of the many waterfalls that dot the forest. Lunch will be a simple picnic. Back at the hotel before nightfall.
Days 10: Sinharaja (B) - Galle - Afternoon Private Tour
This morning head to the coast for your final destination, Galle, the best example of a European built fortified city in South and South-East Asia. Where the mighty walls once held back invaders they now hold back modern Sri Lanka and its accompanying traffic, noise and life. As soon as you pass through the walls it’s like someone’s turned down the volume and transported you back to Europe.
Check-in to your choice of hotel for 2 nights and then this afternoon spend a couple of hours with your guide learning a little of its history and exploring the narrow low-rise streets whose Dutch period villas have been converted into beautiful boutique hotels, galleries, shops, restaurants and cafes. There are several museums as well as the Dutch Reformed Church and the Arab Quarter. Finish the day watching the sun set looking out from the sea ramparts and you’re day is done.
Day 11: Galle (B) - Free day or whale watching tour
This isn’t a place to hurry, but rather somewhere to take a break from formal touring and enjoy the atmospheric and nostalgic streets that make you realise how important and profitable trading has been for Sri Lanka through the ages. Far from being an ageing backwater, the last decade has seen the fort transform into Sri Lanka’s most cosmopolitan enclave without detracting from its olde-world charm. Today’s free to explore under your own steam or perhaps add a dolphin / whale watching tour.
Day 12: Galle (B) / Home
Day free until your airport transfer and overnight flight home.
Day 15: Arrive home
Each featured itinerary is really a starting point from which to create your ideal holiday.
We can include as much or as little as you like, mix and match hotels, excursions and experiences, add extra nights and change the destinations you'd like to visit.
The common thread is that each is a privately guided holiday, allowing you to travel where and when you want, with your own private transport and dedicated guide.
- Return scheduled international flights (optional if you would like to arrange your own)
- English speaking, local guide & driver
- Choice of hotel accommodation
- Transport in private air-conditioned vehicles
- Domestic flights detailed in itinerary
- Admission fees to all attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All meals as detailed (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
- Entry visas International airport departure taxes if payable locally
- Optional Tours / Excursions
- Any meals not listed in the itinerary
- Personal expenses
- Tips for Guides / Drivers (discretionary)
- Travel insurance
- Any camera or video fees charged at sites
The hotels below are there as examples, designed to act as a starting point from which to create your holiday. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from and when we quote we will include other suggestions so we get to understand your likes and dislikes. Quite often clients mix and match hotel categories throughout their holiday.
Hotels in Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is synonymous with tea, don’t miss the chance to travel by train to get the best views.
Hotels Around Gal Oya National Park
More nature, less tourists. Beautiful landscapes, abundant wildlife & even swimming elephants!
Hotels Around Yala National Park
World famous for its leopard population, Yala is Sri Lanka’s number one wildlife destination.
Hotels Around Udawalawe National Park
One of the most beautiful parks centred on a large lake around which elephants and other wildlife thrive.
Hotels in Sinharaja Forest Reserve
This reserve is one of the island’s last remaining areas of virgin rainforest. Great bird watching.
Hotels in Galle
Beautifully preserved, this impressive walled city offers an enthralling insight into Sri Lanka’s colonial past.