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Despite its small size Sri Lanka boasts of one of the highest rates of biological endemism in the world. Nearly 16% of the animals and 23% of plants that are found in this small island are endemic to country.
Of the ninety-one species of mammals found in Sri Lanka Asian elephants, sloth bear, leopards, sambar and wild buffaloes engages the majority of the attention of wildlife enthusiast. Yet the rarest mammals of Sri Lanka are the red slender Loris, Toque Macaque, and Purple-faced Langur, who according to IUCN clarifications are endangered due to habitat loss.
Meanwhile the ocean around Sri Lanka is home to large families of cetaceans including the mighty blue whales, sperm whales and lively dolphins. Altogether 26 species of cetaceans rule the waters surrounding the country, making it one of the best locations for whale and dolphin watching.
Sri Lanka has one of the richest diversity of amphibians in the world, containing over 106 species of amphibians of over 90 of which are endemic. The country has long claimed to have the highest amphibian species density in the world with a85% of endemicity ratio in Amphibians, especially in the Sinharaja rainforest.
Despite the mighty elephants and rare amphibians found in the country birds are the glory of the Sri Lanka’s wildlife. Boasting nearly 433 bird species of which 233 are resident Sri Lanka holds 20 endemic species while another 80 species have developed distinct Sri Lankan races, compared to their cousins in Indian mainland.
This diversity of Lanka’s wildlife is celebrated and conserved at many wildlife sanctuaries found around the country. With a history of protection and compassion extended to all the living beings, Sri Lanka’s first animal sanctuary had been recorded as far as third century BC with the arrival of Arhant Mahinda in the country and the introduction of Buddhism.
Today there are five large national parks in the country including the Yala National Park, Kumana, Willpattu, Galoya and Udawalawa wildlife sanctuary. Among the smaller wildlife sanctuaries are the Maduru Oya, Bundala, Horton Plains and Wasgamuwa National Parks.
The Peradeniya Botanical Gardens in the central highlands of the countrycomprises a fine display of local and foreign flora of Sri Lanka including the rarest of palm and orchid varieties.
The Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala and AthAthuruSevana in Udawalawaprovide a refuge to many abandoned and injured elephants of various ages and sizes, making them one of the largest tamed elephant herds in the world.
Highlights: Bird watching, Elephant Safari, Pinnewela Elephant Orphanage, Temple of the Tooth Relic, PeradeniyaBotonical Gardens, cultural show, Dambulla temple, Sigiriya Rock fortress, Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Ancient City of Anuradhapura, Parakrama Samudraya boat ride.
Route: Bandaranaike International Airpor-Kandy
Head to the mountain capital of Sri Lanka visiting the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage on the way. See the elephants frolicking at the nearby river and orphaned baby elephants been bottle fed. Spend the evening within the mesmerizing interiors of Temple of the Tooth Relic followed by a concert showcasing traditional Sri Lankan music and dance.
Route: Airport/Kandy/Nuwara Eliya/ Horton Plains/Colombo
Highlights: Elephant watching, trekking, bird watching, Temple of Tooth Relic, Tea Estates and Tea Factory, National Zoological Gardens, Vihara Maha Devi Park.
Day one: Airport/Kandy
Head to the mountain capital of Sri Lanka visiting the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage on the way. See the elephants frolicking at the nearby Maha Oya and try your hand at feeding the baby elephants.
Day Two:Peradeniya Botanical Gardens /Dalanda Maligawa or the Temple of the Tooth Relic
Take a tour around the Peradeniya Botanical Garden, Sri Lanka’s arboretum of local and foreignplant species. Spend the evening in spiritual contemplation surrounded by the awe inspiring Kandyan architecture of the Temple of the Tooth Relic.
Day Three: Udawatta Forest
Witness the morning glory of Udawatta Forest, the forest of the Kings. The sanctuary is famous for its extensive avifauna. The forest is also of religious importance as there are three Buddhist meditation hermitages and three rock shelter dwellings for Buddhist monk hermits.
Day Four: Kandy/Nuwara Eliya
Head to the Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka's tea growing centre, situated amidst an endless carpet of tea estates. Visit a tea factory to witness the production of world’s beat tea. Spend the evening in Nuwara Eliya, the little England of Sri Lanka, passing the 18-hole golf course, the colonial member’s only Hill Club and English styled country homes.
Day Five: Nuwara Eliya/Horton Plains/ Nuwara Eliya
Travel to the Wildlife Sanctuary of Horton plains, where live the samba and red slender Loris hidden among the mist covered forests. Take a slow and steady hike which also features Baker’s waterfall.
Day Six: Nuwara Eliya/ Colombo
Visit the National Zoological Gardens in Dehiwala, where in house elephants perform a dance daily for the pleasure of the visitors. Spend the evening at the ViharaMaha Devi Park in the midst of Colombo, a green sanctuary and an ideal end to a week spent in Nature Trails of Sri Lanka.
Day Seven: Colombo/BIA
Day One: Airport/Sinharaja
The four hour trip from Bandaranaike International Airport to Sinharaja falls by the golden beaches, though the sleepy villages and green blankets of paddy fields and rubber estates. An ideal beginning to an adventurous journey in Sri Lanka.
Day Two: Morning and Evening Bird Watching sessions at Sinharaja
Sinharaja, Sri Lanka’s last viable primary tropical rainforest with a vast collection of endemic vegetation, wildlife, especially birds and amphibians. Sinharaja is renowned for the Sinharaja bird wave where birds of different species fly in unison. Enjoy both a morning and evening bird watching sessionsin the company towering trees of Sinharaja.
Day Three: Sinharaja/Galle/Mirissa
Visit the famed Dutch Galle Fort. Spanning nearly 90 acres the Fort consist colonial styled churches, houses and hotels preserved in reminiscence of an era when the country was in the power of Dutch.
Day Four: Dolphin and Whale watching in Mirissa.
Mirissa itself is a quiet and peaceful coastal town boasting unspoiled beaches. Blue whales, Bryde´s whales, Sperm whales, Fin whales, bottle nose dolphins, common dolphins and spinner dolphins grace the waters of Southern Seas of Sri Lanka from Weligama to Mirrissa and can be found within just eight to ten nautical miles from Mirissa harbor.
Day Five: Mirissa/Yala and evening Safari at Yala.
As the dusk spreads around the trees of Yala set on an evening Safari in Yala in pursuit of the elusive leopards and elephants.
Day Six: Yala Morning Safari. Yala/Udawalawa
See Yala in its full glory basking in the morning sunlight. Head to Udawala, another sanctuary famed for elephants in the afternoon following the lunch. Spend the night at a luxury camp in the midst of Udawalawa sanctuary.
Day Seven: camping at Udawalawa, elephant safari and visit to elephant transit home.
Tour the Udawala wildlife Sanctuary in search of wild elephants and drop by at the Ath Athru Sevana, elephant transit home, where orphaned elephant babies are rehabilitated for a life in the jungle.
Day Eight: Udawalawa/Colombo
Return to Colombo after an adventurous journey amidst the wild and untamed of Sri Lanka.
Day Nine: Colombo/BIA