wild sri lanka

10-Day Safari to Sri Lanka

“There is no country in the world that has attracted the attention of authors in so many distant ages and of so many different countries as Ceylon (Sri Lanka)…from whatever direction is approached, (it) unfolds a scene of loveliness and grandeur unsurpassed, if it be rivaled, by any land in the universe.”
– Emerson Tennet

Explore the beguiling island of Sri Lanka – a land of amazing wildlife, rich cultural heritage, and eye-opening wonder. Our 10-day sample itinerary visits some of the country’s most notable highlights including the famous Yala National Park (we know how to avoid the leopard-seeking crowds), the Galle Fort UNESCO World Heritage Site, off-the-beaten-path Ritigala Archeological Monastery and more.

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Highlights

Perfect for:

  • Perfect for Adventure Seekers
  • Perfect for Cultural Visits
  • Perfect for Big 5/Wildlife Sightings
  • Duration 10 Days
  • Departures January - October
  • Fitness Rating Moderate
  • Safari Type Nature
  • Style Value
  • Land-Only Price* <$4,999
  • Flight Price Call for pricing

*All pricing per person based on double occupancy. Pricing varies based on travel dates, call for a customized quotation matching your travel needs. Changes to itinerary and pricing may apply. Price includes all accommodations, meals, some drinks, transfers, vehicles, park fees, guides and activities as indicated, and a $25 donation to a worthy African charity. Price excludes international flights, visas, tips, inoculations, travel insurance, and anything not specified above. We accept Visa, Master Card, Discover & AMEX. No refunds—see Terms and Conditions for details.

Itinerary

Day 1 : Sri Lanka

Ayubowan! Welcome to Sri Lanka!

On arrival to Colombo, clear immigration and customs. Proceed to the arrival area where you will be met by your private national guide who will transfer you to your first hotel at Horathapola.

Located about one and a half hours away from the Bandaranaike International Airport in the seclusion of a well-manicured landscape, you will find an ideal dwelling place known as the Horathapola Estate awaiting to greet you with a very authentic welcome. This astutely renovated plantation bungalow offers you contemporary comforts coupled with a local charm which will enchant you from the moment you step into this property.

How about a good book and a cup of Ceylon tea while resting by the poolside on your balcony after a long flight? Treat yourself with a glass of wine as you indulge in the luxury of the outdoor Jacuzzi. This is a unique place which makes you feel like exploring but at the same time makes you feel like doing nothing but relax. It’s up to you – no scripts here.

Overnight at Horathapola Estate – Maha Camare Room (D)

Day 2 : Wilpattu National Park

After breakfast, spend the morning at leisure and enjoy the ambiance of the estate. The 150-year-old frangipani tree in the middle of the front lawn enhances the serenity and beauty of the landscape. The 50-acre estate with its large agricultural expanse invites you to stroll through the coconut trees or through paddy fields.

One of your hosts can also take you for a guided village walk. The walk is an ideal opportunity for meeting and chatting with friendly locals, bird watching and visiting an organic coconut oil manufacturing plant. If you want some exercise at your own pace, grab one of the bicycles and take a ride around the village near our property. It’s a great way to get a feel for rural life as you pass by temples, farmland, and plantations.

Afterward, start driving towards Wilpattu for your first glimpse of wilderness.

After enjoying lunch, set out on an afternoon safari into Wilpattu National Park for an introduction to the park.

Wilpattu National Park is the largest national park in Sri Lanka. It is popular for its sightings of majestic elephants, lithe leopards, spotted deer, sloth bears, and gigantic crocodiles. The park is also home to striking flocks of peacocks, painted storks, and jungle fowls, as well as mongooses. Thick foliage is interwoven with shrubbery, streamlets, and tanks that expand during the monsoons and contract during the dry season – the landscapes of the Wilpattu National Park reflect an ideal hideout for the varied wildlife species.

Overnight at Thamaravila by Elephant Stables, Wilpattu – Luxury Tented Villa  (B, L, D)

Day 3 : Wilpattu National Park

As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm! So we wake up early and with a packed breakfast head towards Wilpattu National park for a full day safari.

Since the park is relatively big and you need a bit of time to get into the inland of the park, you ideally need a full day safari instead of two half-day safaris. Patience is the key when exploring Wilpattu – take your time and be surprised by what it offers. The lower volume of visitors in Wilpattu make sightings all the more exclusive.

Overnight at Thamaravila by Elephant Stables, Wilpattu – Luxury Tented Villa  (B, L, D)

Day 4 : Sigiriya

After another delicious breakfast, proceed to explore Anuradhapura, the city of kings.

There are not many places in the world that can claim to have been continuously inhabited for over two millennia. Anuradhapura is one of them. What makes Anuradhapura stand out is that it is alive and not just an archeological site. Pilgrims still visit the sacred Bo tree, and the dagobas stand as majestic as they did during the reign of King Tissa. Take time to wander around, find a quiet spot to reflect on the passage of time and humanity.

When Leonard Wolff visited in the 1920s, he wrote:

“I once in Anuradhapura saw a man sweeping the courtyard around a dagoba. He was dressed like a sweeper, but there was something rather strange about him. I got into a conversation with him and found that he had been a wealthy businessman in Colombo; he was highly educated and spoke perfect English. Suddenly at the age of about fifty, he had felt an irresistible need to throw it all up and follow the path of Buddha which led him, not to penance or mortification of fakirs, sannyasins, dervishes, or monks, but to the life of gentle contemplation sweeping the dagoba. It is not a withdrawal and occupation which would ever appeal to me personally, but I respect the man to whom they appealed and the religion which inspired him.”

The Sri Maha Bodhi at Anuradhapura is thought to have been brought to Sri Lanka by no other than Sangamitta, the daughter of the emperor Asoka, sometime around the third century BC. According to tradition, it is a sampling of the Bodh Gaya under which Buddha attained enlightenment.

At the time when Anuradhapura was abandoned in search of a new capital further south, a group of monks stayed behind to protect it – especially from elephants looking to feast on its young leaves. People have been coming here and paying respect for a whopping two thousand years, making it the oldest living tree of which there is a record.

Today it is still a place of veneration as it was back in the days of King Devanampiyatissa.

After that, proceed to Ritigala Archeological Monastery.

Ritigala has that feel of the undiscovered, a world away from the most famous sights in Sri Lanka. Make sure you take time to explore in depth and walk all the way to the higher part of the complex. The archeological site bears a certain mysterious nature owing to the long meditational pathways that open into the thick jungle and large stone-lined reservoirs. Take time to sit down and connect with nature in these ancient meditation sacred grounds.

Afterward, proceed to your hotel in Sigiriya and relax. Your stay will be at Jetwing Vil Uyana, a property designed with attention to detail, reflecting different ecosystems throughout its different clusters of well-appointed dwellings.

Overnight Stay at Jetwing Vil Uyana, Sigiriya – Garden Dwelling (B)

Day 5 : Gal Oya National Park

After a relaxed breakfast, it’s time to proceed to Gal Oya. Gal Oya is an unexplored treasure in Sri Lanka. A national park surrounded by water and islands. A unique experience awaits.

It is rustic, but it has all you need. Wonderfully appointed lodgings, an excellent team of local guides, and some of the best food to be found in the country. One ‘feature’ of note – there is no phone signal at the property, which is a real luxury in this modern age.

Later in the afternoon, join a resident naturalist for a walk around the lodge, enjoying the abundant birdlife and beautiful surroundings. The walk offers a number of possible routes through the trees and around the nearby lake where you can observe a wide range of bird species such as kingfishers, waggles, kites, and many other aquatic birds. Feel free to discuss your interests with your naturalist guide for a tailored trip to suit your preferences.

Overnight Stay at Gal Oya Lodge – Bungalow (Non-A/C) (B, D)

Day 6 : Gal Oya National Park

Today, enjoy a boat safari at the Gal Oya National Park. You will also enjoy a picnic breakfast at a remote island within the park itself.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to observe the wildlife from the stunning Gal Oya Lake, including crocodiles, deer, elephant, and many rare and endemic species of birds. This is the only experience in Sri Lanka that enables you to spot wildlife from the water and to truly immerse yourself in the animals’ habitats. You may be lucky enough to see elephants swimming between islands or bathing at the lake’s edge. Today, you’ll ride through the national park and embark on a boat. As you cruise over the lake, make sure to keep a sharp eye out for the wildlife!

Spend the afternoon on your own leisure enjoying the beauty of the surroundings.

Overnight Stay at Gal Oya Lodge – Bungalow (Non-A/C) (B, L, D)

Day 7 : Yala National Park

After a relaxed breakfast, proceed to Yala, where another unique experience awaits you.

Note: The Elephant Tollway.

If you happen to be driving from Buttala on the road to Yala, chances are you will encounter Rajah, an elephant with the habit of standing right in the middle of the road! The story told is that during the war, people traveling this way would often see this elephant and give him some food and eventually, he became a feature on this lone part of the country

After enjoying a mouth-watering lunch, set out on your first afternoon safari into Yala National Park.

Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s most famous National Park and with good reason. It is home to an amazing range of wildlife. Unfortunately, with fame came overdevelopment and if you enter the park from Kirinda – which is what most travelers do – you might end up in a traffic jam of jeeps and even buses. Traveling halfway around the world to be stuck in traffic eating dust is not really anyone’s idea of a safari, but it happens.

We prefer to avoid the crowds, and by working together with Kulu Safaris we found a way to do just that by entering Yala through the Kataragama entrance – there might be some jeeps around but nothing as chaotic in the main gate area. If you stay at the camp for two nights, then there is a chance to explore the more remote areas of the national park such as Yala block 3 and 5 where there are hardly any visitors!

Note of leopard sighting; if you see a leopard it is a bonus, but Yala is much more than leopards! There are wild elephants, buffalo herds, boar, pythons, innumerable birds, bears, jackals, and more. So, as with many safaris around the world, bring your patience and if you don’t see a leopard, no worries – there is a lot more to it. 

Overnight Stay at Kulu Safari’s, Yala – Tent (B, L, D)

Day 8 : Yala National Park

Today, it’s all about wildlife!

Set out on early morning and afternoon safaris into Yala National Park.

Just in case the lure of safaris isn’t enough, the campsite has several activities available to keep you busy. Feel free to hop into a kayak and get out on the water for a couple hours of solitude and exercise where you can experience a different aspect of nature.

You can also set out on a jungle walk with one of the in-house naturalists. The walk provides a rare opportunity to learn interesting tips on the art of tracking, animal behavior, and offers a unique perspective for birding as well as photography.

Overnight Stay at Kulu Safari’s, Yala – Tent (B, L, D)

Day 9 : Galle

After another delicious breakfast, proceed to Galle along the southern coastline.

Set out on a walk around the Galle Fort in the afternoon.

There are places in the world that speak of an era of times gone by, the Galle Fort is one of them. Imagine cobbled streets that have seen four hundred years of history from Arab merchants to the adventurous Portuguese and the industrious Dutch, with colonial homes complete with their red tiled roofs, an impressive rampart surrounding a small peninsula jutting out to the Indian Ocean and you begin to get an idea of the fort in Galle.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about the fort is that it is a living monument. Families that have lived there for generations continue to inhabit it’s fortified streets. In the afternoon, you might stop for some thambili from a local vendor or some crispy vaddais. The fort is alive, yet the development of the tourist industry means that many families are choosing to sell their homes to be turned into a new boutique hotel. If you visit Galle today, you will still get a chance of seeing it as a small Sri Lankan microcosm where Buddhists and Muslims live together. It is likely only a matter of time before this changes, as more development nearly guarantees the appearance of new hotels and tourist restaurants. Our advice is to come and see it now before it changes forever.

Overnight Stay at Fort Bazar, Galle – Bazaar Bedroom (B)

Day 10 : End Of Itinerary

Sadly, it’s time to leave the Isle of Serendipity! You will be transferred to the airport to fly back to Colombo and then connect to your international flight. (B)

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