Colin Scott's Trip Report

Trip Report Title: 
Travel Report by Colin Scott Sri Lanka - 3rd to 18th February 2007
Tour Strat: 
Friday, February 2, 2007
Tour End: 
Saturday, March 17, 2007

Trip Report Year:

Travel Report by Colin Scott
Sri Lanka - 3rd to 18th February 2007

© Colin Scott

Colin Scott - touching an elephant
Colin Scott

We’re organising a trip to Sri Lanka next year, fancy coming? I had never previously given any thought to visiting this tropical island just off the south east coast of India. A quick look on the ‘net told me that there are over 400 bird species ( 26 endemic species, and over 70 endemic sub-species ),(endemic meaning found nowhere else), a large range of mammals from elephants to leopard to mongoose and it is also described as a “global hot spot” for reptiles. A rich culture and long history also provided many World Heritage Sites to be explored. Deposit paid, the long wait had begun.

Finally departure day arrived February 3rd 2007, and after a 9 hour delay at Heathrow we were on our way. 11 hours later we landed at Colombo Airport, where we were met by our guide Prasanjith Caldera. We now faced a 5 hour drive to Sigiriya Village Hotel the first of nine different hotels. On the way we saw; Lesser, Intermediate and Cattle Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Open-billed Stork, White-throated and Stork-billed Kingfishers, Black-headed Ibis, Honey-Buzzard, Ashy-Wood Swallow, White-bellied Drongo, Spotted Dove, Indian Roller, Magpie Robins, Tri- coloured Munia, Common Mynah, and Indian Ring-necked Parakeets the first of the five species of parrot found on Sri Lanka. As we were quite tired on arrival at the hotel, we had a short rest and something to eat before having a walk around the gardens and surrounding woodlands beside a large lake, whilst the famous Sigiriya Rock Fortress provided a stunning backdrop. Here over the next two days we saw amongst many others; Lesser Whistling Ducks, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Red-wattled Lapwing, Brahminy Kite, Striated Heron, Yellow Bittern, Purple Heron, Crimson-fronted, Brown-headed and Coppersmith Barbets, Tickell’s and Paradise Flycatcher, White-rumped Shama, Emerald Dove, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Indian Nightjar, Indian Pitta and the second parrot the Alexandrine Parakeet. We also saw a remarkable bird called the Grey-rumped Treeswift which with an upright crest, grey colour, orange cheek patches and similar size resembled a grey cockatiel!

Group from Exmoor Zoo -- Lynn & Danny Reynolds from Directors from Exmoor Zoo from N. Devon, Ben Potterton from Norfolk, Colin Scott from Devon, Bruce Walton from Cheshire, Pat Tucker from Devon, John & Shelly Ray from Warwickshire
Group from Exmoor Zoor -- Lynn & Danny Reynolds from Directors from Exmoor Zoo from N. Devon, Ben Potterton from Norfolk, Colin Scott from Devon, Bruce Walton from Cheshire, Pat Tucker from Devon, John & Shelly Ray from Warwickshire

Day 2 - our first full day, we climbed the Rock Fortress with stunning views in all directions, on the way up we visited the World famous frescoes of “the Heavenly Maidens of Sigiriya”, we also had great views of Shikra, a hawk related to the sparrow hawk and Shaheen Falcon an endemic sub-species of the Peregrine. We also saw a Black-necked Stork, unrecorded in this area.

The next day, after visiting Dambulla Cave Temple another World Heritage Site dating from the 1st Century A.D., we moved camp to Kinjou Safari Village in Wasgomuwa National Park. Here an afternoon jeep safari gave us; Spot-billed Pelican, Darter, Adjutant, Woolly-necked, Open-billed and the beautiful Painted Stork, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Grey-headed Fish-eagle, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Peafowl, and Chinese Painted Quail! Other birds seen included; European, Little-green and Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Streaked and Baya Weavers, Cotton Pygmy Geese, Greater Coucal, Blue-faced Malkoha, Green Imperial Pigeon, Malabar Pied Hornbill, and Black Drongo. Mammals seen here included; Sambar and Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, Black-naped Hare, Water Buffalo, Grey Langar Monkey and a herd of 60-70 wild Asian Elephants.

Day 4, we moved again to Kandy city via the Knuckles Mountain Range with its breath taking scenery. In the afternoon we went to the Royal Botanic Gardens a real treat for the green fingered amongst us. We also saw within the gardens; Indian Hill Mynah, White-bellied Fish-eagle, Black Bittern, Purple, Long-billed and Purple-rumped Sunbirds, Golden-fronted leafbird, and Spicebirds. We also experienced the noise and commotion of a Fruit Bat roost with an estimated 10,000 occupants.

Colin Scott scrubbing and elephant
Colin Scott scrubbing and elephant

Day 5 - involved an early morning visit to Udawattakelle Forest Reserve situated in the city. Here we saw two more parrot species both endemics, the Sri Lanka Hanging-parrot and Layard’s Parakeet. We also spotted the Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill and Yellow-fronted Barbet two more endemics. Other birds included; Greater Flame-back and Red-backed Woodpecker, Scarlet Minivet, Black-headed Yellow Bulbul and Black Bulbul. In the afternoon we visited Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, one of Sri Lanka’s biggest tourist attractions with a herd of over 80 elephants making a daily parade from their grazing pasture through the streets to a river to cool off, a real spectacle. Just up the road was the Millennium Elephant Foundation which rescues elderly, sick and miss treated working elephants. Here you can get “hands-on” and well worth a visit.

Day 6 - after two nights in Kandy it was time to move again, but before we left the city we visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, then it was off to Nuwara-eliya situated at about 2000m in the highlands. On the way we visited a tea plantation and tea factory. The afternoon involved a visit to Hakgala Gardens established in 1860. Endemic birds seen here include; Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka White-eye, Dull Blue Flycatcher, Yellow-eared Bulbul and Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush. We also saw Grey-headed Flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Brown Shrike, Scaly-breasted Rail, and Hill Swallow. We also saw the endemic Purple-faced Leaf-monkey.

The next day was another early start with a return at first light to Hakgala Gardens, then onto Horton Plains National Park situated at 2500m.

Day 8 - another early start and off to Yala National Park, Sri Lanka’s most famous Park, situated on the south east coast which bore the brunt of the Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami. Yala is a very large park situated in the “dry zone” comprising a diversity of habitats from scrub forest, reservoirs, brakish lagoon and estuary. Well known for its mammal species we saw more elephant and had good views of the elusive Leopard. New birds seen here included,

Malabar Pied Hornbill

Day 9 - In the morning we went to Bundala Ramsar Wetland National Park which comprises scrub jungle and coast, also there are large artificial salt pans which are flooded and then sealed to allow the water to evaporate leaving the salt to be collected by hand, very labour intensive in extreme temperatures. Large numbers of waders and coastal birds were to been seen. After lunch some of us went on a jeep safari to Udawalawa National Park, an area of scrub jungle and tall grass. Here we saw Black-shouldered Kite, Plaintive Cuckoo, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, and the fifth and final parrot species, the Plum-headed parakeet.

Day 10 and 11 - and we were off to one of our most eagerly anticipated destinations – the rain forest. Sinharaja Man and Biosphere Reserve is a World Heritage Site and has been an area of intensive study. The following birds are all endemics and were new to us, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, White-faced Starling, Ashy-headed Laughing-Thrush, Orange-billed Babbler, Sri Lanka Mynah, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Red-faced Malkoha, Spot-winged Thrush, and White-throated Flowerpecker. Other birds seen were Malabar Trogan, Indian Cuckoo, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Common Iora, Dark-fronted Babbler, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch Flycatcher, Crested Drongo, Yellow-billed Babbler, Oriental Bay Owl and Spot-bellied Eagle-owl. Altogether we saw 15 endemic bird species at Sinharaja.

Day 12 - and we left Martin’s Lodge in Sinharaja Forest for the coast. Bentota beach is a breeding area of several species of turtle, here less than a hundred yards from our hotel we visited a turtle hatchery. Hundreds of young Green Turtles were waiting for release, also on show were injured adult turtles being nursed back to health including Ridley’s Green and Hawksbill Turtles. We were invited to come back after dark to assist in releasing about 150 youngsters, on the way back to the hotel we were informed that two females were hauling themselves out of the sea and would shortly commence egg laying. These immense creatures estimated at 300 kilos are so vulnerable at this time. The eggs are collected as they are laid by local fishermen eager to supplement their income, the lucky eggs are sold to the hatcheries, the less fortunate ones are sold for food.

Day 13 and 14 - were spent at Ranweli Holiday Village, situated on a small island accessible by small ferry, this was time to relax before the long journey home. However we did take a boat trip around the mangrove lagoons. Water birds were common and we had good views of Yellow Bittern and various Kingfisher species.

This was the best trip I have been on, we managed to pack so much in over the fifteen days all thanks to the meticulous planning of our guide Prasanjith Caldera. The food, accommodation, the mix of culture, wildlife, scenery and attractions were all excellent. I would have no hesitation in recommending “Jith” as he is known to anyone wishing to visit this beautiful country.

Visit www.walkwithjith.com and let him tailor make your holiday of a life time!

Author/s of the report: 
Colin Scott
Group size: 
8
Members of the group (clients): 
Ben Potterton
Bruce Walton
Colin Scott
Danny Reynolds
John Ray
Lynn Reynolds
Pat Tucker
Shelly Ray
Tour Guide: 
Prasanjith Caldera