Nirmal Khandan's Trip Report

Trip Report Title: 
Nirmal Khandan's Trip Report
Tour Strat: 
Thursday, January 2, 2020
Tour End: 
Saturday, March 14, 2020

Trip Report Year:

Flamingoes in Jaffna
Flamingoes in Jaffna

Nirmal Khandan
Nirmal Khandan
Ed & Harold Foreman Endowed Chair, Distinguished Achievement Professor, Civil Engineering Department, New Mexico State University

I am a Sri Lankan currently living in the US. I have had several wildlife/birding/photography tours in Sri Lanka over the past couple of years, some self-organized and some through local tour companies. This is the first time I have had the fortune to do a dedicated bird-photography tour with Walk With Jith. Having read the great reviews on the web about the quality of the tours offered by Walk With Jith, I picked them with a lot of expectations. Now that I have completed the tour, I can attest to the fact that, they have far exceeded my expectations, in planning the itinerary, organizing the hotels and transportation, implementing the itinerary itself.  

Leopard, Lunugamvehera National Park
Leopard, Lunugamvehera National Park

I contacted Jith by email expressing my interest in a bird-photography tour and he promptly responded with an itinerary that fitted my schedule and budget well. Due to various personal reasons, I had to modify the itinerary couple of times, and Jith patiently responded rapidly to my frequent requests for revisions/rescheduling. I must say that he responded every time within 24 hours. Finally, when I arrived in Colombo on Jan 3rd 2020 at 4:00 AM, Jith and the guide assigned to me, Athula, were at the airport to greet me and start the tour right from the airport.

Sri Lanka White-eye
Sri Lanka White-eye

My original itinerary included Mannar (Palmyrah House) > Jaffna (Jetwing Jaffna) > Kandy (Suisse Hotel) > Kitulagala (Rest House) > Nuwara Eliya (Hill Pride Hotel) > Sinharaja (Rock View Hotel) > Colombo. On the last leg of the tour arriving at Sinharaja, we found the weather conditions were terrible for good photography. On my request, Jith quickly arranged for me to proceed to Lunugamwehara National Park instead. Even though I missed the key endemics at SInharaja, this alternate plan proved to be very productive, including a close encounter with a leopard in the open, beautifully-lit by the evening sun. Again, I was very impressed by the commitment of Jith and his crew in being responsive and providing the best service possible to their clients. 

Chestnut-backed owlet, Kitulgala
Chestnut-backed owlet, Kitulgala

Thanks to Athula, during this  12-day tour, I was able to capture clean, sharp, frame-filling images of over 215 species of birds including 27 endemics. Athula was a fantastic guide, with excellent spotting skills and profound knowledge of the birds. He was accurate and definitive about their identifications, to the last detail. Athula explained to me the finer distinctions between similar species comparing my images with those in guidebooks. He was totally dedicated and conscientious and did not give up until I got the image to my satisfaction. This meant working from the wee hours of the morning into the late hours of the day. He had precise insights about each bird’s habitat and time of the day at which they would appear at the hot spots; I was totally impressed that the birds turned up at the right place at the right time predicted by Athula, bird after bird. I cannot find the right words to sum up his guiding skills, bird vocalizing skills, driving skills, and personal traits. At times, his perseverance could push one to ones limits. I recommend him most highly as an A+ guide.   

Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill feeding Papaya fruit, Kitulgala
Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill feeding Papaya fruit, Kitulgala

One of my targets was the elusive and elegant flamingoes. Athula kept on scanning the horizons across the causeways in Mannar and Jaffna tirelessly for four days. His efforts were fully rewarded in Jaffna where we were able to get close enough to a flock of about 50 birds. He acted quickly to arrange with a local fisherman for a boat ride to get me close enough to make excellent images.

Glossy Ibis, Jaffna
Glossy Ibis, Jaffna

Grey Francolin, Mannar
Grey Francolin, Mannar

Pheasant tailed Jacana along the road from Mannar to Jaffna
Pheasant tailed Jacana along the road from Mannar to Jaffna

Having taken several organized wildlife/photography tours in the US, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, India, Malaysia, and Australia, I would rank the services provided by Walk With Jith as the best one. I sure will return to SL with my colleagues and  without any hesitation have Walk With Jith take care of all the ground activities.   

Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot feeding on guava fruit, SInharaja Forrest
Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot feeding on guava fruit, SInharaja Forrest

White-naped Flameback Woodpecker, Tissamarahama
White-naped Flameback Woodpecker, Tissamarahama

Author/s of the report: 
Nirmal Khandan

Country:

Group size: 
1
Members of the group (clients): 
Nirmal Khandan
Tour Guide: 
Athula