John Kirby's Trip Report

Trip Report Title: 
Travel Report by John Kirby - November 2011 SRI LANKA  1st – 15th November 2011
Tour Start: 
Monday, October 31, 2011
Tour End: 
Saturday, November 14, 2015

Trip Report Year:

Travel Report by John Kirby - November 2011

SRI LANKA  1st – 15th November 2011

Pat & Garry and Monica and John Kirby in Bundala Wetland (Beach)
Pat & Garry and Monica and John Kirby in Bundala Wetland (Beach)


This is a brief report of a trip to Sri Lanka arranged with Prasanjith Caldera (Jith) of Walk With Jith.

We met Jith at the Bird Fair and were impressed with his set up and arranged a trip. This was based on one of Jiths standard itineraries with some adjustments by us. It included birding and cultural sites.

We arranged our own flights with Etihad Airways.

Sites visited and highlights.

We arrived at 5.30 am and went from the airport to Sovereign Hotel. This is a business hotel on the outskirts of Colombo. Not very inspiring but OK for an overnight stay. 

Talangama Wetlands.

After a nap and lunch this was the first site visited and a good introduction to the common birds of Sri Lanka.

As a surprise Jith took us out for an evening meal to the Cricket Club. This is where all the visiting test sides go and is steeped in cricket history and memorabilia. The menu has dishes named with a cricket theme. An excellent restaurant and very good food.

Pat & Garry and Monica and John Kirby at the Cricket Club - a specail restaurent for Criket Fans
Pat & Garry and Monica and John Kirby at the Cricket Club - a specail restaurent for Criket Fans

Pat & Garry and Monica and John Kirby at the Cricket Club - specail restaurent for Criket Fans
Pat & Garry and Monica and John Kirby at the Cricket Club - a specail restaurent for Criket Fans

Kithulgala Forest

We were based at Kithulgala Rest House – famous for the filming of “Bridge on the River Kwai” with lots of posters and other memorabilia around. Lovely setting right on the river. Reasonable rooms and food.

Spot-winged Thrush, Pitta, Black napped Flameback, Orange billed Babbler, Southern Hill Myna, Layards Parakeet, Chestnut backed Owlet


We stayed at Sigiriya Village Hotel (Nice rooms and extensive buffet). We did not climb the rock but had excellent birding in the surrounding woodlands.

Ceylon Woodshrike, Pitta, Tickells Flycatcher, Crested Hawk Eagle, Purple Faced Leaf Monkey

Description: Purple faced Leaf Monkey.jpg

Polonnoruwa Archaeological Site.

The second capital city of Sri Lanka around 12th century.  Well worth a visit especially for the Gal Vihara rock sculptures.

Buddhist Temple and Dambulla Cave Temple near Kandy.

Two interesting sites.

Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya near Kandy.

Nicely set out gardens with a large fruit bat roost. Many endemic trees and plants.

Common Hawk Cuckoo.

We stayed at Hotel Topaz in Kandy. This was set high in the hills over Kandy and gave excellent views. Rooms and food OK.

Nuwara Eliya

We visited Mackwood Tea Plantation and Factory on the way to Nuwara Eliya. We stayed at The Grand Hotel, an upmarket hotel but a bit dated and very busy!. Room comfortable and a good buffet.

We made 3 trips to Victoria Park for Pied Thrush but failed to find any. However we did see Pitta, Kashmir Flycatcher, Indian Blue Robin, Yellow Eared Bulbul and Hill Swallow

Description: Yellow eared Bulbul.jpg

Hakgala Botanical Gardens.

Pleasant gardens about 30 minutes from Nuwara Eliya. There were very confiding Purple Faced Leaf Monkeys in the higher parts. We also saw Rhinoceros Lizard, Black lipped Lizard, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Dull blue Flycatcher and Black throated Munia.

Bundala and Yala near Tissamaharama.

Yala is the site for Leopard and it is geared up to see them. You have to use jeeps and a forest ranger and it is a mad drive to get to the Leopard stake out – along with countless other jeeps! We had good views of two resting Leopards but left after about 20 minutes due to 30 other jeeps arriving. The birding was not very rewarding so we left for extra time in Bundala.

Bundala is the site for birders. A jeep and ranger are required. Our ranger was Sugat who was very good. We saw 90 species in 2 visits here. The number and variety of birds is spectacular.

White naped Woodpecker, Blue faced Malkoha, Brown Shrike,Great and European Thick-knees, Tern, Waders, Storks, Pelicans, Sri Lanka White-eye, Herons.

Description: Crested serpent Eagle.jpg

Description: White naped Woodpecker.jpg

Description: Brown Shrike.jpg

Description: Greater Thick-knee.jpg

Description: Eurasian Thick-knee.jpg

We also saw Elephant and the endangered Star shell Tortoise.

Description: Elephant.jpg


Walk around the tanks at Tissamaharama.

We made 2 afternoon walks around the tanks and villages/ We failed to find Watercock or Black Bittern but Jith knew sites for Collared Scops Owl and Brown Fish Owl.

Description: Collared Scops Owl.jpg

Sinharaja Rainforest

We stayed in the forest at Martins Lodge. The approach “road” to the lodge is a 4 km ride in a jeep (impassable for cars and vans) up a steep hill over a rutted boulder strewn track that took nearly an hour. Not for the squeamish!!. Martins Lodge is very basic with no food choice and no alcohol although it isn’t a problem to take your own.(Buy it in town). The food was simple Sri Lankan dishes and very tasty! Our local guide on forest walks was Rangit who was excellent at finding birds.  We saw Greater Flameback, AshyHeaded Laughing Thrush, Frogmouth, Ceylon Spurfowl, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Red faced  Malkoha, Crested Drongo, Sri Lanka Hill Myna, White faced Starling(heard), Blue Magpie and other forest species


Description: Frogmouth.jpg

Description: Ceylon Jungle Fowl.jpg


Description: Blue Magpie.jpg


The Serendib Scops Owl could not be located despite extensive searches by the guides.


We stayed 2 nights at Hotel Club Dolphin prior to flying home. This is right on the beach north of Negombo. It is a large holiday complex catering for All Inclusive Guests.



An excellent two weeks. We saw 202 species including 28 endemics. Jith is a good birder, friendly and excellent company. He is very knowledgeable on all aspects of Sri Lanka.

Our driver was Mr Silva. He is 73 years old and fitter than the rest of us put together. He handled the variable roads excellently and always had a cheery word and a smile.

Jith supplied a check list, map and unlimited bottled water. Umbrellas were also available in the mini bus.

Jiths tours can be recommended! They are very good value for money.





Author/s of the report: 
John Kirby
Group size: 
Members of the group (clients): 
John Kirby
Monica Kirby
Pat Hughes
Grey Hughes