Neoh Joon Kee's Trip Report

Trip Report Title: 
Avid birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, Neoh Joon Kee and his family, enjoy an exquisite treat in Sri Lanka.
Tour Start: 
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Tour End: 
Friday, January 1, 2016

Trip Report Year:

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Avid birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, Neoh Joon Kee and his family, enjoy an exquisite treat in Sri Lanka.

Have you ever wished that you could escape the troubles of the world? Just forget all your worries and vanish into utopia… well, that was exactly what we did at the close of 2015 on our week-long Sri Lankan nature sojourn. Usually better known for its culture, beaches and tea, not many are aware that this island nation is one of the world’s premier biodiversity hotspots, with 26 national parks that are home to myriad plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world.

Knowing we are nature lovers, friends used to constantly regale us with tales of Sri Lanka’s natural beauty, even calling it a serendipitous encounter. Intriguingly enough, we later learned that serendib – a term that might be better understood in English as serendipity – is an old Arabic name for Sri Lanka! So, when we came to know of AirAsia’s daily flights to Colombo from Kuala Lumpur, we jumped at the chance to discover the country for ourselves.

We landed at Bandaranaike International Airport a week before New Year’s Day, and after an overnight rest at a nearby hotel, we began our winding drive through the hill country of the Central Province. One of the early highlights of our trip was the river valley at Kitulgala and its sweeping vistas, which had caught the eye of filmmakers many decades before for the iconic The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Kelani River
The majestic Kelani river at Kitulgala

Travelling further uphill, no movie could ever capture the world that greeted us at the highland city of Nuwara Eliya. Originally built by the British as a getaway from the sweltering heat, Nuwara Eliya’s quaint cottages, manicured lawns and vast man-made lake where pleasure boats puttered past picnicking families by the shore, was a welcome close to a long day on the road. It helped that we settled into a restored colonial bungalow with uniformed service and tea fresh from the nearby plantations!

The birds there did not disappoint, either. At the nearby Horton Plains National Park, we witnessed endemic montane species such as the exuberant Yellow-eared Bulbul and the secretive Sri Lanka Bush Warbler flit in and out of moss-covered trees. Much closer to town, Rose-ringed Parakeets breakfasted on berries in the landscaped gardens of Victoria Park. A little further downhill, we were lucky to spot a reclusive Indian Pitta at a bird sanctuary off the main road. Serendipity, indeed!

Another unforgettable experience awaited us at Yala National Park, one of the island’s most famous nature reserves. Not only was the park home to countless species of birds, but numerous mammals both big and small wandered about its many grasslands, streams and shrubbery. From the diminutive Ruddy Mongoose scuttling past our jeep on its morning run to hulking Sloth Bears lumbering by and a showstopper of a Sri Lankan leopard sunning itself at high noon, we were treated to some of the best wildlife this Asian safari destination had to offer.

Indian Peafowl, Yala National Park Sinharaja
Indian Peafowl, Yala National Park Sinharaja; 


A sloth bear wanders around Yala National Park
A sloth bear wanders around Yala National Park


Ruddy mongoose are found in Yala National Park
Many mammals like this ruddy mongoose are found in Yala National Park

In terms of sheer variety though, nothing could match the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Sinharaja Forest Reserve. With a name that literally means ‘lion king’, Sinharaja is home to a regal collection of native plants and bird species. We were in awe with rarities like the Sri Lankan Blue Magpie, Malabar Trogon and Asian Paradise Flycatcher. Even the surrounding villages turned up specialties like a pair of nocturnal Sri Lanka Frogmouths on their daytime roost and a stunning Sri Lankan junglefowl – the country’s national bird – in someone’s backyard!


Sri Lankan junglefowl is the national bird of Sri Lanka
The stunning Sri Lankan junglefowl is the national bird of Sri Lanka


Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Sinharaja Forest
Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Sinharaja Forest Reservemade; 


Sri Lankan Blue Magpie
Park Sinharaja Forest Reserve is home to the iconic Sri Lankan Blue Magpie

I couldn’t be happier that we had decided to journey into the paradise that is Sri Lanka. Where else would you have a magnificent Indian peafowl mount the roof of your chalet to herald the arrival of the morning sun, or the songs of endemic birds lull you to sleep in the shadows of a mist-covered mountain? Was it good fortune, or serendipity, that we were able to discover the wondrous people, landscapes and wildlife of Sri Lanka? It really doesn’t matter though, as our Serendib experience will forever be remembered.

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Author/s of the report: 
Neoh Joon Kee


Group size: 
Members of the group (clients): 
Neoh Joon Kee
Mei Ling
Tour Guide: