Birds & Wetlands of Sri Lanka – Jonathan Forgham
18 to 31 January 2023

Birds & Wetlands of Sri Lanka – Jonathan Forgham
18 to 31 January 2023

Sri Lanka has a rich and varied ornithological list of both resident and migratory birds. Between the months of November to early March the number of species is augmented by arrivals from India and the north. In total, Sri Lanka boasts 216 species of resident birds whilst another 220 species arrive to over winter. Many of these species are relatively easy to find and can be fairly common in the correct habitat. The itinerary of our tour has been planned carefully to permit visits to a variety of habitats: coastal, brackish lagoons, rain forests, rural and urban so enthusiastic birders will be in a position to maximise the species list for the tour. 34 species are endemic to Sri Lanka (ie, not found anywhere else) and whilst some are rare and elusive, many remain common and easy to find. In the correct habitat, the numbers of birds can be quite staggering.

Mammals and reptiles are also relatively easy to observe, especially at sites such as Udawalawe Reserve, some 3 hours from Galle in the south west. 

Jonathan Forgham :

The trip leader, offers a wealth of knowledge and experience about this superb island, In the UK he has been a life long birder and all round naturalist and has visited most of Europe for bird trips. He has spent 10 years recording all aspects of natural history in the rural parish where he lives, publishing a book on the area in 2010.

He has made numerous visits to many parts of Sri Lanka over the last 7 years where he has studied and photographed the birds and wildlife both in the National Reserves as well as by just walking around the village lanes and local wetlands. He has a long list of over 220 bird species seen in Sri Lanka and is regularly booked by ornithological societies, bird clubs, RSPB local groups and Rotarians to give presentations on the wildlife of the island. He will be offering these illustrated presentations on several evenings during the tour, to help with identification of some of the more common species, as well as prepare all for specific visits to the reserves found on the tour itinerary. He is a keen photographer and will be happy to advise all on any optical and photographic equipment as well as specific clothing for visits to rain forests etc. He is also an authority on the reptiles, butterflies and mammals of the island and will be able to point these out on our regular walks and visits. He will be using camera during the tour and will be happy to share his resulting bird and mammal photos with all soon after a return to the UK.

Anoma Alagiyawadu :

Anoma is the resident Naturalist and Jetwing’s Cetacean expert has committed his life to the study and preservation of nature. His interest in nature goes back to his childhood, growing up in Kottawa in the Galle region. The lush forest surroundings close to his home provided him much entertainment, and many hours were spent absorbing the wonders around him. “I used to lie on the cool shade of old forest trees and watch the birds, listening to their songs” – this dreamy appreciation grew into a passion, and on to become his career choice and vocation in life.

Anoma is currently applying innovative conservations methods to preserve and improve the propagation of Southern region Marine life. He has participated as a field assistant and organised infrastructural studies in research campaigns conducted by eminent British academics and marine biologists, referenced in Wild Heritage Trust adding rare insights to the country’s wild habitats. Anoma’s studies have been published in the Journal of South Asian Natural History offering his unique contribution at global standards. He has also worked in conjunction with the National Maritime Museum Galle and is a proactive member of the Galle Wildlife Society as well as of BEES – Biodiversity Exploration and Education Society.

14 days
London - Colombo - Galle - Udawalawe - Sinharaja - Colombo - London

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Itinerary View Map
Aircraft emirates

Day 1 : To Colombo

Fly overnight by Emirates Airlines flight to Sri Lanaka (via Dubai). Departures from regional UK airports are available on request.


Day 2 : Colombo

Arrive Colombo midday. Transfer to hotel Jetwing Beach in Negombo. Evening presentation of The Birds of Sri Lanka and general meeting with tour guide. Once unpacked and settled there will be an opportunity for guests to take a very short wander to a local pond where many common species can be noted. A relaxed stroll along the beach here will give views of terns and egrets along with the evening migration of 10,000’s of house crows. Overnight stay at Hotel Jetwing Beach. D


Day 3 : Colombo

Morning visit to local marshes, boat trip along canal to open wetland at Muthurajawela Marsh. Packed breakfast with bird guide and Hemantha Gunathilaka, naturalist in residence at Negombo Jetwing hotels. The drive to these superb marshes is around 30 minutes and an early start is best to see the most species. Hemantha and Jonathan shall accompany in the boats and be on hand to point out the wide variety of birds such as gull billed terns, whiskered terns, herons and at least 3 species of gloriously colourful kingfishers. A superb habitat to begin the tour. Overnight stay at Hotel Jetwing Beach. B, D


Day 4 : To Galle

Check out of hotel, transfer to Hotel Jetwing Lighthouse.Afternoon local walk with Jonathan for local birds and a chance to meet Anoma Alagiyawadu, the naturalist in residence at the hotel and leading authority on whale migration along the southern coast of Sri Lanka. A long-standing friend of Jonathan’s. In the evening, an optional tour of Galle Fort or just a chance to enjoy the stunning ocean views from one of the bars at the hotel. Overnight stay at Hotel Jetwing Lighthouse. B, D


Day 5 : Galle

Morning visit to Kottawa Rainforest and Hiyare Forest 11 km East of Galle. Optional visits to Unawatuna, Buddhist temples, Jungle Beach and or bus trip to Hikkadua. Kottawa rainforest, some 30 minutes’ drive from the hotel is a small tract of ancient rainforest, holding many species of birds as well as endemic lizards and snails. Macaque monkeys can be seen here regularly. Anoma and Jonathan have visited here many times and are involved in a rain forest tree planting programme to ensure the future of this magnificent habitat. Indeed, in early 2020, Jonathan Skyped a school assembly from here to a school in Bishop’s Stortford that were studying rain forests. Overnight stay at Hotel Jetwing Lighthouse. B, D

sri lanka nature trail day 14

Day 6 : Galle

Early start for Mirissa and whale watching tour. Stop for boat trip around Koggala Lake on route back and refreshments at The Fortress hotel, Koggala. Rest of the day at leisure. With Anoma’s knowledge we shall all gain much from this wonderful trip. The boat trip out to the deeper water where the blue
whales and spinner dolphins can be found can take two hours, but there will be birds to view en-route. Watching blue whales is one of the best experiences for any naturalist. With over 1500 trips to record whales, Anoma is the best person to be with. Overnight stay at Hotel Jetwing Lighthouse. B, D


Day 7 : To Udawalawe

Check out of hotel. Transfer to hotel near Udawalawe Reserve. (3 hours drive with stop for tea and visit Buddhist temple en route) Afternoon local bird walk with bird guide. Overnight stay at Grand Udawalawa. B, D


Day 8 : Udawalawe

Early start for safari around Udawalawe Reserve. Drivers for Jeeps and bird guide 3-4 hour safari. An excellent reserve. The morning will begin with a visit to the Elephant orphanage where youngsters are called in to be bottle fed by their keepers. Chance for some close-up photography. Then, into jeeps for a long drive around the extensive reserve. Water buffalo, elephants, a possible 70 bird species, mongooses etc will all be possible sightings. Overnight stay at Grand Udawalawa. B, D

sri lanka nature trail day 4

Day 9 : To Sinharaja

Check out of hotel with transfer to Sinharaja Rain Forest Eco Lodge. Sinharaja is the highlight of any Sri Lankan nature trip. The reserve was declared a UNESCO World heritage site in 1988 and 64% of the birds are endemic. It holds a wealth of birds as well as endemic freshwater Fish and reptiles. In the last 25 years a new species of bird, the Serendip Owl, has been discovered, new to science so what else must reside here, as yet undiscovered. Following our arrival at the hotel there will be time to rest and relax and perhaps take a brief local wander with Jonathan Overnight stay at Rainforest Eco Lodge. B, D


Day 10 : Sinharaja

Today, the highlight of the tour as far as bio diversity goes. A short drive to Sinharaja Rain Forest Reserve where we shall meet up with a guide who shall accompany us on a walk through the forest. Rain forest birding can be challenging and so to have an experienced guide is the best way to get the most from the trip. On particular endemic bird can be found here easily enough, the stunning Ceylon Blue magpie. The rest of the day will be free to rest or wander. Jonathan will be available for anyone who wishes to spend an hour before evening meal for a quick bird walk. Overnight stay at Rainforest Eco Lodge. B, D

Sunrise At The Beach In Sri Lanka

Day 11 : To Colombo

Check out and head for Mount Lavinia Hotel Colombo. Sightseeing Colombo tour or rest in the afternoon. Overnight stay at Mount Lavania Hotel Colombo. B, D

Accommodation: Mount Lavinia Hotel

Day 12 : Colombo

Tour of Talangama Tanks wetland 15km east of Colombo with bird guide. Afternoon at leisure. Talangama tanks is a superb habitat. Set near the impressive Parliament building in Colombo it boasts a good list of wetland species including egrets, herons, purple swamphen and the stunning Pied kingfisher. Overnight stay at Mount Lavania Hotel Colombo. B, D

Farewell dinner

Day 13 : Colombo

Day at leisure to rest and relax. Overnight stay at Mount Lavania Hotel Colombo. B, D

aircraft – Generic

Day 14 : To London

Transfer to Colombo airport for Emirates Airlines flight to Heathrow, arriving in London early evening

Itinerary map


Price per person
(Double/Twin share)
Single room supplement
£3,565.00 £832.00
Cost includes:
  • International Flights in Economy Class with Emirates Airlines
  • Accommodation at selected hotels with daily breakfast and dinner.
  • All transportation by private air-conditioned vehicle for all included sightseeing
  • Services of Jonathan Forgham as trip leader
  • Service of Anoma Agiyawadu resident Naturalist
  • Water & cool towels on vehicle during tour
  • 100% protection of your monies by our ATOL and ABTA Licences
Cost does not include:
  • Sri Lanka visa is available free on charge on arrival at Colombo airport
  • Travel Insurance*
  • Meals not mentioned above
  • Camera/video entrance fees if applicable
  • Personal expenses (drinks, laundry, telephone etc)
  • Tips & gratuities for guides, drivers and hotel staff

Sightseeing arrangements, visits may vary according to local circumstances at each place on a day to day basis. Tour Leader may decide to alter the programme where he feels it is necessary.

We aim to be as flexible as possible for new bookings and have reduced holiday deposits to £250 per person until further notice, and made it possible to request a refund or postpone travel plans at no extra cost, in the event that a trip can’t go ahead due to Foreign Office advice or overseas government restrictions. All tour payments to Indus Experiences are 100% protected by our ATOL and ABTA Licenses.

*Travel Insurance

It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.

• Make sure it includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
• Make sure it provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
• Make sure it covers you for all activities.
• Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
• Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.

If you have any doubts about your cover, check with your insurer. Please note Covid-19 cover is now available.
For a competitive quotation please visit

020 8901 7320