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Leopard walking along dirt track towards camera, Sri Lanka

Wildlife and Communities of Sri Lanka



13 Days

Prices Start from

£5,495pp (ex. flights)

Incredible diversity in such a small space is Sri Lanka’s trump card. Explore the highlights whilst wandering a less-trodden path and meet local people working to protect tradition, the environment, and local culture. 

This holiday pays particular attention to sustainability: travel is, where possible, by train and smaller properties with a positive impact ethos are used. Spend time with plantation workers, marine biologists and local historians to discover Sri Lanka alongside the people striving to protect it.

Key Highlights of this Itinerary

Malabar pied hornbill sat atop a tree looking right, Wilpattu, Sri Lanka 1

Sri Lankan Wildlife

Spot birds, elephant, sloth bear and leopard as the sun rises and sets over Wilpattu National Park.

Tea Pickers, Sri Lanka 2

Tea Country

Explore the tea plantations by train and on foot, meeting workers and local communities.

Cyclist looking over shoulder on dirt track, Sri Lanka 3

Local Communities

Cycle through plantations and paddy fields visiting villages and cottage industries.

Two spinner dilphins jumping out of water, Sri Lanka 4

Marine Life

Board a catamaran in search of dolphins and whales, accompanied by a marine biologist.

Explore our suggested itinerary

  • Day 1

    Colombo - Horathapola (Horathapola Estate)

  • Day 2

    Horathapola (Horathapola Estate)

  • Day 3

    Horathapola - Wilpattu National Park (Thamarvila Tented Lodge)

  • Day 4

    Wilpattu National Park (Thamarvila Tented Lodge)

  • Day 5

    Wilpattu National Park - Sigiriya (Water Garden)

  • Day 6

    Sigiriya (Water Garden)

  • Day 7

    Sigiriya - Kandy (The Kandy House)

  • Day 8

    Kandy (The Kandy House)

  • Day 9

    Kandy - Ella (Nine Skies)

  • Day 10

    Ella (Nine Skies)

  • Day 11

    Ella - Galle (KK Beach)

  • Day 12

    Habaraduwa (KK Beach)

  • Day 13

    Habaraduwa - Colombo

Day 1

Colombo - Horathapola (Horathapola Estate)

Arrive in Colombo. Met and driven to Horathapola Estate.

Day 2

Horathapola (Horathapola Estate)

Spend the morning on bikes exploring village trails. Weave through paddy fields and plantations, passing village temples and learning about local cottage industries.

Day 3

Horathapola - Wilpattu National Park (Thamarvila Tented Lodge)

Driven from Horathapola to Wilpattu. For something different, stop on the coast at Kalpitiya to volunteer with a Seagrass Restoration project, collecting and transplanting the seagrass into the shallows before enjoying a lunch prepared by local villagers.

Day 4

Wilpattu National Park (Thamarvila Tented Lodge)

Full-day safari in Wilpattu National Park with a private park ranger. Head out at dawn when the temperatures are cool and the wildlife active. This is also a great time to spot leopards as they return from a night of hunting. After lunch at the lodge and time to relax, late afternoon is a magical time in the park as light fades and the animals are on the move once more.

Day 5

Wilpattu National Park - Sigiriya (Water Garden)

Drive from Wilpattu to Sigiriya and the Lion Rock Fortress.

Day 6

Sigiriya (Water Garden)

Early morning visit to Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Head out this evening for a peaceful elephant safari and sundowners at Minneriya National Park.

Day 7

Sigiriya - Kandy (The Kandy House)

Drive to Kandy with a stop at Digana – home to a small spice-growing start-up. After a walk through their forest gardens and reforestation area, return to the small forest lodge for a simple but delicious lunch using some of the spices collected. Continue onto your accommodation in Kandy.

Day 8

Kandy (The Kandy House)

Morning at leisure. Later in the afternoon explore the local markets of Kandy and visit the Temple of Tooth Relic.

Day 9

Kandy - Ella (Nine Skies)

Travel by train from Kandy to Ella. Experience a little more of Sri Lanka on this beautiful train journey, passing lush tea plantations and mist-covered mountains as well as crossing the iconic nine arch bridge. Met and driven the short distance to Nine Skies.

Day 10

Ella (Nine Skies)

Walk through the estate, which offers an opportunity to meet local tea pickers. For those who like hiking there is a circular route around Nine Skies, part of the Tea Country Trail. Alternatviely, walk a section of the 185 mile Pekoe Trail. Nine Skies is ideally placed to enjoy stages 15, 16 or 17.

Day 11

Ella - Galle (KK Beach)

Driven from Ella to Habaraduwa, near Galle. Visit Galle this afternoon to explore with a local historian.

Day 12

Habaraduwa (KK Beach)

Spend the day on the water with a marine biologist, learning more about Sri Lanka’s diverse marine life.

Day 13

Habaraduwa - Colombo

Transfer to Colombo for onward travel.

Our travel experts can tailor this itinerary to suit you.

More details

Elephants, Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka
Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka
Indian scops owl looking out from tree, Wilpattu, Sri Lanka
Indian scops owl
Sri Lankan Leopard, Sri Lanka
Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka
Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka

Wilpattu National Park

Wilpattu, Sri Lanka’s oldest reserve, is one of the lesser visited parks and is home to the elusive leopard, elephants and the sloth bear. Located not too far from the cultural sights of Anuradhapura, the park is made up of open forests, a thick jungle and lakes. It is these lakes that during the hot, dry days visitors to the park are more likely to catch a glimpse of its resident wildlife.

Woman holding spices, Spice Plantation, Digana, Sri Lanka

Community Initiatives

A short drive from Kandy you will find a small community with a wonderful story of resilience and adaptability. In 2020, as tourism dwindled, this community based eco lodge diversified and launched a small spice exporting business, alongside a reforestation initiative. Visit them and their forest gardens to learn about the community’s story, the spices grown and sold, as well as their reforestation project. Having purchased adjacent barren land, caused by tree felling, they introduced endangered plants in support of The Forest Healing Foundation, protecting and restoring forests in Sri Lanka. Head to the kitchen to put the spices to good use in a home cooked curry.

Woman looking at Demodara nine arches bridge, Tea Country, Sri Lanka
Demodara nine arches bridge,
Two walkers on a track, Tea Country, Sri Lanka

Explorations on Foot

The Pekoe Trail is a 185-mile, 22-stage network of hiking trails across Sri Lanka’s tea country. Each stage covers between eight and sixteen kilometres, with a range of difficulties that can be walked with or without a guide. Spanning seven valleys, each route connects scenically beautiful and historically significant parts of the region and are designed to be walked in stages or as individual day trails. Most stages begin or end in small towns or villages with incredible diversity in between – cloud forests, farmland, waterfalls and local temples. The goal of the trail is to promote, protect and preserve the cultural heritage and natural habitats of the Sri Lankan Tea Country.

Dolphins, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Whales, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Marine Encounters

Board a private catamaran from Habaraduwa, accompanied by a young and ambitious marine biologist and conservationist. In a bid to avoid the over tourism of many ocean trips, this simple experience focuses on searching for marine wildlife in an ethical way, with a focus on the wealth of knowledge and stories your marine biologist will bring. The morning on the water will include a simple breakfast and time for a swim or paddle board.

How does this holiday make a positive impact?

Get involved with the tree planting initiative during your stay at Thamaravila in Wilpattu. The MEE tree (Madhuca Longifolia) is a favourite, as unlike most trees it releases oxygen during the night as well as daytime as well as acting as a natural pest control and source of herbal medicine. The coconut thatch roofs at the hotel are locally sourced from nearby villages, which are a natural insulator, as well as being biodegradable when replaced each year.

Teardrop Hotels, of which Nine Skies Hotel is a member, have created their own charitable foundation CARE which supports local community causes. Your stay here will contribute to providing food, medicine and reading glasses to low-income families across Sri Lanka.

Support the conservation and expansion of seagrass meadows on Sri Lanka’s West coast. In collaboration with OCEA Sri Lanka, the protection and growth of this underwater habitat is important for both humans and sea creatures – increasing marine productivity, biodiversity, quality of water and fishing resources. A donation is included as part of your day with a marine biologist in Habaraduwa. Alternatively, get hands on in the shallows and volunteer for a few hours.


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we have recommended for this journey.

KK Beach £££££

  • Sri Lanka

KK Beach is a stylishly contemporary boutique hotel and beach club near Habaraduwa. Owned by the internationally renowned interior designer, George Cooper, one of Sri Lanka’s original hoteliers and tastemakers.

View Property

Nine Skies £££££

  • Sri Lanka
  • Boutique

Nine Skies is a fully refurbished and traditionally stylish, tea bungalow, now a boutique hotel. Found just outside the charming town of Ella, this bungalow showcases colonial-era architecture with modern facilities and personalised service. Far-reaching views over Sri Lanka’s iconic tea-laced valleys make it a peaceful spot to explore this fascinating region.

View Property

Kandy House £££££

  • Sri Lanka
  • Boutique

The Kandy House is a smart and comfortable boutique hotel with only nine bedrooms, more akin to staying in a private home. Located just outside Kandy it offers a cool and stylish refuge from the bustling city. There are beautiful gardens set within a six-acre estate, brimming with flowers and hummingbirds, which flit around as you have breakfast. With a pretty swimming pool, wrap around verandas and delicious food it is one of the best original properties in Sri Lanka.

View Property

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creating your tailor-made holiday.

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A note on price

Prices will vary depending on the time of the year you are travelling. Prices do not include international flights. Please ask one of our Travel Experts for an accurate quote. Flights purchased through Steppes Travel departing from the UK are ATOL protected.

This Itinerary
From £5,495 Per person

When to travel

Sri Lanka in January

Sri Lanka benefits from generally good weather all year round and experiences a tropical climate with the best and most popular to visit being during our winter months, from January to April.

Sri Lanka in February

Visit the Southern and Western coast of Sri Lanka to experience the hot and humid climate in coastal areas or visit the mountainous regions for cooler temperatures with less humidity.

Sri Lanka in March

In Northern and Central Sri Lanka, temperatures will start to rise, and these regions will become more humid with March being generally a dry month for Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka in April

Overall, April is a very good time to visit Sri Lanka, with most of the island experiencing high temperatures and lots of sunshine, all before the first monsoon rains of the year begin in the South.

Sri Lanka in May

From May to August, the country experiences the first of its two annual monsoon seasons in Southwest Sri Lanka. Therefore, during these months it is best to visit Northeast Sri Lanka including Batticaloa and Passekudah.

Sri Lanka in June

Rainfall with continue in the South during the monsoon season whereas in Northern Sri Lanka, June is one of the best times to visit this area with a warm climate and high temperatures throughout.

Sri Lanka in July

In Northern Sri Lanka, the months of June and July are particularly good times to travel to the area, with minimal rainfall, particularly high temperatures and long days of sunshine.

Sri Lanka in August

Throughout the country, you can expect excellent climate conditions. August is an ideal month for those wanting to experience both the Northeast and Southwest regions of the island, typically quite unusual due to Sri Lanka’s monsoon seasons.

Sri Lanka in September

September will start to see the end of the monsoon season in the Southwest and whilst rainfall and thunderstorms are less frequent, are still likely across the region.

Sri Lanka in October

Prior to the monsoon season, rainfall is likely throughout the country and can sometimes be unpredictable, meaning disruptions in travel are likely.

Sri Lanka in November

From November to February, Northeast Sri Lanka will experience one of two annual monsoon seasons. Whilst most days will experience rainfall, it is a great time to travel to experience the lush, green countryside.

Sri Lanka in December

Due to the monsoon in the Northeast, it is best to visit the southwest coast of Sri Lanka prior to the second monsoon reaching this area in May. Experience high levels of sunshine, perfect for Sri Lanka’s beaches.

Why Choose Steppes?

Our knowledge and expertise set us apart. So too our curiosity. It is this that drives us to create a journey that is really bespoke to you, all the while ensuring we travel and operate sustainably.

Are you ready to discover extraordinary once again?

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