Wildlife Group Tour

Sri Lanka group tour - Wildlife Adventure with George McGavin

Accompanied by BBC natural history presenter George McGavin

10 days

from £3,995pp
  • Discover Sri Lankan wildlife, big and small, with George McGavin
  • Play an active part in the ongoing wildlife monitoring programmes at Gal Oya
  • Meet local indigenous tribes and learn how humans survive in the jungle
  • Travel in the company of budding naturalists of all ages

Join this exciting, multi-generational group trip to Sri Lanka, specifically designed for curious minds of all ages, to explore the fascinating natural world of Sri Lanka. While you will see big mammals on this trip, there are myriad smaller animals in Sri Lanka that are equally as compelling. These creatures range from butterflies and beetles to scorpions and spiders that make up most of the island's ecosystem. George McGavin, entomologist and BBC natural history presenter will shine a light on these species to provide a fascinating and alternative insight into this beautiful and exotic island.

During this 10 day exploration of Sri Lanka’s natural world, there will be many memorable experiences. You will be travelling with people of all ages and the activities have been specifically curated and designed to suit both adults and children. The main focus of the tour is to look at Sri Lanka's wildlife with George McGavin as your guiding naturalist. You visit Gal Oya National Park where you take a night safari and set up camera traps, crucial to the Gal Oya animal monitoring programme. Learn about the resident species caught on these cameras and watch their nocturnal activities. 

Follow trails through the largest intact tract of lowland rainforest in Sri Lanka. The forests of Sinharaja have no sound pollution, just the noise of nature. Monkeys run riot in the trees yards away from you and hidden waterfalls invite you to take a welcome, refreshing swim. During this trip, you also visit a lush tea plantation to learn about life as a tea planter and meet local families who live in the area. 

Why Travel with BBC NATURAL HISTORY PRESENTER George McGavin? 

Good science and nature presenters are hard to find and those that can translate their skills into guiding are an even rarer species! Guides are the first essential component of a successful wildlife holiday and in George McGavin, Steppes Travel is confident we have found just that. George is keen to show all the group, young and old, the variety of Sri Lanka’s flora and fauna as well as the entomology. Whatever wildlife you do see on this trip, it will undoubtedly be varied, exotic, colourful, bizarre and fascinating. With George to accompany you, you will learn so much more than on an independent holiday.  

Complimentary Copy of 'Bugs' by George McGavin

The magnificent bug lover’s pop-up book about arthropods, written by George, will be received by every confirmed booking on this tour.

Who does this tour suit?

This tour is perfect for naturalists of any age. It provides a hidden world of insects, spiders and other creepy- crawlies. We invite amateur entomologists to find inspiration in the mind-boggling variety of bug life to which Sri Lanka is home. George will ensure the tour is jam-packed with useful information and scientific trivia. This is a multi-generational focused tour, with places limited to only ten participants. Dates coincide with October school half-term break so that school-age children are able to participate. Due to the walking element, this tour is not suitable for younger toddlers.

What is the accommodation like on this tour? 

During this tour, you will stay in a carefully selected range of accommodation chosen for its open spaces to ensure there is room for little legs to run off steam, often with an opportunity to take a dip in a pool. In some instances, the properties have been taken for exclusive use. Horathapola is a chic colonial bungalow set in 50 acres of gardens and has two family suites which are great for families of four travelling. Madulkelle is an eco-lodge with spectacular views of the plantations, and the accommodation is African safari style luxury tents. Gal Oya Lodge offers roomy and private bungalows with ample space for children in the living area and in addition, a two bedroomed villa at the highest point of Gal Oya. 

How fit should I be to enjoy this tour? 

General overall fitness is required. There will be some hiking opportunities through the forest, with trail paths ranging between one and four hours in duration. The paths will be chosen to suit the pace and age of the group. 

Do you need a visa for travel to Sri Lanka?

All visitors need a visa to travel to Sri Lanka. There is now a provision for an online e-visa for citizens of certain countries, including the UK and the visa must be obtained before arrival in all circumstances. Tourist visas issued in the UK have six months’ validity from date of issue.

What will the weather be like in Sri Lanka in October?

The weather in Sri Lanka is always warm regardless of the time of year. Expect full sunny days and temperatures bordering on high 20's. You won't need to bring warm clothes with you although a waterproof is a good idea as there is often a few rainy days. The sun goes down at 6 pm every day so early to bed, early to rise. 

What is the food like in Sri Lanka and what provisions will there be for fussy children? 

Most of these smaller hotels use typical rural techniques – fresh spices are ground on a stone, curries are cooked in clay pots, and most of the ingredients are homegrown. However, the chefs are able to produce western cuisine as well as vegetarian meals. Not all Sri Lankan food is spicy, although some of it is mind-blowingly hot! The "local rice and curry" tends not to hold back. Try hoppers, which is a cross between an omelette and a pancake. There will always be white rice, pasta, chicken, pancakes and fruit. The chefs are more than happy to do something a little special for children if required. The hosts will ask each guest beforehand and then cater to their requirements as best they can.

Can I extend my time in Sri Lanka after the tour?

Yes, this can easily be arranged at the end of the tour. Private travel arrangements with a car and driver will be provided.

Interesting Fact

For every human being alive, there are 40 tonnes of insects!  That is equivalent to five African elephants! 

Departing on:
  • 26th October 2019

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

STARTFINISHPrice Excluding Flights £Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour ExpertStatus 
26th Oct 2019 4th Nov 2019 £ 3,995 £ 700 £ 800 Dr George McGavin Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accompanied by your tour expert George McGavin throughout
  • All accommodation on a half board basis (breakfast and dinner)
  • Five lunches
  • Gratuities
  • Sightseeing and activities as stated with local private guides
  • Transfers as detailed
  • Welcome and Farewell Meals hosted by your Tour Expert

what is excluded

  • Incidentals of a personal nature including beverages
  • International Flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visa


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

VIP Meet and Greet at Colombo Airport
You will be met as you disembark from the plane by an airport representative who will escort you to a nearby lounge. You will be served drinks and a small snack while your luggage is collected from the carousel. Please note you will either meet your chauffeur guide in the airport lounge or will be taken to meet him in the parking area outside the terminal. There is the chance to change money inside the airport where you will get a better exchange rate than in the hotels.

Sri Lanka's sprawling capital buzzes with an effervescence and ebullience not seen anywhere else in the country. Drawing on its colonial past, it now combines ancient, colonial and modern influences in a swirl of cultures, colours and aromas particular to Sri Lanka.

Drive from Colombo to Horathapola (Road Journey)

Transfer to Horathapola, a drive of approximately one and a half hours.

Accommodation at Horathapola Estate
This wonderful boutique hotel is booked on a private basis for the group and offers the perfect base to acclimatise after a long haul flight. If kids need to stretch their legs, grab a bicycle and take a ride around the property. Alternatively the salt-water pool is an ideal place to cool off. The accommodation offers some great family options with a lodge and a suite, both offering two bedrooms. The Watte Camare room is ideal for a group of three.

The group meets together this evening for a welcome dinner.

You will be staying at Horathapola Estate, bed and breakfast

Day 2

Morning nature walk
After a leisurely breakfast this morning, George McGavin will give a short talk on the endemic species of Sri Lanka. You will then take a nature walk, guided by George and a member of the Horathapola Estate team. During the walk you will hear the gleeful chatter of countless bird species from barbets and woodpeckers, drongos and flycatchers. This first nature walk will introduce you to some of the most common insect species from butterflies and bees to ants and dung beetles. You will pass through the coconut plantations and learn how coconuts are farmed and end up on our supermarket shelves. The walk is an ideal opportunity for meeting and chatting with friendly locals. There is an option for a bullock cart ride before continuing on to Madulkelle.


The drive between Horathapola and Madulkelle today will take approximately four hours. A packed lunch will be provided by the hotel. On arrival spend the rest of the day at leisure. Take a dip in the pool and enjoy the glorious views.

Accommodation at Madulkelle
Madulkelle Tea Lodge accommodation offers the opportunity to have up to two children staying with their parents. There are two family lodge rooms only. There are deluxe lodges that sit adjacent to each other so if parents with older children wish to stay, they can be close by to each other.

Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

You will be staying at Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge, half board

Day 3

Guided walks with George McGavin
You are immersed in nature, let the chirping of the birds wake you up to the most spectacular views imaginable. Rolling green valleys and stunning landscapes keep changing through the course of the day. If you are an early riser, catch the sunrise over the sensational Knuckles Mountain Range. Take a relaxed stroll around the property as you make your way through to the beautiful colonial styled, elegantly furnished planter's estate house for your breakfast this morning.

After breakfast, George McGavin and the lodge naturalists will take the group on an exploration of the surrounding countryside. The walks will be adjusted to suit the overall ability of the group and will be assessed on the day. There will be opportunity to stride out on a more challenging hike and this can be arranged locally through the lodge. We recommend the hike to Campbell Waterfall, approximately four hours or for an easier option we recommend the mini World's End trek, only two hours from the lodge.

The Knuckles Mountain range which surrounds the Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge is a truly unique ecosystem compared to the rest of Sri Lanka's central hills. More than 120 bird species have been sighted here including endemic species such as the Yellow-Fronted Barbet, Dusky-Blue Flycatcher, Ceylon Lorikeet, Ceylon Grackle, Yellow-Eared Bulbul and Layard's Parakeet. Other wildlife you may experience during your explorations is the rare White Sambhur, barking deer, mouse deer, giant squirrel and star attractions such as elephant and leopard. In addition to this, thousands of unique and diverse species of fauna and flora are also available here.

Return to the lodge this afternoon for a refreshing dip in the pool and a rest before meeting for dinner this evening. George Mcgavin will be on hand to discuss the discoveries of the day.

Breakfast and dinner

You will be staying at Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge, half board

Day 4

Drive from Madulkelle to Gal Oya National Park (Road Journey)

The drive from Madulkelle to Gal Oya will take approximately four hours. A packed lunch will be provided by the hotel.

Hidden away on the East Coast, the Gal Oya National Park lies well off-the-beaten-path and is somewhat mysterious even to the locals. 30 years of civil war on this side of the island stopped tourism in its tracks and Gal Oya is only now emerging as a major wildlife destination. In fact, we would argue that this unique national park is one of Sri Lanka’s best kept secrets! Made up of mostly dry-zone forest and grassland, the park is a biodiversity hub, with some flora dating back to the Jurassic period. Sloth bear and leopard have been occasionally spotted within the park, but sightings are rare. You are more likely to come across the park’s larger residents: the Asian elephant. It is also a fantastic spot for bird watching.

Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

On arrival in Gal Oya, spend the rest of the day at leisure.

Accommodation at Gal Oya
The bungalows are spacious and they all offer a large sitting area with day beds. A family of three or four can be easily accommodated in one bungalow. There is one two bedroomed family lodge available aswell.

You will be staying at Gal Oya Lodge, full board

Day 5

Nature walks and discovery with George McGavin
Accompanied by Gal Oya's head naturalist and George McGavin, start out on walking trails to explore the incredible ecosystem of this unspoilt eastern corner of the island. The walks offer a number of possible routes through the trees and around the nearby lake to observe a wide range of species. During your stay, visit Gal Oya National Park, home to herds of elephants, deer, jackals, mugger crocodiles and leopards. Take a night-time jeep safari and use spotlights to find nocturnal wildlife.

Join the lodge naturalists on an evening walk, setting up camera traps as part of an ongoing animal monitoring program. The data will be collected and shared with the group to analyse to see what wildlife has been recorded.

Later this afternoon, spend time at leisure enjoying the swimming pool or take a bicycle from the lodge and cycle down to the reservoir accompanied by a lodge naturalist. George will be on hand to discuss the day's discoveries with a short workshop on bug anatomy. Traps may be set in order to take a closer and longer look at different bugs.

Breakfast and dinner

You will be staying at Gal Oya Lodge, full board

Day 6

Nature Walks with George McGavin
Today you continue exploring the biodiversity of Gal Oya National Park with George McGavin.

Alternative optional activities payable locally are the morning boat safari and meeting the Veddha. These are led by local guides.

Take a boat safari to spot wildlife from the water. It’s a unique way to immerse yourself in the animals' habitat. With a little luck you could spot elephants swimming between islands or bathing at the lake’s edge. Spend two to three hours here before returning to the lodge for lunch.

Visit one of the last remaining communities of the Veddha, the forest-dwelling, indigenous people of Sri Lanka. Discover and learn about local nature as a local Veddha brings the forest alive, explaining his tribe’s use of medicinal plants, ancient hunting grounds and cave dwellings. It’s a fascinating insight into how the hunter-gatherers lived in the jungles of Gal Oya. Along the way you are sure to spot all sorts of flora and fauna. Return to the lodge this afternoon. Spend the rest of the day at leisure or join George for a short workshop on bug anatomy and try your hand at macro photograhy. Meet for dinner this evening.

Breakfast and dinner

You will be staying at Gal Oya Lodge, full board

Day 7


The drive today from Gal Oya National Park to Sinharaja Forest Reserve will take approximately six hours. This is a long drive but there will be plenty of comfort stops taken enroute. Lunch will be taken at a local restaurant and is payable locally. On arrival at the Rainforest Eco Lodge, spend the remainder of the afternoon at leisure before meeting for dinner this evening.

Breakfast, dinner

Accommodation at Rainforest Eco Lodge
The cabins at Rainforest Eco Lodge can accommodate three people. Where there is a family of four or more two adjacent cabins can be arranged.

It is hard to imagine these same forests stood a thousand years ago. Protected in the late 1970s from mass logging, Sinharaja Forest Reserve is now a World Heritage Site and designated a 'Man and Biosphere' reserve.

Located in south-west Sri Lanka, Sinharaja is the country's last viable area of primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. There is much endemic wildlife, especially birds, but the reserve is also home to over 50% of Sri Lanka's endemic species of mammals and butterflies, as well as many kinds of insects, reptiles and rare amphibians.

You will be staying at Rainforest Eco Lodge, half board

Day 8

Rainforest Trek
Today after breakfast, embark on the trails from the lodge accompanied by George McGavin and the in house naturalist. The flora and fauna that you will encounter today will blow your mind!

This tropical rain forest believed to be home for almost 50% of Sri Lanka’s endemic wildlife is a veritable treasure trove bursting with various species of flora and fauna. The high diversity of vegetation within the reserve has made it a favourable sanctuary for various species of birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, amphibians and plant life; all co-existing within the ecosystem.

The larger mammals are the elephants, leopard, sambar, fishing cat, rusty spotted cat, barking deer, mouse deer, jackal and wild boar and the commonly seen endemic purple-faced langur and the Toque macaque, a reddish brown monkey. The smaller mammals include porcupine, otter, three types of squirrels; civets, rats, bats and even the very rare pangolin. Some of the reptiles are python, green pit viper, the hump-nosed viper and rough-nosed horned lizard.

Suitable clothing and footwear play a very important role in enjoying the great outdoors. They help you to have a comfortable walk with minimum physical effort or discomfort. Leaches are a common phenomena in the moist forest and adjacent habitats. You may avoid any unpleasant encounter with them by being properly prepared and dressed.

Breakfast and dinner

You will be staying at Rainforest Eco Lodge, half board

Day 9


The drive today will take approximately five hours to central Colombo. Comfort stops will be made enroute with a longer lunch stop. Lunch is payable locally and is not included in the cost of the tour.

This evening the group will gather for a farewell supper.

Breakfast, dinner

Accommodation at Galle Face Hotel
The rooms will accommodate a triple share, with one extra child. Where there are four or more people travelling as a family we suggest taking two adjacent or interconnecting rooms.

You will be staying at Galle Face Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 10

For any onward travel assistance please contact our Sri Lanka Travel Expert


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Gal Oya Lodge

Gal Oya Lodge

Gal Oya Lodge offers environmentally responsible tourism from an eight bedded wildlife lodge, set on 20 acres of private forest....

View Accommodation

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Sri Lanka

Joe Parkes, Travel Expert

"It was extremely helpful to work in conjunction with Joe and his much more up to date knowledge of India and arrive at an itinerary which we were happy with. We enjoyed the whole trip and probably what made it special for us was the fact that all the arrangements worked so well and we really didn’t have to worry about anything at all. Even when we decided to make a small change it was dealt with efficiently and promptly. We can't think of anything that would have made our trip more enjoyable."

"The service from start to finish has been excellent. Joe was very quick to respond to any queries and put together an excellent itinerary at short notice."

"A pleasure to deal with Joe. Efficient, helpful, knowledgeable and fun!"

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Kate Hitchen, Travel Expert

"Kate was calm and bent over backwards to accommodate my jitters about going to Kashmir in the light of tighter FCO guidelines just a few days before our departure. She was absolutely correct in advising against what I thought we should do. Several times during the holiday we said that, 'Kate was dead right about that!'."

"We asked for a rather particular kind of Indian holiday. You delivered it in full. Highlights? Honestly, each day was a highlight in itself. "

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour Expert

Dr George McGavin

Dr George McGavin
Dr George McGavin is an Honorary Research Associate at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and a Research Associate of The Department of Zoology of Oxford University. He is also a Fellow of the Linnean Society, The Royal Geographical Society and an Honorary Fellow of The Society of Biology. Having worked as a scientific advisor on Attenborough's Life in the Undergrowth, George became a presenter in his own right. He is now loved and admired for his passionate engagement with invertebrates, whether in the jungles of Bhutan or the back gardens of One Show viewers. George has written numerous books on insects and other animals. Acknowledged as an engaging and entertaining speaker George regularly speaks to audiences about insects, ecology, evolution, conservation and exploration. He has several insect species named in his honour and hopes they survive him.
Enquire about this Wildlife tour:

Group Size:

Min 2 / Max 12

Tour Expert:

Dr George McGavin

Departure Date (S):

  • 26th October 2019

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