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sloth bear, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Wilderness and Wildlife with New Scientist

  • EXPERT-LED GROUP TOUR
Start dateEnd dateDays
Prices from
Single SupplementTour ExpertGroup SizeStatus
03/05/22 03/16/2212 days $6,469 ex. flights $1,684Dr George McGavin14 Max AVAILABLE Reserve place

Key Highlights of this Itinerary

Elephants, Yala, Sri Lanka 1

Wildlife Conservation

Visit research centres, home to local conservation initiatives and people committed to making a positive impact on Sri Lankan wildlife

Bedroom, Gal Oya Lodge, Gal Oya National Park, Sri Lanka 2

Eco Sensitive Accommodation

Stay in unique accommodation from tea plantations to cutting-edge safari camps and eco lodges

Sri Lankan Magpie, Sri Lanka 3

Rich Wildlife

Under the expertise of entemologist George McGavin discover a wealth of flora an fauna amidst Sri Lanka’s wildlife hotspots

Gal Oya National Park, Sri Lanka 4

Diverse Landscapes

Explore some of the most diverse biospheres in South East Asia – from jungles to mountains and coast

Why we like it

Sri Lanka boasts an impressively high rate of endemic species, offering some of the finest wildlife watching experiences in South Asia. George McGavin, entomologist and TV presenter, will shine a light on all of these species to provide a fascinating insight into this beautiful and exotic island.

Explore our suggested itinerary

  • Day 1

    Colombo

  • Day 2

    Colombo - Madulkelle

  • Day 3

    Madulkelle

  • Day 4

    Madulkelle - Gal Oya National Park

  • Day 5

    Gal Oya National Park

  • Day 6

    Gal Oya National Park - Yala National Park

  • Day 7

    Yala National Park

  • Day 8

    Yala NP - Udawalawe - Tangalle

  • Day 9

    Tangalle

  • Day 10

    Tangalle - Kaneliya - Habaraduwa

  • Day 11

    Habaraduwa

  • Day 12

    Habaraduwa - Colombo

Day 1

Colombo

Gangarama Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka

On arrival, you will be taken to the Silk Route Lounge to meet with your guest expert for the tour – George McGavin. Transfer to your hotel in the city and this evening join George, your tour leader and the rest of the group for a welcome meal and an expedition briefing.

Day 2

Colombo - Madulkelle

Madulkelle Lodge, Madulkelle, Tea Country, Knuckles Range, Sri Lanka

Spend the morning at leisure to rest or explore Colombo.  Later, embark on a stunning five hour drive into the heart of the island to the beautiful hills of Madulkelle. There will be numerous stops and interesting sites to see on the way. Pass picturesque tea plantations and small villages enroute to Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge, your accommodation for the next two nights. Relax for the remainder of the day and this evening, George will give a briefing about the following day.

Day 3

Madulkelle

Deer, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Awake to the chirping of the birds and spectacular views. The stunning landscapes of this region are constantly changing with the light and early risers will be rewarded with a beautiful sunrise over the Knuckles Mountain Range. Today there is a choice of experiences – a four hour trek through Campbell Forest or a full day trip to the Knuckles Mountain Range. Both will be accompanied by local trekking and naturalist experts and both offer the chance for plenty of wildlife sightings, from white sambhur to barking deer, mouse deer and giant squirrel. Also search for the more elusive elephant and leopard.

Day 4

Madulkelle - Gal Oya National Park

Flying Bee Tailed Bee Eater, Sri Lanka

After breakfast, take a leisurely drive to Gal Oya, a beautiful National Park surrounded by water and islands.  This afternoon visit the Wildlife Research Centre at the Lodge to learn about their data collection, results and discoveries. Also visit various camera trap sites and see how their biologists, students and naturalists collect the data, prepare it and analyse it. Species seen in the area include mouse deer, wild boar, land and water monitor, porcupines and the highly endangered thick-tailed pangolin. Furthermore, they have observed three out of the four species of wild cats in Sri Lanka. This evening, join one of the resident naturalists for a walk in search of birdlife around the lodge.

Day 5

Gal Oya National Park

Elephants, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Today enjoy a boat safari within the National Park and a picnic breakfast at a remote island. Observe wildlife on Gal Oya lake including crocodile, deer, elephant and many rare and endemic species of birds. This afternoon, embark on a jeep safari to the Nilgala section of the park. Once protected by ancient royalty for the abundant medicinal plants and endemic birdlife, this areas unique ecosystem is home to herds of elephants, wild boar, four species of deer, jackals, sloth bears, marsh mugger crocodiles and an array of rare exotic birds. There is also the option to explore on foot, hiking through the park with the expert naturalists.

Day 6

Gal Oya National Park - Yala National Park

Leopard, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Today travel to Yala National Park for the first of two days staying in Kula Safari tents. Yala is Sri Lanka’s most famous National Park and is home to an amazing range of wildlife. To avoid any crowds, you will be taken to more remote parts of the park via the lesser known Kataragama entrance. Overnight in safari tents, in the heart of the park, next to a watering hole with abundant wildlife to watch and spend the next two days exploring the park on morning and early evening game drives.

Day 7

Yala National Park

Beautiful bright peacock sitting on a tree.

Continue exploring Yala National Park in search of wildlife including herds of elephant, prowling cats, monkeys, storks, ibis and crocodiles, as well as deer, sloth bears, jackals and wild buffalo. Yala offers a great chance of seeing leopard.

Day 8

Yala NP - Udawalawe - Tangalle

Wild Elephants, Uda Walawe NP, Sri Lanka

After a final game drive at Yala National Park, drive to the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home. This fascinating project feeds and rehabilitates injured and orphaned elephant calves enabling them to return to the wild. Observe feeding time for the baby elephants before  an afternoon game drive in Udawalawe National Park. Nourished by the Udawalawa reservoir, the park stretches over 30,000 hectares and is home to around 500 elephants, herds of deer, wild buffaloe, bandicoot, foxes, water-monitor lizards, crocodiles, sloth bears and a wealth of reptiles. Later continue to your hotel on the coast.

Day 9

Tangalle

Spend today relaxing on the coast. This evening visit the Rekawa Turtle Conservation Centre – a small-scale community run project that employs previous poachers as ‘nest protectors’ who monitor the beach 24 hours a day. Meet a conservationist who will give detailed insight into the project and also guide you to parts of the beach to observe (at a distance) the returning turtles as well as hatchlings.

Day 10

Tangalle - Kaneliya - Habaraduwa

Crested eagle eagle preying in Sri Lanka National Park.

An early start to drive to Kaneliya Rainforest. Identified as one of the most biodiverse areas in South East Asia this forest was designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2004. It supplies nearly the entire freshwater supply for the southern region of Sri Lanka, thus proving its importance as a provider of life. The forest contains most of Sri Lanka’s endemic species including 20 of it 26 endemic birds and the critically endangered giant navada tree which is around 600 years old. The forest is also full of beautiful waterfalls including the Anagi Mala Falls with its impressive cascades and shallow pools.
Later, drive to Habaraduwa for a two nightstay.

Day 11

Habaraduwa

Whales, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Early this morning, embark on a whale watching expedition aboard a private boat. After breakfast on board, the first part of the trip is spent carefully searching for whales to view from the decks of the ship with a marine biologist. There is the potential to see multiple species including blue whale. Your captain will be following strict whale watching rules to ensure no detrimental impacts on these amazing creatures. Cruise on to Weligama Bay, anchoring near the Snake and Taprobane Islands for some swimming, snorkelling and lunch. Late afternoon is at leisure to relax of maybe visit the stunning fort town peninsula of Galle Fort. This evening enjoy a farewell dinner with George and your fellow guests.

Day 12

Habaraduwa - Colombo

British Airways plane wing

Return to Colombo for your onward journey.

Includes / Excludes

Important Information

Activity Level
Moderate Activity
Single Supplement

Travelling on your own? Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places provides security and peace of mind. We handle all of the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of a Tour expert.

Flexibility

To allow flexibility, our group tours do not include international flights as standard. We can arrange international flights on your behalf, please get in touch with our travel experts for a quote. All international flights from the UK are ATOL protected.

What is included

  • Accompanied by George McGavin throughout
  • Local guides
  • Presentations from local experts and George McGavin
  • Accommodation (as indicated)
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers and porters
  • Game drive permits
  • Meals on a full board basis
  • Transfers and transportation throughout
  • All tours and excursions
  • Leach socks and herbal repellent where appropriate
  • £25 to help fund the communities, conservation agencies and NGOs that we work with
  • £25 contribution to ‘Trees and Science’ in mitigation of your carbon emissions

What is excluded

  • Travel insurance
  • International flights
  • Any visa requirements
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Meals unless indicated
  • Early check in or late check out of accommodation
Elephants, Kulu Safari Yala, Yala National Park

Gal Oya National Park

Gal Oya nature reserve is Sri Lanka’s most remote and least visited wilderness area. This beautiful national park is home to a large elephant herd that can often be viewed by boat swimming across the reservoir. The park is also home to a vast array of aquatic birdlife, wild boar, wild cat and sambar as well as critically endangered species such as the pangolin.

Leopard, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Leopard in Yala National Park
Green Bee Eater, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Green bee eater in Yala National Park

Yala National Park

Bordering the Indian Ocean, Yala is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka. Divided into five zones, only zones one and five are open to the public and the naturalists working here are some of the best in the country. Yala remains one of the best places in the world to spot leopard as well as other wildlife including sloth bears, sambar deer, mongoose and a wealth of diverse birdlife.

Group Tour FAQs

Why travel with Steppes Travel and New Scientist to Sri Lanka?

As part of our partnership with New Scientist, we have some amazing special access opportunities on this tour. Accompanied throughout by entomologist and TV presenter George McGavin, he will give informal talks each evening reflecting on the days finds and insight on conservation issues.

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

Sri Lanka has a tropical climate and benefits from generally good weather all year round. The best time to visit is during our winter months, from January to April and March is a particularly lovely time in the south of the country. Expect dry, sunny days and maximum temperatures in the high 20’s.

What is the standard of accommodation on this tour?

Accommodation throughout is of a good standard. Begin your stay in a colonial waterfront hotel, bursting with history before heading inland to an eco lodge amidst the tea plantations. In the national parks you will stay in a combination of jungle bungalows and safari tents, all sustainably built in remote locations to ensure the best wildlife experience. Finish by the coast at a 5* cliffside hotel and a hilltop jungle retreat, both with spectacular sea views.

What is the maximum group size?

14 people.

How are lunches organised?

For lunches that are not included in the tour cost, you pay directly. We will make suggestions for appropriate restaurants and arrange your table reservations as you go along.

What type of vehicle will be used during the tour?

Depending on the final numbers booked on the tour, the vehicle will be a commuter van or coach, offering plenty of space for passengers and luggage.

Is this tour suitable for solo travellers?

Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places does provide security and peace of mind. We handle all of the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of our tour experts.

If you are willing to share, we will always do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex so that you do not have to pay for a single room.

If you would prefer the privacy of your own room and would like this guaranteed, then the single room price supplement will apply.

Do I need to be physically fit to enjoy this tour?

On many of the days there will be trekking, sometimes through dense ecosystems. You must be comfortable being on foot, wear appropriate clothing and have a reasonable level of fitness. For example, being able to walk for a few hours on uneven terrain. None of the activities are compulsory.

Do I need a visa to travel to Sri Lanka?

For up to date visa information please speak to one of our specialists.

 

Can I extend my time in Sri Lanka?

Absolutely. There are lots of options to extend your stay in Sri Lanka – relax on the beach or head to the UNESCO town of Galle Fort.

Speak to one of our Sri Lanka specialists for more details of possible extensions.

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?


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Accommodation

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

Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge £££££

  • Sri Lanka
  • Wilderness

Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge is a fabulous property standing proud on a hillside, surrounded by a lush tea plantation with views of the Knuckles Mountain Range. Set in 18 unique tented lodges and one honeymoon suite, Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge is ‘glamping’ at its best. With top-class service, great food, a pool with a view and an excellent range of activities for all ages, this is a hidden gem close to the city of Kandy.

View Property

Gal Oya Lodge £££££

  • Sri Lanka
  • Safari and Wildlife Lodge

Gal Oya Lodge offers environmentally responsible tourism from a nine roomed wildlife lodge, set on 20 acres of private forest. There is two bedroom villa perched at the highest point of Gal Oya Lodge, which has the most breathtaking views and works well for families. Gal Oya National Park is remote and less visited than other national parks in Sri Lanka, however, the journey here is well worth the effort. With the largest lake in Sri Lanka and wildlife viewed by unique boat safari, the lodge and untouched surroundings are unlike anywhere else in Sri Lanka.

View Property

Kulu Safari Yala £££££

  • Sri Lanka
  • Tented Camps

Kulu Safaris offer comfortable accommodation with a minimal ecological footprint while experiencing a definitive wildlife experience.

View Property

Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort £££££

  • Beaches

Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort is an unexplored paradise located along Sri Lanka’s southernmost shore. Set amidst a coconut plantation, this luxury resort opens onto a golden sweep of beach and the warm Indian Ocean.

View Property

Why a Steppes expert-led group tour

1.Experience Matters

We have been running insightful and groundbreaking group tours since our inception in 1989. We have worked with institutions such as the British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum and run wildlife tours in conjunction with conservation agencies such as Fauna & Flora International, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Orangutan Foundation, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the Jane Goodall Institute.

2.Size Matters

Our average group size is typically eight to ten people, smaller than other group tours typically offered – a factor which many of our clients appreciate. Travelling as part of a smaller group provides a more intimate, personalised and relaxed atmosphere.

4.It’s about who you know

We have developed an enviable pool of expertise from which to choose our tour experts, who we carefully select based on their knowledge, companionship and personality. Often, these experts can use their influence to facilitate private access to sites not typically open to the public.

3.Like-Minded People

Steppes Travellers are like-minded people – interesting, interested and curious. Our group tours aim to create an easy and informal atmosphere – we have a lot of fun on our tours and many friendships have been formed.

5.Value for money

Our tours are well-priced to ensure you get real value for money. We include gratuities on the majority of our tours and do not pass on currency surcharges. We strive to look after single travellers as well as we can, keeping single supplements to a minimum.

6.Peace of Mind

When you travel on one of our group tours, you will be looked after by our local agents and your tour expert with the back-up of our 24-hour emergency number and duty manager. All our holidays are fully bonded and protected – our ATOL number is ATOL 6495.

Our future tour dates

For further information about any of these tours please call 1 855 2037885

Start dateEnd dateDays
Prices from
Single SupplementTour ExpertGroup SizeStatus
03/05/22 03/16/2212 days $6,469 ex. flights $1,684Dr George McGavin14 Max AVAILABLE Reserve place

Reserve your place on this group tour

Our travel experts have a wealth of first-hand knowledge, so if you have any questions about this expert-led group tour, please get in touch. They would love to help. We hope you can join us on this tour.

01285 880 980

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