Wildlife of Sri Lanka with George McGavin

12 days for £4,995 5 March 2022

Sri Lanka boasts an impressively high rate of endemic species, offering some of the finest wildlife watching experiences in South Asia. Embark on a wildlife expedition like no other, that takes you to the wild corners of this extraordinary island in search of leopard, elephant and whales and the more unusual species like sloth bear, pangolin and loris. 

George McGavin, entomologist and TV presenter, will shine a light on all these species and provide a fascinating insight into this beautiful and exotic island.

In partnership with Steppes Travel
Wildlife of Sri Lanka with George McGavin


On arrival at Colombo, the airport staff will escort you to the Silk Route Lounge where you will meet your guest expert George McGavin, with whom you will spend your Sri Lankan expedition with. 

Drive to Colombo and check in to stunning Galle Face Hotel, then in the evening join George and your tour leader for a welcome drink/meal, where they will give you an expedition briefing. 


Spend the morning at leisure, perhaps exploring Colombo’s rich colonial heritage and multi-ethnic legacy with churches, mosques and temples congregating on the same streets.

Later, take the stunning drive into the heart of the island to the beautiful hills of Madulkelle. This drive is not just a transfer but the best way to get under the skin of this intriguing island with numerous stops and interesting sites to see on your way.

As you head to the highlands, a peaceful retreat awaits you on the Madulkelle Tea Estate. The road is a little bumpy and winding yet fascinating. Relish the picturesque tea plantations as you drive pass the small villages leading up to Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge., where you will stay for the next two evenings.

The Lodges which are named after birds that can be spotted in the area, sit away from the main house overlooking the Knuckles Mountain Range. The designers managed to blend in its Eco concept with modern amenities to present the lodged accommodation that sits well immersed among the tea bushes. 

Relax for the rest of the day and in the evening, George will brief you about the next day’s adventures. In fact, most evenings George will give an informal talk about what you have seen that day and how that sits within the wider entomological and wildlife ecosystem.


Let the chirping of the birds wake you up to the most spectacular views imaginable of the rolling green valley’s overlooking your terrace. The 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.

Today you will have a choice of two differing trips where you will also be accompanied by local trekking and naturalist experts. There’s plenty of wildlife to discover, ranging from White Sambhur to the Barking Deer, Mouse Deer and the Giant Squirrel. Plus find evidence of and possibly see the star attractions of Elephants and Leopards.

Half Day trekking through Campbell Forest (Approximately 4 hours.)

Overlooking life in the hill country and journey through the tea plantations to tropical mountain rain forest to explore endemic flora & fauna and right up to the Campbell Forest Waterfall. You will be accompanied by a naturalist and binoculars will be provided.


Day trip to Knuckles mountain range (Approximately 6 to 8 hours)

A gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Site that consists of 34 mystical mountains up to 2000 meters that bear an uncanny resemblance to human knuckles. Starting at the hillside village of Gomaraya, around 60 minutes’ drive from the hotel, you will explore crystal clear waterfalls, and endemic flora and fauna within this national park


After breakfast take a leisurely drive to Gal Oya. A National Park surrounded by water and Islands, which is an unexplored treasure of Sri Lanka. The lodge is rustic but quite unique in that it has it supports its own team of in-house naturalists and local guides. The Gal Oya Lodge Team are committed to make a positive impact on the wildlife within the remote region The lodgings are wonderfully appointed and there is no phone signal a real luxury in this modern age. 

In the afternoon, visit the Wildlife Research Centre at the Lodge. Here you will be able to get an idea about their data collection, results and discoveries. You will also visit the various camera trap sites and see how their biologists, students and naturalists collect the data, prepare it and analyse it.

They have found multiple species of animal surrounding the Lodge, such as mouse-deer (the smallest species of deer in the world), wild boar, land and water monitor, porcupines and the highly endangered and most trafficked animal in the world, the thick-tailed pangolin. Furthermore, they have observed 3 out of the 4 species of wild cats in Sri Lanka. They are aiming to determine as much as they can about their population dynamics, diet and population numbers. They are doing this through trail cameras and non-invasive DNA analysis. You will have ample opportunity to chat with one of the naturalist team.

In the evening you can join one of the resident naturalists for a walk to enjoy the beauty of the area around the lodge and enjoy the abundant birdlife the area is known for. 


Today enjoy a boat safari at the Gal Oya National park which is truly a unique experience. You will also have the privilege to have a picnic breakfast at a remote island within the park itself. 

A great opportunity to observe the wildlife from the stunning Gal Oya Lake: including crocodiles, deer, elephants and many rare and endemic species of birds. This experience is the only one in Sri Lanka that enables you to spot wildlife from the water and to truly immerse yourself in the animals’ habitats. You may be lucky enough to see elephants swimming between islands or bathing at the lake’s edge. 

Later in the afternoon, embark on a jeep safari at the Gal Oya National Park to the forgotten Nilgala section of Gal Oya National Park. Once protected by ancient royalty for the abundant medicinal plants and endemic birdlife, the park’s 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. Our more intrepid guests can couple the drive with a safari on foot. Hike through the park with our expert naturalists and see wildlife up close while exploring hidden corners of the park.


Today is the first of two days staying in Kula Safari tents in the Yala National Park with its magnificent sights of majestic elephants, fine-feathered peacocks, great black bears and agile leopards that steal away into the shadows of the thick foliage are unparalleled to any of the national parks in the country.

Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s most famous National Park and with good reason it is home to an amazing range of wildlife. To avoid the crowds, you will be taken to the remoter parts of the park via the lesser known Kataragama entrance. 

You will overnight on well-appointed safari tents, set upon wooden verandas in the heart of the park next to watering hole with abundant wildlife to watch. Forget your bad memories of camping, these luxury tents are as good as any hotel. The tents have hot water and full netting yet leave a minimal environmental footprint. The camp owners have adopted a strict “no-plastic” policy, use renewable energy to as great an extent as possible and have implemented an eco-friendly waste-management system.

The days will consist game drives around the park in the mornings and early evenings. You can expect to encounter elephant herds under open skies, sunsets with the promise of prowling cats, daybreak with monkeys, storks, ibis and crocodiles, as well as deer, sloth bears, jackals and wild buffalo.


After a final game drive at Yala National Park, check out from camp and drive to the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home. A fascinating project which feeds and trains injured and orphaned elephant calves to don the skills to survive in the wild. Apart from caring for the sick and orphaned animals, it also rehabilitates them before they are released into the wild. Although the visitors are not permitted to be with the elephants up-close and personal, the feeding times of baby elephants are wonderful opportunities to observe them and can be quite a pleasurable experience. 

In the afternoon enjoy a game drive in the Udawalawe National Park. Nourished by the Udawalawa reservoir, the park stretches over 30,000 hectares. It is most popular for elephant sightings as the park shelters close to 500 elephants. The riches within the park do not end there; flocks of deer, wild buffaloes, bandicoots, foxes, water-monitor lizards, crocodiles, sloth bears and a wealth of reptiles. 

Later on, you will check into the beachside Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort for two nights.


Spend the day leisurely enjoying the beachside resort. You had an exciting couple of days and it’s time to wind down a little before the rest of your expedition. 

In the evening visit the Rekawa Turtle Conservation Centre, a treasured location for all wildlife enthusiasts owing to its frequent habitation of nesting turtles. 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 where you can observe (at a distance) the returning turtles ready to lay eggs and hatchlings ‘running’ to the sea.


After an early start, drive off 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. You will hear about and see how 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 and has gargantuan girth and gait.

Plus, the forest is bejewelled by an amazing array of waterfalls including the Anagi Mala Falls with its impressive cascades and shallow pools. 

Later, drive to Habaraduwa for a two night at the hilltop topical sanctuary of Tabula Rasa Resort.


Early this morning, embark on a whale watching expedition aboard a private small catamaran. After an onboard breakfast, 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 see multiple species including the largest creature on earth, the blue whale. Your captain will be following strict whale watching rules to ensure no detrimental impacts on these amazing creatures.

After enjoying the whales, you will head towards Weligama Bay, anchoring near the Snake and Taprobane Islands, a lovely setting to enjoy swimming, snorkelling and lunch.

Late afternoon is at leisure or we recommend you visit the stunning for town peninsula of Galle Fort. Then a farewell dinner with George and your fellow guests.