Bill Oddie's most excellent adventure in Sri Lanka

On assignment for BBC Wildlife Magazine, Bill Oddie gives blood to the rainforest, meets some familiar feathered friends, experiences the ‘Rainforest Rainbow’ and has four game drives in which to find a leopard…

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Bill Oddie's adventure in Sri Lanka article spread
 
ESSENTIAL TRAVEL INFORMATION 
 
Sri Lanka is smaller than Ireland, but home to about 4,000 elephants and 500 leopards - a wildlife lover’s dream destination.
 
Where to go
 
  1. Wilpattu NP
    The largest park in Sri Lanka, Wilpattu is located in the more remote north of the island. Though wildlife is scarcer here than elsewhere, the park is renowned for its leopards and muntjac deer, and is well worth a visit if you have time.
     
  2. Minneriya NP
    At the end of the dry season, Minneriya is said to host one of the largest elephant gatherings anywhere in the world. They assemble by the ‘tanks’ (reservoirs) in herds up to 300 strong by the middle of September.  
     
  3. Polonnaruwa
    An important cultural centre, with impressive 10th-century ruins, Polonnaruwa is also the best place in Sri Lanka to see monkeys, including two endemics – toque macaques and purple-faced leaf monkeys.
     
  4. Wasgamuwa NP
    Primarily known as an elephant destination, Wasgamuwa also has the usual mix of Sri Lankan fauna, such as sambar, spotted deer and wild boar, in addition to predators such as leopards.
     
  5. Horton Plains NP
    Unless you are ticking endemic birds, the main reason for visiting Horton Plains is a spectacular cliff called World’s End. It made the news in 2010 after a rare slender loris was photographed here.
     
  6. Yala NP
    Said to have the world’s densest population of leopards, Yala is Sri Lanka’s top safari destination. Species you will definitely see include Asian elephants, spotted deer and mugger crocodiles. Sloth bears and jackals are also possible.
     
  7. Udawalawe NP
    As well as being a great wildlife area, Udawalawe has the added attraction of hosting the Elephant Transit Home, worth visiting if you have a particular penchant for baby elephants.
     
  8. Sinharaja Reserve
    Sri Lanka’s best rainforest destination, Sinharaja is one of the country’s prime birding spots, with 21 endemic species, including the dazzling blue magpie and myriad beautiful butterflies, dragonflies and other insects. 
     
  9. Mirissa
    Sri Lanka is gaining a reputation as one of the best places in the world to see blue whales. April and December are the peak months, with sperm whale sightings also common, along with other species.
 
Getting there
 
  • SriLankan Airlines is the only carrier with direct flights between the UK and Sri Lanka. Call 0208 538 2015/2034. 
     
  • Flying with Emirates requires a change in Dubai. Call 0844 800 2777. 
 
Visas
  • There is no need for a visa if you don’t intend to stay long – you will get a 30-day permit to stay on arrival. For details visit the website of the Sri Lankan High Commission.
 
Health
  • The NHS advises that you are up-to-date with all immunisations and take malaria prophylactics, too.
     
  • Contact your GP or practice nurse for more advice. Also click here for more advice.  
 
Tour operators
 
 
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