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Butterflies of Sri Lanka


Dates & Prices


Dates: 26 February – 8 March 2019 Guaranteed departure!

Price: £1,750

Single Room Supplement: £300

Deposit: £250 per person

Price Includes: All meals, accommodation with private facilities, ground transport, services of the guides, holiday report

Not Included: Flights, travel insurance, drinks and any other personal items

Conservation Donation: 10% of profits donated to Butterfly Conservation

Leader: Indika Jayatissa (local guide) + Greenwings guide for larger groups

Group Size: Minimum of 5 and a maximum of 12 guests plus 1-2 leaders.

Grade: Gentle and slow pace

Holiday Highlights

  • A gentle paced butterfly tour led by an expert Sri Lankan guide
  • Sri Lanka has 242 butterfly species, including 42 endemics
  • Special species such as Red Helen, Common Birdwing, Leopard, Banded Peacock, Tawny Rajah, Nawab, and a fine selection of Peacock, Yellow, Blue & Grey Pansies
  • Endemics such as Sri Lanka Birdwing, Ceylon Rose, Lesser Albatross, Sri Lanka Tree Nymph & Sri Lanka Tiger
  • Explore the best butterfly areas – Wasgamuwa National Park, Sinharaja Forest, misty mountains of Riverston, Ritigala Strict Natural Reserve etc
  • Visit Kandy and the Temple of the Tooth plus the amazing ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya
  • Lots of other wildlife, including numerous endemic birds & mammals 
  • Interesting flora too, including pretty Bamboo orchids along the trails & epiphytes adorning the trees
  • In support of Butterfly Conservation

A leisurely 11 day tour focusing on the butterflies of Sri Lanka 


New for 2019 – an exciting 11 day butterfly tour of Sri Lanka!

The tropical island paradise of Sri Lanka is astonishingly rich in wildlife and contains a wide variety of habitats ranging from misty highland forests and lush rainforest to arid, scrub-filled plains and an abundance of fresh water lakes. Over a tenth of the land mass is designated as protected areas for wildlife and the principal reserves are among the best in Asia.

Although geographically close to India the zoology of the island displays many affinities to Indonesia and there is a marked degree of endemism, particularly in the remaining tracts of lowland forest to the south of the island where many of the birds, plants and insects are unique to Sri Lanka. Over 27 species of endemic birds is a high total for a country only a little more than a quarter the size of the United Kingdom, and the large number of endemic insects, plants, trees and reptiles is further evidence of the island’s long isolation from the mainland.

242 species of butterfly have been identified, 42 of these endemic to the island. As with the birds, the moist forests of the hill country and the south are home to some of the most interesting species but butterflies are a welcome sight throughout Sri Lanka and the aim of this tour is to visit some of the very best areas to observe them and identify the species encountered. In the course of our excursions we are sure to see a variety of other wildlife, particularly birds, but the focus will be very much on the butterflies in their myriad of colourful forms.

Local guide – Indika Jayatissa

Indika is a young Sri Lankan naturalist who discovered his passion for wildlife at the age of 14 when he started to photograph the insects and butterflies of his local area using a Sony Powershot. Since then he has become an expert on Butterflies and their habitat. Indika originally started work as a wildlife guide in nearly all of Sri Lanka’s major reserves. He is the administrator of the Sri Lankan Butterflies Facebook page and a Member of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle, Sri Lanka Butterfly Conservation Society and has done many research projects for these societies. Indika’s talents are much broader and he is also an expert birder and will satisfy any birder with the hard to find endemics and other resident and migrant species of the island. He is also an active member of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka. His recent pursuit in search of the islands nocturnal mammals has made him a sort out guide for many specialized tours.

He is a specialist all-round naturalist who is as passionate about the conservation of Sri Lanka’s terrestrial mammals, birds, butterflies and whales as he is about documenting the natural world around him. His pleasant personality and wealth of knowledge makes him a sought out travelling companion.

Important note

The intention of this tour is to observe and identify butterflies in the wild. The collecting of specimens is not permitted and is illegal in Sri Lanka. Any tour member discovered procuring butterfly specimens will be asked to immediately leave the tour and could be subject to prosecution in Sri Lanka. In principle we have no objection to the catching of insects for the purpose of identification as long as they are not harmed and released as quickly as possible but tour members should be aware that this practice is not allowed in any of the Protected Areas in Sri Lanka, nor is it permitted to take nets into these areas. Please do not consider travelling on this tour unless you are prepared to abide to these conditions.


Day 0  

We depart London in the evening on a direct Sri Lankan Airlines scheduled flight to Colombo. We will be in flight overnight.

Day 1  

Sinharaja. We arrive in Colombo early this afternoon and will be met at the airport by the Sri Lankan guide who will be with us throughout the tour.  It is often said of Sri Lanka that anything placed in the ground will grow and as we travel out of the sprawl of Colombo into open country the evidence will be in the amazingly lush roadside vegetation. Palms, papayas, mangoes and all manner of exotic trees flourish in abundance and the overall impression of the countryside is of a tremendous greenness. An abundance of flowers adds colour to the scene and birds are numerous ranging from Common Mynas and noisy Red-wattled Lapwings at the roadside to tiny jewel-like sunbirds sipping nectar from the blooms.  If time permits depending on the day light, we will do a short walk around the hotel premises once we arrive in Sinharaja and then have our meals and the chance of a good night’s sleep.  Dinner /Overnight Stay in Ble Magpie Lodge

 Day 2  

Sinharaja Forest. One of the highlights of the tour will be our excursion to Sinharaja Forest, the largest and most important lowland rain forest in Sri Lanka.  Sinharaja is something of a stronghold for endemic birds and its importance was acknowledged by recognition as a World Heritage Site in 1988.  Old logging trails facilitate access into the primary forest and from these it is possible to see some endemic bird species. Inevitably we are unlikely to see all of these in a single visit but Sinharaja is one of those magical places that can suddenly be alive with birds following periods of relative quiet and even at midday it is possible to encounter one of the mixed species ‘bird waves’, which usually comprise Orange-billed Babblers in association with Ashy-headed Laughing-Thrushes, Crested Drongos, Malabar Trogons, Red-faced Malkohas, Blue Magpies and a miscellany of other species. Everything about Sinharaja is special and the flora contains many species found nowhere else.  Pretty Bamboo Orchids grow commonly beside the trails and many of the trees are adorned with epiphytes. Although plenty of mammals inhabit Sinharaja, sightings are always a matter of luck but troupes of Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys are likely to reveal their presence by the fearsome roaring calls of the males. Many unique lizards are  also found in the forest.

Our principal focus will of course be on the wonderful variety of butterflies inhabiting Sinharaja. Among the most spectacular of the long list of potential species are the black and yellow Common Birdwing (Troides helena) and the equally impressive Red Helen (Papilio helenus) but there are many jewels to look for in this very special forest including; Common Mormon (Papilio polytes), Blue Mormon (P.polymnestor), Bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon), Psyche (Leptosia nina), Jezebel (Delias eucharis), Tree Nymph (Idea iasonia), Leopard (Phalanta phalantha), Commander (Moduza procris), Clipper (Parthenos sylvia), Ceylon Forester (Lethe dynaste) and Tailed Jay (Graphium agamemnon).  Sinharaja is a remarkable forest and provides one of the last remaining chances to glimpse a compact eco-system that has all but vanished elsewhere. Like all rain forests it is not always easy to find the creatures inhabiting the forests but all discoveries are immensely rewarding and just the experience of standing amid the ocean of trees is worth the long journey from Ratnapura. At the end of a day in the forest we spend the night at the Blue Magpie Lodge close to the main administrative buildings for the forest and close to the start of the jeep track. Lunch/Dinner /Overnight Stay in Blue Magpie Lodge

Day 3  

Kandy.  We will start our day early in the morning and after a quick breakfast, we start our long and very scenic drive to Kandy which will occupy most of the afternoon and provide further views of the island life as we pass through little market towns where the produce for sale will be displayed in a colourful mixture of roadside stalls. Heaps of tempting looking fruit will be further evidence of the island fecundity and the taste of local grown fruit such as pineapple is infinitely superior to any you can obtain in Britain! ! We will be able to taste some of these fruits when we stop en-route at a restaurant for lunch.

The city of Kandy is steeped in history and was the capital for a succession of Kandyan Kings until captured by the British in 1815.  The famous ‘Temple of the Tooth’ beside Kandy lake is one of the best known Buddhist temples in the country and attracts thousands of visitors every year.  We will reach Kandy in the early afternoon and those who wish to visit the Temple of the Tooth or walk around the Kandy Lake will find be able to do so in this time. Dinner /Overnight Stay in Thilanka Hotel Kandy

Day 4

Riverston / Matale. We will leave for Matale early in the morning. Upon arrival at Spring View Hotel , we will check in to the hotel, leave our luggage and pick up our packed lunch before proceeding to Riverston in the Knuckles Mountain Range, where we will spend the day exploring the area for more butterflies and will enjoy our packed lunch at a scenic location. It is elevated approximately 850 metres above the sea level and is located 30 kilometres from the Matale town, rather windy with quite a few hairpins turns but in good condition, offers great views all around. The weather here is on a cooler side and has two great waterfalls ‘Sera Ella’ and ‘Bambarakiri Ella’.  When the clouds descend to the plains you get to experience a unique feeling driving through them.   ‘Dumbara’ the mist laden mountains, is the Sinhalese name for these mountains which derive their English name from the clenched fist appearance of the ridges. This is a wild expanse of undulating hills, misty forests, pastures and forests rich in flora and fauna.

Two endemic creatures found here are the Tennent’s Horned Lizard and Keerthisinghe’s Rock Frog plus a tremendous variety of birdlife. Escaping Kandy’s notorious traffic congestion may take a while but soon after leaving the city we enter this different world of endless hills and forested valleys, the ideal habitats to find yet more interesting butterflies. Species we particularly hope to see at Riverston include Common Birdwing (Troides darsius), Banded Peacock (Papilio crino), Red Helen (P. helenus), Common Bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon), Tree Nymph (Idea iasonia), Ceylon Tiger (Parantica taprobana) and Common Tree Brown (Lethe ohria).  Our overnight accommodation will be at Matale. Dinner /Overnight Stay in Spring View Hotel Matale

Day 5

Riverston / Matale. We will proceed  to Riverston with picnic lunch for a full day in the Knuckles Mountain Range Dinner /Overnight Stay in Spring View Hotel Matale

Day 6

Matale / Riverston / Wasgamuwa.   In the early morning, we will leave again for the misty mountains of Riverston with picnic lunch and will spend the whole day exploring this area. The Riverston area shelters a number of endemic plants and animals. Bushy plants with mild streams running across make this valley an ideal habitat for the butterflies. The mist clad scenic Riverston peak via pittawala pathana, offers some of the greatest views of the central hills across the mini worlds end which ends in a sheer drop of 300 meters offering a great vista especially of the ‘Knuckles range’, and the Thelgamu valley below with its terraced paddy field method unique to the central hills of Sri Lanka.

Pitawala Patana offers excellent habitats for more hill country butterflies. In addition to species already mentioned, insects in this area could include: Jezebel (Delias eucharis), Common Albatross (Appias albina), Indian Fritillary (Argynnis hyperbius), Great Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina), Ceylon Forester (Lethe dynaste) and Red Pierrot (Talicada nyseus).  In the late afternoon, we will proceed to Wasgamuwa for our overnight stay. Dinner /Overnight stay in Levendish  Wild Wasgamuwa

 Day 7

Wasgamuwa / Sigiriya.   In the morning, with our packed breakfast, we visit the Wasgamuwa National Park for a half day excursion. The transition from the hill country into the ‘Dry Zone’ with corresponding changes in the flora and fauna will be clearly visible today. The Dry Zone, which encompasses most of the north and east of the island, is very different in character to the moist, humid forests of the hills, and whilst some birds and animals successfully thrive in both habitats, others such as Malabar Pied Hornbill, Indian Roller, Little Green Bee-eater and Hoopoe are much more plentiful in the Dry Zone.

These differences are also reflected in the butterfly inhabitants and species to anticipate at Wasgamuwa include; Pioneer (Belenois aurota), Common Gull (Capora nerissa),White Orange-Tip (Ixias marianne), Little Orange-Tip (Colotis etrida), Lemon Pansy (Junonia lemonias), Blue Pansy (J. orithya), Yellow Pansy (J. hierta), Grey Pansy (J. atlites), Peacock Pansy (J. almana), Autumn Leaf (Doleschallia bisaltide) and Tawny Rajah (Charaxes psaphon).

Wasgamuwa supports an excellent range of mammals including herds of Asian Elephants, Water Buffalo, Spotted Deer, Sambur, Golden Jackal and the lowland race of Giant Squirrel. The endemic Purple-faced Leaf-Monkey may also be observed in the forested areas alongside the commoner Toque Macaques and Grey Langurs. This is also a fine reserve for birds with possibilities here including; Painted and White-necked Storks, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Whitebellied Sea and Grey-headed Fishing Eagles and Crested Serpent Eagle.  We will return for lunch and in the afternoon, we will proceed to Sigiriya.

King Kasyapa was responsible for the building of a city fortress on Sigiriya rock in 477 AD.  Standing at the foot of the rock today it seems a staggering achievement but a palace and complex of gardens were constructed on the three acre summit and for eighteen years served as a royal citadel.  Visitors can reach the site by ascending flights of steps hewn in the rock but it is a stiff climb and not recommended for anyone with a fear of heights.  A few frescoes are all that remain of some 500 paintings that formerly graced the rock walls and these can be viewed during the ascent.  Shahin Falcons nest on the rock and the surrounding primary forest is superb for birds. A few Wild Elephants also inhabit these forests and three other more conspicuous mammal residents include wandering troupes of Grey Langurs and Toque Macaque, and the ubiquitous little Palm Squirrels. The Sigiriya Hotel, which will be our base for two nights, is superbly positioned for viewing the rock and from here one can sit, drink in hand, beside the swimming pool watching the energetic ascend to the fortress  Our overnight accommodation will be at Sigiriya. Dinner/ Overnight stay in Hotel Sigiriya

Day 8

Sigiriya In the morning, we will travel to the Ritigala Strict Natural Reserve for a full day excursion with picnic lunch. This rocky outcrop, emerging like Sigiriya from the dry lowlands, exhibits several distinct types of forest vegetation becoming progressively more moist with increases in elevation until the forest around the summit resembles that of the hill country. There is a very ancient archaeological site within the forest, which we can visit during our afternoon exploration. A splendid variety of butterflies includes many of the insects seen during preceding days such as the Tree Nymph, Blue Mormon and Chocolate Soldier but we will also be hoping for a number of additions with possibilities including; Spot Swordtail (Pathysa nomius), Great Orange-Tip (Hebomoia glaucippe), Lace Wing (Cethosia nietneri) and the Nawab (Polyura athamas). We return to the Sigiriya Hotel for an overnight stay. Dinner/ Overnight stay in Hotel Sigiriya

Day 9

Sigiriya. Today’s objective is the Kaludiya Pokuna Forest Reserve full day excursion with picnic lunch. which is situated close to Sigiriya. This is also a rock outcrop like Ritigala but is not so high and the low country Dry Zone surroundings ensure another range of butterfly possibilities. Among the species recorded from here are; Lime Butterfly (Papilio demoleus), Mime (Chilasi clytia), Common Jay (Graphium doson), Dark Wanderer (Pareronia ceylanica), Tawny Rajah (Charaxes psaphon), Psyche (Leptosia nina), Glassy Tiger (Danaus aglea), Common Crow (Euploea core), Common Sailor (Neptis hylas), Gladeye Bushbrown (Nissanga patnia), White Four-ring (Ypthima ceylonica) and Common Palmfly (Elymnias hypermnestra).  We return to the Sigiriya Hotel for an overnight stay. Dinner/ Overnight stay in Hotel Sigiriya

 Day 10

Sigiriya /Katunayaka. Morning excursion around the rock base and after lunch in hotel we will travel to our 3-star Tamarind Tree Hotel Katunayake for some rest and a good night’s sleep! Dinner / Overnight in Tamarind Tree Hotel

Day 11  

We have a morning transfer to Katunayake airport to catch our morning flight to London.

New holiday – testimonials will appear next year

New holiday – report will follow later

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Telephone from inside UK: 01473 254658 (Mon - Sat 9am - 6pm)

Telephone from outside UK: 0044 1473 254658 (Mon - Sat 9am - 6pm)