Dates & Prices
Dates: 6th – 19th March 2024 Confirmed departure
Price: £2,495 Places available
Single Room Supplement: £400
Deposit: £300 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: Butterfly Conservation
Leader: Local guide + Greenwings guide for larger groups
Group Size: Minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12 guests plus 1-2 leaders.
Grade: Gentle and slow pace
- 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 2 week tour focusing on the butterflies 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. 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.
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.
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: Tuesday 5th March 2024
We depart London in the evening on a direct Sri Lankan Airlines scheduled flight to Colombo (20:40 departure time). We will be in flight overnight.
Day 1: Wednesday 6th March 2024
Sinharaja. We arrive in Colombo early this afternoon and will be met at the airport by the Sri Lankan naturalist escort 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 Blue Magpie Lodge
Day 2: Thursday 7th March 2024
Sinharaja Forest. One of the highlights of the tour will be our excursion to Sinharaja Rainforest, the largest and most important lowland rain forest in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately the approach roads are of very poor quality and despite being only thirty kilometers from Ratnapura, the journey can take several hours. 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 discomfort of the long journey from Ratnapura and the tortuous jeep drive over the final five kilometers of pot-holed track. 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: Friday 8th March 2024
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: Saturday 9th March 2024
Riverston / Matale. We will leave for Matale early in the morning. Upon arrival at Grand Mountain 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 Grand Mountain Hotel Matale
Day 5: Sunday 10th March 2024
Riverston / Matale. In the early morning, we will leave again for the misty mountains of Riverston with picnic lunchand 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). Dinner /Overnight Stay in Grand Mountain Hotel Matale
Day 6: Monday 11th March 2024
Riverston / Matale. We will once again proceed to Riverston with picnic lunch for a full day in the Knuckles Mountain Range. Dinner /Overnight Stay in Grand Mountain Hotel Matale
Day 7: Tuesday 12th March 2024
Matale / Riverston / Wasgamuwa. After breakfast we will enjoy the scenic drive as we cross over to the Wasgamuwa area where we will get familiar with some of the arid and dry zone species of butterflies, birds, mammals and reptiles. We will check in to the Lavendish Wild hotel in time for lunch and the rest of the day will be spent exploring the hotel garden or the nearby canals for any wildlife frolicking amongst its banks. Dinner /Overnight stay in Levendish Wild Wasgamuwa
Day 8: Wednesday 13th March 2024
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, and 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 9: Thursday 14th March 2024
Sigiriya. In the morning, we will travel to the Ritigala Strict Nature 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 moister 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 10: Friday 15th March 2024
Sigiriy. Today’s objective is the Kaludiya Pokuna Forest Reservefor afull day excursion with picnic lunch. This is also a rocky 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 11: Saturday 16th March 2024
Sigiriya /Belihuloya. Morning excursion around the rock base and proceed to Belihuloya. Lunch will be in a restaurant en-route.
In the afternoon we will spend time exploring the Belihuloya area where sightings of Red Helen, Narrow-banded Blue Bottle, Jezebel, Common Gull, Mottle Emigrant, Common Grass Yellow, Glassy Tiger, Sri Lankan Tiger, Common Crow, Lemon Pansy, Common Sailor, Chestnut Streaked Sailor, Dark Cerulean, Pea Blue, Lesser Grass Blue, Sri Lankan Hedge Blue, Awl King, Sri Lankan Hedge Hopper, Sri Lankan Dart, Lemmon Emigrant, Small Grass Yellow and Common Cerulean are all possible. Dinner/Overnight stay – Sennya Resorts, Belihuloya.
Day 12: Sunday 17th March 2024
Belihuloya. After Breakfast with picnic lunch, we will enjoy a full day excursion to Samanalawewa Reservoir.
Possible noteworthy species include Sri Lankan Birdwing, Common Rose, Blue Mormon, Narrow-banded Bluebottle, Common Grass Yellow, Sri Lankan Tree-Nymph, Common Crow, Common Sailor, Chestnut-streaked Sailor, Chocolate Solider, Baron, Cornelian, Common Pierrot, Banded Peacock, Lime Butterfly, Common Mormon, Tailed Jay, Psyche, Jezebel, and Common Gull. Sri Lankan Lesser Albatross, Lemon Emigrant, Spotless Grass Yellow, Three-spot Grass Yellow, Glassy Tiger, Angled Castor, Common Castor, Common Leopard, Commander, Grey Pansy, Common Evening Brown, Medus Brown, Common Bushbrown, Glade Bushbrown, Gladeye Bushbrown, White Four-ring, White Royal, Common Cerulean, Forget me-not, Pea Blue, Lesser Grass Blue, Grizzled Skipper, Bush Hopper, Chestnut Bob, Sri Lankan Dart and One-spot Grass Yellow. Dinner/Overnight stay – Sennya Resorts, Belihuloya.
Day 13: Monday 18th March 2024
Katunayake. The late morning will be spent further exploring the Belihuloya area, 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 14: Tuesday 19th March 2024
Departure. We have a morning transfer to Katunayake airport to catch our flight to London or other international destination.
Ralph and Claudette M, 2023: Thank you so much for the fantastic Greenwings Sri Lanka trip you put together for us on such short notice. Everything went incredibly well and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves the entire time.
The accommodations were excellent throughout the trip. The food was amazing—we were able to try so many delicious new foods all along the way. And the King Coconuts were just what we needed on the hot days! Our driver, Jayaweera, was exceptional and his ability to navigate narrow roads made us feel very safe the entire time.
And, of course, the butterflying was superb. Everything we saw was new to us, so having an expert guide to show us the Sri Lankan butterflies was tremendous.
Which gets to our main reason for writing. Dhanushka was our guide for the 2 weeks and we could not have had a better person with whom to share those 2 weeks. He is so knowledgeable (how you can tell the smallest of blues and skippers with only a glance or a quick look through binoculars is far beyond our skill level!) and conscientious. We were very impressed that he sincerely wanted us to learn as much as possible about butterflies so that we could also identify them in the field. He pointed out subtle differences among species, then when it was hard for us to discern those differences, we looked at our photos in the evening and went over the distinguishing characteristics of similar-looking butterflies. The Lineblues and Skippers in particular were challenging for us, but Dhanushka brought a detailed reference book and worked through the details for us to be able to separate those species (which we never could have done on our own since there is considerable variation within a species, and also differences in wet season/dry season forms).
His enthusiasm for Sri Lanka and in particular its natural history made it a very educational trip for us. He pointed out birds, mammals, reptiles, and plants, and told us so much about life in Sri Lanka. In short, he gave so much of himself, and because of that, we have never had such an incredible rewarding experience. It was so intimate to be in such a small group.
I hope future Greenwings trips will be able to go with Dhanushka. He has a great sense of humour, is someone we both immediately felt very comfortable being with, and his enthusiasm for what he does is contagious. We wish the trip could have gone on longer…..
Well, Matt, once again Greenwings has provided us a fantastic trip, and we’ll have to see if we can join up with another one down the road. You always provide such outstanding experiences. This one, though, will always be special for us because of the time we shared with Dhanushka who showed us such beautiful places and was so open and generous to us.
Thank you so much.
Ralph and Claudette
Allan F 2019: I felt that this was an outstanding trip, made particularly so by Indika’s expert knowledge of the butterflies and birds, his quick eye for spotting things and his friendly and easy going manner. The accommodation throughout was fine, with Thilanka Hotel Levendish Wild and Sigiriya Hotel being exceptionally comfortable. Blue Magpie Lodge and Sir John’s Bungalow were a little more basic but both were more than compensated for by their locations. Sir John’s Bungalow, in particular, commanding spectacular views of the Knuckles range and being close to the butterfly sites, cutting down on travelling time. Being there felt like being a guest in a private home rather than a hotel as it was so cosy and welcoming. Overall the food was fine and plentiful with plenty of choice of both Western and local dishes, the only problem being I will now have to loose a few kilos!