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This new deluxe tour combines theopportunity to enjoy wildlife-viewingin Sri Lanka's finest National Parkand during a quest to see Blue Whales,with visits to some of the country's greatarchaeological sites. We have timed thetour to coincide with the large numbers ofbirds which visit the island during thewinter, including waders from Siberia andpasserines from the Himalayan region. Weuse some of Sri Lanka's very best hotelsand lodges for this new tour, so you canswap the cold of a British winter forwildlife-watching based in luxuriousaccommodation on this beautiful tropicalisland.We begin with a glimpse of the island'spast at Sigiriya, famous for its toweringrock fortress and ancient wall frescoes;and there's an impressive panorama forthose energetic enough to reach thesummit. On the following day we visit theremains of the ancient capital ofPolonnaruwa, where we may be luckyenough to find one of the resident BrownFish Owls. We'll be based for two nights atthe luxurious Vil Uyana Hotel, from wherewe'll explore the forests surroundingSigiriya's famous rock fortress in search ofsome of the more retiring bird species andendemics. In particular we will hope to see the magnificent white-phase of the maleParadise Flycatcher, their tails like whitestreamers as they fly from perch to perch.Travelling south through the island's mainspice-growing region we continue toKandy for a 2-night stay at Earl's RegencyHotel overlooking the Mahaweli River.Once the capital of an autonomouskingdom until captured by the British in1815, Kandy marks our ascent into thepicturesque Hill Country, and issurrounded by forests in which we shouldfind such endemic birds as the charmingSri Lanka Hanging Parrot and Layard'sParakeet. We'll then penetrate deeper intothe hills to stay for two nights in colonialsplendour at the Grand Hotel in NuwaraEliya, a favourite hill station of the British.This area is the heart of the island's teaindustry and we will visit one of the manyestates en route from Kandy. Yet moreendemic birds occur at this increasedelevation, amongst them Yellow-earedBulbul and Hill White-eye, plus such wintervisitors as Blyth's Reed Warbler and PiedGround Thrush. We will spend one dayexploring the wild expanses of the HortonPlains which epitomise the uniqueness ofthe Hill Country with its strange forests ofstunted trees festooned in bromeliads,and stretches of moorland leading to theaptly named World's End where a sheerescarpment drops to the plains far below.This is the haunt of the handsomehighland race of the Purple-faced LeafMonkey and a great diversity of plants andbirds including the endemic Arrenga, BlueMagpie and Sri Lanka Woodpigeon.Descending to the arid south of the islandwe next visit a number of freshwater'tanks' or lakes, crowded with birds,before reaching the endless palm-fringedbeaches which characterise the IndianOcean coastline. Our next destination isYala National Park where in recent yearsdiurnal Leopards have been a regularattraction and we'll make early morningand afternoon game drives in search ofthese iconic cats and the wealth of othermammals and birds that the parksupports. Wildlife abounds in Yala andeach drive is likely to produce sightings of Asian Elephant, Wild Boar, SpottedDeer, Sambar, mongooses, crocodiles and lizards as well as a stunning profusionof colourful birdlife. During our three daysat Yala we will be staying at the verycomfortable and luxurious Chaaya WildHotel just outside the park; with no fencesto constrain the inhabitants it is by nomeans unusual to see a Wild Boar wanderthrough the grounds or even to find anAsian Elephant browsing in the garden!After many memorable experiences in Yalawe next transfer to the comfortable LightHouse Hotel in Galle for a 2-night stay.From here we will enjoy two morningwhale-watching cruises from a nearbyport. Blue Whales will be our main targethere, but we may also see Bryde's andShort-finned Pilot Whales, plus Bottlenose,Pantropical Spotted, Striped and SpinnerDolphins which should provide a fittingfinale to our Sri Lankan holiday. For thosewho wish to stay longer on this beguilingisland, we recommend a post-tourextension to Sinharaja Forest. Over 80% ofthe island's endemic bird species occur inthe forest and resident species include thespectacular Blue Magpie, Red-facedMalkoha and Orange-billed Babbler; 60%of the trees are found nowhere else in theworld, and most of the other flora andfauna has a similarly high level ofendemism.Wild Sri Lanka ... In Style!A deluxe 14-day holiday exploring Sri Lanka's wildlife and cultural highlights in the utmost comfort and style, plus an optional extension to Sinharaja Forest. Monday 19th November - Sunday 2nd December 2012 Cost: £3,595Sinharaja extension: to Wednesday 5th December 2012 Cost: £995Monday 14th January - Sunday 27th January 2013 Cost: £3,595Sinharaja extension: to Wednesday 30th January 2013 Cost: £995Monday 18th November - Sunday 1st December 2013 Cost: £3,595Sinharaja extension: to Wednesday 4th December 2013 Cost: £995Outline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2/3Sigiriya.Day 4/5Kandy.Day 6/7Nuwara Eliya.Day 8/10Yala National Park.Day 11/12Galle.Day 13Colombo.Day 14Fly London.Sinharaja ForestextensionDay 13/15Sinharaja Forest. Day 16Colombo.Day 17Fly London.AccommodationA range of Sri Lanka's finest deluxehotels and lodges, all with privatefacilities.FoodAll meals are included at Yala andSinharaja. Elsewhere main mealsare not included; allow £145.GradingA. This is a luxury wildlife andcultural holiday that includes nostrenuous walking. A couple ofoptional longer walks are, however,included at Horton Plains andSinharaja.FocusBlue Whales, Leopards, othermammals and birds, plus elementsof the island's history andarchaeology.LeadersDammithra Samarisinghe, SusanthaWeerappulli or SamanVediyabandara.Single room supplement£1,295 (extension: £395).Web quick search: LKA07256Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryKANDY SIGIRIYA NUWARA ELIYA YALANATIONALPARKGALLEHORTON PLAINS SINHARAJAFOREST(EXTENSION)COLOMBO INDIANOCEANBAYOFBENGALSRI LANKA LeopardsAsian ElephantsBlue Whale (with remoras attached)Earl's Regency Hotel, Kandy

The Great Whales are a source ofwonder and fascination to most of usland-based humans, as we struggleto comprehend their alien, unfetteredexistence roaming the mysterious depthsof the world's oceans. Indeed, we seem topossess a seemingly insatiable desire tosavour the experience of being close tothese magnificent creatures and, whereverfeeding or breeding imperatives bringnumbers of whales to congregate in aparticular area, there will invariably be localboatmen taking visitors to enjoy a fewprecious moments sharing the ocean withthese leviathans. The largest of all thecetaceans, indeed the largest of allmammals, the Blue Whale has alwaysbeen something of an enigma, a trueocean wanderer living a pelagic lifestylewhich rarely brings it with any predictabilityclose to land. Gradually, however, scientistsare beginning to gain some understandingof the enormous migrations undertaken byBlue Whales and one discovery has beentheir regular appearances close to thesouth coast of Sri Lanka betweenNovember and April. It is this annual eventthat we will be taking advantage of duringthis popular new tour in a country that haslong been a Naturetrek favourite.Arriving in the capital, Colombo, we headsouth, skirting the towering escarpments ofthe central Hill Country before travellingthrough a landscape of palms, ricepaddies and roadside ponds to the IndianOcean coast where we stay for four nightsat a comfortable resort hotel. Doubtlessthe excellent amenities of theestablishment will be a welcome diversionduring our spare time, but each morningwe will undertake a whale-watching cruisefrom a nearby port. During these 4-hourexcursions we will sail up to 12 kilometresoffshore and, whilst seeing wild creaturescan never be guaranteed, we expect tohave multiple sightings of Blue Whales. Never a gregarious creature, the sightingsare usually of single animals, or perhaps acow and calf, but it is possible toencounter as many as 10 whales duringthese outings and the expertise of thecaptain will be an important element infinding our quarry. Despite averaging 25metres in length and reaching a weight inexcess of 100 tons, Blue Whales can besurprisingly elusive, but in these calmwaters the mighty 9-metre high blow isoften the first indication of their presencenear the surface. Whilst concentrating eachday on observing Blue Whales, othersmaller cetaceans are also likely toentertain us. These may include Bryde'sand Short-finned Pilot Whales, andBottlenose, Pantropical Spotted, Stripedand Spinner Dolphins, the latter regularlyappearing in pods of several hundredindividuals. Although the occurrences ofBlue Whales in Sri Lankan waters havebeen known to researchers for many yearsit is only now that opportunities exist forvisitors to see these impressive animalsand, in recent years, our Naturetrek groupshave been rewarded by close encounters,often of numerous individuals, in this mostidyllic of settings.After this ultimate in whale-watchingexperiences we return to dry land to seekanother highly impressive mammal in YalaNational Park. In recent years diurnalLeopards have been a regular attraction inthis superb reserve and we will do one full-day game drive, in addition to a morningand an afternoon game drive in the park,with the possibility of suddenly comingupon a Leopard adding an exciting frissonto every visit. Wildlife abounds in Yala andeach drive is likely to produce sightings ofIndian Elephant, Wild Boar, Spotted Deer,Sambar, mongooses, crocodiles andlizards as well as a stunning profusion ofcolourful birdlife. No visit to Yala everdisappoints, but it is the sight of asomnolent Leopard draped across thebranches of a tree or padding along atrack before disappearing into theundergrowth that creates a memory to lasta lifetime. During the final three days of thetour we will be staying at a verycomfortable hotel just outside the park and with no fences to constrain theinhabitants it is by no means unusual tosee a Wild Boar wander through thegrounds or even to find an elephantbrowsing in the garden! Yala is a magical place and a perfect venue in which to complete a tour thatcombines the best of Sri Lankan wildlife,both marine and terrestrial, with the mostcomfortable of accommodation. It will bewith some reluctance that we will finallydepart from here and return to Colombo fora return flight back to colder climes;however, for those unwilling to leave, weoffer an extension to Sinharaja ForestReserve, the largest and most importantlowland rainforest in Sri Lanka, and hometo so much of the island's endemic floraand fauna.Sri Lanka - Blue Whales & LeopardsA 10-day holiday in search of Blue Whales off Sri Lanka's south coast, as well as the Leopardsand other wildlife of Yala National Park, plus an optional extension to Sinharaja Forest Reserve.Saturday 24th November - Monday 3rd December 2012 Cost: £2,395Saturday 22nd December - Monday 31st December 2012 Cost: £2,695Saturday 9th February - Monday 18th February 2013 Cost: £2,395Saturday 2nd March - Monday 11th March 2013 Cost: £2,395Saturday 9th March - Monday 18th March 2013 Cost: £2,395Saturday 16th March - Monday 25th March 2013 Cost: £2,395Saturday 30th March - Monday 8th April 2013 Cost: £2,495Saturday 23rd November - Monday 2nd December 2013 Cost: £2,395Saturday 21st December - Monday 30th December 2013 Cost: £2,695Sinharaja Forest Reserve extension available on all tours Cost: from £595Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationKANDYSINHARAJA FOREST (EXTENSION)MIRISSAYALA NATIONAL PARK COLOMBO INDIANOCEANSRILANKAOutline itineraryDay 1Depart London.Day 2Arrive Colombo; transferMirissa.Day 3/5Whale-watchingexcursions from Mirissa.Day 6/8Yala National Park.Day 9Colombo.Day 10Fly London.Sinharaja extensionDay 9/11Sinharaja Forest Reserve.Day 12 Colombo.Day 13Fly London.AccommodationComfortable tourist hotels; allrooms have private facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Easy day walks only.FocusBlue Whales, Leopards, othermammals and birds.LeaderDhammithra Samarisinghe,Susantha Weerappulige, SamanVediyabandara or KoushalyaMahagedara.Single room supplement£450 (extension: £150).Web quick search:LKA06257LeopardBlue Whale