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The verdant tropical island of Sri Lankais a paradise for lovers of naturalhistory, and the setting for thisexciting tour. Our itinerary will provide athorough introduction to the island's birdsand wildlife, as well as incorporating somesightseeing in the 'Golden Triangle' ofarchaeological sites. Although situated justa short distance from the southern tip ofIndia, Sri Lanka has many zoologicalaffinities with south-east Asia and much ofthe flora and fauna is unique to the island,including 33 species of endemic bird. Thisholiday offers the obvious attraction ofexchanging a British winter for the tropicalwarmth of Sri Lanka, but this tour has theadded advantage of coinciding with thevisit to Sri Lanka of large numbers ofwintering birds, including waders fromSiberia and passerines from the Himalayanregion. To enjoy all this we have chosen a selection of good quality hotels, many of them situated close to the prime wildlife areas.Our tour begins with a glimpse of theisland's past at Anuradhapura, one ofseveral former capitals used during thereign of the Sinhalese kings. Remains ofthe city dating from 4 BC are remarkablywell preserved and are set amid acres ofparkland frequented by Indian Rollers,Ashy Swallow-shrikes, sunbirds and manyother Dry Zone species. Birds are never faraway in Sri Lanka, even in the midst ofarchaeological sites, nor are the ubiquitousGrey Langur Monkeys which loiter amongthe ruins waiting for hand-outs fromtourists. At nearby Mihintale there is ahuge dagoba at the place where Buddhismwas first introduced to the island, and wewill also visit the towering rock fortress atSigiriya, famed for its ancient wall frescoesand an impressive panorama for thoseenergetic enough to reach the summit. Travelling south through the island's mainspice-growing region we continue to Kandyfor a 2-night stay. Once the capital of anautonomous kingdom until captured by theBritish in 1815, Kandy marks our ascentinto the picturesque hill country, and issurrounded by forests in which we shouldfind such endemic birds as the charmingSri Lanka Hanging Parrot and Layard'sParakeet. Close to the city are PeradiniyaBotanical Gardens which contain over4,000 species of plants in a beautifulriverside setting and provide a day-timeroost for a large colony of Indian FlyingFoxes that hang like giant fruits in theirfavoured trees. We penetrate deeper into the hills to stayfor two nights at Nuwara Eliya, a favouritehill station of the British as evidenced bythe Victorian architecture, race track andgolf course. This area is the heart of theisland's tea industry and we will visit one ofthe many estates en route from Kandy towitness the production processes andsample the finished product. Yet moreendemic birds occur at this increasedelevation, and even a small park in themiddle of Nuwara Eliya can provide us withviews of Yellow-eared Bulbul, Hill White-eyeand such winter visitors as Blyth's ReedWarbler and Pied Ground Thrush. We willspend one day exploring the wild expansesof Horton Plains which epitomise theuniqueness of the hill country with itsstrange forests of stunted trees festoonedin bromeliads, and stretches of moorlandleading to the aptly named World's Endwhere a sheer escarpment drops to theplains far below. This is the haunt of the handsome highland race of the Purple-faced Leaf Monkey and a greatdiversity of plants and birds including the endemic Arrenga, Blue Magpie and Sri Lanka Woodpigeon.Descending to the arid south of the islandwe next visit a number of freshwater 'tanks'or lakes, crowded with birds, beforereaching the endless palm-fringedbeaches which characterise the IndianOcean coastline. We will spend a half-dayinside the vast Yala National Park hoping tosee one of the resident Leopards, but evenif we fail to locate one of these elusive catsthere will be adequate compensation in theform of Indian Elephants, Wild Boar,Spotted Deer, Sambar, Marsh MuggerCrocodiles, Peacocks and an abundanceof other birds. Sri Lanka Junglefowl areparticularly numerous here, and during theearly mornings they emerge from cover todisplay their gaudy plumage.More herds of Elephants are in prospectduring a tour of Uda Walawe Reserve nearEmbilipitiya before the final highlight of ournatural history tour, a visit to SinharajaForest. Now preserved as a BiosphereReserve, Sinharaja is the largest and mostimportant lowland forest remaining on theisland. Almost everything about it isspecial; over 80% of the island's endemicbird species occur in the forest, 60% of thetrees are found nowhere else in the world,and most of the other flora and fauna has asimilarly high level of endemism. Residentbirds include the spectacular Blue Magpie,Red-faced Malkoha and Orange-billedBabbler, providing an exciting conclusion toa memorable holiday.Sri Lanka - Wildlife & History A 17-day birdwatching and wildlife holiday which also includes visits to the ancient city of Anuradhapura and the rock fortress at Sigiriya, plus an optional extension in search of Blue Whales.Saturday 10th November - Monday 26th November 2012 Cost: £2,695Saturday 22nd December 2012 - Monday 7th January 2013 Cost: £2,895Saturday 9th February - Monday 25th February 2013 Cost: £2,695Saturday 9th November - Monday 25th November 2013 Cost: £2,695Saturday 21st December 2013 - Monday 6th January 2014 Cost: £2,895Outline itineraryBlue Whales extension available on all tours Cost: £695Day 1Depart London.Day 2/3Anuradhapura.Day 4/5Sigiriya.Day 6/7Kandy.Day 8/9Nuwara Eliya.Day 10Tissamaharama.Day 11/12 Yala.Day 13/15Uda Walawe andSinharaja Forest.Day 16Return to Colombo.Day 17Fly London.Blue Whales extensionDay 16/18Mirissa.Day 19 Colombo.Day 13Fly London.AccommodationComfortable tourist class hotels andlodge, all with private facilities.Food All included in the price.Grading A/B. Mostly gentle birdwatchingwalks but a couple of longer walksincluded.Focus Birds and mammals with elementsof the island's history andarchaeology.Leader Paul Dukes, DhammithraSamarasinghe, SusanthaWeerappulige, KoushalyaMahagedara or SamanVediyabandara.Single room supplement£525 (extension: £125).Web quick search:LKA02258Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryANURADHAPURA MIHINTALE SIGIRIYA KANDY NUWARA ELIYA RATNAPURA DRY ZONE HORTON PLAINS SINHARAJAFORESTUDA WALAWENATIONAL PARKYALA NATIONAL PARK COLOMBO INDIANOCEANBAYOFBENGALSRI LANKA MIRISSABLUE WHALE(EXTENSION)Yellow-fronted BarbetYala National Park

From a casual inspection of a map itmay appear that the tropical island ofSri Lanka is a mere adjunct ofsouthern India; in reality there are manydifferences between the two countries, notleast the stunning flora and fauna whichdemonstrate more affinities with South-eastAsia than with the Indian subcontinent. SriLanka is a lush, verdant country in whichplant growth flourishes; indeed it is oftensaid that almost anything placed in theground will grow within days! This attributewas fully exploited by the various colonistsoccupying the island over the centuries,and each in turn added to the diversity ofspecies through their ornamental andcommercial introductions. In this way anextraordinary flora has developed, rich inunique endemic species but alsoaugmented by a myriad of additions fromall corners of the world. For many years our holidays have enabledhundreds of clients to enjoy the wonderfulbirdlife and natural history of Sri Lanka butthis tour is the first to celebrate the island'sflora, including not only native orchids andrare endemics but also trees and plantsgrown for their fruits or vegetables, and theoddities from around the globe which formthe collections in Victorian botanicalgardens. This will be a holiday for everyonewith a love of the botanical world but, alongthe way, we will also encounter many of theendemic birds, colourful butterflies andmore than a glimpse of Sri Lankan culture.We fly first to the capital, Colombo, andfollowing a morning of relaxation after theovernight flight, begin the tour with a visit tothe coastal lagoons of MuthurajawelaSanctuary to observe a complex mangrovecommunity which includes Acrostichumspeciosum, the Mangrove Fern, and Nypafruticans, the Mangrove Palm.Leaving the coast, we drive inland to thefamous rock fortress of Sigiriya where wespend an interesting day investigating thesemi-deciduous forests which surround thisimposing monolith. The vegetation herecomprises many flowering plants includingCalatropis gigantea (Sodom's Apple),Capparis zeylanica,Cassia fistula,Crataevaadansonii,Ochnalanceolata,Martyniadiandra (Tiger's Claws) and tree speciessuch as Drypetes spp., Manilkara hexandraandDiospyros ebanum.Energetic tourmembers may also wish to scale Sigiriyarock to see the remains of the one-timecapital city or simply to enjoy thebreathtaking views. From Sigiriya we then drive into the 'HillCountry' to historic Kandy, once the capitalof an autonomous kingdom until capturedby the British in the 18th century. Duringthree days of exploration we will see manyof the characteristic fruit trees of Sri Lankasuch as Mango, Guava, Breadfruit andJack, plantations of Teak, Rubber, Cocoa,and of course Tea which now representsthe major industry of the hill region.Peradiniya Botanical Gardens, occupying apicturesque setting near the city, spans 147acres and contains a staggering variety ofplants including an avenue of Coco-de-merPalms, the National Herbarium, a nativeorchid house and many other attractions. A noisy roost of several thousand FlyingFoxes also adds to the exotic backgroundfor our visit! Whilst in Kandy we will alsohave the opportunity to see the famousTemple of the Tooth, beside Kandy Lake,and to attend a performance of traditionaldancing which includes spectacular fire-walking!Ascending higher into the hills, passingone tea estate after another and throughstunning scenery, we eventually reach thehill capital Nuwara Eliya where we will bebased for two nights. Situated at anelevation of 2,000 metres, the air is coolerhere and pine trees grow beside the veryBritish golf course and race track! A dayexcursion will take us across Horton Plains,a place of exceptional beauty andwilderness fringed by a cloudforest ofpeculiarly stunted, lichen-covered trees. Anumber of endemic birds and lizards occuron this great plateau and the vegetation isas unique as the location, containingcountless species peculiar to the SriLankan Hill Country.Passing through yet more wonderfulscenery, we descend next to the hot plains,stopping along the way to examine thetypical flora and vegetation of differentaltitudes, including the interesting montaneforest at Thanamalai which boasts manyorchids, ferns and balsams among itsground vegetation. We stay for severalnights close to the internationally renownedSinharaja Forest. This world biospherereserve is a quite remarkable reservoir of allthat is unique about Sri Lanka. Most of theisland's endemic bird species may befound in the reserve, whilst a significantproportion of the insects, reptiles and treesin Sinharaja are also peculiar to the island,and the flora is equally exceptional.Delicate Bamboo Orchids and pitcher-plants grow beside the main track into theforest and closer inspection of thevegetation will reveal an extraordinarywealth of species including masses ofepiphytes, ferns and orchids. After our foray into this unforgettable forest, we return to Colombo for our flightback to London, or join our excitingextension in search of Blue Whales. Sri Lanka's Tropical FloraA 13-day celebration of Sri Lanka's tropical flora and botanical gardens, plus an optional extension in search of Blue Whales.Saturday 23rd March - Thursday 4th April Cost: £2,195Blue Whales extension: to Sunday 7th April Cost: £695Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationKANDY SIGIRIYA NUWARA ELIYA RATNAPURA HORTON PLAINS SINHARAJAFORESTCOLOMBO INDIANOCEANBAY OF BENGAL SRI LANKA MIRISSABLUE WHALE(EXTENSION)Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Colombo.Day 2MuthurajawelaSanctuary.Day 3Sigiriya.Day 4/6Kandy.Day 7/8Nuwara Eliya andHorton Plains.Day 9/11Sinharaja Forest.Day 12Return Colombo.Day 13Fly London.Blue Whales extensionDay 12/14Mirissa.Day 15 Colombo.Day 16Fly London.AccommodationComfortable tourist hotels withprivate facilities. FoodAll included in the price.GradingGrade A. A leisurely botanical tour,including gentle forest walks.FocusSri Lankan flora and other naturalhistory. LeaderTharanga Herath or DhammithraSamarasinghe.Single room supplement£325 (extension: £125).Web quick search:LKA05259ArundinagraminifoliaTerminalia behericaOncidium sp.Plumeria obtusa