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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Sri Lanka

Tour Information

Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour.  It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space.    The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office.

ENTERING SRI LANKA: U.S. citizens visiting Sri Lanka must have an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) or a visa to enter the country. U.S. citizens will require an approval notice from Sri Lanka’s new ETA System, a valid passport good for six months past your date of departure, an onward/return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds. One can apply here: Yellow fever and cholera immunizations are needed if arriving from an infected area. 

Any other inquiries should be addressed to the Embassy of Sri Lanka, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-4025 through 28, fax number (202) 232-7181, home page at

Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check their nearest Sri Lanka embassy.

SRI LANKA COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at , and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Sri Lanka at

PACE OF TOUR: This tour is not a particularly strenuous one, and although there are a few long walks, these are generally not very arduous and can be tackled by anyone with a reasonable degree of fitness. 

There are some very long days on this trip with very early starts and a couple of  night birding options.  Note also that there will be several days where we take a break during the heat of the day and return to our lodgings.  We will also start early, possibly at 04:00, on the day we drive from our hotel in Nuwara Eliya up on to the Horton Plains.

We’ll search for Serendib Scops Owl which can sometimes be found at its day roost.   We may have to cross the River Kelani. This is done by standing on a small flat raft with hand rails. The raft takes about 6-7 people at a time and is attached to two canoes. These are used to push the raft across the 100 ft wide river to reach the forest on the other side.  There are a number of well-defined steps down to the river bank before stepping onto the raft platform from the shingle beach.  There are some large rocks to step onto should the river water be high. There are also well-defined steps and paths leading up into the forest the otherside. This crossing is optional, and the leader will discuss the logistics with the group prior to heading down to the river. 

If river levels are low an extensive deposit of shingle and pebbles will be exposed along the river bank.  If this happens we would need to wade out through the shallow water then step up onto the raft. Some clients have taken flip-flops, or sandals which they don’t mind getting wet, and carried their walking boots, leech socks, and a hand towel to use once on the other side. Open flip-flops or sandals are not recommended in the forest itself as the walk is up and along a narrow rocky hill.  Please also note that there is nowhere on the far side of the river where we can safely leave our flip-flops or sandals and so they must be carried with us.  While walking on this trail there are one or two very short but steep sections to negotiate. These have natural boulder steps and, like the raft crossing, have never proved to be a problem.  

Note that if the Owl cannot be found during the daytime we will try searching for it at night. For night-birding we normally cross the river at dusk, walk the trails, then return to the river in the dark. You do need to be sure-footed, or take a hiking stick for support, when walking these trails at night, and you will need a good light, preferably a head-light, for the return walk back to the river bank.

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure.

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at

Malaria:  At present the CDC does not recommend a malaria prophylaxis.  

Smoking: Smoking or vaping is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

Leeches: On some of the forest trails during the early part of the tour we may encounter a few small terrestrial leeches. These are well known to travellers in South East Asia and are not harmful. They are found on the forest floor, and the best ways to prevent them from getting onto your ankles is to spray your boots with insect repellent or to wear “leech” socks. 

Miscellaneous:  Biting insects are not numerous but may occur locally: insect repellent will provide adequate protection. 

Tap water is not safe to drink, but bottled water, soft drinks and beer are widely available. Because of the high humidity on some parts of the island it is important to drink plenty of water. Bottled water is carried in the tour vehicles. 

Upset stomachs are not much of a problem in Sri Lanka. However, we suggest bringing anti-diarrhea medicine such as Imodium just in case. Gatorade or other electrolyte-replacement drinks in powder form are also worth bringing as they replace the vital salts and minerals lost during a bout of diarrhea.

It may be difficult to obtain any special medication during the tour, so bring all you are likely to need. Note that it is now impossible to buy most drugs from pharmacies in Sri Lanka without a doctor’s prescription.

CLIMATE: Sri Lanka enjoys a tropical climate. The northeast monsoon will just be finishing when we arrive so some rain can be expected. At this time of year rain showers rarely last more than an hour or two but can be very intense. Most of the time the weather will be hot with temperatures averaging around a day-time maximum of 31°C (87°F) and night-time lows of 23°C (73°F). This will vary according to our elevation and we can expect a couple of colder mornings and evenings in the highland areas. The humidity will also vary being as high as 80% in some parts of the wet zone but lower in the dry zone. 

ACCOMMODATION: We will be staying in a variety of hotels and Rest Houses – all with modern facilities including swimming pools. Some have an eco-friendly, rustic, retreat-like feel amongst natural settings, all served with typical Sri Lankan hospitality.  All rooms have en suite facilities, hot water, and air-conditioning fans.  Our hotel near Sinharaja rainforest has a private, open-air, shower room, and shutters (no glas) on the windows. Hairdryers can be provided on request.  

Internet: Several of our hotels have wireless internet available in the rooms or in common spaces within the hotel. Mobile phone coverage is good.

FOOD: Sri Lankan food consists of a variety of dishes served in individual bowls from which you help yourself. Although spices are widely used, only a few of these are very hot. The leaders will advise if you are in doubt. Vegetarians are well catered for. Western or ‘Continental’ food is served some days and is usually available as an option. Although not world-renowned like Indian cuisine, Sri Lankan food is tasty, fairly varied and hygienically prepared. Traditionally Sri Lankans eat with their fingers, but cutlery is provided for visitors!

Drinks:  Bottled water and/or a soft drink or a beer is provided at lunch and dinner, as is coffee or tea. All other drinks or ‘personal’ drinking water for use in your room and during the day is the responsibility of the individual. 

Food Allergies/Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions. 

TRANSPORTATION: Transportation between sites is by air-conditioned coach. However, at three National Parks we travel around the park in large open-sided jeeps with canvas roofs. Bottled water is provided on the coach. The leader will organise a seating rotation system on the coach. Participants should be able to ride in any seat in our tour vehicles.

Updated: 06 May 2019