"The Gathering of Elephants" -- A Wildlife Safari and Cultural Heritage Tour of Sri Lanka
Trip Dates: July 26 to August 10, 2023.

"I just returned from… Sri Lanka, having had a fascinating visit to this multi-faceted island… We had wildlife sightings all around the island. We saw elephants, leopards, sambar and spotted deer, sloth bears and monitor lizards, crocodiles and buffalo. KarmaQuest does an excellent job. I recommend it highly." Steve Slomka

Sri Lanka is one of the best places
in the world to see a leopard in the wild.
Photo by C. Jayatilake

Elephant families and entire herds
come together at The Gathering.
We'll be there!
Photo by C. Jayatilake

A painted stork, among the many
colorful birds we're likely to see.

One of three Buddha statues
carved in granite at
Polonnaruwa ancient city.

Relax along Sri Lanka's picturesque
coastline, dining on fresh fish
and coconut curries.

Cost includes:
- 15 nights in boutique, heritage and 4-5 star hotels, and a luxury safari camp
- Daily breakfast and either lunch or dinner, except for Day 1 and 16; some full board days
- For groups of 2-4 persons: a Sri Lankan English-speaking naturalist guide, with cultural guides for each site
- For groups of 5 and above: Wendy Lama, KarmaQuest Director, and Sri Lankan naturalist
- Airport transfers (on group basis)
- All activities mentioned

Cost does not include:
- International flight airfare and expenses en route
- Partial night hotel stay on Day 16
- Meals not mentioned (details to follow); beverages
- Individual airport transfers
- Visa fees
- Optional activities
- Tips
- Expenses of personal nature
- Trip cancellation insurance
- Emergency evacuation insurance (required)
- Optional donations, and other services not mentioned above.

Additional details provided in full itinerary.


During our 16-day naturalist-led wildlife safari, we’ll explore the three top national parks for spotting wildlife, and a world-recognized rain forest reserve. Whereas the trip focuses on wildlife viewing, we'll also visit the island's four most significant UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites.

On safaris (in jeeps) guided by expert spotters, we are likely to see wild elephants, monitor lizards, spotted and sambar deer, marsh mugger crocodiles, and much more. We’ll spend four days roaming Wilpattu and Yala National Parks, the best places to see leopard, and will zero in on a lesser known park for the much anticipated seasonal congregation of elephants.

Birding is also excellent in the parks. On a recent trip, we sighted some 70 species of colorful and quixotic birds including some rarely seen species.

A highlight of the trip is known as “The Gathering” -- the annual coming together of hundreds of wild elephants to socialize, mate and find green grass during this dry time of year. Away from crowds of other wildlife enthusiasts, we’ll watch these gentle giants from just a few hundred yards (or closer). The baby elephants are particularly captivating and the interactions among adults remarkable.

We'll also visit the ancient Buddhist monuments and capital city ruins of Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla and Anuradhapura, equally as jaw-dropping as the unforgettable wildlife encounters.

In keeping with KarmaQuest’s commitment to nature conservation, your participation on this trip will help reduce human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka -- a tragedy that results in the death of some 160 elephants and 50 humans in Sri Lanka annually.


Day 1:   Arrive in Colombo and transfer to your hotel. Rest, and time permitting, explore Colombo sights.

Days 2 & 3:    Drive to Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka’s largest national park. Spend two days exploring Wilpattu in jeeps. Here, we'll have a chance to see the sloth bear, wild elephant, several types of deer, crododile, monitor lizard, and always the elusive leopard, as well as dozens of bird species. Overnight in a luxury safari camp in close proximity to the Park.

Day 4:    Anuradhapura and Wilpattu: We'll take a step back from the wildlife to enjoy some culture and history of Sri Lanka, via the ancient city of Anuradhapura. Spend a half day visiting the well preserved ruins of its impressive gathering of citadels, temples, hospitals and ponds, built by the ancient kings of Lanka. Pay homage beside local worshippers at a highly revered tree that grew from a branch of the original Bo Tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment 2000 years ago.

Day 5:    "The Gathering" of Elephants: Leave Wilpattu and travel to one of the national parks where hundreds of wild elephants congregate to feed, bath and mingle. A sight to behold! When we've had enough, move on to overnight at a deluxe hotel near Habarana, an ideal location for exploring more cultural wonders.

Day 6:    Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa: An early visit (and optional climb up the granite face) of Sigiriya -- known as the "Fortress in the Sky" -- reveals the ruins of a sprawling palace built in the 5th century AD atop a 600 foot high natural granite monolith. Later, tour one of Sri Lanka’s most notable archaeological sites, Polonnaruwa -- capital city of the Sinhala kingdom after the fall of Anuradhapura in 993 AD. It is noted for its grand statues of the Sitting, Reclining and Standing Buddha carved in a single cliff of marbled granite (left).

Day 7:   Dambulla and Kandy: In the morning, visit the stunning Dambulla Temple Caves, with breath-taking frescoes and more than 150 statues of the Buddha carved in situ inside five spacious caves. The caves date back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. The complex still houses a functioning monastery. Then continue to Kandy, where we'll check into our lovely hotel for a relaxing three night stay.

Days 8 & 9:    Kandy: During these two days, we'll visit the internationally acclaimed Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden, housing more than 4,000 species of trees and plants, including the Giant Bamboo of Burma capable of growing up to a foot in a day. Established in 1843, the Garden houses spectacular specimens of trees and plant as old as 175 years. We’ll also join pilgrims at the Temple of the Tooth, housing Sri Lanka's most sacred relic, and will visit other smaller temples with superb stone and wooden carvings and far away from the lines of jeeps.

Day 10:     Nuwara Eliya: We'll travel via winding roads (or train) through picturesque tea plantations to Nuwara Eliya, a cool climate hilltop once favored by the British elite. Time permitting, visit an upland ecosystem (Horton Plains) with a chance of seeing the statuesque Sambar deer and birdlife found nowhere else on the island.

Days 11 & 12:   Yala National Park: We'll travel south and enter Yala from the less-visited north side. Well vantaged from comfortable open-roof jeeps, we'll be guided by excellent wildlife naturalists who know where to find wild elephants, spotted deer, wild buffalo, crocodiles, wild boar, black nape hares, jackal, and more. Yala has the highest density of leopards in the world and we'll have plenty of opportunity to look for them as well as impressive colorful, large and small birds that will thrill both avid and less avid birders.

Days 13 & 14:   Sinharaja Rain Forest Reserve: Drive several hours into the lush hilltop forests to a true eco-resort. Rooms are built of recycled train cars, with all the amenities of a comfortable lodge. Two nights and a day provide ample time for guided walks through the forest revealing an extraordinary display of endemic birds, butterflies, dragonflies, reptile and freshwater fish species. If we’re lucky, we'll catch a glimpse of the purple faced leaf monkey and rare forest orchids.

Day 15:    Hikkaduwa: Drive to Hikkaduwa for our final day relaxing the beach. Float in the ocean, walk on the beach or enjoy a massage at our ocean-side hotel.

Day 16:   Colombo and Depart: We’ll return to Colombo and do a bit of shopping or sightseeing before heading to the airport for your departing nighttime flight.

Note: The itinerary is subject to change reflecting local conditions and opportunities to optimize wildlife sightings that arise.

Trip Cost:

From US$5,890 per person

Additional single supplement charge applies.

Please click here to view a slide show about this trip to Sri Lanka.