It’s official, Sri Lankan Airlines is the latest member of OneWorld, hot on the heels of US Airways and TAM! Depending on the routing rules of your OneWorld airline’s frequent flyer program, this can open up some great opportunities for mini-eco-tourism stops when flying between Europe & Asia. Have a look at the route map. I highlighted the destinations Sri Lankan serves with their own metal as code-shares usually can’t be booked as awards.
SPENDING A DAY LAYOVER IN COLOMBO, SRI LANKA
Most nationalities can transit Sri Lanka without a visa. This makes it very easy to do a day trip to Kithulgala for some amazing birding!
Transit visa up to 48 hours currently issued free of charge only at www.eta.gov.lk (travelers must have ETA reference number)
If there is any inquiry regarding ETA pleases contact:
Now in actual practice, you will only get less than 24 hours if you are using a transit through Colombo as part of an award. This is still time to make a day trip to Kithulgala. I’ve blogged about my stay there last year. Even though we stayed the night, it’s close enough to the airport that you could hire a taxi for the day in the arrival hall to go there.
The Alexandrine Parakeet or Alexandrian Parrot (Psittacula eupatria) is a member of the psittaciformes order and of the Psittaculidae family. The species is named after Alexander the Great, who is credited (blamed) with the exporting of numerous specimens of this bird from Punjab into various European and Mediterranean countries and regions, where they were considered prized possessions for the nobles and royalty.
The Alexandrine Parakeet is the largest species of all Parakeet (small Parrot with long tail) species, thus often being the largest Parrot in their native range. This species measures 58 cm (23 in) in total length with a wing length averaging 18.9–21.5 cm (7.5–8.5 in) and a tail length of 21.5–35.5 cm (8.5–14.0 in).
The following sub-species, many of them allopatric are recognised based on geographical distribution:
Psittacula eupatria eupatria, Nominate Alexandrine Parakeet – East India to Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh in the South, Sri Lanka.
Psittacula eupatria avensis, Indo-Burmese Alexandrine Parakeet – Northeast India to Amherst in Myanmar
Psittacula eupatria nipalensis, Nepalese Alexandrine Parakeet – Eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan, North and central India, Nepal, Bhutan to Assam in Northeast India.
Psittacula eupatria siamensis, Laos’ or Siamese Alexandrine Parakeet – Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, north and east Thailand
Of these, I have seen the nominate and the Nepalese subspecies.
Because they have such a large range, you can plan birding trips to Central and South-east Asia and have a good chance to spot them. I have seen them in Chitwan National Park, Nepal & Kithulgala & Sinharaja in Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros gingalensis) is a hornbill and a widespread and common endemic resident breeder in Sri Lanka. Hornbills are a family of tropical near-passerine birds found in the Old World.
The Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill is a gregarious bird found in forest habitats. It feeds mostly on figs, although occasionally it eats small rodents, reptiles and insects.
They are widespread througout Sri Lanka. I had no trouble spotting them in Kithulgala & Sinharaja. An award to Central Asia can get you to Colombo, then take a taxi or the bus to Kithulgala or Sinharaja.
The trip started out easily enough. I knew that we had to get a bus from Kithulgala to Ratnapura and that these buses left from the main street and were very cheap.
I always feel so bad for the poor birds stuck in these pet shops in tiny cages.
The trip went smoothly up to this point and we arrived in Ratnapura about 90 minutes later after making a lot of stops. The instructions from our next lodge, Rock View Motel near Sinharaja were to take a Kalawana bus, then change to a Rakwana bus and hop out when we saw the motel on the road side.
At the Ratnapura bus station, we waited to see a bus with Kalawana written on top. Soon, a bus with Rakwana written on top pulled in. I thought we were being smart to avoid a change of buses in Kalawana so we hopped on and headed out of Ratnapura.
We saw another bus with Kalawana written on top so alarm bells went off but I ignored them thinking we were still OK.
We continued on and enjoyed more scenery.
We finally arrived in Rakwana and I was wondering why we didn’t see the motel on the road side.
I should have listened to the alarm bell! As it turned out, the road to Kalawana and subsequently the Rock View Motel were different from the road to Rakwana. On the map below, you see the road we were supposed to take in blue with the blue X marking the hotel location. The red line represents the road we actually took.
By the time we got to Rakwana and realized our mistake, it was too late to get another bus so we had to hire an auto-rickshaw to take us to the motel which cost more than if we had just taken the rickshaw from Ratnapura! It was annoying to arrive after dark but lesson learnt! Always check even the smallest towns on a map, listen to your gut feelings and follow directions!
The White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) also known as the White-breasted Kingfisher or Smyrna Kingfisher, is a tree kingfisher, widely distributed in Eurasia from Bulgaria, Turkey, West Asia east through the Indian Subcontinent to the Philippines. This kingfisher is a resident over much of its range, although some populations may make short distance movements. It can often be found well away from water where it feeds on a wide range of prey that includes small reptiles, amphibians, crabs, small rodents and even birds. During the breeding season they call loudly in the mornings from prominent perches including the tops of buildings in urban areas or on wires.
They are fun to watch and I saw several in Kithulgala. They were easily seen by their bright blue backs and seemed keen to pose for photos! This one wanted to make sure I got his best side – both of them!
He’s got a beakful!
White-throated Kingfishers have a huge range throughout Central and South-east Asia so it shouldn’t be hard to find an award ticket to get to one of their many habitats.