Friday, January 31, 2014

Toque macaques that live among the ancient temples of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

Wildlife photographer Barney Wilczak got to know the toque macaques that live among the ancient temples of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, and his images capture every aspect of their cheeky spirit and behavior - from foraging for food to social grooming and playing. 

Courtesy of BBC wildlife magazine - February 2014 issue

Wildlife Sightings 30/01/14 & 31/01/14

Jetwing Eco Holidays naturalist chauffeur guide Vicky sent us the following observations while on tour.

Ceylon Whistling Thrush near Tea Trails, Norwood Bungalow

Purple Faced Leaf monkey near Norton bridge

Wildlife Sightings 25/01/14 & 28/01/14

Jetwing Eco Holidays naturalist chauffeur guide Mahinda Jayasinghe observed the following main sightings on his last tour

Yala National Park - 25/01/14
Two leopards and Crested Hawk Eagle hunting an Egret

Sinharaja Rainforest - 28/01/14
Two Frog Mouth owls and lots of Sri Lanka Green Pigeons

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wildlife Sightings 30/01/14

Jetwing Eco Holidays naturalist guide Supurna Herttiarachi sent us the following observations while on tour with group from UK

Udawalawe National Park

01 Jungle Cat

Wildlife Sightings 27/12/13 - 14/01/14

Jetwing Eco Holidays naturalist chauffeur guide Shantha observed the following sightings while on tour with clients Tina Abeg from Denmark

National Parks covered:
Sinharaja Rainforest
Kelani Valley Forest Reserve
Yala National Park
Bundala National Park

29 Endemic birds & 200+ other bird species
1 Leopard

1 Blue Whale
100+ Dolphins

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wildlife Sightings 29/01/14

Jetwing Eco Holidays naturalist guide Tiran sent us the following observations while on tour with 17 pax group from Taiwan

Yala National Park

1 Sloth Bear at Vilapalavewa
1 Leopard at Uraniya Road

Jetwing Yala opens

Welcome to a world with no rules, no restrictions… welcome to Yala – untamed, mysterious, and magical. For centuries, this incredible destination has been revered as an unparalleled testament to the beauty of the wilderness, nature in its purest and rawest form. Opened by Minister Basil Rajapaksa recently, Jetwing Yala is the latest resort by Sri Lanka’s premier hospitality brand Jetwing.
The 80 room property overlooks spectacular sand dunes and the Indian Ocean, and is located only 3km away from Yala National Park. Jetwing Yala is also 35km away from the recently opened Mattala Airport, and spread over an expanse of 38 acres. Featuring a beautifully designed swimming pool and a spa offering a variety of treatments, Jetwing Yala is set to change the face of the Deep South of Sri Lanka – the perfect blend of luxury and nature.
The resort features Sri Lankan and Asian inspired cuisine experiences, in a variety of different settings. A few examples include dune dining, treehouse dining, and bird hide dining amongst others. There are a number of nearby attractions to be visited, such as the Bundala National Park, an internationally important wintering ground for migratory water birds, the Tissamaharama Temple, Katharagama Shrine, etc all accompanied by the resident naturalist. Probably the best place in the world to spot leopards, sloth bears, elephants, and a whole host of birdlife, Yala promises unforgettable discoveries and exciting adventures.
Jetwing Yala has been created from ground up to be as sustainable as possible; with the intention of conserving energy and resources, to be a part of the environment and cause little harm to nature, and to reuse and recycle. To aid in these efforts, Jetwing Yala features many initiatives that are now standard at Jetwing properties around the country.
Energy conservation initiatives include illumination through 100% LED lighting and feature LED backlit TVs in guest rooms; a biomass boiler that burns cinnamon wood (sourced through local suppliers) for night time hot water generation along with providing steam for an absorption chiller which supplies the hotel’s entire air conditioning needs (similar to Jetwing Lagoon); a central solar hot water system for daytime demand; a solar photo-voltaic (300kW) plant which will cater to 1/3rd of the hotel’s day consumption amongst others.
“After close to 10 years, we are back in Yala. Our first property, the Yala Safari Game Lodge, was destroyed in the tsunami; a tragedy that left us with much to regret. Yala has been always known for its wildlife, and as a result quite a lot of other superb experiences are missed out on. The beaches of Yala are magnificent, and its sand dunes are spectacular… this is what we are trying to accomplish. We hope to see the resort being known as an icon of the Deep South of Sri Lanka, and where an adventure will be truly yours and yours alone.” said Hiran Cooray, Chairman of Jetwing.
Family owned and in the tourism industry for the past 40 years, Jetwing Hotels has surpassed expectation at every aspect. Building on their foundation of being passionate, as well as the experience of true, traditional Sri Lankan hospitality, constantly pioneering discoveries captures the essence of the brand.
Such a strong statement and direction have enabled Jetwing Hotels to imagine, create and manage marvels and masterpieces, where distinctive design and elegant comfort complement each other and the environment. Considered a priority, sustainable and responsible practice is implemented through the award winning Jetwing Eternal Earth Programme; with energy efficiency, community upliftment, and education of earth saving measures to schoolchildren being a few tenets of the Programme.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wildlife Sightings - January 2014

Jetwing naturalist chauffeur guide Anura Bandara shared the following photos after his latest tour

Elephant crossing at Senanayake Samudhraya 

Senanayaka samudraya is the only place in the entire country where you could witness the “Great Swimming". Elephants swim from the mainland to several of the islands in the water tank in search of food. The best time to witness this marvelous spectacular is during the month of August when the water levels are low. There're only two boats that're available at the moment & they're both being operated by the Wildlife Department. If you visit to witness the “Great Swimming" please note that elephants are vulnerable during their swim & therefore are not to be approached directly, so that the animals may be scared & may even drown trying to escape from the boats. This is a very delicate matter which needs to be witnessed from a far. Nature such as this should only be witnessed, not experienced.

Kumana National Park

Lesser Hill Mynah

Black Headed Ibis 

Little Comran

Water Buffalo


Images courtesy of Jetwing naturalist chauffeur guide Anura Bandara

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Blue and Sperm whales off Sri Lanka – Underwater photography

Andrew Sutton writes about photographing the Blue and Sperm whales off Sri Lanka.

Inspired by talks given by Sri Lankan naturalist Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne and a previous filming assignment in Sri Lanka, I was invited to photograph the Blue Whales that pass by Mirissa in Southern Sri Lanka from December to March (that seems to be changing as we speak). Armed with permits and permissions I spent 8 days in the main shipping channel, observing and photographing the largest animal ever to grace our planet; well almost. I encountered a Pygmy Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) which grow up to only a mere 80 feet long, they are also distinguished by their smaller fluke and larger head in relation to body size. That aside they are still Blue whales and they are still vast, magnificent and awe inspiring.
Whilst we didn't observe much in the way of extraordinary behaviour, the animals seemed very happy to pull up alongside "the Spirit of Dondra" whale watching boat, and sometimes even paralleled our own vessel, taking us by surprise. For one whole day we shadowed a mother and calf, and indeed they seemed to check us out themselves, and were relaxed enough to toy with us - just out of reach of the lenses but enticingly close enough for us to truly appreciate their incredibly effortless movement in the Ocean.

Sperm whales
Toward the end of the trip we were rewarded further by pods of Sperm whales breaching along a 20Km stretch, and as we hung in the water right next to our boat they passed close enough to give us a wink and sprinkle our bodies with Sub sonic clicks.

Migration, feeding or nursing?
Its fair to say, because of the relative recent first observations of these animals here in Sri Lanka, that there isn't a great deal known about the actual reason for them being here - migration, but to where? Feeding is a possibility, or simply nursing their young; whatever the reason, for the time being they are found here and in good quantities. One fact is known, the Ocean is 2000-2500 metres deep just 13 nautical miles south of Mirissa and this "Oceanic trench" surrounds the island from Kalpitiya in the west to Trincomalee in the east, and this appears to be the territory that the Sperm whales and Blue whales are attracted by.

Perfect whale watching conditions
The conditions for whale watching in Sri Lanka are possibly some of the finest you will find; hot tropical sun, mainly clement weather conditions, an hours boat journey from the shore and dazzlingly clear water make for a completely unique experience which is unparalleled in my experience, the odds of an encounter being as high as 70-80%. Add to this the chance of close encounters with feeding and migrating Sperm Whales, Giant Manta, Short Finned Pilot whales and Spinner dolphins and you have a Cetacean paradise where once there was human turmoil.

This trip to photograph Blue whales underwater was only permissible with permits and with co operation from the Sri Lankan Government and Navy.
The trip was organised by Jetwing Eco Holidays with the Sri Lankan Tourism Promotion Bureau assisting with Media formalities. My biggest thanks to Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne (CEO Jetwing Eco holidays) who made all this possible and brought this story to our attention. In May 2008, he took the story to the world that Southern Sri Lanka is the best place in the world for seeing Blue whales


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Natural World: Sri Lanka: Elephant Island

This old-school documentary starring Nimal the three-legged elephant travels at a pleasingly gentle pace
 Natural World
Walk on the wild side … Natural World: Sri Lanka: Elephant Island (BBC2). Photograph: Mike Birkhead/BBC/Mike Birkhead

I once had a run-in with an elephant in Sri Lanka. No, seriously, I did. I surprised him, he wasn't happy about it, he chased me. But I was too quick. To be fair to the elephant, I was on a motorbike. Scary, though. I say "he" – it might have been a she, perhaps protecting a baby.
Anyway, I think it might have been the one headbutting the Land Rover in Natural World – Sri Lanka: Elephant Island (BBC2). I recognise the look it has in its eye. It's not all Babar, you know; elephants are said to have killed 50 people in Sri Lanka last year. There are always stories in the papers there about fatal tramplings.
This other one, Nimal, isn't scary at all. Well, he's only a baby, two and a half years old, and he lives at an elephant orphanage. Aaahh. Like Dickens, only with trunks. They're so lovely when they're little, hairy and playful. But Nimal doesn't play with the other elephant orphans, or can't, and when he comes out of the river, the reason becomes clear – he only has three legs.
He was caught in a snare, and the orphanage people couldn't save his leg. How entirely evil, whoever set that trap. Nimal, the three-legged elephant who plays on his own and who will never be released back into the wild, is just about the saddest thing in the world. He has a prosthetic leg, but it's not very good. It keeps falling off.

This film, by cameraman and elephant expert Martyn Colbeck, is an old-school wildlife documentary. There are a few birds and fish about the place (I liked that bit), but basically it's about elephants. A single species, filmed painstakingly, over time, by one bloke with a camera. In these days of high technology, concepts and themes, amazing shots, going inside things, and strapping cameras to them so they film themselves – God knows what else – it does seem a little old-fashioned. Slow, you might say. But once you've settled into the groove of it, the pace seems appropriate. Elephants are slow, mainly. Until they come at you.

Natural World 2013 2014 Sri Lanka Elephant Island 1
Sri Lanka, the tropical island lying off the southern coast of India, is home to its own special elephants. A sub species of the Asian elephant, they have their own unique characteristics. In this programme, award winning wildlife cameraman Martyn Colbeck of Echo of the Elephants fame travels to Sri Lanka to try and get to know them. Martyn has planned his arrival to coincide with the start of the monsoon, hoping it will be the best time to find and follow a new born calf. By drawing on local knowledge, Martyn begins to unravel the complex social world of Sri Lanka's elephants - he witnesses a fight over a calf, a battle between two bulls in musk and, at an elephant sanctuary, befriends an orphaned elephant who sadly lost a leg to a snare and is facing an uncertain future.

Walk on the wild side - An article on Sri Lanka wildlife written by Michael Buckley published in Beyond Magazine

Walk on the wild side

An article on Sri Lanka wildlife written by Michael Buckley (Writer & Photographer) published in Beyond Magazine (December/ January 2014)

A nomad at heart, Michael Buckley has travelled widely in the Himalayas, Central Asia, and South Asia. He is author of a number of books to these regions. As well as being a writer, Buckley is a passionate photographer, documentary filmmaker and environmentalist. 

Michael Buckley visited Sri Lanka and Jetwing Eco Holidays handled all his ground arrangements. His sole purpose of his visit to Sri Lanka were to write the following article. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sri Lanka is one of the worlds top spots for seeing Leopards in the Wild

Leopard Safaris in Sri Lanka

Jetwing Eco Holidays was the first to recognize the value of Yala National Park as a "Big Game" safari National Park in Asia, we were the first to identify the value of leopard and launch "Leopard Safaris" as an eco-tourism product in Sri Lanka.

The leopard is the only species of big cat found in Sri Lanka. Leopards are highly adaptable feeding on a wide range of prey which can range from insects, fish, small mammals, deer, buffalo calves and in some areas where they survive in close proximity to villages and towns even domestic dogs and livestock are on the menu. Their range spans from the Southern tip of Africa through the Middle East and Asia all the way east to Indonesia and as far North as Russia surviving in a diverse range of habitats including scrub jungle, desert, rainforest, savannah and mountains.

The Leopard is solitary by nature and only comes into contact with other leopards during mating and territorial disputes. Male leopards are larger than females and can be easily identified by their size. A female gives birth to an average of 2-3 cubs. It is very rare that all would survive as infant mortality is high.

Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) Panthera pardus kotiya  is one of the eight recognized subspecies of Leopard in the world which is endemic only to Sri Lanka. Leopards are found across the mountainous ranges, rainforests and the dry-zone jungles in Sri Lanka, with Yala and Wilpattu National Parks enabling good sightings of the big cats throughout the year. Due to the lack of other large carnivores such as lions, hyenas and tigers which are found across Africa and India for example, the Sri Lankan Leopard is the country’s top terrestrial carnivore making them much bolder and more active during daylight hours enabling good opportunities for sightings.

Leopard are Sri Lanka’s dominant predator, however wildboar and buffalo despite occasionally being on the menu pose a serious threat of death or injury to an over ambitious big cat. Mugger Crocodile can occasionally intimidate and steal leopard kills around the water’s edge while the omnivorous Sloth Bear too which despite feeding predominantly on fruit and berries will not pass up an opportunity of a free meal and have been known to chase off leopards away from a carcass.

Block I of Yala National Park in Southern Sri Lanka is one of the world’s top spots for watching Leopard.  Yala National park provides the ideal environment for the leopard with a mix of rocky outcrops and scrub jungle coupled with a high density of prey especially Spotted Deer which are numerous in the park enabling them to survive in much smaller territories compared to other parts of the world; Yala has an average density of one per every three square kilometers which is the highest in the world.  Protection against poachers and frequent visitation to the park over the past two to three decades has habituated most of Yala’s leopards to safari jeeps enabling good opportunities for close-up encounters.

Wilpattu National Park in North-west Sri Lanka is famous not only for being Sri Lanka’s oldest and largest National park but also for its leopards before the civil war erupted in Sri Lanka in the 1980’s making the park inaccessible. Since re-opening in February 2010, the frequency of sightings at Wilpattu are on the rise as more leopards are getting accustomed to the safari jeeps. Wilpattu national park consists of a mixture of forested areas and vast open villus or waterholes in the centre of the park and one of the most iconic sights is to get a leopard sighting on the white sand around the villus.

Leopard can be seen throughout the year at both Yala and Wilpattu National Parks, however the frequency of sightings appear to increase during the dry season from around May through to September. Kumana National Park (Yala East) is another potential and more secluded area where leopard maybe seen.

Images courtesy of Gehan de Silva Wijeyratne

More Images 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dolphin & Whale Watching Sightings at Mirissa: 02/01/14 - 11/01/14

Sightings at Mirissa from 2nd January 2014 – 11th January 2014

Bryde's Whales
Pilot Whales
Blue Whale
Spinner Dolphins
Around 50
Bryde's Whales

Spinner Dolphins
Around 50
Bryde's Whales

Spinner Dolphins
Around 100
Killer Whales

Spinner Dolphins
Around 100
Bryde's Whales

Spinner Dolphins
Around 100
Bryde's Whales

Bottlenose dolphins
Around 20
Bryde's Whales

Spinner Dolphins
Around 100
Blue Whale

Spinner Dolphins
Around 60

Data courtesy of Blue Water Cruise (Pvt) Ltd.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Jetwing Vil Uyana Eco Resort - One of Asia's most romantic resorts

Asia’s most romantic resorts

By Chinmoy Lad on Jan 14, 2014

 Nothing quite says romance like a secluded spot on an exotic island, fringed by powdery white beaches and deep aqua blue waters, or a lush green jungle brimming with biodiversity, complemented by a world class spa that engages the best of nature. The world’s largest continent, Asia, naturally contains all of the above, sometimes even in the same spot. Listed below is a standout resort from each of Asia’s main countries that offers a chance for a tryst with love and a vibrant mixture of colours, smells and tastes that will leave with you a lasting memory.
If it’s not too late for Valentine’s Day, woo your significant other with a trip to these exclusive all-villa/suite resorts, adding that much-desired extra level of privacy. But really, there is never a bad time to visit resorts, or places, as beautiful as these to rekindle or start a new romantic adventure.

Sri Lanka: Jetwing Vil Uyana
What I love: In the shadows of a 2,000 year old rock fortress sits a man-made wonder that has perfected a balance of living between mankind and nature. The man-made wetlands are host to this unique resort that houses stilted thatched-huts above its green wetlands, with the region displaying a stunning wealth of biodiversity.
Sri Lanka - Jetwing

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wildlife video clips - January 2014

Wildlife video clips 

Videos taken by Jetwing Eco Holidays naturalist chauffeur guide Anura Bandara in January 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014

Wildlife Sightings - Kalpitiya & Yala National Park - January 2014

Jetwing naturalist chauffeur guide Anura Bandara shared the following photos after his latest tour.


Dolphins, Sperm Whales and Pelagics

Photos courtesy of Jetwing Eco Holidays Chauffeur guide Anura Bandara

Yala National Park

Mugger Crocodile


Spotted Deer


Sloth Bear


Water Buffalo

Indian Roller
Wild Boar
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
Little Egret (Left) Indian Pond Heron (Right)

Photos courtesy of Jetwing Eco Holidays Chauffeur guide Anura Bandara