Koush is one of the best bird guides I have encountered


Photo from Tony's tour
Photo from Tony's tour

17 February to 1st March 2015

Hi Jith

Sorry for the delay in responding to your request for feedback but after Sri Lanka I was working in Malaysia for a week and have not long been back … only to arrive in the middle of our cyclone season.

The following comments are mine alone - I believe Christine will send her thoughts separately:

1. The overall experience - probably 7/10. Part of the problem was of my own making because I tried to get an itinerary that would provide something for everyone, and frankly, that didn’t work. There was too much driving and too many days when there was no birding, or very little. But when we did get to the good spots the birding was often excellent and Koush eventually got the hang of working with a ‘photographer’ who needs good light, not just sightings.

2. Koush/Eshan - 7/10. I believe the fact that James missed his flight was largely down to Koush not doing an adequate job putting him on the right bus. He should have know there were roadworks and that the trip would take 7hrs and not 5hr as he insisted. Koush is an excellent bird guide and has a great general knowledge, and he and Eshan went out of their way to keep everyone happy, but he was definitely flagging in the latter stages (his health, I believe).

3. Yala - 3/10. This was the low-light of the whole trip for me and i believe Yala is an ecological and environmental disgrace. Hundreds of safari vehicles lined up at the main gate every morning and driving in convoy (gridlock most of the time) across appalling roads is not my idea of a ‘natural experience’. We were supposed to be there all day but by noon we wanted out of there. Yes, we saw some nice birds and other animals when we got away from the pack, but it was not an experience I would want to repeat.

4. Horton Plains - 4/10. Like Yala, I had been advised not to go there because the weather plays such a big part in the quality of the experience, and we lucked out totally. A waste of a day.

5. Bundala - 8/10. I realise the bird numbers/species are down on pre-tsunami, but I thoroughly enjoyed this location and went back a second time.

6. Galle - 7/10. The fort, fish market/port and general area were really interesting

7. Nuwara Eliya - 5/10. Saved by the Hakgala Botanical Gardens. We went twice (saw you there) and Koush’s persistence enabled us to get some special birds - although light was an issue.

8. Kandy - 6/10. This turned out to be more of interest to my companions than for birding. Royal Botanical Gardens produced some good birds and we did Udawatta Kelle reserve but that failed to produce much. Orphanage was good

9. Habarana - 9/10. The Other Corner was the absolute highlight for me and I got more quality birds there than anywhere else - mostly on my own. The on-site naturalist was also very helpful

10. Negambo - 8/10. Birding around the mangroves (late afternoon) was really good and I would love to have had more time for that.

11. Accommodation (out of 10): Tamarind 6, Tambapanni 6, Hibiscus 7, Galway 4, Queens 3, The Other Corner 9, Ranweli 8

General comments:

- Too much travelling (often at high speed over rough and crammed roads), not enough quality bird photography time, some bad choices re locations and accommodation
- Great people but organisation not up to standard at times
- Galway and Queens were seriously bad places to stay
- Vehicle was always well presented but space was a factor for bigger people
- Koush is one of the best bird guides I have encountered and I am sure he would have been even better if in full health. (Eshan is also a very good spotter.)

The future:

Because I feel I missed some of the really good bird spots, I am already thinking about a return visit for say 10 days at the same time next year. Maybe you could suggest something of an itinerary for Christine and myself that includes 2-3 days at the Other Corner and a much more bird-focused programme with less travel?

I look forward to hearing from you in due course.



(Lives in Australia)

Asian paradise-flycatcher_fem_©TN
Asian paradise-flycatcher_fem_©TN

Name of Guest: 
Tony Neilson


Tour review date: 
17 Feb 2015

Activities & Tour Types: