Sri Lanka: Culture and Wildlife

City Area Date Instructor Price (Member) Price (Non-Member)
Sri Lanka 14-SEP-2013 Lester Picker $3499 $3699 Sold out

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Join us for a trip to one of Asia's premiere photo destinations.

March 12-23, 2016

Tour Fee: $5,500

Some call it the most beautiful island in Asia. Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is most definitely a sparkling, mostly undiscovered jewel for its combination of geology, flora, fauna, people, culture and tropical weather. Sri Lanka has enjoyed peace and prosperity since its insurrection ended several years ago. Food and accommodations across the country are excellent.

Join us for a 12-day (11-night) exploration of the unparalleled photographic possibilities in this island nation. Located off the southernmost coast of India, Sri Lanka is replete with some of the oldest Buddhist and Hindu temples in the world (many still in use), some of the friendliest and most photogenic people on Earth, and wildlife that rivals Africa’s best locations − all at a fraction of the cost.

In this photography tour we will intimately explore Sri Lanka’s landscape, from vaunted mountains to its pristine seashore, from its tidy and colorful tea plantations to its lush forests.

Each morning we will embark on an adventure taking us from fog-shrouded tea plantations to cascading waterfalls, en route to photographing mountain sunsets. We will visit the country’s most picturesque temples and historical structures for architectural photos and opportunities to interact with Sri Lanka’s wonderful people. One of the highlights of the tour will be spending two days (four safari treks) in famed Yalla National Park, which boasts the densest wild leopard population on earth, along with bull elephants, crocodiles, water buffalo, monkeys and an incredible variety of colorful birds. We will also do safaris in two other National Parks famous for their wild elephant populations, monkeys, crocodiles, colorful birds, and other wildlife. Most evenings we will have an optional image review and critique.

Our air-conditioned bus will also have a certified country guide and a porter throughout the trip to help with luggage at each stop. Porters are also available inexpensively at each location for those who wish to hire someone to help carry gear.

The workshop will be led by Les Picker (, a Nikonians Academy faculty member and professional photographer who has more than 600 published credits in National Geographic books and magazines, Forbes, Fortune publications, Better Homes & Gardens and dozens of other magazines and newspapers. Les’ blog ( is widely followed and often quoted by media. Les received the prestigious 2011 Canada Northern Lights Award for Best Travel Photography. Les received his doctorate in ecology from the University of Maine and has worked as a nature and photography guide in many locales.

The workshop is limited to 12 participants.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Columbo, capital of Sri Lanka. We arrange for you to be picked up at the airport, your luggage carried, and transported to your hotel for a good night’s sleep.

8:00-9:00 PM Welcome and Orientation

Early lights out

Day 2: Dambulla and Polonnaruwa

Dambulla is famous for its rock paintings and rock temples and is one of the most important sites for Buddhist pilgrimage. Dambulla leaves a lasting impression on many visitors. The heady mix of ancient art and fervent religious activity combined with the spiritual location leaves many visitors overwhelmed by the experience. Afternoon visit to Polonnaruwa (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the medieval capital of Sri Lanka. Visit the world famous rock-cut Buddha statues of Gal Vihara and the Parakrama Samudra (‘Sea of Parakrama’) a 2500-hectare man made reservoir built between 1153 and1186 AD.

Image review and discussion (each night)

Day 3: Sigiriya

Visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress archaeological site for a morning shoot and climb throughout the complex.

Afternoon safari in Minneriya National Park for Elephants. Over 300 elephants gather on the receding shores of the Minneriya Tank. ‘The Gathering’ of Elephants at Minneriya is an awesome natural spectacle.

Day 4: Landscapes and tea plantation

Visit Nuwara Eliya, stopping for landscape images. En-route visit a Tea plantation. Overnight at Nuwara Elliya, a very rural, gorgeous mountain region with gorgeous landscape and waterfall photo opps.

Day 5: Horton Plains National Park

Full day visit to Horton Plains National Park. Walk though the grasslands and Cloud Forests to a popular viewpoint know as World's end, which is an escarpment with a 870 m drop. Horton Plains offers excellent opportunities to photograph Sambar, Sri Lanka’s largest species of deer which are seen near the entrance. We look for montane endemics Yellow- eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka White Eye, Dull Blue Flycatcher and if lucky the scarce montane endemic, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush and many other birds. Also visit scenic Bakers Falls.

Day 6: En route to Yalla National Park

Many opportunities for landscape and rural village images. Late afternoon safari.

Day 7: Yalla National Park

A true highlight for anyone visiting Sri Lanka, we will take open-air safari vehicles through Yalla NP. Yalla is a forested park on the southwest side of the island, bordered by the Indian Ocean. Here we have the chance to see its famous leopards (the highest density of leopards in the world), huge bull elephants, water buffalo, monkeys, wild boar, colorful birds and other wildlife. Safaris take place at sunrise and in mid to late afternoon. In between we have time for a siesta or for individual photography outside the park.

Day 8: Yalla National Park and Udawalwe

One last morning safari at Yala National Park. Afterwards leave for Udawalwe for one night. Afternoon photography safari in Udawalawe National Park where close to 50-60 Elephants can be seen and the Nursery Herd which comprise of many baby Elephants is one of the key attractions. The park is good for birds of prey and we will look for Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Shikra, Common Kestrel, Brown Fish Owl and Western Marsh Harrier an d many others.

Day 9: Galle

Travel to the old port city of Galle for two nights, via Weligama. En-route photograph the stilt fishermen in the region near Galle.

Day 10: Galle

Morning photo walk through the historic town. In the afternoon a photography session at the Galle Fort (UNESCO world heritage site). Here we focus on street photography and daily life. There are several buildings still rich with their original architecture. The maritime museum and the old Dutch museum harbor many artifacts of the colonial period of the country. The Dutch Church, built in the 18 century, is a unique photo opp.

At dusk take a walk along the shoreline.

Day 11: Columbo

After breakfast we leave for Columbo. Take a walking tour of the capital city's historical Fort and Pettah districts, where we will find everything from textiles to electronics to spices. The Old Dutch Museum, built in the 17th Century, still maintains its pristine architecture. The walk continues into the commercial hub of Colombo, now host to high-end restaurants, bars and shops, where we can take a breather, admire the artifacts and have a drink or two.

Day 12: Departure

After a quick meeting, exchange of email addresses and a wrap-up, we leave for the airport, exhausted, but with some memorable experiences and incredible images.

Other Details

Tour fee: $5,500, double occupancy. Single room supplement is $900. Deposit: $1,000. Remainder will be billed and is due by end of November, 2015.

Your fee includes fine hotels, in-country transportation, two meals/day (breakfast and dinner), qualified, English-speaking guide, experienced driver, porter, photography guide (Les Picker), entrance fees, walking tour fees, safari jeeps, in-country tour taxes, water and snacks.

Special instructions regarding clothing, equipment and other information will be provided for participants after they register.

Please note that daily destinations may change due to weather, impassable roads, or other conditions beyond our control.

Cancellation Policy:

If you cancel 61 days or more in advance, then we will refund your tuition less an 10% processing fee.

If you cancel 31 - 60 days in advance, then we will refund 50% of your tuition.

If you cancel 30 days or less in advance, then we will not refund any of the trip cost.

  • You will learn

    • Cultural photography
    • Wildlife photography
  • What to bring

  • Required

    • Special instructions regarding clothing, equipment and other information will be provided for participants when you register. Please note that daily destinations may change due to weather, impassable roads, or other conditions beyond our control.
  • What is provided

    • Your fee includes mid-grade hotel, in-country transportation, two meals/day, qualified, English-speaking guide, experienced driver, porter, Nikonians Academy faculty, water and snacks.
  • Venue Information

      A venue for this workshop has yet not been locked down.


Amazing wildlife, incredible scenery, and compelling culture.


Following Sri Lanka: Culture and Wildlife workshops are organized in Sri Lanka:

Date Instructor Price (Member) Price (Non-Member)
14-SEP-2013 Lester Picker $3499 $3699 Sold out
13-SEP-2014 Lester Picker $3250 $3500 Sold out
12-MAR-2016 Lester Picker $1000 $1199 Sold out

Member prices are only applicable to Nikonians Silver, Gold and Platinum Members. Non-members can register as Nikonians members here. Nikonians Basic members can upgrade the membership level here. Membership payments help sustain the growth of the Nikonians community and its services such as the Nikonians Academy.