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

Discuss this workshop

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

September 13-24, 2014

Tour Fee: $3,250

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 10 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: Anuradhapura

Wake up early and head by bus to Negombo/Habarana. En route we will learn more about Sri Lanka’s long history. We will stop at the famous and photogenic Dambulla Buddhist temple, built into a Cliffside.

We then travel to UNESCO World Heritage Site Polonnaruwa, the medieval capital of Sri Lanka and visit the famous rock-cut Buddha statues, as well as a picturesque man-made lake built in 11th century and host to some interesting wildlife. We end the day with an image review and critique. Orientation to next day’s events.

Day 3: Habarana

Travel to Sigiriya Rock Fortress archaeological site, where we will have a leisurely

morning shoot and hike throughout the complex.

We then take off for an exciting afternoon photographing at Minneriya National Park, where more than 300 elephants gather every evening at a watering hole. This spectacular location will give us an opportunity to make intimate photographs of these magnificent beasts. Image review and discussion.

Day 4: Habarana

After an easy morning around town photographing people and temples at our leisure, we again go to Minneriya National park for more elephant, crocodile and other wildlife photography. Evening review and critique.

Day 5: Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is a very rural, gorgeous mountain region with gorgeous landscape and waterfall photo opps. We will visit a tea plantation for some exquisite photography of rolling hills of tea plants, interspersed with woman in colorful dress picking the leaves. Evening discussion.

Day 6: Horton Plains National Park

Another highlight of our workshop is hiking in Horton Plains National Park and its unique weather phenomenon. At 6,500 feet it towers above the tea plantations. There are two spectacular waterfall opportunities here, as well as an overlook that has roiling clouds of mist that arrives every day from the ocean.

Day 7, 8 and 9: Yalla National Park

After breakfast we leave for Yalla National Park. A true highlight for anyone visiting Sri Lanka, Yalla has the densest population of leopards on Earth. We will take uncrowded open-air safari vehicles twice a day 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, 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 10: Yala to Udawalwe

After breakfast we leave for Udawalwe National Park and its 50-60 elephants, including a large group of babies. Udawalwe also boasts a huge list of birds. We spend the night in the area and have our always-interesting review and discussion.

Day 11: Udawalwe to Columbo

After a morning safari we head back toward Columbo, passing picturesque coastal towns where we will stop for photographs, conditions permitting. After an early evening and tour wrap-up, we get a good night’s rest.

Day 12: Departure

After a hearty breakfast we provide transportation to the airport for the journey home, reliving our memories and reviewing our images, tired but smiling.

Other Details

Tour fee: $3,250, double occupancy. Your fee includes mid-grade hotel, in-country transportation, 2 meals/day, qualified English-speaking guide, experienced driver, porter, Nikonians Academy faculty, water and snacks. Lunch will be at participant’s expense.

Special instructions regarding clothing, equipment and other information will be provided for participants when 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

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.