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Meet the Monkeys of Polonnaruwa

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Eulogized by Disney’s Monkey Kingdom movie, the lost city of Polonnaruwa is home to a vast monkey population living among the impressively preserved ruins. Described by the film as “a secret land of magic few humans have ever seen,” this ancient archaeological site is the best place in the country to get up close and personal with Sri Lanka’s three diurnal primates: the purple-faced leaf monkey, the toque macaque, and the grey langur. In many countries, primates are increasingly difficult to see and observe due to declining habitats. However, here in the heart of Sri Lanka’s dry zone, under the protection of the Smithsonian Primate Research Center, Polonnaruwa’s primate population has flourished. Conducting conservation and scientific research in the area for almost half a century, the center offers a chance for visitors to engage and connect with Sri Lankan primates in a bid to educate visitors on the desperate need to continue to protect these fascinating creatures.

Experience Overview

Meet at the entrance to Polonnaruwa at 7.15am sharp where you will meet your host, a researcher from the Smithsonian Primate Research Center. From here you will get a brief introduction to Sri Lankan primates whilst your guide buys your entrance tickets to the site. Once the tickets have been purchased, you will walk into the first section of the site. Ancient and awe-inspiring, Polonnaruwa was once the ruling city of the country during the 8th century and the complex houses hundreds of archaeological structures that are best viewed in the soft sunlight and moderate temperatures of the early morning. Walking around the site, you’ll be surprised at how many monkeys have made their homes within the ruins. Your host will guide you around a small area of the complex, where you will be able to stand just meters away from large groups of toque macaques and grey langurs (the purple-faced leaf eaters are visible but stay high up in the trees and so are more difficult to observe at close length). The monkeys’ unerring resemblance to humans, their social behavior patterns and their obvious intelligence makes them fascinating to observe. Your host will take you on a walk to follow the monkeys on foot and learn about monkey behaviors and the various challenges of monkey conservation. When you finish you have the option to continue to explore Polonnaruwa by yourself. We recommend this, however bare in mind that temperatures tend to increase pretty quickly and by 11am you may find it too hot to explore.

Includes:  - Experience - Sri Lanka In Style

A walk with a host from the Smithsonian Primate Research Center, entry tickets to Polonnaruwa.

Duration:  - Experience - Sri Lanka In Style

2 hours

Difficulty:  - Experience - Sri Lanka In Style


Suitable for children:  - Experience - Sri Lanka In Style
Suitable for children:

Yes, children that love the outdoors and wildlife will love this experience.

Times:  - Experience - Sri Lanka In Style


What to wear or bring along:  - Experience - Sri Lanka In Style
What to wear or bring along:

Cool, light clothing, caps, sunscreen and a camera

Private or not?  - Experience - Sri Lanka In Style
Private or not?

This experience is private, that said there may be other people at the site.

Important to know - Experience - Sri Lanka In Style
Important to know

Guests should take copies of their passports when they go on the experience so that they can exit the area and enter the Polonnaruwa site again after the experience.




Managing Expectations

It is important to remember that, whilst they are experts in their field, the people who run or host our experiences are not necessarily used to working in the tourism industry and may not offer the level of service you would find at a five-star hotel. For example, instead of a formal lecture, you may get a relaxed conversation where open discussion is encouraged. All of our hosts are, however, extremely engaging, knowledgeable and passionate about educating visitors about their chosen subject and we have worked with them to ensure that they deliver worthwhile, fulfilling experiences. We welcome feedback, so please let us know what you thought and if you think any improvements could be made to the experiences we offer.

Enquire Now

Get in touch with one of our knowledgeable travel experts to plan your Sri Lanka journey.