Home to one of the world’s greatest wildlife phenomenon – the Elephant Gathering, Minneriya National Park is situated in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka and 182 kilometres from Colombo and is 23 minutes away from Sigiriya. The 90 kilometres of area was declared as a national park on 12th August 1997 after being previously declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. The reasons for its declaration were for the protection of its wildlife and the preservation of the Minneriya Reservoir which was built by King Mahasen over 1700 years ago to provide water for the area during the dry seasons. The park, being a feeding ground for the elephants dwelling in forests of Matale, Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee districts have led elephants to migrate to Minneriya during the months of June to October every year from all corners of the North Central Province.
Since the park is located in the dry zone, it receives an average rainfall of 1500-2000 millimetres. The temperatures range from as low as 20’C to 34.5’C. The wet season is during the north east monsoon of October to January and the dry season is from May to September. Physical features of the park are low-canopy forests, intermediate high-canopy forests, scrublands, grasslands, rocky outcrops and wetlands. Other species that habitat in the park are those of wild buffalo, deer, the purple faced monkey and an incredible variety of birds.
Nevertheless, it is the elephants that steal the limelight. There have been reports of 700 elephants in a gathering which makes the Elephant Gathering at Minneriya one of the world’s largest gathering of Asian elephants.
Elephants from the neighbouring parks arrive at Minneriya during the months from May to October. Every year during the months of July to September these elephants migrate to the Minneriya National park before proceeding onto the Kaudulla National Park. After arriving at the Kaudulla national park, these elephants tend to stay there during the months of October and November. For the final leg of their migration they move on to the Hurulu Eco Park.
Not only can you witness elephants at this park, you also have the opportunity to catch sight of many other animals such as monkeys, leopards, deer, sloth bears and wild buffaloes, to whom this park is home to. Wildlife enthusiasts should not miss out on this opportunity. The vegetation which consists of grasslands, wetlands, rocky outcrops and so on makes this safari experience even more memorable.
Since this park is home to over 160 species of birds, it is a great spot for bird watching. You will be able to catch sight of water birds such as the painted stork, spot- billed pelican, great white pelican, little cormorants, grey heron and lesser adjutant alongside endemic birds such as the Sri Lanka grey hornbill, crimson-fronted barbet and black-crested bulbul.
In terms of reptiles, there are nearly 25 species of reptiles, while eight species are endemic. The Mugger Crocodile can be seen around the area of the reservoir.
Opening hours: 6 am to 6:30 pm