Sri Lanka - Getting to know Minneriya National Park

Providing the perfect respite from becoming ‘templed-out’ during your stay in the Cultural Triangle, Minneriya National Park sits aside an ancient rainwater reservoir, which is famous for attracting hundreds of thirsty elephants, and other wildlife. Minneriya's 8,889 hectares consist mainly of grasslands, evergreen forests and, closer to the reservoir, wetlands, and provide a crucial feeding ground during dry season.

Sri Lanka Minneriya National Park Travel Guide

The Elephant Gathering

This remarkable event takes place during August and September every year, and is an entirely natural phenomenon. The largest known meeting place in the world for Asian elephants, Minneriya National Park's reservoir provides welcome respite for herds of up to 300 elephants during Sri Lanka's dry season, as the animals congregate in the lush grassland that springs up in the reservoir as its water dwindles away. It's a spectacular sight, and one that may well constitute the crowning glory of your Sri Lanka holiday.

Minneriya, Kaudulla and Wasgomuwa National Parks are all within close proximity of each other, and form an elephant corridor, along which the animals can travel in safety. Minneriya therefore provides excellent opportunities to sight herds of elephants all year round, although the optimum months are between May and October.

Guides and park officials stay in constant contact with each other, sharing up-to-date information of the herds' whereabouts, meaning that on any given day you may travel into one of the other parks to enhance your chances of spotting elephants.

Moreover, in August and September, Minneriya plays host to the famed annual Elephant Gathering, where herds of up to 300 elephants congregate around the reservoir.

The park's other resident mammals include Sambar Deer, Purple-faced Monkey, leopards, Sloth Bear, Spotted Deer and buffalo. Amongst the reptiles are the Mugger Crocodile and Red-Lipped Lizard, while the high bird count - at over 170 species - includes the Woodsand Piper, Kentish Plover, Malabar-pied Hornbill, Rufus Woodpecker, and the globally endangered Lesser Adjutant, while endemic species include the Sri Lanka Grey Horn-bill and the Sri Lanka Green Pigeon.

Minneriya's reservoir, or 'tank', was built in the 3rd century AD, and still helps to irrigate the arid region around Polonnaruwa

When's the best time to visit Minneriya National Park?

Minneriya provides an opportunity to see herds of elephants all year round, but the dry season, from May to September, is the best time to visit. In August and September each year, wild elephants from the surrounding wilderness gather in search of food and water, making their way to the shores of the reservoir adjoining the Park. Huge herds of elephants, sometimes numbering up to 300, converge together within a few square kilometers of the lake.

Annual rainfall is about 1150mm, and the average annual temperature is 27 degrees centigrade.