Situated in the north central province of Sri Lanka, Minneriya National Park has become popular with travellers due to its close proximity to the Cultural Triangle and as a great place to see elephants in their natural habitats. It is nearly 182km away from Colombo and easily reachable on a tour in Sri Lanka.
Minneriya National Park serves as the catchment area for Minneriya tank, an ancient reservoir built in the 3rd century AD by King Mahasena for irrigation purposes. Surrounded by two other parks, Kaudulla and Giritale, Minneriya National Park is an all-important bird area and biodiversity terrain in the region. Although the park is situated in the dry zone, Minneriya Reservoir holds water throughout the year making the park attractive to elephants in the surrounding districts. As such during the dry months of July, August and September, record numbers of elephants have been sighted. While elephants dominate the setting, grey slender loris, sambar deer and herds of spotted deer also inhabit the park. Minneriya National Park is also the home to Sri Lankan leopards and sloth bears although the sightings are hard and almost impossible. The wetlands attract an array of large birds including painted storks, lesser adjutants and spot-billed pelicans.
Endemic birds such as brown-capped babbler, grey hornbill, black-crested bulbul and Sri Lankan jungle fowls are found in this park. The park receives its rainfall during the north eastern monsoons between October to January and the rest of the year remains dry. The average temperature is around 27°C with a high of 34.5°C and a low of 20°C. Topography of the park is diverse. It consists of low canopy montane forests, scrublands, abandoned chena (slash and burn cultivation) lands, grasslands, wetlands and rocky outcrops. Such diversity supports a range of birds, mammals, and reptiles that take refuge in this park. Minneriya National Park is situated in the Cultural Triangle which has made it a popular park amongst visitors especially those who spend a couple of days in the area. Safaris occur both in the morning and afternoon. Morning safaris commence at 6.00 a.m. and the afternoon safaris take place at 3.00 p.m.
The safaris last between 3-4 hours. The safari jeeps are front- faced. A licensed trekker from the wildlife authority generally accompanies guests on game drives. Full day safaris are available for those who are keen on photography. The best time of the year for full day safaris would be from late July to September when large gatherings of elephants can be found on the banks of Minneriya Reservoir. While the highlight of Minneriya National park is elephants, it is also recognized as a place where one of the wildlife wonders takes place during the drier months. Referred to as the ‘gathering’ – a set of wonderful events in the wildlife calendar that takes place between July to September when the water dries up everywhere except in the Minneriya Reservoir. Elephants from the adjacent parks including Wasgamuwa National Park come through the elephant corridor to drink water. The beauty of the ‘gathering’ is in the action that includes play, mating and socializing between these giant mammals.
The water never dries up in the reservoir. In fact, the area around the reservoir becomes quite picturesque as the water levels recede and the grasslands come alive. There is plenty of accommodation around the park. You can select accommodation in Sigiriya, Habarana, Dambulla which are all easily accessible within 30 minutes to an hour. Safaris can be easily fitted into an itinerary when you visit the Cultural Triangle. Afternoon safaris are preferred as the park gets cooler during the safari. Morning safaris are equally appealing especially for those who are interested in birding. To us the most memorable event in this park during the game drives was the herds of elephants, especially the ones with the playful babies. There is certainly nothing as spectacular as the ‘gathering’.
Here are sample itineraries for wildlife tours of Sri Lanka featuring Minneriya National Park. Click below to read more about Minneriya safari tours or get in touch to receive a detailed, tailor-made itinerary.
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Amazing trip! We absolutely loved it. Sri Lanka is now a country we would definitely like to go back to and explore further.Thank you so much for all the work you did in putting the trip together for us. It was a great mix of places for us to get a good feel of the country. We will be encouraging all our friends to go to Sri Lanka.