If you’re in Sri Lanka to see spectacular herds of wild Asian elephants, Minneriya National Park is where you want to be. At the heart of the park is the magnificent Minneriya Wewa, a massive tank built by King Mahasen in the 3rd century. Surrounding it are vast stretches of wetlands, scrub forest and grassland – the perfect habitats to house large populations of giant pachyderms.
During the dry season – which lasts from April to October – Minneriya is the location for a remarkable natural phenomenon called “the Gathering”. Here over 200 individual elephants all get together to form a ‘super-herd’ and visit the watering holes to feed, drink and bathe. Within these herds you’ll even find a number of wily youngsters who are eager to show off their playful antics – these are some fantastic scenes you won’t soon forget!
But it’s not just elephants you’ll find out on safari here! Other large herbivores like spotted deer and sambhur all roam around the plains, and they are in turn stalked by the elusive Sri Lankan leopard – the park’s top predator. More peculiar beings call Minneriya home as well, these include the insectivorous sloth bear and reclusive grey loris.
For all you birdwatchers out there, the Minneriya National Park is home to an impressive variety of avifauna – up to 160 different species to be exact. The park, along with the Kaudulla and Girithale regions, is recognised as one of the important bird areas of Sri Lanka. The most common types present in the park are wading birds. These include giants like the lesser adjutant – one of the largest birds found in the island – and brilliantly coloured painted stork. The park is also known for large congregations of little cormorants, these are known to gather in flocks that can number up to 2000 individuals! Endemic bird species include the Sri Lankan jungle fowl, grey hornbill and the black-crested bulbul.
Finally, there are quite a few notable species of large reptile found in Minneriya. This includes the world largest crocodilian – the saltwater crocodile – which patrols the vast lakes and river systems of the park. Alongside it, you’ll find species like the Asian water monitor and the Indian rock python.