Declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1938 and then upgraded to a Wildlife Park in 1997, Minneriya National Park houses the historic Minneriya reservoir that dates from the 3rd century CE. During the area’s dry season, the park is a very special place as elephant herds from Matale, Trincomalee and Polonnaruwa districts come to enjoy grazing and quenching their thirst here. Together with two other reservoirs close to the park, Minneriya forms one of Important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka.
While the park’s diverse range of large and small mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish and butterflies is undoubtedly interesting to all nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, the most iconic attraction is the large number of elephants that congregate here, which is known as the ‘ elephant gathering’ and this is globally celebrated as one of the largest gatherings of mammals, specifically Asian Elephants, in the wild. The magnet that sets off this seasonal movement of elephants is the succulent grasses on the dry parts of the reservoir bed and the easy access to water. The ‘gathering’ takes place from mid-July and lasts until end-October, but peaks in August and September. The best time to view the elephants is in the evening when they emerge from the surrounding jungle in little groups that slowly forms a large herd that is sometimes said to number 300. Not only can visitors have a rare sighting of elephants in family groups, but they are also seen at their natural best, gamboling and cavorting in the water.
For wildlife enthusiasts, the park’s other attractions, endemic species such as the purple-faced langur and toque macaque, the Sri Lankan leopard, the Sri Lankan sloth bear, the gray slender loris and many other endangered and endemic species that are the park’s other inhabitants are of interest as well. For fervent birders, the host of large water birds as well as migrants and many residents that are found in and around the Minneriya reservoir makes a visit here truly worthwhile. Flocks of cormorants, pelicans, grey herons and other water birds are busy foraging for food around the water while jungle fowl, parrots, babblers, bulbuls and other endemic varieties favour the forest and scrub areas around the reservoir. Crocodiles, pythons and water monitors are among the reptiles that prey on the animals coming to the reservoir for water. Combined with the natural beauty of the surroundings, viewing the wildlife in the park is truly an exceptional experience.
To discover these and more natural treasures on the island, take advantage of some well-tailored holiday packages Sri Lanka has to offer its visitors for a stimulating and pleasurable travel experience. Shanti Travel Sri Lanka is a renowned travel company, which offers some competitive Sri Lanka tour packages that enable visitors to explore the country’s culture, heritage and the beauty of its landscapes.
Angela Fernando is an impassioned travel writer who composes pieces under the pen name Sumaira Narayan. She loves writing about new and exciting places around the world and hopes to visit them all someday.