Situated in the centre of Sri Lanka, just in between the popular cities of Habarana and Polonnaruwa, is the Minneriya National Park: an ideal location for eco tourism. The 8,890 hectares of land was declared as a National Park in August 1997. The landscapes here consist of evergreen forests and scrub areas that are favored by wildlife species such as sambar deer, elephants and leopards. Bird watching, camping, exploring fauna and fauna, wildlife safaris and elephant rides are popular activities at the park.
The safari camp at Minneriya National Park is located at the border, with a beautiful forest boundary atmosphere that gives you a feeling of being right in the heart of nature. Luxury camps are set up with comfortable tents, chairs, tables, hammocks, toilets, showers and equipped kitchens. A barbeque meal at night amidst the whole wildlife setting and a roaring campfire at the center is an experience that should not be missed.
Apart from these attractions, the central highlight of the park is the ancient Minneriya Tank which was built in the 3rd century AD by a ruler of the ancient Anuradhapura Kingdom – King Mahasena. From June to October every year, the tank attracts herds of elephants that come to bathe and graze while flocks of birds are also drawn here to fish in the shallow waters.
This amazing sight is known as “The Gathering” – which is also the largest meeting of Asian elephants worldwide. Over 300 elephants from around the North Central Province of Sri Lanka get together near the Minneriya Tank during the dry season to sweeten their mouth with the taste of water. The water collected in this tank provides the elephants with much needed hydration and when the tank dries up, it yields fresh grass to which the elephants feast!
Many tourists visit the Minneriya National Park simple to get a glimpse of this magical sight. A huge number of elephants lazily wade into the river for a bath while the sun glows on them. Mother elephants carefully guide their babies into the water for some play time while the male elephants trumpet loudly to announce that they are the boss!
The elephants are aware that visitors are gawking at them but they don’t seem to mind it. They simply place a protective trunk around their babies to make sure no harm is done. If they feel visitors are too close to them, a loud roar informs guests to step away. Each one of the elephants owns a different face and personality. Watching these elephant families gently interacting with each other in a loving way is a privilege indeed – one of the best natural shows on earth.