Did you know Sri Lanka is home to more than 2,000 Asian elephants? The teardrop of India is one of the best places in the world to spot these gentle giants, thanks to its wealth of protected national parks, including Minneriya, which you’ll find in the heart of the country. Here, huge herds of elephants come together to feed at the watering holes in the summer months. Keep scrolling to find out how you can spot them for yourself…
Where and when?
If you’re a massive fan of elephants, the best place to spot them in their natural habitat is at Minneriya National Park, which is nestled in the heart of Sri Lanka. This huge wildlife sanctuary was declared a national park back in 1997, and has also bagged itself UNESCO-protected status, so its wildlife credentials are top notch.
During the months of July to October, more than a whopping 300 elephants gather round the shores of the national park’s man-made reservoir to slurp up the water and play in the wetlands. This natural phenomenon is also known as ‘The Gathering’, AKA the largest elephant pool party in the world, so it’s one not to be missed.
The best time to catch a glimpse of the elephants is right before the sun sinks. This is when they emerge from the shady trees and venture out onto the plains towards the water – it’s a really beautiful sight. While you’re there, you can watch the much-loved animals drink, play and snack on the green, lush grasses that are exposed by the water.
On top of that, you may also be lucky enough to spy on spotted deer, sambar, purple-faced langur monkeys and macaques as you go, so make sure you’re camera-ready at all times.
Why Minneriya National Park?
Sri Lanka’s dry season starts in December and ends in March, meaning water supplies are limited during this time for the huge mammals. They travel from all over the place to take a sip from the Minneriya tank, which is a man-made water source. And the best part? Not only do they drink from the tank, but as the water begins to disappear, it reveals fresh shoots of grass which the giants can snack on, too.
How can I see ‘The Gathering’?
To see ‘The Gathering’, you can sign up for one of our tours of Minneriya National Park. On this fun-filled trip, you’ll pile into a 4X4, and then start the bumpy, dusty ride into the wilderness. When you reach the watering hole, you’ll pull up on the grassy banks and wait for the elephants to sneak up on you. Watching them drink, bathe and coolly stroll across the plains is mesmerising.
While you’re visiting Minneriya National Park, why not visit Sigiriya Rock, too? You’ll find it just under 30 minutes’ drive from the wildlife reserve, so it’s the perfect place to do a bit of sightseeing before you go and spot the elephants at sunset. Sigiriya Rock is Sri Lanka’s number one attraction for good reason, too. This 600-feet high boulder towers over the grassy plains, and is surrounded by lily pad-covered moats, water gardens and shrines, so it’s really beautiful. And once you’ve trekked your way to the top of the rock, you’ll get spectacular panoramic views of the dramatic landscapes. On the way up, you’ll pass etchings of glamorous women and a pair of colossal lion’s paws carved into the bedrock.
When’s the best time to go?
The best time to spot elephants at Minneriya National Park is between the months of July to October. This is when the wet monsoon season is in full swing, so it’s the perfect time for elephants to make their journey to the Minneriya tank to guzzle up gallons of water and feed on the fresh grasses.
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