Minneriya National Park located between Habarana and Polonnaruwa consists of a veritable 8,890ha of evergreen forest, jungle and open grassland. The historical Minneriya Tank built by King Mahasen in 3 rd Century AD makes the park a uniquely beautiful nature reserve. This tank provides an incredible location to watch Sri Lanka’s wild elephants during the dry season. A large number of open jeeps drive local as well as foreign visitors around the park during the dry season, to watch and enjoy the extraordinary diversity of wildlife that exists here.
The most important feature of such a safari drive is to watch the “Gathering” of wild elephants congregating around the grassy outskirts of Minneriya tank, supposed to be the largest gathering of wild Asian elephants. There are around 300 elephants that come out of the forest during the dry season from June to October. They emerge in the cool of the evening and though they look like one huge herd of elephants, a closer look reveals their formation into small groups of families, with young ones, mothers, newborn babes hanging on to their mothers protected by other family members and an imposing matriarch.
Once they come out, the grassland around the Minneriya tank is all theirs, for eating, playing, bathing, drinking and feasting freely. In addition to wild elephants, Minneriya is also a site for enjoying prolific flocks of birds, spotted deer and sambhur and sometimes even a leopard if one is lucky. The rich biodiversity observed in this Park makes it a unique environment for nature lovers.