Elephant Gatherings in Sri Lanka
The paradise island of Sri Lanka is blessed with astounding sights and alluring landscapes. Amongst the myriad of offerings that they take pride in, perhaps one of their most underrated treasures would be the tremendous wildlife and biodiversity in Sri Lanka. They have a dozen or so national parks; Yala, Udawalawe, Minneriya, Wilpattu, Kaudulla to name a few, and is home to an estimated five to six thousand elephants in the wild!
Amongst these national parks, the Minneriya National Park in particular is definitely worth a visit if you are planning on spending time in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle in the Central Province. In addition to exploring the ruins at Polonnaruwa, climbing Lion Rock in Sigiriya and checking out the cave temple in Dambulla, you can also potentially witness the largest gathering of Asian elephants in the world on a Sri Lanka wildlife safari at this location. While Udawalawe and Yala are infamous, this massive-scale congregation of elephants only occurs in Minneriya; and guess what? – it only happens once a year during the dry season.
Here is everything you need to know so that you don’t miss “The Gathering” in the Minneriya National Park, if you’re in Sri Lanka during this time!
What is “The Gathering” and why should you visit Minneriya National Park?
Once a year, the Asian elephants of Minneriya National Park congregate for what is acknowledged as “The Gathering”. The Minneriya and Kaudulla parks which are next to each other is divided by the “elephant corridor” jungle that stands between them, and elephants cross over during this period of time.
This Gathering is believed to be the largest gathering of Asian elephants in the world and takes place during the dry season from June/July to September when the rivers dry up and the elephants are forced to travel to large reservoirs in Minneriya to bathe, find drinking water and graze on fresh grass.
How can you see “The Gathering” of elephants and when is the best time to visit?
According to travel guides from around the area, the best time to visit Minneriya is in the afternoon when the weather cools a little. Safaris typically start at around 3 PM and finish at 6 PM.
What should I bring on the safari?
- The national parks are incredible destinations for wildlife photography. So, for all you photography lovers, this adventure will be a photo-haven.
- Bottled water (it can get very hot in the area).
- Sunscreen and/or a hat
How do you get to Minneriya National Park and where can you stay?
Some of the finest accommodation around and close to Minneriya can be found in Sigiriya and Habarana, where there are many options to choose from!
There are several options to travel to Minneriya; car, bus, train, air taxi. Travelling by car is about a 4-hour long journey and travelling by train or bus will take over 6 hours. Travelling by air would be the fastest and most convenient mode of travel and conveniently for you, Cinnamon Air offers daily scheduled flights to Sigiriya and the journey from Colombo to Sigiriya will only take about 35 minutes (From Sigiriya, it’s just about 40 minutes to Minneriya)!
When in Sri Lanka and if you have the time, this is a must-have experience as it is absolutely breath-taking to see the animals in their natural habitat!