Minneriya National Park
The Minneriya National Park is found in the District of Polonnaruwa in the North Central Province. Minneriya tank, with its surroundings, plays a vital role as a wetland. Therefore it has high biodiversity.
The main entrance to the Park is Ambagaswewa, 8.8km from Habarana on the Colombo - Polonnaruwa route. Following receiving a permit from the Ambagaswewa wildlife conservation office, one could enter the Park.
Minneriya is an old irrigation tank with 22,550ha when complete and a catchment area of 24,000ha. The primary source of the river is from a deviation of the Amban Ganga forward the Elahera channel. The Park covers an area of 8,889ha. The altitude ranges from around 100m to 8,885m at the summit of the Nilgala peak. The situation is tropical monsoon climate; anticipated annual rainfall is about 1,146mm and means yearly temperature of 27.5 ° C. Minneriya National Park, a treasure trove of biodiversity and natural wonders, was officially declared a national park in 1997.
The Gathering of Asian Elephants
The gathering of Asian elephants in Minneriya National Park is a captivating event showcasing these magnificent creatures' remarkable social dynamics. During this period, herds of up to 350 elephants, sometimes even 700, converge within a few square kilometres of the Minneriya Tank. It is a sight that leaves visitors in awe as they witness these gentle giants peacefully coexisting and engaging in various behaviours such as bathing, feeding, and socializing.
The migration of elephants from Wasgamuwa National Park to Minneriya National Park is primarily driven by the need for sustenance during the dry season. The scarcity of water and vegetation in their original habitat prompts these intelligent creatures to journey to find greener pastures. The Minneriya Tank acts as a vital water source, ensuring the survival of these elephants and providing them with a haven during this challenging period.
Other Wildlife in Minneriya National Park
While the gathering of Asian elephants steals the spotlight, Minneriya National Park is also home to a diverse range of other wildlife. Two endemic monkey species, the purple-faced langur and the toque macaque, thrive in the park's abundant forests. Additionally, large herbivorous mammals such as the Sri Lankan sambar deer and the Sri Lankan axis deer can be frequently spotted. The park also serves as a sanctuary for rare and endangered species like the Sri Lankan leopard and the Sri Lankan sloth bear. Notably, Minneriya is known to be one of the few areas where the slender grey loris, a fascinating nocturnal primate, is found in Sri Lanka.
Birds Watching in Minneriya National Park
Minneriya National Park offers a haven for avian enthusiasts with its rich birdlife. The Minneriya reservoir, encompassing a significant portion of the park, attracts various large water birds, including the lesser adjutant, painted stork, and spot-billed pelican. The park is a temporary residence for both resident and migratory bird species, making it a birdwatcher's paradise. Among the endemic birds found here are the Sri Lanka jungle fowl, Sri Lanka hanging parrot, brown-capped babbler, Sri Lanka grey hornbill, black-crested bulbul, and crimson-fronted barbet. Moreover, the park has recorded 11 threatened bird species, highlighting its importance for bird conservation.
Amphibians and Reptiles at Minneriya National Park
Minneriya National Park is not just a sanctuary for mammals and birds but also home to various amphibians and reptiles. Among the notable amphibian species are the endemic and endangered Slender Wood Frog and the Common Tree Frog. The park boasts 25 recorded reptile species, eight of which are endemic, including the striking red-lipped lizard. Visitors might also glimpse water and land monitors, while the Mugger Crocodile can often be spotted near the tank. The park's vibrant ecosystems also harbour numerous species of freshwater fish.
Vegetation at Minneriya National Park
The vegetation of Minneriya National Park showcases the ecological diversity of the region. It consists of tropical dry mixed evergreen forests, abandoned chaparral lands, grasslands, and wetlands. The open grasslands and old Chena lands are dominated by various small shrubs, creating a unique landscape within the park. This diverse vegetation provides crucial habitats and food sources for the park's wildlife, contributing to its ecological balance and overall biodiversity.
Tips for Visiting Minneriya National Park
If you plan to visit Minneriya National Park, here are a few tips to ensure a memorable experience:
- Location and Nearest Town: The park is located near Habarana, the nearest town.
- Best Time to Visit: August to September is considered the best time to witness the gathering of Asian elephants.
- Park Opening Hours: The park opens at 6 AM and closes at 6:30 PM. The last time for ticket purchase is 5:00 PM.
- Mode of Game Drive: Safari jeeps are the recommended mode of transportation within the park.
- ATM and Restaurants: There are no ATMs or restaurants within the park, so bringing snacks and water is advisable.
- Essential Items: It is recommended to bring a hat or cap, sun protection cream, a dust mask, water, and a camera to capture the incredible wildlife encounters.
How to Reach Minneriya National Park
There are several ways to reach Minneriya National Park:
- By Bus: From Colombo, Kandy, Trincomalee, or Anuradhapura, you can take a bus heading towards Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa, Medirigiriya, or Dehiaththakandiya. Get off at Minneriya National Park after a journey of approximately 2 to 5 hours, depending on your location.
- By Car or Taxi: Traveling by car or taxi provides a convenient and comfortable option to reach the park. The journey time may vary depending on your starting point.
- By Train: You can disembark at Habarana or Minneriya Train Station if you prefer train travel. From there, you can hire a taxi to reach Minneriya National Park.
Visiting Minneriya National Park offers a unique opportunity to witness the world's largest gathering of Asian elephants and explore the diverse wildlife in this remarkable ecosystem.
Minneriya National Park is a testament to the captivating beauty and extraordinary wildlife Sri Lanka offers. With the largest gathering of Asian elephants, the park draws visitors from around the world who are enthralled by the sight of hundreds of these majestic creatures peacefully coexisting nearby. Beyond the elephants, Minneriya National Park boasts a rich array of wildlife, including endemic monkeys, diverse bird species, fascinating amphibians and reptiles, and various plant life, creating a thriving ecosystem. The park's natural wonders and breathtaking scenery make it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers.
- What is the significance of gathering Asian elephants in Minneriya National Park? The group of Asian elephants in Minneriya National Park is a remarkable natural phenomenon, showcasing these magnificent creatures' social dynamics and survival strategies. It is the largest known gathering of Asian elephants worldwide, attracting tourists and researchers alike.
- Are there any other wildlife species found in the park? Yes, Minneriya National Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife. This includes endemic monkey species such as the purple-faced langur and the toque macaque, as well as large herbivorous mammals like the Sri Lankan sambar deer and the Sri Lankan axis deer. The park also hosts rare and endangered species, such as the Sri Lankan leopard and the Sri Lankan sloth bear.
- Which birds can be spotted at Minneriya National Park? Minneriya National Park is a haven for birdwatchers. Visitors can spot various water birds, such as the lesser adjutant, painted stork, and spot-billed pelican, at the Minneriya reservoir. The park is also home to resident and migratory bird species, including endemic birds like the Sri Lanka jungle fowl, Sri Lanka hanging parrot, and brown-capped babbler.
- Are there any endemic species in the park? Yes, Minneriya National Park is home to several endemic species. This includes endemic monkeys like the purple-faced langur and the toque macaque and bird species like the Sri Lanka grey hornbill, black-crested bulbul, and crimson-fronted barbet. The park's unique ecosystems provide a habitat for these rare and specialized species.
- How can I reach Minneriya National Park? Minneriya National Park can be reached by bus, car/taxi, or train. Buses from Colombo, Kandy, Trincomalee, or Anuradhapura heading towards Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa, Medirigiriya, or Dehiaththakandiya can take you to the park. You can reach the park from nearby towns if you prefer car or taxi travel. Train travellers can disembark at Habarana or Minneriya Train Station and then hire a taxi to the park.