Minneriya National Park

  • David Reed
  • 24 Jan 24

Seeking the ultimate safari experience in Asia? Look no further than Sri Lanka’s Minneriya National Park. Nestled in the heart of the North Central Province, this national park is a paradise for animal enthusiasts, photographers, and all wanderers seeking an extraordinary journey.

Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka, by David Reed

Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka, by David Reed

Alongside the beautiful countryside, food and people, one of my most favourite things about Sri Lanka is the native wildlife that is so plentiful throughout the country. Monkeys can be found everywhere, even around the bustling capital city of Colombo. The gorgeous peacock is also staple all over the country – and even if you can’t see them, you can often hear them!  They are all fun and lovely, but let’s be realistic, if you come to Sri Lanka you want to see elephants. 

Who can resist the desire to see these gentle giants as they roam freely in the national parks – and occasionally on the open road! As they quietly feed and mind their own business, they are obviously accustomed to us weird humans with our nosy tendencies!

Sri Lanka has many National Parks where elephants and other wildlife can be easily spotted; at Bunnik Tours we include two of the most significant parks on our Sri Lanka Discovery small group tour, these being Minneriya and Yala.

Image credit: Roy Bisson

Image credit: Roy Bisson

Image credit: Roy Bisson

Travelling in classic safari-style jeeps with open sides and tops, you really get to feel as though you are on an adventure. Although fret not, they can enclose the jeeps in the event of rain! As you drive through the park, the expert drivers are often the first to sight the wildlife and ensure you get to stop for the mandatory photo opportunity. What they can spot will absolutely amaze you.

Minneriya National Park is located near Habanara, where we have a few days to explore the plethora of sites in the area, including the iconic Sigiriya Rock. Minneriya was declared a national park in 1997, after originally established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. It is home to the world’s largest known gathering of Asian elephants. During the dry season in August and September each year, herds of up to 350 elephants are seen within a few kilometres of the Minneriya tank, a large grass field on the edges of the large reservoir.

Image credit: David Reed

Whilst this may be the best time to travel to witness large gatherings, you are still guaranteed to see elephants throughout the entire year. Whilst many will migrate back to their main location at Wasgammua National Park, elephants are still plentiful throughout the year in Minneriya and the adjacent Kaudulla National Park. The local safari operators keep track of which area will give the best viewing opportunities.

Surprisingly enough, elephants are not the only wildlife in Minneriya. The national park is home to 24 species of mammals, 160 species of birds, 9 species of amphibians, 25 species of reptiles, 26 species of fish and 75 species of butterflies! You are almost guaranteed to sight various monkeys and peacocks, and plenty of other unique-looking birds. The typically-harder to spot wildlife include the endangered leopard, sloth bear and grey slender loris. We did see plenty of peacocks, eagles, buffalo, monkeys and even a jackal. But let’s face it, it’s elephants we were there to see – and see them we did!

Image credit: Brooke Chapman 


Keen to traverse Minneriya National Park? Search for wildlife and so much more on our classic Sri Lankan Discovery small group tour, or our deluxe Sri Lanka In-Style tour.



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