If you haven’t heard of the elephant gathering in Sri Lanka before, let us be the ones to tell you how amazing it is. The elephant gathering is a spectacular annual event that takes place in Minneriya National Park and is one of Sri Lanka's natural wonders.
In this Sri Lanka guide, we’ve included all the essential information to help you best experience the largest gathering of elephants in Sri Lanka. This includes the best time to visit, how to get to Minneriya National Park, what to expect, and many of our top tips.
What Exactly is the Elephant Gathering
An elephant gathering is when a large group of wild elephants gets together. They move in groups in search of water and food during the dry season in Sri Lanka. In contrast to simple migration, the elephant gathering is a sight to see as you witness herds of Asian elephants as large as 400 socializing, bathing, and playing at once. It is known to be the largest gathering of wild Asian elephants around the world and is a must-see when visiting Sri Lanka.
Where is the Elephant Gathering
The elephant gathering can be found in Minneriya National Park. It is located in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka, close to the towns of Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa. So if you’re visiting Lion Rock or the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, it is worth adding a jeep safari tour to Minneriya National Park to your ultimate Sri Lanka itinerary.
How to Get to Minneriya National Park
From Sigiriya, it is about a 30-minute drive to the entrance of Minneriya National Park. It's around 45 minutes from Polonnaruwa. You can park your motorbike or car after buying an entrance ticket and then you’ll have to book a jeep that will take you on a private safari tour. You’ll find plenty of tours offered at the entrance by the ticket counter.
However, we recommend arranging your safari tour in advance. The jeep will pick you up from your accommodation in Sigiriya or Polonnaruwa and bring you back after the tour. Booking your tour in advance is more convenient and you can scout for the best price available.
Park Entrance Fee & Price of Safari Tour
The entrance fee at Minneriya National Park costs 24 USD per person.
While most safari tours start at 60 USD per person, children under 12 are normally half price. This cost includes a 3-hour safari, foreigners entrance fee, and driver and jeep fees. Depending on the jeep, you might be in a group of up to 6 people on a tour. You will have to pay more if you wish to have the whole jeep to yourself for a private tour.
We recommend asking around for the best deal for your jeep safari. For us, we drove to Polonnaruwa to see the ancient ruins and on our way back, we stopped at the jeeps parked on the side of the road to ask for prices. We went for the cheapest option and paid 60 USD per person.
You may also want to ask for recommendations at your hotel so they can direct you to a reliable tour company or book online in advance.
Here are some of the most popular and well-reviewed Minneriya safari tours:
Best Time to Visit
The best time to witness the elephant gathering in Minneriya National Park is during August and September, at the height of the drought.
Minneriya National Park opens from 6am to 6pm and the best time to visit is from 3 to 6 pm. However, consult with your guide because they will know the best time to see the majority of the animals depending on the season.
What to Expect
From our experience, visiting Minneriya National Park outside of the elephant gathering is still worth it. We visited on two occasions: one in January and the other in September.
During our visit in January, we did not see herds of elephants at once, but we still saw many wild elephants and other animals, including monkeys and birds. Seeing wild animals in their natural habitats was still an incredible experience. We visited at around 3 in the afternoon. The weather was very hot and humid, so bring a water bottle with you.
Another thing to note is the number of safari jeeps in the park. Given the popularity of Minneriya National Park, do not be surprised to see many jeeps gathering at one point because guides communicate with each other. They tell other tour guides where they see animal sightings, so it appears like all the jeeps are in one location.
Other than that, our experiences were amazing on both occasions, and we recommend you visit Minneriya National Park sooner rather than later.
What to Prepare
To help you have the best safari experience possible, here is a list of our top things to prepare:
- Bring water. It’s going to be hot and humid. Your tour may offer a water bottle but bring your own just to make sure you’re hydrated.
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat. Good protection against the sun is advised, especially while standing at the back of a jeep.
- Binoculars. Our safari guide had some and we were able to use it but ask your tour if they provide one.
- Light snack.
Witnessing the elephant gathering in Sri Lanka has been a spectacular experience that we still think about to this day.
We hope that this travel guide has inspired you to see one of Sri Lanka’s breathtaking natural wonders and helped you prepare for your trip to Minneriya National Park.
Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below!
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