'The Gathering' is the name given to the elephants that assemble on the banks of the Minneriya Reservoir during the dry season. Every evening, between 150 and 200 elephants arrive at the reservoir, mainly to graze the grasses growing on the tank bed. During the drought, the water level drops, revealing a tank bed that allows the grass to grow. The elephants turn to these much needed fodder at a time when foliage in other areas dry up. The Minneriya reservoir also becomes a playground where the elephants can satisfy their water needs.
Located between Habarana and Polonnaruwa, the 8890 hectares of Minneriya National Park is an ideal eco tourism location in Sri Lanka . The park consists of mixed evergreen forest and scrub areas and is home to Sri Lanka 's favourites such as sambar deer, leopards and elephants.
However the central feature of the park is the ancient Minneriya Tank (built in 3rdcentury AD by King Mahasena). During the dry season (June to September), this tank is an incredible place to observe the elephants who come to bathe and graze on the grasses as well as the huge flocks of birds (cormorants and painted storks to name but a few) that come to fish in the shallow waters.
The Minneriya National Park lies 182 km from Colombo in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. The park is protected because of its tank which was built by King Mahasen in the third century AD and is of utmost importance for the survival of the elephants in the dry season.
Getting to Minneriya is easy. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Sigiriya – one of the most popular tourist sites in the north-central region. (By the way, Climbing Sigiriya and visiting the park can easily be done in one day).
You’ll need to hire a jeep to take you out to the reservoir as well as a tracker to accompany you on your ride. The tracker is there to direct the driver and to ensure you are a safe distance from the animals at all times. He will also tell you anything you want to know about the park and the elephants. Both can be hired at the entrance to the park, or you can book in advance.