Did you know that there are 14 national parks in Sri Lanka? This little island in the Indian Ocean offers such a tremendous amount of wildlife and biodiversity that some probably wouldn’t expect. Believe it or not, Sri Lanka is home to 24 species of mammals, and this includes an estimated of more than 5000 elephants! Sri Lanka’s biggest attraction is undoubtedly the Elephant Gathering which showcases the country’s harmonious relationship with nature at its best.
Here are some things you need to know about this special event.
What Is Elephant Gathering and Where Can I Witness It?
The Elephant Gathering in Sri Lanka is a spectacular event where hundreds of elephants gather for a mass exodus. According to the authorities, this gathering is the largest grouping of elephants at a single time in Asia (and most probably in the world), and it’s recognized as one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth.
The water level drops during the dry season, and to cope with this, elephants travel from far and wide and congregate around the Minneriya reservoir to quench their thirst. The receding water in the tank also exposes fresh, green shoots of grass on which they can graze.
The Gathering is a greatly anticipated event for several reasons. This massive-scale congregation of elephants happens only once every year between August and September, and you can only witness it in the Minneriya National Park and Kaudulla National Park, which are situated next to each other.
How To Go To Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks?
Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks are situated approximately 180km away from Colombo, in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. The best way to get there is by car, which takes about a 5.5 hours drive.
However, if you’re not planning to rent a car and drive, you may look for tours with a pick-up and drop off service from Colombo city or the airport. Alternatively, you can also hire a driver. If you’re keen on travelling by train, hop on from Fort Station to Habarana, and from there you can take a taxi.
It’s recommended that you spend a night in Habarana (10 minutes away from the parks) or Sigiriya (30 minutes away) as there are plenty of hotels and family-run accommodations before you head back to the city.
How Much Does It Cost To Visit Minneriya and Kaudulla National Park?
The entrance fee for Minneriya National Park for one foreign adult is USD15 (or its equivalent in Sri Lanka rupees). Meanwhile, Kaudulla National Park entrance fee is USD10.
It’s highly recommended that you book the safari tour, especially if you’re planning to watch the elephants gathering. This way you can save a lot more. Minneriya National Park offers a safari jeep ride that lets you get close with gentle giants, which costs USD65 for one adult. Other tours, depending on duration and what’s inclusive, may be priced differently.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Minneriya and Kaudulla National Park?
The elephants gathering takes place during the dry season in Sri Lanka, sometime between July and September. The elephants are typically more active in the late afternoon when the sun is setting and the weather cools down. So, it’s best to visit the park between 3 pm to 6 pm. If you’re a morning person, another great time to start your safari tour is between 5.30 am to 8.30 am.
Do note that The Gathering is a once-a-year occurrence. However, it’s also possible to see large numbers of elephants in both parks at other times of the year!
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