the annual, largest gathering of asian elephants
As the sun sinks towards the horizon and the air begins to cool, you look out over the vast reservoir; a peaceful sight, of flat drying grasslands and gently rippling water. Shadows begin to emerge from the surrounding jungle, one by one, elephants slowly make their way out of the shady trees and out onto the plains towards the water, glistening under what is left of the afternoon sun. Seemingly from every direction these magnificent animals converge. Different herds travelling together as one, with just a single goal in mind: water.
You sit and watch as these huge animals drink, play and snack on the green, lush grasses that have been exposed by the receding water. This little area, wild with life, is home for the dry season to over 300 elephants that have come from all over the North Central Province of Sri Lanka.
This is not a migration, but an annual coming together of wild animals. Herds come from as far as Kantale to sip the sweet waters of the Minneriya tank and you can be there to witness this magnificent event, up close and personal.
Where and when
Minneriya National Park is in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka , about a ten minute drive east from Habarana. Dominated by the man made Minneriya tank, this relatively small park has a huge range of wildlife living in its many habitats, including spotted deer, sambar, purple-faced langur monkeys and macaques, but it is most famous for elephant. During the dry months, from July to October, the tank is on the ‘migration’ route for these huge beasts from many of the surrounding areas as they search for water and fresh grass, all of which has dried up elsewhere. They gather in numbers of up to 300 at this time, beginning the largest meeting of Asian elephants in the world.
The dry season in Sri Lanka means decreased water-supplies for these massive mammals. They come from far and wide to drink from the Minneriya tank, a man-made water-source that is reliable each year, keeping them coming back. Not only can they find drinking water here, but as the water in the tank recedes it exposes fresh, green shoots of grass on which they can graze. A much tastier treat than dry scrubland! Around the tank there are tall shrubs and forest that provide ample shelter for the elephants during the hot days. When the sun is setting, they begin to emerge, starting off with one or two, building up to 300 at peak times. Here they graze, drink, play and even find mates and socialise.
How can I see the elephant gathering?
To see ‘The Gathering’ you will need to head to Minneriya National Park and we can easily tailor this into your Sri Lanka safari. Cinnamon Lodge has great access to the park and you can embark on drives to see the elephants from there. They are active as the sun is going down, meaning you can explore the park in the day in search of other wildlife before settling into a comfy spot to watch their antics in the late afternoon. From Cinnamon Lodge you can also easily explore the Cultural Triangle, go bird watching in Habarana, explore Wilpattu National Park or witness the magnificent Sigiriya Rock.
Best time to go
August - September