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Ultimate Guide To Minneriya National Park Safari

minneriya national park safari

Ultimate Guide To Minneriya National Park Safari

” Frolicking baby elephants play with mud and sand under the supervision of their mothers, while some other big jumbos grazing in the park while many others are strolling to the large pool of water in the park. Above narration describes a usual occurrence that one can experience during the Minneriya national park safari. “

Minneriya national park safari is yet another interesting activity that most tourists embark on during their visit to the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. Everyday large number of exited travellers converge at the entrance of Minneriya national park to finish the formalities before starting their Minneriya national park safari. Due to its proximity to most important cultural sites such as Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa Minneriya national park jeep safari is a byproduct for most travellers who intend to visit the monuments in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka.

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The Minneriya national park safari is a quite unexpected activity for most travellers, especially for foreign travellers, and most of them even not aware of the possibility of doing a safari here. So by including Minneriya national park in your tour itinerary, you will be able to experience the wildlife of Sri Lanka while learning the rich historical past of the island.

Sri Lanka Safari and Beach Holiday

Udawalawe national park
Minneriya national park is one of the few places in Sri Lanka where you can have a safari in a folded-roof jeep giving you 360° aerial over the park.

Minneriya national park safari is not considered to be a top-notch wildlife experience on the island but Mminneriya is the best place to see elephants in Sri Lanka, central province. Compared to Yala and Wilpattu national park, the possibilities of spotting leopards, bear and many other rare animal species is narrow during the Minneriya national park safari. Therefore Minneriya national park safari is not available as a stand-alone tour from faraway holiday destinations and west coast beach resorts such as Negombo and Bentota but as a part of the round tour packages that include cultural triangle. Udawalawe national park and Yala national are the two most popular places for wildlife exploration for tourist who anchored in west and southern coast hotels.

Udawalawe national park

But Minneriya can be conveniently explored from beach holiday destinations such as Nilaweli, Kalkudah, Pasikudah and Batticaloa. Due to the proximity of Minneriya to the east coast of Sri Lanka, the travellers who choose a beach hotel in East coast can reach Minneriya within a 2 hours drive, it is about 85 km to Mnneriya from the east coast beaches. Therefore Sri Lanka safari and beach holiday can go hand in hand if you choose a beach resort on the east coast and the safari at Minneriya national park. There are a large number of hotels popped up on the east coast of Sri Lanka in the recent past and travellers can find accommodation easily in these areas. In fact, East coast has the best settings for beach holidays from April to November due to the effect of monsoon over the West and southern coast.

Like many other national parks such as Udawalawe national park and Yala national park large number of jeeps converging at the entrance of Minneriya national park in the early morning and afternoon every day. It is very busy at the entrance in the early hours and the afternoon due to the large gathering of the tourists, who are eager to take exiting Mineriya national park safari. Some of them are heading to their base in Habarana, Dambulla or Sigiriya after the visiting the historical monument in the cultural triangle and some of them are making an extra journey from their hotel nearby to explore the Sri Lankan wildlife during their free time available of their Sri Lanka road trip.

Tips for Sri Lanka wildlife tours

Minneriya is declared as a sanctuary in 1938 and declared as a national park in August 1997. The national park is open to visitors since 1998. Minneriya national park in the most popular national park in Polonnaruwa district as well as in the North-central Province. Minneriya national park is about 182 kilometres from Colombo and located on the ColomboPolonnaruwa main road. But for tourists who visit Sigiriya, Dambulla, Habarana it is merely about 10 kilometres drive to reach the park.

You will be able to spot a large concentration of wild elephants during the Minneriya national park safari. Apart from the elephant, many other animals such as crocodile, monkeys, monitors, jackal can be spotted here. Leopard and sloth bear also can be seen here but the opportunity is very rare. Minneriya is most sought after for its wild elephnats, a large number of wild elephants come to Minneriya national park from adjoining wildlife reserves such as Sasgamuwa, Mmaduru Oya national par, Somawathiya and Galoya sanctuary.

It is believed that wild elephants at Minneriya are quite docile compared to wild elephant found in other national parks in Sri Lanka, but it is very important to be cautious when dealing with these wild jumbos. Rare varieties of trees that produce valuable woods such as Halmilla, Weera, Palu, Milla can be often seen in this dry zone park. Maana, a type of grass that grows up to 30cm tall, flank the dusty-track in the park.

Most jeep divers at the park have well-trained eyes and clue about spotting animals, they can spot wild animals easily than the foreigners do, therefore it is strongly recommended to seek the help of a jeep driver, who has experience doing a safari at Minneriya national park in order to have the best Minneriya national park safari.

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You may spot huge shell shaped objects dangling from giant tree branches, they are wasp nests. Wasp nests can be spotted in this part of Sri Lanka very often. Sigiriya rock fortress is noteworthy with regards to wasp nests and wasp attacks. Several wasp attacks are recorded from the world heritage site of Sigiriya every year. There are a large number of wasp nests towards the leeward side of Sigiriya rock fortress, the nests are built in such a way that it could avoid the strong wind.

Several iron cubicles protected by nets can be seen at nearby popular tourist attraction Sigiriya rock fortress, near the lion’s paw, which supposes to provide the protection in case of wasp attack. There were not wasp attached recorded from Minneriya national park but the advice, of course, obvious, never approach the residents of these nests and don’t disturb them, keep the noise down. However, the visitors are not allowed to get off the jeep in the park except only a few selected spots.

The park is a haven for wild elephants with plenty of vegetation that they love to eat and with a large tract of open grassland near the Minneriya tank. There is a mix of forest, grassland and scrubland vegetation in the park. The type of landscape at Minneriya park (more or less flatland) and the vegetation is loved by elephants. Similar type geographical conditions and vegetation also can be observed at Udawalawe national park, which another wildlife reserve with large concentrations of wild elephants.

Minneriya tank is the main source of water in the national park. This man-made tank is 2500 years old and still in good shape, irrigating more than 8,000 hectares of paddy fields. The tank is an important source of life not only for the animals in the park but also for the people in the area.

24 species of mammals, 160 species of birds, 25 species of fish, 75 species of butterflies found in the park. 15 endemic butterflies, as well as 6 endangered butterfly species, are residing in the park. Painted stork, the large bird with long beak standing in the water is a very common sight in the water resources here. They are occurring in great number at any time of the year in the park. Great white pelican is also another common bird spotted in the water resources in the park. Endemic bird species such as Sri Lanka hanging parrot, jungle fowl, and grey horn-bill can be spotted here. Endemic and endangered red-lipped lizard can be seen here and it is one of the species of reptiles occurring in the park.

The open grassland near the Minneriya tank is the best place to see a large concentration of wild elephants. Everyday towards the dusk, animals are gathering here to fulfil their water requirement and food supplement. Especially the tender grass that grows along the bank is a very much loved delicacy of elephants. Here you can spot elephants in all shapes and all sizes. As many as 400 wild elephants together have been cited here. Many herds of wild elephants lumbering along the bank are very common sights here.

If you set off on your Minneriya national park safari during the dry season, the number of wild elephants can be exceptionally low, numbering about a dozen of them. Most elephants move to nearby wildlife reserves and look for water during the drought. In that case, you may have to opt for Kauduall or Eco-park as the venue for your safari. The Elephants change their residence between the national parks in the area and choose the best place to hang-around based on the availability of food and water. They move from one place to other on foot, after all, elephants are great walkers and walk as much as 3o kilometres a day.

The park is heavily soak-up with waters of the torrential rain during the monsoons, that occurs during the 6 months from October to March. Dry weather with very low rainfall is experienced in the region during the rest of the year. But the tank stores the water during the rainy season and feed the entire region with water during the drought.

So the Minneriya national park safari is very handy for people who come across the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. The Cultural Triangle is a standard option for most Sri Lanka round tours beaches holiday packages. So, don’t forget to explore this dry-zone national park, because this is a rare opportunity to gather a countless number of beautiful wildlife memories.

Minneriya hotel

Minneriya is an isolated rocky outcrop with dense foliage in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Minneriya lies in the North-central province of Sri Lanka on the Habarana-Matara highway.  Minneriya is popular mainly due to the  Minneriya National park and historical Minneriya tank and the majority of the land of Minneriya is occupied by the National park. Therefore only a few families living in the area and travellers are not able to find hotels in Minneriya. There are no popular hotels in Minneriya or any other accommodation types offered by tour operators in Sri Lanka. But there are plenty of opportunities to find accommodation in nearby cities such as Habaran, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya. Minneriya national park is only a few minutes away from any of the earlier mentioned cities.

Best time of the year for Minneriya safari

The best time for Minneriya national park safari is from April to November (during the south-west monsoon period). The park is drenched in the North-east monsoon and makes it difficult to travel on the muddy surface. Therefore as alternatives, most travellers are heading to eco-park or Kaudulla to ease their thirst for wildlife exploration.


1. Where can I rent a jeep?

A jeep can be obtained at any of the hotels in Sigiriya, Dambulla, Habana and Polonnaruwa. If you are not staying in a hotel nearby, drop in at Habarana junction, you can easily find a jeep for the safari, just in front of the petrol station. A large number of Jeep owners are waiting here for customers to knock on their door.

2. How much does it cost for the jeep?

A jeep cost 4000 rupees per safari, it can accommodate up to 4 persons. The jeep owners charge per trip regardless the number of persons travels with it.

3. Minneriya national park safari cost

Entrance ticket can be obtained only at the entrance ticket counter located at the entrance of Minneriya national park.

4. How much is the entrance fee for Minneriya national park safari?

$ 15 per person, $ 8 per child, service charge $8, 15% tax, 250 rs for the jeep. Payment for the entrance fees can be done only with local currency, therefore don’t forget to carry Sri Lankan rupees with you.

5. How long Minneriya safari lasts?

Usually, Minneriya safari lasts about 2 hours, within 2 hours travellers are able to cover most places where animals can be seen. But in some cases, you might spend 3 or 4 hours in the park. It all depends on the jeep driver and the guide. Most drivers and the guides willing to give the best safari experience to their guests and therefore they try to show as much animal as possible to the travellers, therefore, they spend a little bit longer in the park.

6. Minneriya national park best time to visit

Early morning before the sun blasts in full force or in the afternoon. The morning Minneriya safari should begin at around 6.00 am. It is easy to spot animals in the early hours before the sun blasts in full force. As the temperature rises it gets difficult to spot animals in the park, because animals move to shaded areas in order to avoid the heat. The afternoon Minneriyaa safari should begin at around 2.00 pm, as the sun retreats the temperature in the park reduces and animals started to show up again.

7. Opening time of the park?

Minneriya national park opens daily from 6.00 AM to 6 P.M

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Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity tours)

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