MINNERIYA NATIONAL PARK – The Complete Jeep Safari Guide

Minneriya National Park is one of the best places in Sri Lanka to spot many wild elephants. The 89 square kilometre park is an ideal place for elephants to live. In particular seasons it is best to spot herds of elephants in Minneriya National Park. This period is also being called “The Gathering” because you will find the largest gathering of Asian elephants in the world! Hundreds of elephants come together to the Minneriya Tank to drink and bath. In this blogpost you will find all the information you need before you go on safari in Minneriya National Park.

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Best Minneriya safari tours

  • Minneriya National Park safari from Sigiriya. Visit the Minneriya National Park on this private tour from Habarana or Sigiriya. Ride in a 4-wheel jeep with a tracker to locate wild animals like elephants, crocodiles, and monkeys.
  • From Colombo: 8-Day Private Tour of Sri Lanka with Transport. Explore Sigiriya, Dambulla Cave temple, Minneriya, Kaudulla, and Hurulu national park. Kandy and Nuwara Eliya including waterfalls, Yala National Park, Mirissa and Galle on this private trip from Colombo.
  • Minneriya National Park Afternoon Safari from Polonnaruwa. Enjoy this all inclusive tour from your hotel in Polonnaruwa and travel to Minneriya National Park to witness a large gathering of Asian elephants.

What to expect during a Minneriya National Park safari

Located between Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa, the 89 square kilometre Minneriya National Park is an amazing eco tourism activity in Sri Lanka. Minneriya National Park is also called “The Gathering”, because here you will find the largest gathering of Asian elephants in the world! This park is a year round destination. And because it’s not such a huge area, there is always a chance to see some elephants. But the best time to spot elephants is in the afternoon when they come out of the bushes to drink and bath.


The park consists of mixed lush green forest and scrub areas and is home to Sri Lankan elephants, deer and a few leopards. The last ones are rare to spot in the park, while the elephants are very easy to spot.The central feature of Minneriya National Park is the ancient Minneriya Tank. Because of this, the elephants gather to the tank to drink and bath in the dry months which runs from May until September. There is not much water to find in other parts of the park during these months. Therefore is May until September the best period to spot many elephants, with its peak in August and September. 


Two times a day you can go to Minneriya National Park for the safari. In the morning around 6AM most tour operators arrive at the park, and in the afternoon around 2AM the second tour starts. The safari usually takes about 4 to 5 hours. You can choose the time you prefer, but it is advisable to go in the afternoon because the elephants than come to the Minneriya tank to drink and bath. Of course there is also a lot of other wildlife to see in the park. Read further to find out which!


Animals to see during a safari in Minneriya National Park

  • 24 different types of mammals live in Minneriya park including many elephants, deer, purple-faced langur and macaque monkeys among others. Rarely seen, but some leopards live in this park
  • 160 species of birds
  • 25 species reptiles including the painted-lip lizard, saltwater crocodile, Indian pyton, Asian water monitor and others.
  • Over 25 species of butterflies live in this park as well!

Best time to do a safari in Minneriya National Park

The best time to visit the elephants in Minneriya National Park is between May and September with its peak in August and September. The elephant herd migrates from Kaudulla National Park to Minneriya National Park because they are connected. During the drought period, the elephants move to the Minneriya National Park in search of water and food. The jeep drivers certainly take this into account. They know exactly where the herds can be found in the morning and then go to the right park.


Entrance fee Minneriya National Park

It depends a bit if you book through your hotel or directly at a safari tour operator. And also with how many persons you are in the jeep, so you can split those costs for the jeep and the jeep driver. The prices vary per season. But be prepared to pay around 3000 rupee entrance fee for the park and around 6000 rupee for the jeep. Although, sometimes the tour operators make the price a bit higher… So it’s hard to say exactly what you will pay. This is just an indication.


Our experience during the Minneriya National Park Safari

A safari in Minneriya National Park is unforgettable! You have a very big chance to see many Sri Lankan elephants. It is absolutely incredible to watch the wild elephants in their natural habitat. The area of Minneriya is also pretty scenic: the first half an hour you will pass through the forest and then you will arrive at the open area. There you will see the Minneriya tank where all the elephants gathering.

The jeep drivers know exactly what they are doing and have respect for the animals. Our jeep driver knew a lot about the wild animals living in Minneriya National Park. He was constantly on the look-out for special birds and other animals. We even saw a jackal, deer, peacock, owl and many special birds! Because we had a private jeep we didn’t had to reckon with other people. This gave us all the freedom to stop wherever we wanted and for how long we wanted. We could also take as many pictures as we wanted, what we really loved to do of course! All pictures in this blog post are made by us during the safari.


What to prepare before your safari

If you love nature, wildlife and photography, you will be completely in your element during the Minneriya National Park safari! Because there is a big chance you will make a lot of photos, make sure to take enough empty memory cards with you on safari!

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Mosquito repellent with DEET
  • Hat
  • Zoomlens, if you have one. Otherwise this would be a perfect reason to buy one if you love photography! 200mm is the minimum you will need! Also a camera with very good Inbody Stabillization is highly recommended!
  • Enough empty memory cards
  • Binoculars. Some tour operators provide them. But if you’re with more people in one jeep it’s not guaranteed that everyone can use a binocular at the same time
  • Take enough water with you. Most of the tour operators provide water, but I would suggest to always take at least half a litre refill bottle yourself
  • Light snacks

More Sri Lanka travel inspiration

I hope you enjoyed our complete guide with all the tips to plan your Minneriya National Park Sri Lanka safari.

Read more about all the amazing things you can do in Sri Lanka in our other blog posts.

20 best things to do in Sri Lanka – The Ultimate Guide

11 best Sri Lanka beaches – The Ultimate Guide

14 best waterfalls in Sri Lanka – The Ultimate Guide

Best things to do in Nuwara Eliya – The Ultimate Guide

Nuwara Eliya tea plantations – The Complete Guide

Sigiriya best things to do

11 best things to do in Trincomalee

Best things to do in Galle – The Complete Guide

15 best things to do in Ella – The Ultimate Guide

Best thing to do in Kandy – The Complete Guide

Lion Rock hike – The Complete Guide

Sri Lanka safari tips – The Ultimate Guide

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