Today I am going to tell you about one of the essential excursions if you travel to Sri Lanka, a safari in the Minneriya National Park.
Minneriya is one of the largest national parks in Sri Lanka. It is located in the north-central province of the country and has an approximate area of 9000 hectares.
It received official protection as a park in 1997 given the immense presence of wildlife on its grounds and to protect the lakes that supply the flora and fauna of the region.
It is a very important protected area and competes for popularity with Yala, Bundala and Udawalawe, the best known in Ceylon. Each one of them stands out for a specific reason, Minneriya without a doubt because of the elephants. Everyone who travels to Sri Lanka must go to 1 or 2 national parks.
The best time to visit is from July to October, the dry season in the north of the country. During the summer, the rains are scarce and the animals are forced to migrate to the park's wetlands and lakes.
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How to get to Minneriya?
Minneriya is relatively close to the well-known cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, the 3 most important archaeological sites in the country and surely the most touristic area in Ceylon (Sigiriya, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa). For this reason it is relatively easy to get to this National Park. Typically, travelers doing the cultural triangle also choose to go on safari in Minneriya.
To get to it and make the safari or go inside, you must hire the service of a private agency with a 4 × 4 car and driver, you cannot go on your own (as of 2015). You can only circulate inside the protected area with 4 × 4 cars. The price should not go above $ 45 or $ 50 per person. Normally the duration of the excursions is about 3 or 4 hours, enough to travel quietly through the jungle and the plains and lakes.
It is very easy to contract this service once we are in the country, you do not need to hire it from here. The lodge or hotel itself will manage the excursion. Another option is to go to the towns closest to the park entrance and hire the agency there, on the side and side of the road it is full of companies that for a price always similar offer to make the excursion.
The most logical thing would be to enter the park coming from Sigiriya given its proximity (only 10Km), I recommend you visit the archaeological site and world heritage site of Sigiriya during the morning, starting very early, and in the afternoon move to Minneriya to go on safari. Sigiriya can be reached by train, car or bus from Colombo (the capital) or from Kandy (the second largest city and located in the center of Sri Lanka).
It is very beautiful to see how the sun sets surrounded by elephants and spectacular landscapes from this national park.
Another option available is to do a part of the safari riding an elephant. Some of the agencies offer this service, trekking through Minneriya with elephants through the grasslands and forests. Personally, I do not know if it is worth it, I preferred to do the whole excursion with a car.
What to see in Minneriya? Fauna
Minneriya National Park is world famous for its Asian breed elephants. There are hundreds of them in the wild and it is very easy to see dozens of them in the same afternoon. The coexistence between humans and these animals is completely natural and with respect, they have become used to dozens of cars coming to see them every day. Still personally I think there are too many cars in the area where there are more animals. I do not know if the government imposes a maximum limit of entrances to the park.
During the summer (dry season in the area), the elephants come 1 or 2 times a day to drink water at the main lake, it is there where you can see the elephants up close.
Apart from elephants, the park also abounds with monkeys, chameleons, flamingos and all kinds of birds, peacocks, water buffalo, ... There are also leopards, although it is very difficult to see them.
In a few hectares you can see all kinds of animals.
What to see in Minneriya? Flora
Minneriya National Park is located in the jungle of Sri Lanka.
The vegetation of the park consists of tropical dry evergreen forests, mixed with grasslands, shrub areas and wetlands. The dominant landscape in this area are lagoons and meadows.
Some of the trees present in Minneriya are indigenous to the island, they can only be seen in this country. For example the Ceylon palm tree. The warm and rainy climate creates a space of unique natural beauty.
From my experience I can tell you that a safari in Sri Lanka is not comparable to an African safari but it is a totally recommendable experience if you travel to Southeast Asia. As I said before, given its proximity to the cultural triangle, I suggest you go to Sigiriya in the morning and Minneriya in the afternoon. The entrance is not very cheap but in 2 or 3 hours of safari you will enjoy the landscapes and the animals of the park.