Safari at Minneriya national park Sri Lanka In Sri Lanka there is no better place to watch elephants in wild than Minneriya National Park. Located roughly midway between the Habarana junction and the ancient 10th century ruins of Polonnaruwa on the A11 road, Minneriya was a favorite haunt of enterprising tour guides long before it was officially declared a National Park in 1988. Encompassing the extensive Minneriya tank and the more modest Giritale tank, the 7529 hectare park attracts hundreds of elephants during the dry season, particularly from July to October, as surrounding water sources steadily dry up. Extremely intelligent, social creatures, Asian elephants (Elephus maximus maximus) make for remarkable viewing by seasoned wildlife enthusiasts and casual observers alike. It is truly impossible not to be impressed with the sheer bulk of a fully grown adult, but equally extraordinary from the point of view of an onlooker is the network of complex social interaction that characterize a herd of the subtle dexterity with which an individual might wield its trunk while nimbly browsing. That's apart from the delightfully clumsy movements of a fuzzy month-old baby or the swaggering gait and sonorous rumbling of a musthing bull as he tries to cut a targeted cow from the herd mate. The natural cycle for the elephants of the region sees them travel in small herds of 10 to 20 during the wet season, feeding on the lush vegetation brought out by the rains. These scattered groups start to coalesce as the year wears on and the ponds and smaller tanks disappear. As the mighty Minneriya tank remains throughout the season, it is here the disparate herdâ€™s journey, meeting up with each other to form larger, loose-knit associations. Eventually, when the dry season is at its apex, a daily ritual unfolds whereby all the elephants in the area gravitate to the grassy plains exposed by the receding waters of the tank. While elephants are the main attraction at Minneriya, the park is worth a visit for more than just its elephants. A wide variety of water birds enjoy the bountiful harvest provided by the rich aquatic ecosystem. These include delicately hued painted storks (Mycteria leucocephala), slender and graceful grey herons (Ardea cinerea), and the diminutive ruddy turnstone (arenaria interpres). Profuse congregation of little cormorants (Phalacrocorax niger) are not uncommon, sometimes numbering in the tousands, and great white pelicans (Pelicanus anocrotalus) can also be frequently seen gliding low to settle on the lakeâ€™s shimmering surface. At one time the Asian elephant roamed the entire island from the lofty heights of Horton'sPlains to the sun-kissed coastal waters that greet the land and all points of the compass. In the past three centuries, however, these ponderous pachyderms have been drastically reduced in number due to habitat loss, conflict with humans over agriculture land, war and poaching. Now restricted almost entirely to the lowland dry-zone region of the country, it is only a doomed handful of elephants that still tread the odd up-country forest paths at Sinharaja, Peak Wilderness and the area around Matale.
All is far from bleak, however, and it is encouraging that despite the restrictions imposed on wildlife by Sri Lanka's relatively small size and high human density, a mammal that is as large and requires as much space as the elephant continues to survive in numbers. Minneriya and its surrounds exemplify this precarious equilibrium between humans and elephants. Forests connections to nearby Kaudulla, Somawathie Chaitiya, Flood Plains and Wasgamuwa National Parks ensure a vast tract of quality elephant habitat in the vicinity of Minneriya. At the same time this is the centre of what some of the most intensively famed is and productive paddy land in the country. In the face of this moderate success, however, there is no doubt that the maintenance of an effective balance between elephants and people on the island is on of the most pressing current issues from both a social and conservation perspective in Sri Lanka. Source Holiday in sri lanka