The renovated vast ancient Minneriya Rainwater Reservoir that irrigates the considerable area of the district of Polonnaruwa is the focal point of the Minneriya National Park.
Being part of the elephant corridor which joins up with Kaudulla and Wasgomuwa parks, Minneriya National Park gives the opportunity to see herds of Elephants throughout the year.May to October is the best period to visit Minneriya National Park in view of the famous Gathering of the wild elephants.
It is the largest known meeting place of Asian Elephants in the world. During this period herds up to 300 elephants are seen at the 8,890 hectare park within a few square kilometers of the Minneriya Reservoir. In August and September each year during the dry season, wild elephants from the surrounding wilderness in search of food and water, makes their way to the shores of the Minneriya Reservoir adjoining the Minneriya National Park. Huge herd of elephants, sometimes numbering up to 300, converge together within a few square kilometers of the lake.
Minneriya National Park that covers an area of 8,889 hectares is of tropical monsoon climate: annual rainfall is about 1146mm and mean annual temperature is 27.5 centigrade. The altitude ranges from100m to 885m at the top of Nilgala peak.
Minneriya National Park has no accommodation facilities within its boundaries. But the cities close to Minneriya National Park– Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Habrana and Giritale- are clustered with luxury hotels and lodges.
The vegetation of the park consists of tropical dry mixed evergreen forests, abandoned chena lands, grasslands and wetlands. The open grasslands and old chena lands are dominated by the many species of small shrub.
The abandoned chenas are dominated by kukuruman (Randia dumetorum), keppettia (Croton sp.) wara (Calotropis Gigantea) and grasses i.e. katu-una (Bambusa bambos), wali indi (Phonenix zeylanica), illuk (Imerata Cylindirca) and pohon (Panicum Maximum).
The phytoplankton is dominated by Microcystis and Melosira.Among the large trees are palu (Manilkara Hexandra), Satin (Chloroxylon Swietenia), milla (Vitex Altissima), Kalumediriya (Diospyros Quaesita), halmilla (Berrya Cordifolia), weera (Drypets Sepiaria).
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Among the 24 species of mammals resident in the park are Elephants, Leopards, Sloth Bear, Spotted Deer, Sambar Deer, Wild Buffalo, Wild Pig, Grey Langers, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, three species of Mongoose, Porcupine and Indian Pangolin.
Minneriya National Park has recorded over 170 species of birds. From Migrating waders like Woodsand Piper, Common Sandpiper & Kentish Plovers to forest birds like Malabar-pied Hornbills, Rufus Woodpecker the globally endangered Lesser Adjutant and the endemics Sri Lanka Grey Horn-bill, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Brown-capped Babbler and Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl are some of the highlights.
Among the nine species of Amphibians at Minneriya National Park are the endemic and endangered Slender Wood Frog and the Common Tree Frog. Of the 25 species of reptiles recorded in the park 8 are endemic including the Red-lipped Lizard. Water and Land Monitors are also seen here. The Mugger Crocodile can be seen near the tank. Many species of fresh water fish are found in the Minneriya reservoir.