Recently I arrived in Sri Lanka. While this is my first time visiting this country, my focus on this trip is solely wildlife. My flight was delayed and arrived late into the night, so I stayed one night in Negombo by the airport, at a place called Regente Aria Lagoon. A little dated but not bad for $50 dollars a night.

The next day I headed to Sigiriya, a town situated near Minneriya National Park. Minneriya National Park is located in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. The centerpiece of the park is the Minneriya Tank (reservoir).

King Mahasen constructed this tank during the 3rd century AD to irrigate surrounding agricultural lands. The region around the tank had been a center of human habitation and activity for many centuries due to its importance in supporting agriculture.

The park was initially declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. Later on, in 1997, the area was re-designated as a national park to protect the local fauna and flora, especially the many species of animals that come to the Minneriya Tank to drink and feed.

Minneriya National Park is renowned for its “Elephant Gathering.” During the dry season (generally from July to October), over 200 elephants might converge on the shrinking waters of the Minneriya Tank. See elephants below.

This phenomenon is one of Asia’s most spectacular wildlife events as it becomes a magnet for elephants from the surrounding areas. See more elephants below. In addition to elephants, the park is home to many species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.

Apart from the elephants, the park is home to species such as spotted deer, sambar, purple-faced langur monkeys, and various species of lizards, butterflies, and birds.

Due to its varied ecosystems, the national park is a haven for a wide variety of bird species. Both endemic (species found only in Sri Lanka) and migrant birds (which travel to Sri Lanka during specific seasons) can be observed here.

Below are two mated White-bellied sea eagles (I think they are) I saw sitting high in a tree (600mm lens).

I also saw a Crescent serpent eagle and a kestrel, but both moved before I could get a proper shot.

There are many other bird species found in Minneriya National Park. Some of these are Lesser Adjutant, Spot-billed Pelican, Little Cormorant, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Indian Peafowl, Black-headed Ibis and the Rainbow Bee-eater.

Here is the kestrel below (the light was extreme and the bird flew off as I tried to account for it). Hence the low quality photo.

During the migratory season (usually between October and March), many bird species travel to Minneriya from the northern regions. Some of these include various species of sandpipers, plovers, and terns.

As with many national parks worldwide, Minneriya faces threats from human encroachment, illegal activities like poaching, and habitat degradation. However, its status as a national park provides some degree of protection, and efforts are continuously made to ensure that the park remains a haven for its diverse wildlife.

The park is a major tourist attraction in Sri Lanka, particularly for those wanting to witness the majestic Asian elephant in the wild. Safaris and guided tours allow visitors to explore the park’s diverse habitats and experience its wildlife.