Sri Lanka is home to an estimated ten percent of Asian elephants which makes sighting elephants in their natural habitat a relatively easy endeavour. Elephant safaris are popular amongst tourists and locals alike, and a memorable experience can be expected with these gentle giants.
The Minneriya National Park is the locale for a spectacular gathering of elephants from July to October during the dry season in the North Central and Eastern provinces. As it is a period of drought there is a lack of water in the region and it is this that brings nearly 300 elephants to the Minneriya Tank. Water is an essential component of an elephant’s survival as on average a fully grown elephant drinks about a 100 litres of water a day. Minneriya irrigation tank has become a refuge for elephants because during the dry seasons they cannot drink water from waterholes in the forests since they evaporate into cracked mud patches. Hence the reason they all come to the Minneriya Tank which collects water during the time of the Monsoon and thereby becomes the source of water for herds of thirsty elephants during the long months of the drought. Wildlife experts explain that during this time the elephants assemble together in order to drink water and feed on the grass which grows on the bed of the tank.
The Minneriya Elephant gathering is not the result of elephant migration but instead the outcome of a number of different wild elephant herds meeting together in the same place. They come from a host of different locations in the North Central Province making this large assembly of Wild Asian elephants an extremely unique and unusual global occurrence. In fact Lonely Planet has ranked, what is now commonly referred to as ‘The Gathering’, 6th on their list of the world’s best wildlife spectacles. This gathering is also considered to be the largest in South Asia and is extremely popular with visitors who want to witness this annual event. Visitors are spectator to herds and herds of elephants who eat, drink and frolic on the dry tank bed at Minneriya. For some lucky elephant enthusiasts they may even catch a glimpse of one or two tuskers.