MINNERIYA & KAUDULLA NATIONAL PARKS
BEST FOR: The largest seasonally and predictably recurring concentration of wild elephants anywhere in the world. Concentrations of elephants in certain African sites may in some years be higher, but are unpredictable to be a recurrent visitor draw.
DRIVE TIME FROM COLOMBO: 5.5 hours.
WHAT’S NEARBY? The ruined monasteries and palaces of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. The forest hermitage of Ritigala, an isolated mountain sticking up from the dry lowland plains. Popham’s Arboretum near Dambulla.
These two parks are within half an hour’s drive of each other in the North Central Province, sited around two large reservoirs. Scrub jungle surrounds the lakes and contains many mammals, but game viewing is generally poor, except for the wonderful seasonal congregation of elephants. The ‘Elephant gathering’ takes place in Minneriya during September and October, when more than 300 elephants can come together on the reservoir bed, which dries out to create a lush grassland.