The Minneriya National Park has at its heart the ancient Minneriya reservoir, built by King Mahasen. As the dry season begins to wither the green land of the rustic North Central province, and suck dry the waters in the area, the elephants have no option but to follow their scent looking for sweet grass and water. The Minneriya reservoir never dries, so it becomes the centre of herds literally nosing their way through. The herds converge and their ‘gathering’ can grow up to 300 elephants. The Gathering has the allure of being the biggest annual grouping of elephants in Asia. The drought months of late June to September propel it.
If you wish to experience the complete splendour of the giants living out their life in the open, be ready before dusk. Late afternoon is when the peace-loving, gentle animals prefer to have this social evening or garden party. In their hundreds, the elephants are happy to squelch in the precious pocket of lush sweet grass and muddy water. Their hides will be bathed in the golden dusk light and, possibly, their glow of happiness, at this massive herd rendezvous. They bathe, mate, eat and socialise. You will have a good number of animated action to witness on the same plane. Look out for the adorable tiny ones that run like nobody’s business, but approach with care because the jealous mothers, aunts and uncles are quite protective. The Gathering in Minneriya is truly a rare and must-see spectacle!
The Gathering is best witnessed at dusk in the months from June to September.