It’s our first time in Sri Lanka. And I confess that my personal knowledge of this country that used to be called Ceylon has been so limited before we got here. Oh sure, Sri Lanka or Ceylon evokes memories of that fragrant tea, spicy curry, and elephants. We’ve been here only 2 days but feel we’ve come to know so much more about Sri Lanka than those guide books will tell us. Like it’s a haven for bird lovers. I can only wish I knew more about birds as we spotted them in Minneriya National Park.

We just couldn’t pass up the chance to see Sri Lankan wildlife. Never mind that we didn’t expect much beyond elephants and deer and peacocks. No leopards here; the guide books say they are found in the Yala National Park. Other guide books say they are also found here, along with the sambar deer. I would have wanted to see one in the wilds, having missed this among the Big 5 in my African Safari some years back. But a big herd of elephants is good to watch. Elephants of varying sizes; the baby ellies with their moms. A couple of these huge beasts moved towards our safari jeeps and we promptly backed up. We were 3 jeeps in all. And we thought this entire spectacle is good enough for wildlife viewing today.

Formerly a wildlife sanctuary, Minneriya was declared a national park 20 years ago. It is located in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka and is claimed to be home to the biggest herd of Asian elephants that gather on the banks of the Minneriya Reservoir. Though the “gathering” peaks during the drought around August- September, we found a good size this early March. Wildlife activitists would be happy for this natural phenomenon. So would bird lovers and the environmentalists. Let’s just hope tourism advocates don’t get overboard promoting this place. At the time we visited, we were only 3 safari jeeps around The Gathering, but more such safari jeeps can block the paths of these elephants and agitate them. Speaking of which, Minneriya authorities can limit the number of visitors and safari jeeps at any one time. I don’t know, perhaps they do this already. I am no wildlife nor environmental expert. Just a happy spectator this breezy afternoon. šŸ˜Š

(Thanks, Topper, for the last 3 beautiful shots!)

(Thanks for this group photo, Rick C. We had fun, huh?)

More photos (from Angel) below: