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Elephant Safari : Minneriya National Park vs Kaudulla National Park

Elephant Safari in Sri lanka

Visiting Sri Lanka has always been a fun experience. I end up going to national parks during my stays and I must say, I’ll never get tired of these places.

Sometime in June last year, I went to Minneriya National Park. This year, around August, I decided to visit the Kaudulla National Park.

I’ve written some notes about my trip below that you might find useful when planning your visit.


Things-to-do-in-Minneriya-National Park
Elephant Crossing

Location: Maradankadawala-Habarana-Thirukkondaiadimadu Highway, Rambawilla 50150, Sri Lanka

Schedule: 6 AM – 6:30 PM

Admission: $8 – $15 equivalent of Rs; there is $8 service charge, a Rs 250 vehicle charge, and 15% tax

What to expect?


The park covers 88.9 sq km of the area that includes a lot of grassland, forest, and wetlands.

There are wild elephants, toque macaques (Old World monkeys native to Sri Lanka), butterflies, wild pig, mongoose, buffalo, sambar deer, leopards, frogs, lizards, freshwater fish, and crocodiles. There is also a wide variety of birds that can be seen inside the park.

How to get there?

If you didn’t book a tour that includes a pickup and decided to simply rent a vehicle to visit, the entrance is located on the Habarana-Polonnaruwa Road. The places and roads in Sri Lanka can be a mouthful to speak but many hired drivers know the area, so you can simply ask them to drive you there.

If you are staying near the area, you can just head to the entrance and rent a jeep there.

Entrance tickets can be bought near the entrance where they also exhibit the history of Minneriya National Park.

If you want an easy and hassle free experience, here are some tours you can book for Minneriya National Park 

Minneriya National Park afternoon Safari

Minneriya National Park 

Tour From Kandy with Village Tour and Minneriya National Park + Sigriya Rock 

Minneriya National Park and Hirriwaduna Village 

Private Tour from Colombo



My Personal Experience in Minneriya National Park

I visited Minneriya National Park last June 2018. I happen to visit during the dry season which is the recommended best time of the year to visit.

The drive is bumpy but it merely builds up my excitement to the wonders of the park.

The dense forest drive is a bit long which took more than 30 minutes. There are not many animals to see from the road during the drive but I can’t help myself from looking back and forth in case I missed any. I saw some birds perched on the trees and flying up high during the drive.

After the drive through the forest, the landscape is really a wondrous sight to see since it opens up as we drove out of the forest.

There are a lot of elephants doing various activities. Apparently, during the dry season, it is easy to find the elephants in Minneriya because their great number reaches to 200 or more.

I’ve also seen some birds that I haven’t seen before though I am not familiar with the names of those kinds.


Kaudulla National Park
Photo by Toti of Italian Trip Abroad

Location: Galoya Road, Galoya, Sri Lanka

Schedule: 6 AM – 6 PM

Admission: $5 – $10 equivalent of Rs; there is $8 service charge, a Rs 250 vehicle charge, and 15% tax

What to expect?

Kaudulla National Park

Similar to Minneriya, there are grasslands and forests to be seen in Kaudulla. Many of the species you can find in Minneriya can also be seen in Kaudulla. There are also some turtles and wild boars in the area.

The best time to visit the park to watch elephants is from August to October. It follows after the “Gathering” that Minneriya National Park is known for.

The park is submerged in water most of the year since most of the area it covers are different bodies of water.

How to get to Kaudulla National Park

With a rented vehicle, you can reach the park by taking the Colombo-Trincomalee main road. Just make sure to head north from the village of Habarana, then you will reach the entrance of Kaudulla National Park. Otherwise, you can book a safari tour instead that includes a pickup depending on the location you are staying in.

 If you want a hassle free tour then you can choose the following: 

Colombo , Dambulla and Kaudulla 

My Personal Experience in Kaudulla National Park

Kaudulla Elephant Safari

I decided to visit Kaudulla National Park last August of this year. After reaching the entrance, we took a bumpy ride. There are not many tourists when we visited and this is what I prefer.

Elephant Safari in Sri Lanka
Photo by Teresa of Brogan Abroad

I spotted some birds and monkeys on this visit but I am mostly awestruck by the elephants which are the main attraction.

We saw a lot of the elephants playing, eating, walking with the smaller ones, but all of these from the distance. Since many of the elephants are walking around, I love how they gave way a lot. It is admirable that they are mindful of the elephants’ paths.


In conclusion of my experience in both parks, Kaudulla is quieter compared to Minneriya. There are obviously fewer jeeps around so you can take a lot of photos without getting bombed by other tourists.

Minneriya is definitely more scenic compared to Kaudulla but the number of tourists who visit the parks happens to be more in Minneriya because of this.

Your decision on which park to visit can be dependent on the month you plan to visit Sri Lanka. The elephants usually move from place to place so make sure to ask some guidance from the locals on which is preferable to visit.

In planning for your itinerary, I suggest that you make time for 3 to 4 hours on your visit since the drive is bumpy and a bit time consuming to fully enjoy the place.

My last tip for your national park visit in Sri Lanka, make sure to bring lots of water during your trip and a load of backup batteries and SD cards for your camera. You won’t be able to stop yourself from taking tons of pictures of the elephants.

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