Our elephant safari experience in Sri Lanka with Lakpura Travels
I’ve always wanted to have our own safari experience spotting wild animals in their natural habitat. Ever since I was a little girl, I used to watch Animal Planet for hours trying to imagine that amazing feeling of being so close to wild animals and the thrill of not knowing how they will react. It may sound scary and I bet it is, but the adrenaline somehow sounds even better.
*Funny fact about me: I was not afraid to stay just 2 meters away from a huge elephant, but if I see a lizard or a snake nearby, I am going to freak out and start crying like a baby.
While we were in Kenya in February this year, we had a glimpse of how a safari experience looks like in Nairobi National Park, but we could not get the full adventure since we had to rush to the airport and catch our next flight.
Still, the time has come for us this summer in Sri Lanka and I am so grateful to Lakpura Travels for the best safari experience!
WHERE & WHEN
Before heading to Sri Lanka at the end of July this year, I did my research online and discovered that this is one of the most famous places in the world for spotting wild elephants in their natural habitat. That sounded amazing and we tried to squeeze an elephant safari in our already tight schedule for 11 days in Sri Lanka.
While searching the internet, I was happy to find out there is a massive elephant gathering between July and September in the center of the country and that this time of the year was actually one of the best for this activity.
Since we had a couple of days in Dambulla and Sigiriya, we decided to choose Minneriya National Park for our adventure and we were in luck because we found the best activities provider: Lakpura Travels.
Minneriya National Park is located just 20 km away from Sigiriya so it is very easy to find an empty spot on your schedule and enjoy this adventure! We discussed with Lakpura Travels and we also arranged a transfer from our hotel in Sigiriya till the National Park (Attention: Additional fees will apply based on your location. Free pickup is included to/from any location within the radius of 5km from park gate).
We started our adventure at Lakpura Base Camp by taking our very own jeep together with the owner, Amila, and Laleesha, our guide. We decided to remove the top of the jeep and the fun soon began. We arrived in just a few minutes to Minneriya National Park and had a very bumpy and funny ride till the heart of the park. If you decide to stay up and outside the jeep, expect a lot of dust and be careful with the “aggressive” leaves and trees, we got a few scratches.
I was excited, but also afraid that we are not going to be lucky and see elephants in our safari which is probably why some travelers avoid this kind of experience. Well, I could not have been more wrong! As soon as we arrived in the middle of the park, we saw a big lake and herds of elephants in the distance. I was so happy and, in that moment, I knew I am going to always remember this adventure.
As we were getting closer to one of the herds, other jeeps appeared too, but we still got an amazing spot for admiring the elephants. While we were there, they even decided to come closer to the jeep. It was an amazing feeling – seeing so many elephants, including cute babies so close to us. One of them was even braver and more curious at the same time because he came right next to the jeep, around two meters away, which gave us all goosebumps.
After observing them and their behavior for a while, we decided to move over and continued our adventure in Minneriya National Park. I was surprised to see so many elephants in the same place because till the end we got to see around 5 herds in different locations. They even walked by us for a while.
When we were getting ready to exit the park, we even met with a lost elephant, alone, on the jeeps’ path. He just appeared in the middle of the road probably searching for his family. It was so sad seeing him alone, but I bet he found the herd right away, they were nearby J All the jeeps stopped and waited for him to decide on his own where he wants to go. It was like the elephant police stopped us for driving too fast. It also came very close to the jeep because we were the first in line.
We left the park at sunset with a huge smile on our faces and our hearts filled with gratitude for this amazing adventure!
TYPES OF SAFARI
There are two types of safari based on the time of the day: really early in the morning (6AM-9AM) or afternoon (3PM-6PM).
Both are probably amazing, but from what I have witnessed there and the information I have received, the afternoon safari is a better choice. Why do I say that? I understood that the elephants tend to stay hidden most part of the day and go out searching for water around 2-3PM. This is the reason why, at least in Minneriya National Park, you will find them next to the lake. This offers the most beautiful scenery: families of elephants, including cute little babies, drinking water and eating grass next to the lake. Amazing, right? J
PS: Both types of safari last around 3 hours which will give you enough time to enjoy everything and you will have a private jeep + driver at your disposal (the jeep fits maximum 6 adults);
PS2: Every person needs to buy a ticket to enter the park. Even so, you cannot enter without a jeep and you are not allowed to go down once you passed the gates, except for one place in the middle of the park where you will also find a view point.
WHY CHOOSE A SAFARI EXPERIENCE
Well, as I have told you in one of my previous posts, there are many tourists who skip this activity and choose the commercial experience which is going to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage where the elephants are kept in captivity and even in chains. Because I haven’t been there in person, I don’t want to misinform you, but I have read many not so happy stories about this kind of elephant encounter. Elephants are kept in chains because they can become aggressive and I don’t think we can even blame an wild animal for that when they are forced to take thousands of pictures per day, eat from all visitors and then bathe in the river no matter if they want to or not. This is not the way to see elephants, especially when, for a similar price, you can see them in their natural habitat, wandering free with their families and babies.
I have to be honest with you and say you will not be the only one in the park; in fact there is a huge number of jeeps with visitors from all over the world ready for the adventure of their life.
The good news is that Minneriya National Park has very strict rules to follow and the jeeps are only allowed on a designated area. Crossing that path leads to banning them from entering to park for a certain amount of time. This way it is up to the elephants if they want to be seen or not because the park is extremely big and they have enough space to get lost.
Still, when we were there I got the impression that they like being in the center of attention from time to time because they came so close to the jeeps.
Another good thing is that visitors cannot go out from the jeeps so this prevents accidents and also keeps both the visitors and the elephants safe.
Last, but not least, by choosing a safari, you say no to riding the elephants which is one popular activity among tourists and I couldn’t disagree more. It is not that they cannot lift weights which sure isn’t a problem for them, but the bad thing is how much pain an wild animal has to feel in order to learn not to attack, not to harm a tourist when he tries to ride him. We must not forget they are not domestic animals!
WHO IS LAKPURA TRAVELS AND WHY CHOOSE THEM
Lakpura Travels is a Sri Lankan tour operator that offers memorable moments for travelers since 2008. Accredited by the Tourism Development Authority of Sri Lanka, they specialize in fields such as: Hospitality, Tourism, Transport, Wellness, Safari, Wildlife, Bird Watching and Adventure Sports in Sri Lanka.
We had the luck of finding them and we visited Minneriya National Park together with the owner, Amila, and the best guide, Laleesha, which was amazing because we received tons of interesting information about the elephants, their habitat, the migration and the big gathering that was happening on the island.
We recommend Lakpura Travels because they offered us the best safari experience by taking care of everything: hotel pick-up and drop off, entrance fees, great jeep for the bumpy ride, complimentary water etc.
I am impressed how passionate Laleesha is when it comes to elephants and I think this quality is crucial when you do this for a living. Last, but not least, the driver was fantastic and offered us the best views while still giving space to the elephants.
If you want to see the prices, just click HERE. Keep in mind that apart from renting the jeep, which fits up to 6 adults and costs 25 $ at the moment, you will also have to pay for the entrance ticket. Pick up/Drop off for any location within the radius of 5km from park gate is included in the price (Additional fees for other locations).
From what I know the entrance costs around 30$/person, but it depends based on the number of persons in the jeep. I find the price reasonable, giving the fact that in Kenya, for Nairobi National Park, you have to pay just for the entrance 50$/person. Just to be precise, you have all the information on the link above.
SURPRISE: I have teamed up with Lakpura Travels and I have a DISCOUNT CODE for you for 10% OFF your next safari. Just use BATW18 when you book your experience!
– There are many national parks in Sri Lanka where you can spot elephants and other wild animals and I recommend contacting Lakpura Travels when you decide your itinerary because, based on the month, they will recommend which park has the best chance of having elephants at that time. As I told you before, in July-September, Minneriya National Park is considered the best one to visit because of the big gathering, but after that the elephants migrate either to Kadulla or Hurulu Eco Park which are in close proximity.
– I have to give you the correct information regarding the animals you will see in the parks. Sri Lanka is most famous for large herds of elephants and this was exactly what we got on our safari experience. We also spotted different species of birds. The funny moment was when two wild cows appeared close to the elephants and I started to take shots thinking they are buffalos. Of course, my boyfriend laughed in tears J
If you want to have the chance of seeing many species, I understood that the morning safari is better because of the lower temperatures.
Other animals you are likely to see: monkeys, leopards, sloth bear, mongoose, spotted deer, sambar deer, wild buffalo, porcupine and Indian pangolin.
– I recommend taking your sunglasses with you to protect your eyes against the dust. Lakpura will also offer face masks at the beginning of the safari. We didn’t use them and had no problems, but sunglasses were a real help.
I am happy to let you know that elephant safari in Minneriya National Park with Lakpura Travels is now also an Airbnb experience and we were part of this amazing project. So grateful to see our pictures there! Click HERE to see all the details.
That being said, I hope you already have written down an elephant safari in Sri Lanka on your bucketlist. Believe me, you are going to love this experience!
PS: Don’t forget about the DISCOUNT CODE for 10% OFF your next safari: BATW18.
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