Minneriya National Park is situated 20 kilometres northwest of Polonnaruwa although comparatively small in size - covering 8,889 hectares - it has a high degree of diversity. The park encompasses the beautiful Minneriya tank, built by King Mahasena (274-301 AD). Mahasena started his reign in an irresponsible and intolerant manner, so much so that this people were ready to revolt. Convinced of his errors, he devoted the last 18 years of his reign to acts of piety and building magnificent tanks and irrigation systems, such as that at Minneriya. Minneriya is the park to see large herds of elephants gathering, playing and feeding in groups of up to 300 in the wild. Claimed to be the biggest gathering of Asian elephants, Minneriya plays host to this amazing spectacle at the height of the dry season in July to mid-October though small herds are also seen at other times.The highlight of Minneriya is of course the abundance of elephants that can be observed singly, or in large herds. Minneriya forms part of the elephant corridor linking Kaudulla and Wasgamuwa National Parks while recorded resident elephants number 400.The history of Minneriya as a conservation area began in 1938 when it was declared a sanctuary. Part of the sanctuary was designated a national biosphere reserve in the late 1970s. In 1997 Minneriya became a national park.FloraThe ecosystem dominated is the medium canopy secondary forests with scrub, ridge forests with open low canopy species, grasslands, plains and wetlands. Abandoned slashed and burnt cultivated patches (Chenas) are also found within this National Park., with such tree species as palu , burutha or satinwood milla , kalumediriya or calamander, halmilla or Trincomalee woodand weera.FaunaElephants are not the only mammals in Minneriya of course since a total of 24 species have been recorded. of which there are 150-200. Other species present include the Sri Lanka sambhur, Sri Lanka spotted deer , Sri Lanka leopard , Sri Lanka sloth bear , toque monkey and purple-faced leaf monkey. An amazing 160 species of birds can be sighted too including beautiful endemics such as the Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Sri Lanka Brown-capped Babbler and the Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill as well as the Painted Stork, Lesser Adjutant and the Woolly Neck Stork.The best season to view the animals is during the dry season from June to September when they gather in huge herds at the banks of the Minneriya reservoir. Visitors are also spot the endangered red lipped lizard and the Sri Lankan swamp crocodile in the reservoir.In addition to the various species of mammals, the Minneriya National Park is also home to rare aquatic bird species such as the little cormorant. In addition to them, the painted strokes, Great white pelicans, Ruddy turnstones and Grey herons can also been spotted at the reserve. Early morning and late evening are perfect timings to spot these migratory birds.