Elephant Safari with Minneriya Safari Tours – Honest Review

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Sri Lanka

Going on an elephant safari is one of the most amazing things to do in Sri Lanka. This review of Minneriya Safari Tours will tell you what you need to know about this safari company.

Elephants are some of the most amazing animals on earth, so seeing them in their natural environment was a must for me when I finally visited Sri Lanka in 2019. And funnily enough, I reached out to Minneriya Safari Tours while watching the sunrise from the top of Pidurangala in Sri Lanka. And I cannot tell you how happy I was that they wanted to work with me.

Minneriya Safari Tours offers 3 hours long safari tours in Minneriya or Kaudulla National Park. During the said tour, a driver will drive the jeep along set paths within the national parks while bringing you as close to the elephants as possible without disturbing them.

The company offers a free change of the safari location if the elephants are gathering in the other national park. I myself originally enquired about a safari in Minneriya National Park and was told right away that the vast majority of elephants were currently in Kaudulla National Park.

Disclosure: I went on this safari at a discounted press rate in exchange for social media coverage. This review was not part of the agreement. The elephant safari would have been on my itinerary anyway as I love elephants and have always dreamed of seeing them in their natural environment. As always all opinions expressed in this review are my own. See the full disclosure for further information.

If you want to know more about the Kaudulla National Park where I went on my safari and the elephant gathering itself, you should read the national park guide. The two national parks are where the largest gathering of wild elephants in the world happens, so be sure to include it in your Sri Lanka itinerary.

More about Kaudulla National Park: Amazing Elephant Safari in Kaudulla National Park

An Elephant Safari with Minneriya Safari Tours

The company offers a free change of the safari location if the elephants are gathering in the other national park. Therefore you do not have to worry about which safari location you book. The elephants are wild, so they tend to wander around, and trying to predict where they will be is close to impossible. I, for one, originally enquired about a safari in Minneriya National Park and was told that most of the elephants were in the other park.

Minneriya Safari Tours offers 3 h long safari tours in Minneriya or Kaudulla National Park or alternatively in Hurulu Eco Park Habarana. During the tour, a driver will drive along set paths in the park. Therefore there is no mindless chasing of the wild elephants in the park and they have space to retreat. The drivers will get you as close to the elephants as possible without endangering you or the elephants.

Elephants family seen during a safari with Minneriya Safari Tours

Price

The price for a 3h safari in Kaudulla or Minneriya National Park starts at 65 USD for one person and want the entire jeep for yourself. If you are traveling with another person, you can expect to pay between 45 and 55 USD per person, and it gets less expensive the more people you are. And while this price tag might seem steep for Sri Lanka, it is well worth it.

The half day safari costs 95€ for a single person and 150€ for two people.

Children under the age of 5 do not have to pay, while children under 11 pay a special rate.

What is included in the Price?

When you book a safari with Minneriya Safari Tours, the price includes a private jeep for your group or yourself, a certified driver, the National Park entry fee for you, the driver’s entry fee, the jeep entry fee, the national park VAT tax, the national park service fee and free pickup from hotels in Minneriya and Habarana.

It is curtesy to tip the driver after the safari, so be sure to have some cash on you.

Hotel Pickup and the Start of the Safari

If you opt for the 3 PM Evening Safari, you can drive to an arranged meetup location at 1:45 PM. Alternatively, you can arrange a hotel pickup. Hereby Minneriya Safari Tours offers a free hotel pickup service if you are staying in a hotel in Minneriya or Habarana. Meanwhile the price for a pickup from more remote locations like Sigiriya start at 8 USD.

Once you are seated the driver will start the drive to the entrance gate of one of the two national parks or the eco park.

The Jeep

Our Safari Jeep

The jeeps of Minneriya Safari Tours have a maximum capacity of seven, so it even larger groups can be in one vehicle. And while I can only review the jeep we were in, it looked clean and well maintained. Usually the back part in which you are seated has a removable cover. This way you can stand as you observe the elephants and many other animals in the national parks. And if it starts to rain as usual in the local monsoon season, the driver will quickly put the cover on.

We tried to help our driver do it when heavens opened, but he a lot faster without our help as we seemingly only got in his way.

The Elephant Safari with Minneriya Safari Tours

The elephant safari itself was incredible and words cannot describe how much I loved it. We literally saw hundreds of elephants, water buffalos and birds including a peacock. It was a downright magical experience and that is not just the elephant lover in me speaking.

The paths you drive on can be rather rough, so you might want to hold on to something as the car is moving. Food and drinks are not part of the safari package, so you have to bring your own

Suggestions for an even better Experience

Sadly, we did not have a spotter during our safari. Therefore, we had to rely solely on our driver who was really polite, but sadly only spoke a very broken English. At one point we tried to tell him that we wanted to stay longer as I wanted to take photos of an adorable baby elephant that had previously been hiding behind its mother. Sadly, the driver misunderstood me and drove away.

Therefore, I suggest asking specifically for a spotter or an English-speaking driver. That way you are sure to make the most of your experience.

Is the Safari ethical?

Based on my experience with Minneriya Safari Tours, I can say that they are one of the good tour operators. At no point did the driver get too close to the elephants, so these gentle giants always had the space they need to move freely and undisturbed. And unlike other jeeps I saw, ours did not leave the paths to overtake other vehicles while following specific elephants.

I do not know if this was the case because I stressed how important ethical and sustainable traveling is to me. But if all safaris are like mine, I am more than happy with the company’s approach.

Ultimately, I can only recommend that you also mention how important an ethical approach is to you. Doing so does not hurt anyone and in the worst case, it is a reminder that most travelers want to protect nature and wildlife as we explore the world.

And while you are at it, you can also mention how much you hate it that tourists ride elephants and therefore damage the poor animal’s spine. Sadly, riding elephants is still quite common in Sri Lanka, so most tour companies include it in some of their programs.

Should you book a safari with Minneriya Safari Tours?

Ultimately I can only recommend booking an elephant safari with the Minneriya Safari Tours. They delivered what they promised, and we had a great time in the national park.

I do think that it the fact that they also offer elephant back rides more than problematic. However, I am fully aware that most tour operators offer elephant rides and that it has been a part of the Sri Lankan culture for a long time. Therefore change will take time and we should not punish companies in Sri Lanka because they need time to adjust.

The important thing is that none of us book this service and that we let providers know that we only want ethical animal encounters. In time we will be able to invoke change. After all, there will be no offer if there is no demand for it.

Which safari should you book?

If you want to see elephants during the safari, you should book the evening safari. Usually there are up to five times as many elephants and in addition to the you get to enjoy the sunset. The morning safari is best if you want to see the many birds that life within the perimeters of the national parks.

How to book the Safari?

If you want to book a safari with them, you can either book an elephant safari on their website or via WhatsApp under +94 77 648 7757.

More about Traveling in Sri Lanka:

Everything you need to know before you visit Sri Lanka

Daily Budget while Traveling in Sri Lanka

Photos Inspiration Sri Lanka

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Elephant family seen during safari with Minneriya Safari Tours
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