It's not always easy to plan your visits around the best time of the year, particularly if you take holidays during the earlier part of the year. But, this has never been a barrier for me to visit Minneriya during the off-season. In fact, it's quite a peaceful time to go and enjoy the Minneriya Tank and I glimpse some of the wildlife, without the throng of lots of tourists and jeeps, and the pressure of seeking out a lot of wildlife.
This year I visited in January with a few relatives who had flown over for a visit. They had never been on a jeep safari before so they were pleased as punch to be experiencing this for the first time.
On this particular visit, we did an afternoon safari. There were quite a few jeeps sitting idle at the front of the park.
I negotiated a jeep for the four of us for an afternoon safari for Rs.3,000. You need to pay additional for entry to the park i.e. entrance fees to the park inclusive of service charge and VAT are ~Rs.3,300 for foreign adults and ~Rs.450 for local adults. The Department of Wildlife Conservation sets the park fees. You can check out their list of park fees on their website. They charge me the local rates making it possible for me to make more frequent visits.
The weather was a little overcast with some light rainfall. I know many would think this wasn't such a good thing, but I like a little drama with the weather when I'm on safari. This time around it wasn't that dramatic, but more changeable... moving from overcast to gloomy, rainy and then to a bit of sunshine and finally a gentle sunset.
During the off-season you shouldn't expect to see lots of wildlife as there is an abundance of watering holes throughout the park. Therefore, the animals will keep to their own hidey holes or natural habitats and away from the roads, jeeps and humans. On our visit, we didn't see a single elephant nor leopard, but caught some spotted deer, monitor lizards, monkeys, butterflies and an array of birds.
From one of the towers at the edge of the tank you can climb up to get a better vantage point of the tank and it's surrounding greenery.
If you have a choice, it's best to visit during May to October (and don't miss out on The Gathering of elephants during August/September), but as you can see there is still much to enjoy even during the off-season at Minneriya National Park.