Elephant Orphanage, Pinnawela, Sri Lanka

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Pinnawala, Sri Lanka

Elephant Orphanage, Pinnawela, Sri Lanka Pinnawala Reviews

Cho Cho
104 reviews
I have mixed feelings about this place Mar 08, 2013
Since I was a young boy I have always been fascinated by elephants. On trips to the zoo I would go and see them first before the other animals. As I grew older I came to realize that these great beasts of burden were being exploited to make money for man. I could give many examples, but since this page is for travel reviews, and not a forum for airing my protests I will just write about our trip to the elephant orphanage

So when we were in Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) in October 2010, I thought it would be a good opportunity to go see how they were taken care of at this orphanage. We were staying at Sapphire Hotel in Colombo and hired a car with driver through the front desk.

The next morning the driver arrived at the appointed time, and we were pleased to see that the car was a medium sized one with air conditioning. The driver also spoke good English and seemed quite amicable.

The orphanage is situated in a coconut grove in the village of Pinnawela which is 90 kilometers or 55 miles away from Colombo, so it took us about two hours to reach the place. The driver turned off at the town of Kegalle, and from there the road to the orphanage was narrow and mostly forests lining it.

For foreigners the entrance fee is 2,000 Sri Lankan rupees which is around $15. Local people pay a much lesser fee. No problem, as I am used to the two-tier system of charging much more to foreign tourists (especially in developing countries) than the locals. However, we had arrived there too late to see the bottle feeding of baby elephants. It seems that we had just missed it! So we just walked around the grounds and waited to see the bathing of the elephants at 10 am.

It was a procession of perhaps 20 elephants with their mahouts slowly treading towards the river nearby while we visitors stood by the roadside taking photos. We then followed the herd and took our places on the rocky banks of the river. There was a restaurant there with table and chairs but it was full. Anyway, we figured that we could take better pictures from outdoors.

It was indeed an interesting sight of the elephants interacting together, and with their handlers. They all seemed to enjoy bathing and playing in the river.

We then walked back to the orphanage as we wanted to see the elephants return to their individual pens. They came back in twos and threes instead of in formation, like they did when they went to the river.

Although the primary purpose of the orphanage (it is also a nursery for the newly born baby elephants) was to provide a lifeline to the orphaned baby elephants and adult elephants lost in the wilderness, I wondered at that time whether proper health care was being given to them. For instance, we saw a young calf in one of the enclosures. It had some visible wounds on his body, and when we wanted to take photos we were not allowed to do so by the men whom I assumed were employees of the orphanage.

This place is a popular attraction for tourists visiting Sri Lanka. I just hope that the bulk of the revenue collected from overseas and local visitors all go toward the elephants, and not for administration like in some similar organizations! By the way, 'Lonely Planet' magazine has listed Sri Lanka the Number 1 travel destination for 2013, so I expect a lot more tourists are going to be heading towards the country this year than in the past.

Our driver was faithfully waiting for us in the car park when we came out of the orphanage. On the way back to Colombo we stopped at this herbal medicine store not far from the elephant orphanage. I imagine the driver got some commission from bringing people there. However, the shop was located in pleasant tropical surroundings and I enjoyed the brief respite.
Elephants bathing in the river (1)
Elephants bathing in the river (2)
Elephants bathing in the river (3)
Elephants bathing in the river (4)
9 / 9 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
Africancrab says:
Posted on: Mar 22, 2013
halilee says:
Congrats on your featured review!! :D
Posted on: Mar 22, 2013
saltycoco says:
gratz on the review man :)
Posted on: Mar 21, 2013
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urtahc urtahc
28 reviews
Huge Mammals in Open Space Jun 04, 2012
It took 1.5 hours drive from the city of Colombo to reach the Pinnawela town of Sri Lanka.

I travel all alone so I decided to have my hotel arrange a car for my whole day trip until the Kanday District.

When we arrive in the elephant orphanage, we were directed to visit the feeding area of the elephant were the viewers are allowed to feed them with milk provided payment has been made from the park's entrance. There were plenty of elephants in the area. But what attracts most to the kids and most of the viewers were the young elephants. There is also a section of the park were fruit and vegetable feedings are allowed. The park is not shaded so if the rain comes the entire place would be wet and paddy.

The place is not proper maintained. In the other side of the park, that is outside the orphanage park there is also an area where you are allowed to ride in the elephants. these elephants are not orphaned. perhap privately owned and taken cared off. At 10am the elephant of about 30 in number are coming down into the river where they are going to dip for the bath.

I would recommend visiting the later one because the viewers would enjoy riding and seeing the elephants on the same costs.
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
pilgrim68 pilgrim68
61 reviews
Orphanage or Breeding centre? Jan 22, 2011
Started in 1972 the Elephant Orphanage was relocated to it's present site in 1975.A lot has been written in the guide books as to the ethics of this place so I decided to visit and make up my own mind.

Not a cheap day out but as I love Elephants it was a must see for me in Sri Lanka.I did not particularly like the feeding of the baby elephants by bottle.You pay extra for the privilege and it was all a bit of a circus.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the sight of the Elephants bathing in the river.They obviously love this part of the day and most were extremely reluctant to leave the water.

There are other supposedly more "ethical" Elephant centers in the region but on the whole I enjoyed my day.
Shower time!
Devika1985 Devika19…
49 reviews
Sep 09, 2007
In Pinnawela, Sri Lanka you will find the Elephant Orphanage. When I was in Sri Lanka we travelled around and one of the places we visited was this Elephant Orphanage. It should not be missed when you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka. Especially with children it’s a very nice place to visit. Wounded and sick animals are being taken in at the orphanage where they are well taken care of. Visitors can watch the elephants, see how the caretakers work and learn more about the animals. The orphanage is situated near the Aha Oya (river). After the elephants are being fed, they go to the river to take a bath there. That’s a really nice thing to see. The elephants go into the river to wash themselves and play in the water. A must- see place if you like this beautiful animal! >> I've set the price to free.. Since I just have no clue about the price! I'm sorry about that!
Elephants taking a bath
jpzo says:
Just went today- it's Rs 1,250 for foreigners (about $12 US) these days. I do have some concerns about a few of the elephants- including two 5 mo. old elephants who were chained up so that tourists could take pictures of them. Hopefully they are treated well otherwise. Hard to tell, but no other red flags.
Posted on: Mar 01, 2009
flammick says:
I was there earlier this year and it was great. The best time is definitely when they are down at the river. I can't quite recall how much it cost, but not much more than $5 US. Great review Devika!
Posted on: Sep 10, 2007
AndiPerullo says:
Wow, what an unforgettable experience! This is absolutely on my list of things to do now. I'm obsessed with elephants and it's so wonderful to know that places like this exist for these beautiful creatures. Thanks for the review. :)
Posted on: Sep 10, 2007

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