explore Sri Lanka
Asia Travel

Explore Sri Lanka – Pinnawala elephant orphanage

By on December 30, 2017

Now a number of tourists will flock to explore Sri Lanka starting with the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. This orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants is located at Pinnawala village, 13 km northeast of Kegalle town in Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka

Now I’m not a fan of zoos but what I heard about these place encouraged me and who doesn’t love elephants? I’d also had the pleasure of seeing elephants earlier in my trip to 2 of the national parks where elephants roam free.

Herd of elephants enjoying the water!

The journey to the orphanage was one of horror to me and one of delight to the people sharing the taxi bus! A prior night spent drinking the local potent potion Arrack – https://theluxurystoryteller.com/travel/something –  led to them having to wait 15 minutes whilst I was throwing up!

A long weaving journey in the hot humid conditions didn’t do too much for me – a restaurant break meant a further head down the bowl experience!

The entry fee allows access to the park and to watch the elephants bathing and being fed fruit or milk for the 2 young elephants. Feeding and bathing times are listed on a board and a signpost points the way to the feeding pens.

There wasn’t a great deal of information of story on the orphanage, so you need to work this place out for yourselves or like many appear too, take a tour guide with you.

The elephants are herded down to the river and bathe for an hour or so at 10 am and 2pm.

On the surface the elephants appear to be well cared. However you may have noticed from my Instagram post that that idyllic situation was not quite what it seems.  Did you notice the elephant in the water? That beautiful creature was chained.

Elephants bathing

Elephants bathing

Now what I found interesting is that not one persons asked why the elephant was chained, well certainly not in European. Sadly I’m not fluent in Sri Lanakan….yet!!

I’ll overlook the sly attempts form the handlers to obtain side payments, that’s par for the course in Asia and who am I to judge?

There seems to be an element of tunnel vision as the vast sways of tourist perhaps fall under the elephant’s spell. Here’s what else I saw, elephants chained in solitary confinement, elephants shaking back and forth, elephants chained in the middle of the water. Underneath the water lies a mass of chains holding a lot of the elephants in place. Not such a nice view now is it?

Ask the handlers and they will say the chains stop the larger elephant from killing the young and small whilst in musth, i.e on heat.

Not quite the sanctuary it purports to be, and an orphanage implies that they’re taken care off but perhaps that’s my delusional understanding.

Like anywhere do your own research and make your own mind up. There’s usually a reason why any large, wild and potentially dangerous animals are allowed to be so close to humans.

Regardless there’s plenty to see so go explore Sri Lanka!