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Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

Updated on February 16, 2013

Paradise for Elephant Lovers

Sri Lanka is renowned world over for its Elephants and Pinnawela Elephant orphanage is one of the best places in Sri Lanka where you can blend with these majestic beasts and have a fulfilling Elephant watching experience.One thing to keep in mind though is that most of these animals were brought here from different forests around Sri Lanka because they suffered injuries because of human activities. So you are not supposed to touch them or get very close to them, especially the large Elephants. Sometimes you are allowed to touch them and take picture close to them when a mahout is present and usually you have to give a small tip. There are around 60 Elephants in the orphanage and most of the activities are planned and on schedule. If you are visiting the Elephant orphanage make sure to time your visit so you wont miss any of the interesting activities.Most popular activity with locals and tourists alike is feeding the baby Elephants.

Wild Tusker who's eyes are blind because of human cruelty
Wild Tusker who's eyes are blind because of human cruelty

How to get to Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawela Elephant orphanage is located in Kegalle district and its around two and a half hours drive from Colombo. If you are going there from Colombo you have to take a left turn after passing the Kegalle have to go around 4-5 Km from the main road to get to the orphanage.The roads are in very good condition and you can go there in almost any vehicle.If you are coming from Kandy then you have to take a right turn after passing Mawenalla. There are buses available most of the day if you want to get there by bus. There are plenty of notice boards in the junction so it is not that hard to find it. If you are taking the trip make sure to time your journey so you will get there for the view and participate in the activities.

Time Table of the activities

  • 08.30 AM - Open to visitors
  • 09.15 AM - Bottle feeding baby Elephants
    One of the most popular activities among locals and tourists alike
  • 10.00 AM - Going to the river
    The herd leaves for the nearby river which is a beautiful site , also near the river you have chance to take photographs very close to the Elephants
  • 12.00 AM - Herd returns from the river
  • 1.15 PM - Bottle feeding baby Elephants
  • 2.00 PM - Going to the river
    Herd again leaves to the river for a bath
  • 4.00 PM - Herd returns from the river
  • 5.00 PM - Bottle feeding Baby Elephants
  • 6.00 PM - Close for visitors

As you can see if you time it perfectly you can take part in Bottle feeding while and also take some pictures near the river without wasting too much time in the Orphanage.

Elephant Bathing in Maha Oya and tourists watching
Elephant Bathing in Maha Oya and tourists watching
A magnificent creature
A magnificent creature
An Injured Elephant that it taken care of in Pinnawela Elephant orphanage
An Injured Elephant that it taken care of in Pinnawela Elephant orphanage
A wild Elephant feeding itself
A wild Elephant feeding itself

Elephants bathing in Maha Oya near Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

History and criticism

The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage was first created as a tourist attraction because of the huge number of tourists who were eager to watch Elephants. Now it is not only a tourist attraction but a place to learn about the Elephants , breeding grounds for Elephants and most importantly a care taking place for Elephants that were injured because of hunters and war.

Although most of the Elephants roam free in the Orphanage some are chained and this leads to the misconception that these animals are treated brutally. As I mentioned before most of these Elephants and captured in the wild and not tamed so it is necessary to chain them till they fully recover.

There is some truth in mahouts forcing the baby Elephants to pose for pictures but I wouldn't go so far as to call it brutalizing. The Pinnawela Elephant orphanage may not be most perfect place for Elephants but for many injured Elephants this is surely a safe haven.

If you are interested in research or an educational tour you can visit the official website.


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      Nishadha Silva 4 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Elephants do belong in the wild. You might consider this cruel but there are some disabled Elephants here that wouldn't stand a chance in wild life. I think you have to take the pros with the cons.

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      Rosa 4 years ago

      Still think elephants would be better in the wild, instead of a longer life with much cruelty. Wouldn't visit if you gave me a million dollars..........................

    • rumbling profile image

      Nishadha Silva 5 years ago from Sri Lanka

      I understand your point, but you also must understand that some of these Elephants wont stand a chance in the wild. At least here they are taken care of. Having visited there few times I know sometimes caretakers can get a bit carried away.

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      6 years ago

      This is the most discusting cruel money making orphanage I have been too, elephants are chained, beaten and baby's are taken away from there mothers under 1 year, should be closed down!