The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with the elephants, which makes for a truly memorable experience.
The Pinnawala Elephant Orphange spans 25 acres and is located in very close proximity to the Maha Oya, which is where the elephants are taken for baths.
Fun fact- Pinnawala Orphanage has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world, with most of elephants having either lost their mother, separated from the herd, or found in the wilderness in an incapacitated state.
Photo courtesy of Travel Photos.
The two main attractions for visitors is the bottle feeding session which is followed by the bathing time. If you’re lucky the handlers might even pick you to feed the baby elephants, who happen to be just plain adorable most of the time. Most of the elephants at the orphanage are very domesticated and friendly so they’ve even got platforms set up where you can feed the larger elephants fruits.
After the feeding is done, the mahouts then escort the elephants through the sanctuary, across the road and through a somewhat narrow path which leads down to the Maha Oya.
This entire stretch is lined with shops where you can buy everything from hats, to panchos and pretty much any type of elephant inspired ornament you can think of.
If you can manage to get down to the oya a bit early the mahouts will let you get pretty close to the smaller elephants bathing close to the river bank.
There’s also a few hotels and eateries around this area where you can sit and have a cup of tea or have a bite to eat while overlooking the elephants bathing.
The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has been lauded for the most part and we too feel that it is a praiseworthy project. The elephants that we saw were healthy and in good condition, but there have been concerns raised in the past about conditions by the Born Free Foundation with some in-depth reports, although those are quite dated now.
The Program & Prices
The orphanage opens at 8.30 and closes at 6pm daily. Bottle feeding is at 9.15am, 1.15pm & 5pm and bathing time at the river is at 10am and 2pm, which happens pretty much on the dot. The tickets are priced at Rs. 100 for locals and Rs. 2000 ($15) for foreign adults.
The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a fantastic way of interacting with elephants and experiencing their daily routine.