After visiting the legendary city of Kandy, the next stop on my Asia travel itinerary was the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka.

Elephants in the river at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka

Famous for its impressive herd of pachyderms, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was conveniently located between Kandy and Colombo, which was my next stop. I decided to break up the drive by spending some quality time with the elephants en route.

Elephants playing in the river at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka

The orphanage itself was empty when I arrived. I was told that the elephants were at the nearby river, and that I could go there to see them after paying the somewhat hefty US$20 entry fee (at least the money went to a good cause!).

Elephants in Sri Lanka

I walked down a street lined with souvenir shops selling everything from leather bags to elephant sculptures, and soon found myself standing amazingly close to a herd of Sri Lankan elephants. It was pretty spectacular.

Herd of elephants walking in the river at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka

The 20-odd elephants spent the next hour wading through the river, over to the opposite bank, and along the muddy shore. While many of the elephants were much larger than I had expected (my only other elephant orphanage experience was in Nairobi five years ago, where all of the elephants were babies), there was one that couldn’t have been more than a week or two old. It was adorably small, and still learning to walk. Several of the older elephants were very protective of it, and hovered around the little one as it frolicked in the river.

Baby elephant at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka

Another elephant that stood out to me was one that was sadly missing a foot. However, it had learned to cope remarkably well, and walked on three legs almost as quickly as its four-footed friends.

Elephant missing a leg at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka

I sat watching the elephants while enjoying a huge vegetable curry on the terrace of a restaurant overlooking the river. When I left, the animals were also getting ready to head back down the souvenir-studded street to their home.

Elephant walking down the street towards the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka

My home for the night would be a two hour drive from the orphanage. Back in Colombo, I stayed at the Garden Guest House, a B&B run by one of the sweetest women I have ever encountered on my travels.

Room at the Garden Guest House in Colombo Sri Lanka

Upon arrival, I received a warm greeting from my hostess and her adorable dog, and was promptly given a welcome drink before being shown to my room upstairs. Everything I needed was provided for, from the bed and desk to Wi-Fi and amenities. It was nice to feel like I was in someone’s home after being on the road for two weeks.

Bedroom at the Garden Guest House in Colombo Sri Lanka

I drifted off to sleep that night dreaming of the animals at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, and imagining them leading me south to my next stop in Sri Lanka: Galle.

5 Comments on Lady at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

  1. I love that place. Sadly about a 1 1/2 years ago the city of Kandy stole some of the young elephants to be used in their yearly festival. Created a huge uproar and even a supreme court case!

  2. Sri Lanka is one of our favourite destinations on earth. Todd, raises a good point about the elephant orphanage. It is a difficult situation because elephants are running out of space to roam, but instead of rehabilitating, they are breeding elephants to be transfered to zoos and sanctuaries and to be used for festivals. The Elephant Transfer Home in the South of Sri Lanka (run by the Born Free Foundation) is doing a better job at keeping human and elephant contact to a minimum while trying to release the elephants back into the wild. It is tough to say which rehabilitation centre is better since elephants natural habitats are disappearing due to globalization. Will there ever be room for them in the wild again? I don’t know.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comments Todd and Dave & Deb! I completely agree that it is a difficult situation, and one for which there is no easy solution.

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