Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

Check Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage on the Sri Lanka map

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is an orphanage and breeding ground for wild elephants which is situated northwest of the town of Kegalle, Sri Lanka. It was established in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife Conservation on a 25-acre (10 ha) coconut plantation on the Maha Oya river. The orphanage was originally founded in order to afford care and protection to the many orphaned elephants found in the jungle. As of 2008, there were 84 elephants.
The aim of the orphanage is to simulate the natural world. However, there are some exceptions: the elephants are taken to the river twice daily for a bath, and all the babies under three years of age are still bottle fed by the mahouts and volunteers. Each animal is also given around 76 kilograms (170 lb) of green manure a day and around 2 kg (4.4 lb) from a food bag containing rice bran and maize. They get access to water twice a day, from the river.
This elephant orphanage is also a breeding place for elephants. More than twenty-three elephants have been born since 1984, and the orphanage has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. While most of the elephants are healthy, one is blind, and one, named Sama, has lost her front right leg to a land mine.

Recommended review time for sightseeing: 2 h 30 m

Tourist reviews about Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

Not worth the detour
LJTaf [TA], , Leeds, United Kingdom

We landed early morning and asked our driver to drive us here before heading to our accommodation in habarana. I wish we hadn't bothered.

Plenty of other opportunities in Sri Lanka to see happy and healthy elephants. The elephants at the orphanige seemed stir crazy with not enough space. Apparently once rescued from the wild they are looked after and not released back to the wild. Instead they are kept at the orphanige to attract tourists.

The feeding time of two seemingly healthy baby elephants was actually a little upsetting to watch as the crowd pushed forward to have a go and the elephants were paraded up and down.

worth visit
Snehal22 [TA], , Navi Mumbai, India

the place is good and you can spend a quality time with elephants. see them naturally uchained. with some tip you can as well bathe them at the river.

Get close to elephants
Sue C [TA], , London, United Kingdom

This was the first visit on our tour. Our driver got us there for 915am feeding time which was an experience. Started with photos with elephants in their grazing area. Be warned handlers encourage you to stand with elephants and they take your picture. Then they ask you for money and aren't too grateful with what is given to them. Feeding of the two baby elephants is fun. Then you go over the road to watch them bathe. This was the best bit as they seemed happier. You sit in the restaurant overlooking the water or you can stand down by the waters edge. A couple of really old elephants were brought down first and they were being cleaned by 4 helpers for an hour. Then the rest of the herd arrived which was an amazing sight as they came down the hill. Enjoyable but then to see them in one of the national parks I do wonder who is the happier.

brilliant experience
Julie M [TA], , Sutton Bonington, United Kingdom

Another great place to visit. Most of the elephants are roaming free together which is lovely to see. I was able to bottle feed a baby elephant, then watched and walked down to the river with all the elephants to see them enjoying the water. I was also able to hand feed an adult elephant here. Awesome!!

not to be missed !
PoshSpice... [TA], , Manchester

Fantastic experience !! a must to visit
we fed the elephants with fruit which costs £2.50 -
Loved watching them walk across the road and down the street to the river to bathe !!
We had a meal overlooking the river and watched all the elephants bathing !!
Fabulous !!!

Amazing place and a nice work preserving Elephants.
OliviaAbu... [TA], , Abu Dhabi

We really enjoyed a lot to see elephants having bath! We saw how they transform the elephant «poo» into paper! Amazing work! Very nice place to visit! Sri Lankan people are the most friendly and kind .

We did not enter this to have visit. However the elephant bathing is very nice at the river
Moaimoaim... [TA], , Hong Kong, China

WE did not enter this and so we can't provide full comments.

However, we did appreciate their teams of elephants, which is very amazing to us, as we saw too many elephants closely along the street and next to the river.

It is really free of charge to closely see the elephants

Amazing Experience
ScottPars... [TA], ,

My wife and I visited the elephant orphanage while touring Sri Lanka. It really is a must see for an amazing experience. You can feed, pat and pretty well play with baby elephants.

Not worth the time and expense
Morten U [TA], , Skjetten, Norway

We were taken here by our guide, he had a good knowledge og the Elephants. But this is a turist trap in my eyes. Have visited similar Orphanage in Thailand, which was much better.

Something you cannot miss
meetuvika... [TA], , Kolkata (Calcutta), India

First hand experience at feeding elephants with milk (yes...milk!!!) with large milk bottles, and varieties of fruits, watching them in playful mood taking bath in least 45 of them at a time. And some baby elephants are indeed naughty enough!!! I missed my children on the trip...and would love to plan a visit again to that place just for the sake of visit to this place...which is simply incomparable.

A touristic meeting with elephant
ozan b [TA], ,

It was really nice to see touch and feed the elephants. It's not very natural after paying for each bottle of milk and bribing trainers for some closer photos. Still, it may be your only chance to be that close with an elephant. They are very special creatures, they understand why you are there and enjoying feeding.

After feeding time, they usually go to river for bathing . This is a good chance to see them enjoying water and take some wonderful photos.

Not to be missed
Beverley... [TA], , Southport, Australia

I went here with mixed feelings after reading some of the TA reviews, but was so happy to see absolutely nothing that distressed me. Yes, they're being bred here, which rather defeats the purpose of the place, but they all looked content with their lot and it was great to hear the little ones squeaking! They had a lovely time in the river, with some lying in the deeper water and others just hanging about. After seeing them in the river, we crossed the road to watch the babies being bottle fed, and what a sight that was. We were in the little row of shops in the afternoon when the trumpet announced the elephants were on their way back to the river. We could hear shutters being banged down all around us, and then the elephants came past right beside us, all rushing back to the river, trumpeting with glee. All in all, a moving experience, and when the local open zoo is finished, it will mean Pinnawala will need to be an overnight stop in order to see both.

elephant visit
Debbie G [TA], , Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

How great to get see such magnificent animals so close and I got to feed a baby too - dream come true

Beautiful elephants generally well cared for
PringleUk [TA], , UK

We had great reservations before coming to the orphanage due to mixed animal welfare reports. We were pleased to see that the animals generally seemed very well cared for with large expanses to roam at the orphanage and two 2-hour visits to the nearby river each day where they looked to be having a great time! We saw one elephant display repetitive behaviour (indicative of stress) just for a minute at the river but all others appeared well. The mahoots did shout and threaten the elephants with sticks on occasions however I imagine this is necessary to keep the elephants and people safe in a relatively small area. Some people have described the orphanage as a zoo, to me it felt more like a safari park where they were genuinely trying to do good and give otherwise orphaned elephants a better life. I would recommend going when the elephants are in the water (10-12 & 2-4) as it's amazing to see.

Good trip despite the rain
Arya L [TA], , Manchester, United Kingdom

Well we went there on a rather wet day. The morning bathing time was cancelled due to high water level but we managed to catch up the afternoon session at the hotel. The place was wet and muddy but the elephants enjoyed it thoroughly which was wonderful to see. The milk feeding around 2.00p.m was very cute sight. Although we got drenched in the rain the kids enjoyed it immensely. Well worth the visit.

Well worth a visit
Helen B [TA], , Queensland, Australia

When visiting Sri Lanka this is a must see. Over the years they have improved the facilities for the elephants. I visited last week with my son. There are many handlers there allowing you to go right up to the elephants and touch them, take photos, watch them working, feed the baby elephants their milk or leaves, and then follow then down the road to the river to the river to watch them bathing and playing in the water. A really good experience.

Very touristic
punkmuts [TA], , Holland

When you are in Pinnawala you must visit this institution. It is very touristic and commercial. You must pay to give the little ones a bottle of milk. No nothing for me. Better is after the show. The elephants go in the river for a bath. That is really spectacular. By that time make sure you have a table with Hotel Elephant Bay. While you have yor lunch you have a beautiful vieuw on the river where about 40 elephants are in the water. That is much better than the orphanage.

Sooo many Elephants!!!!
Faiza M [TA], , Dubai, United Arab Emirates

On the way to Kandy few days back we visited Elephant Orphanage. We were very much excited to see soo many Elephants. Feeding Elephants was really great experience. Enjoyed the place especially elephant bathing. Good place

not so attractive
jaymmy [TA], , Doha, Qatar

I've been to many place similar where they treat the elephants in much nicer way. It looked for me a place to make money from tourists more than an orphanage to take care of the elephants. I didn't really enjoy but if you are there you have to see it, it's nice to see so much elephants in this beautiful nature of pinnawala

Very fine time out for kids
Riz_SL [TA], ,

The elephant orphanage is a place very much into a kids entertainment. My kids loved it so much. Exciting and happy to feed them stay closer to them for pictures and amazed to see them bath! Would be taking them again soon.

Great Experience
misstadbi... [TA], , BIRMINGHAM

I visited Oct 14, completely overwhelming, you are up close to these wonderful animals large but gentile. To feed baby elephant was truly amazing experience. It's a truly wonderful place to visit. I will cherish the memory. If you visit Sri Lanka this place is a must.

Best by the river
mrrfrost [TA], , Hong Kong, China

The "orphanage" is expensive to get into, and then there is no guide, map or anyone willing to help you once inside. There is basically a big field where most of the elephants seem to be freely roaming.

But then there are the enclosures where a couple of the elephants were chained up. There was another fee to "feed" the elephants some milk which turned out to be about 5 seconds of holding a bottle upside down in a poor creature's mouth.

The best bit for me was by the riverside watching them bathe. Had a drink and lunch in on of the hotels overlooking the river and had an awesome view.

The mahouts will try and get tips from you just for taking a picture. I just refused. They will let you go into the river to help wash them, if you give them a generous enough tip!

Perfect stopover on Colombo-Kandy route
raveeshra... [TA], ,

Treat to see so many elephants out in a care-free environment. Kids will love this place. Since these move around the place, you might not find it as clean as other tourist destinations in Sri Lanka.
Good eating options as well.

A Great vist to the elephants
Hazel A [TA], , Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

I Liked to see the Baby Elephants having their milk in bottles.
Some of the Bull adults had to have chains on their legs but it is for the safe keeping of the other elephants

Elephants Experience
Eddie T [TA], , London, England, United Kingdom

This is absolutely a great experience to see elephants. We arrived around 1:00 pm, which is the feeding time and fed a bottle of milk to a baby elephant. They enjoyed being in the water and I enjoyed seeing them because it was my first time. This journey was enjoyable!.

Fantastic experience!
JulieJ_7 [TA], , Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Was very apprehensive about visiting after reading all the awful reviews but went with an open mind and I believe that a lot of the comments are based on ignorance. There is absolutely no evidence of the animals being ill-treated or unhappy. Yes, the staff do have large pointy sticks but you have to appreciate that these animals are wandering freely amongst the tourists and could easily kill someone so they have to be controlled. As for the chains, they are to prevent the elephants from running and charging at people – the weight of the chains is the equivalent of us wearing a necklace so doesn’t cause them any suffering. It was a joy to watch them happily trotting down to the river at 10am for their morning bathe and there is a cafe with a viewing terrace with superb views. Didn’t particularly like the babies’ feeding time – felt a bit too much like a circus show, but other than that a very memorable trip.

Lovely elephant experience
Julie T [TA], , Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom

Unlike some reviewers I could find no evidence that the elephants were being badly treated. Some of them are wearing chains, although these are either bull males or lively youngsters, who cannot roam as freely as the other elephants due to visitor safety considerations. We got very close to the herd. Feeding the baby elephants from a bottle is a quick experience, but still worth it. The elephants walk to the river for their bath and we would recommend sitting at the Elephant Park restaurant for a great view.

Jules1946 [TA], , Burton upon Trent, United Kingdom

Oh what a treat, I was a bit dubious thinking it might be a bit touristy and circusy but it's wonderful so lovely to see them in the water enjoying it, then walking up the street back home, and what a wonderful,treat to,see them being fed. Thoroughly recommend it.

Terry H [TA], , Pontefract, United Kingdom

I have read a mixture of reviews for this place, I decided to go with an open mind, yes every two minutes they are looking for ways of getting tips, but to be fair its like that everywhere, I didn't see any evidence of the elephants being in distress I actually loved the place and thought it was one of the highlights of the trip to Sri Lanka

Pure animal abuse and pure for the money :-(
Ingrid R [TA], ,

I really love elephants and for me it was very hard to see what is happening at this place.
The mahouts don't treat this beautiful creatures right. They hit them with sticks and hooks and throw stones at them when they don't listen quick enough. Some mahouts like to hurt them for fun, just to show them who is boss. One word: disgusting!
A few elephants were chained and were very, very stressed.
It hurts me so hard I had to cry.

And then the price.. You pay a lot of money just to see the elephants being abused. You can feed baby elephants milk out of a flagon, but hey, they have a mother right??

If you want to see elephants, you should go to one of the national parks, where you can see happy elephants in the wild, just where they belong.

Worth it for the river bath
holidayha [TA], , England

When we were initially walking around the orphanage we were a bit disappointed - very little character and seemed just an opportunity to exploit the elephants. We were hassled for tips, make sure you don't let anyone take a photo with your camera for you - they will expect a tip!

However the experience was saved when we walked down to the river. Seeing such a large number of elephants in the water was really amazing and I could have watched them for hours. The rest of the orphanage was nothing to write home about and I worry about how happy the elephants are when they are in the small pens but they seemed very happy and free to have a wander in the water!

good experience
EmilAlex [TA], , Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

We visited this place last week. We reached there around 12 30 and we were just in time to view the elephant procession for their bathing.It was quite an amazing experience to watch the herds of elephants walking around. we watched the elephants take bath from the elephant park restaurant.also, the feeding time was fun to watch as well. Overall its worth it and also there is a market place near the orphanage to buy souvenirs and gifts.

R958_Jame... [TA], , Manchester, United Kingdom

Immensely enjoyable.

Visiting the elephant orphanage was one of the highlights of my stay in Sri Lanka. The opprortunity to see the elephants washing and feeding was and remains hugely treasured.

Elephants Theme Park
EdiMandM [TA], , Barcelona, Spain

We paid Rs 2.500 (but on the ticket was printed Rs. 2000)
You can see all the Elephants chained and eating and go to the river to see how they take a bath.
Unfortunately this is no longer an orphanage, it is just another touristy spot.

Great place to see elephants up close
pgarodia [TA], , New Delhi, India

A lot of elephants. You can even go and touch and feel them. Talk to the guides and they will help you with this. You can watch them bathe in the river and that is a lot of fun.

Mixed emotions
Andrew J [TA], , Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

The elephant orphanage was one of the things we came to Sri Lanka to experience... and I can't really say if it was an elephant orphanage or just an elephant exploitation. The amount of hooks, pokers and chains were alarming to say the least (made my wife very upset). And the handlers demanding money for allowing you to take your picture with an elephant didn't help. On a good note it was awesome to pet and feed an elephant. But all in all if you want to have a pleasant time here just skip the feeding and head down to the water to watch the elephants bathe.

Seeing the elephants in the river is all you need
Dichterdr... [TA], , Zurich area, Switzerland

the orphanage does not display much more than you can get from watching the elephant herd having a bath in the river (twice a day)

CConn [TA], , Dallas, Texas

This place is such a delight. I was really surprised at how much room the elephants had. They are fed well, and visitors can feed them for a small fee, which was fun. There are all ages of elephants, but the babies are so funny. The caregivers really seem to care as well. The animals are treated well...better than zoos. Bathrooms are really nice and clean. There is shade everywhere, but bring water to stay hydrated. There is a vendor there with some water and snacks as well. You can stay as long as you want, but a few hours are sufficient.

Feed the elephants and laugh at their antics
natanand [TA], , Emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Okay, let me address the obvious criticism that many reviewers have of the place - the handling of the elephants. I did see some of the elephants in chains, and a couple of times the handlers poked them to move them in a direction. This is my first visit to such an elephant sanctuary and so, I have nothing to compare it to, but the fact that only some of the elephants were chained seemed to indicate that the handlers know which of them are safe around people and which might act a bit aggressively. I would prefer not to see the animals being poked, of course, but I am not sure how elephants are managed in other similar places.
What we did enjoy was feeding the elephants fruits and milk, and being able to touch and pat them from so close. The baby elephants were full of energy and clowning around, which certainly makes us laugh. When the whole group of 20-30 elephants are led for their bath, that is also a good thing to watch from the viewing area, as the young ones charge ahead and the older ones lumber in and plop down on their sides to be scrubbed.
It is a good place to visit on the way to Kandy, although it does get a bit crowded during the feeding time.

a must see
Sallie C [TA], , Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

this place is amazing we watched the elephants bath in the river then there walked up the street to the park a lovely place for orphan elephants to live ,you can also feed the baby elephants a bottle of warm milk amazing experience I will never forget

Amazing Elephant Experience
JHenderso... [TA], , St. Annes-on-Sea, United Kingdom

We visited the Pinnawala Elephant orphanage during our stay in Kandy - although it is accessible from most places in Sri Lanka. It was an amazing experience seeing the great work they do for the orphaned elephants. Ensure you get there to experience them in the river and for baby feeding.

Worth the visit
Richard P [TA], , Canberra, Australia

The mixed reviews are unwarranted...

This place is great. The cost is high for foreigners and yes it is a little like a roadshow but the animals are well cared for. I am happy to pay extra to ensure that the orphaned elephants get a chance.

There are chains on the animals but not in a painful way just to keep them generally in the same area.

Respect the locals
Rajith L [TA], , Brighton, United Kingdom

There is a separate ticket purchasing counter for foreigners. If you are a foreigner please ask your guide to use that counter and respect the locals by NOT abusing their power to purchase your tickets thought the counter for locals.

Worth visiting
Prasanna... [TA], , Panadura, Sri Lanka

The only attraction in Pinnawala.There are several decent hotels to stay if you wish but there no attraction or things do there. One can visit from Kandy. Best time to go is the morning and watch elephants are taken for a bath at the near by river . Nothing much to see and the orphanage except feeding of elephants etc. Surrounding reminds me of mines view park at Baguio with similar type souvenir shops.

A must-see on every ones bucket list!
Mayaness [TA], , Dubai, United Arab Emirates

I've never been on a safari or seen animals in the wild so visiting the Pinnawala elephant orphanage was big deal for me and was well worth it!

Our group was staying in Hikkaduwa for 4 days but made sure we dedicate a whole day, takes 3 hours to get there from our hotel, just for the orphanage. We loved it and it was an amazing experience to see so many beautiful and grand animals just chilling in the wild. It's a breathtaking scene that you can not completely comprehend until you see it with your own eyes.

Two great features of our trip to Pinnawala was riding the elephants, I must say they were a bit cranky and the carers tried to ask for extra money once we were out of sight from their managers. BEWARE OF (baby) LEECHES if you wish to ride.
The other thing you should check out are the little shops that sell elephant dung souvenirs, they can also take you on a tour to see how it's done. Makes for a great gift!

CatSutcli... [TA], , London, United Kingdom

I wanted to make my own mind up after reading all the reviews. I left still not knowing how I felt and slightly concerned at the 2,500 entry price.

I think this place started for the right reasons but tourism is taking over from its main purpose and they're getting carried away with the feeding and photos and touching them etc (none of which I did)

It's a sight to be seen but obviously the best thing would be to go and see elephants on safari.

One of the highlights of our trip to Sri Lanka
Francesca... [TA], , London, United Kingdom

Our guide took us for an early morning visit to the elephant orphanage. He knew we needed to be there by 9:15 in order to feed the elephants. So worth the early start.

This is the biggest orphanage in Sri Lanka, with over 40 elephants in situ. After you have helped feed the babies with bottles of milk and given bananas and palm leaves to the older elephants. You then walk down to the river - ahead of the elephants, to watch them then walk down at 10am for their daily bath. Fascinating and delightful in equal measures.

Make sure you have Rs.400, if you want to tip the elephant workers to be able to feed the elephants. Very very worth it.

Beautiful place for the elephants
Pdongen [TA], , Nijmegen

We went to Pinnawala with our guide and we were very pleasantly surprised. We travelled a lot in Asia and we found that in Sri Lanka the people care for the animals very well. Pinnawala is one of the examples of that. The elephants literally walk freely and are treated very well. Ofcourse there are a lot of tourists, I mean we were there as well. But it is worth the trip, seeing the elephants like this is really a great feeling.

You get close to the elephants
Solvang44... [TA], , Trondheim, Norway

It's a bit of a tourist trap, but still interesting!
We passed the elephants that were tied up and fed by children
Go to a open area and ask if you can feed some. We did, and it was great!
Then we went to the river. We had a table in the restaurant by the river, downstairs. It was a great view to the river and a sight when the elephants came to have a bath.
The shops in the area were nice, but very overpriced. Don't shop here. You'll find everything you want somewhere else.

Elephants of Sri Lanka
Antoinett... [TA], ,

It is definitely a high volume tourist attraction but they manage groups very well. We travelled in a minibus with an English speaking driver which meant we didn't have to find the car park and had a great guide.

I was disappointed to see so many obnoxious tourists imposing on the elephants space and getting far too close with cameras. When we arrived we walked up to he main area and bought entry tickets. We didn't stay too long and walked across the road to the hotel Pinnalanda to have some lunch. It is situated right on the water and to our pleasant surprise there were elephants being washed. Right throughout our meal we got to watch these wonderful animals bask in the sun and enjoy the water.

After lunch at 2pm as we were leaving a larger herd were being escorted down the road towards the river for their turn in the water. Truly magical to see them so close.

I definitely would recommend this attraction to children and people of all ages. But please don't feel the right to pat them and force cameras in their eyes.

Up close with elephants
361122 [TA], ,

Elephants are not soo easy to be found , they are nice to be watched , this orphanage is improving its standard for foreign guest , outside lot of shops for souvenior purchases

MerryMary... [TA], , Moorhead, Minnesota

It was amazing to see the elephants, I was in awe. The sight of the elephants going to the river was incredible. Watch out for the workers - they will offer to take your picture with the elephants and demand money - fortunately we had been warned about this but I saw a number of surprised and irritated guests.

Remarkable place.
agi2013 [TA], , Budapest, Hungary

Remarkable place. Appreciation to those, who had the idea to create and maintain the place. This is not the usual touristy "elephant show" but you can see and feel that the animals are really taken care of.

Up close and Personal Experiences
LindaJW20... [TA], , Sydney, Australia

On our first day we went to the Orphanage. We arrived in time to see the elephants bathing and playing in the river. We certainly got up close, our friends managed to touch and get photos with the elephants as they came out of the water. My husband and I also had photos when we were in the Orphanage. Be warned, the handlers will grab your camera and demand money, and what you give them, they will demand more. We didn't mind paying, they are just very rude about it. We went to the Orphanage to see the feeding, this wasn't as pleasant seeing the babies chained up and several in distress. They also have an older Elephant who is injured and chained up, very distressing to see. After visiting we would have said you must go, however, the next day we did an Elephant Safari at Minneriya National Park, now that is a must!

Lovely Experience
JenMats [TA], , Muscat, Oman

We had a wonderful experience watching the Elephants. Its an excellent project taken up by the Government to protect the Elephants. The best part was watching the Elephants running towards the river for a wash.

Nothing so special!
Mariam P [TA], , Karachi, Pakistan

We thought it would be good but it was average. Just elephants here n there on a huge plain. We stayed the for 15 mins only but outside the orphanage shopping can be done.

Great day out for adults and kids
AberdeenS... [TA], , Aberdeen

See the elephants up close, feed the babies milk and spend a few hours watching the elephants down at the watering hole. My kids loved the elephant poo shop - where they make paper and other things by re-cycling elephant dung!

Mixed feelings
Norman v [TA], , Leiden, The Netherlands

When we visited the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage I had mixed feelings. We watched the elephants take a bath (I think it's from 11:00 - 13:00). You can take a picture with them for a tip (we didn't do it because elephants are forced into position). When you sit and watch the elephants bathe it is a really nice experience. However it is made for tourists and people really want to sell you different things (statues, pictures, bananas). We just sat in the back and enjoyed the view!

We walked back to the orphanages and saw the old elephant that stepped on a landmine. He can barely walk and doesn't look happy. I think they should end his misery and not let him live to enjoy the tourists.

Some of the elephants are free to walk within their space and some are chained, not very tight and they can walk a couple of meters. The watchers are taking good care for the elephants!

Great Experience!
Essaouira [TA], , Edinburgh, United Kingdom

We went to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage with some trepidation after reading some of the negative reviews. However, after having visited, I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Yes, some of the elephants did have chains, but they seemed to be free to move around when we saw them. The young ones were chained when visitors were feeding them, but I think that was necessary to keep them still. Staff appeared to really care for the elephants.

When we first arrived the elephants were all in the river bathing, which was incredible to see. We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the river where the elephants bathed. Back at the orphanage we were able to give some young elephants milk. It was amazing to be so close to them and be able to touch them! We also got the chance to feed fruit to a very large pregnant female. She had no chains and was clearly enjoying the fruit!

We also saw elephants wild in Minnerya national park which was amazing. However, I still wouldn't have missed the elephant orphanage which was a completely different experience.

Tip: The toilets near the ticket office are very basic. Inside the park there are much nicer, cleaner toilets which are free for ticket holders to use.

A bit too much of a zoo
Andersons... [TA], , Kinver, West Midlands, UK

On the one hand watching the elephants bathing in the river, or the youngsters being bottle fed is absolutely gorgeous. There is a touch of circus about the public displays, and the poor three legged specimen (a landmine victim) does leave you questioning whether there is a more humane alternative. Overall if you elephants are on your list of things to see/do in Sri Lanka then the orphanage should be on your list. Allow up to half a day.

You must go..
Sanjaya D [TA], ,

Sri lanaka is not a rich country.. we must appreciate at least this work.. they do not have a enough money to even maintain orphanage. remember instead of criticism you must donate at least one milk bottle for baby elephant...Help them to do better

Definitely worth a visit
Sally E [TA], , Letchworth, United Kingdom

Expensive entry fee and constant demands for tips and extra costs from mahouts, even though it's government run! Don't pose for photos with the elephants unless you're willing to give some cash!
Definitely worth a visit, you can see many elephants of all different ages up close, feed the babies milk and the adults fruit. We saw an elephant that had stepped on a land mine years ago and was injured. Watching all of the elephants go to the river for a bath was a fantastic experience - don't miss this part. Definitely go, but beware of costs and mahouts using the elephants to make money for themselves.

amazing majestic animals
SXMpilot [TA], , Quito, Ecuador

The view of these amazing animals visiting the river twice a day as they walk them through the village of shops was incredible. You are literally able to reach out and touch them you are so close. It's sad they no longer have tusks but I guess it's for safety. Still an amazing photo opportunity. Well worth a visit. A highlight of our short visit to Sri Lanka for sure.

A unique elephant experience
awannabef... [TA], , Auckland

I read a number of reviews before going but decided it was actually a great experience. Animals looked well looked after and the best part was seeing them all bathe in the river. We paid a few extra dollars to feed one by sticking fruit right in its mouth. Not so natural!

Read the reviews and so glad I went
tigger259... [TA], , Goulburn

Prior to my visit to Sri Lanka I read the reviews about the elephants and they were split for and against. Some implored me not to go.

As part of our day trip the tour representative provided details of how the orphanage was established and how it works.

It took several hours of driving the interesting narrow roads of Sri Lanka. Appears if you honk your horn before you overtake its ok if a bus is coming the other way.

I digress. The elephants are in a reserve and are taken the river along a path. Over time commercial businesses have established and offer sometimes forcefully their wares. Its fine just to decline.

The sight of the elephants in the water was amazing. It's free to take photos but be warned. Be very warned. If anyone offers to take your photo with an elephant be prepared to pay. They have your camera and then ask for a "donation" this is never mentioned before the offer.

We spent an hour looking at these graceful animals. They love the water. They then are lead back up the path to their land area. The young calves are fed with milk and they can drink this down without much effort. There hide is tough and their hairs like steel wool. Their ears are warm as this is where they regulate heat.

I would go again, I loved it, I can see why some people may feel that it is not right for the animals to be in captivity, however in my opinion I was satisfied with what I saw.

Enjoy the experience.

An unforgettable experience
Terry D [TA], , Los Angeles, California

The orphanage is very well run and it's your opportunity to interact with elephants in an up close, personal way. Yes, some are controlled by a chain around one of their legs, safety for them and the patrons. Yes, this is more petting zoo than safari, but that is precisely its advantage.

I did not see any of the animals mistreated. Quite the contrary, the staff seemed very affectionate.

And yes, it costs to get in and it's encouraged to tip when you get to do something special like feed them or milk then, but it is very inexpensive and the funds go to the operation of the orphanage.

No one was ripping me off. That's ridiculous. Some of the postings here are simply hysterical and read like they're written by a bunch of cheapskates.

It's a great pace to take kids.

If you love elephants like I do and truly care for their well-being, you will have a great experience at Pinnawalla.

I also had the best guide in Sri Lanka, Dhammika Perera, who navigated all entrance fees and helped guide me on appropriate tips.

Special spot
hauge1999 [TA], , Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Wow, it sounds that quiet good number of elephants are around. It is good place to drop in if u get time,

Pinnawala...a drive to the land of Elephants
AbhiBhatt... [TA], , Hyderabad, India

Pinnawala is around 80 kms from Kandy, where we were based and it takes approximately 3 hours to drive down. Pinnawala is notable for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. In 2011, there were 88 elephants, including 37 males and 51 females from 3 generations, living in Pinnawala. Like most Srilankan tourist attraction, if you are from SAARC country you will have to pay less for your tickets.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage consist of the main complex which houses the Elephants and also there is a river called Maha Oya nearby where you can see the elephant bathe..You can find many shops in the lane which leads to the river and you can buy good souvenir here at a relatively cheaper rate. You can go for an elephant ride here, but a ride is not included in your ticket and will cost you extra money.
The main complex has few attractions and you can feed milk or fruits to the elephant. There are elephants of all ages here and you can spend an hour going around.
If you are from India, you can spend an hour or two here.

Fums [TA], , London

It is about an hour (ish) out of Kandy. There are so many elephants here being fed and then bathed down at the lake. However alot of them are chained, something we did not expect to see. You have to pay extra to feed the baby elephants! Be wary when you go down to watch the elephants in the water the guides will let you touch and take pictures of the elephants but then they ask you for money..something they should have made clear at the start!

Seems a necessary facility
Nigel B [TA], , Rotorua

Never seen so mant of these magnificent mammals together. An awesome experience. Pity it is necessary but one gets the feeling that they do it well. The toilets by the way better than a lot of good hotels which is a bonus.
Worth the journey from Kandy

You Don't Know Elephants
FancyGeom... [TA], , Kansas City, Kansas

Wonderful spot on the river to learn about elephants and their antics. Several shops and a beautiful setting.

Good start in Srilanka
Ahmad D [TA], ,

Well that was the first place I visited in sri lanka so it was fun to see all this elephants and be so much close to them ... but the disadvantages were the that there was specific time to see the elephant in the river and the high entrance fees .

but in general was fun and deserve the visit

RLFP_WSP [TA], , Melbourne

Good chance to see many elephants up close, but in a very touristy environment. If you want to feed elephants, to be photographed with elephants and buy any manner of souvenir this is the place to come. It is a good place to practice saying no toall manner of peolpe who want tosell you stuff. This was the first attraction that we visited in Sri Lanka and most of the attractions we visited after this were better.

Loved the Bathing of the Elephants
MTRich [TA], , Hawalli, Kuwait

We were lucky enough to be able to meet a local man who led us around for the day. It is somewhat confusing of a place to be honest.

But to be honest the Bathing of the elephants is worth the whole entrance fee!

SallyBomb... [TA], , Mumbai (Bombay), India

There were 65 elephants, orphaned or maimed that were being taken care of. They are really being taken care of.

It was a sight to see them run towards the river and cool themselves.

Well worth a visit
David T [TA], , Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom

We took our 2 girls 11 and 7yrs, both of whom are animal lovers. We were a bit wary as a few reviews on trip advisor made us think twice about going. In hindsight we had nothing to worry about. Yes the workers occasionaly have to use pointy sticks to control the animals but they have 2 inch skin and weigh more than my car so that's understandable, i think some people are a bit unrealistic and over sensitive.
It was idyllic watching these huge beautiful animals bathe for a couple of hours. Then onto the orphanage itself which is laid out brilliantly and the animals are not mistreated at all.

Please ignore the negativities in some of these reviews, its a great place doing great things.

Not totally the wild
F1will [TA], , Isle of Man, United Kingdom

It was not what I expected. The elephants are great but there were still quite a few elephants tied up. We opted to pay extra to feed baby elephants but it was so busy and not well organised so I wouldn't recommend. Take local currency they do not accept dollars.

Always worth a visit
Nick946 [TA], , St Andrews

We have been here every time we visit Sri Lanka and it ia always worth it . Something that has to be on your bucket list and one of the top attractions in Sri Lanka

Have breakfast at the Elephant Hotel around 8
sunseasan... [TA], , Doncaster England

It's a good place to visit - the worlds largest elephant herd resides there.

I traveled there with my wife and friends. The train ride from Colombo is good and the orphanage is half way to Kandy.

We arrived early and went for a cuppa and breakfast at the Elephant hotel waiting for the attraction to open.

We were over the moon when the keepers brought 5 females and 2 babies down the hill to bathe while it was quiet.

We were invited to help bathe the elephants and enjoyed a good hour feeding and washing them, We enjoyed so much so that the actual attraction was a bit of a let down.

Take my advice and do what we did. Even if the elephants don't turn up the tea and toast was excellent.

Worth seeing
iamsurfer... [TA], , Hong kong

We went there around 11:30am , the elephants were already bathing. There will be this guy come and sell you banana for 200rupees saying you can feed them, do not trust him and do not buy. There is a sign saying no feeding.
We understand that the place needs to make money to sustain this project, but it feels quite commercial as there are too many extras you can pay for. You can even bribe the guards while the elephants are bathing to feed them.
The elephants seem hungry as they kept trying to get close to the tourist hoping to be fed.
I have seen similar place in other part of the world, they are taking care of these elephants orphanges but at the same time they want more income so it really comes down to whether you want to see a big group of elephants bathing in the river up close or not.

Well worth a visit
Anna J [TA], , Gateshead, United Kingdom

The orphanage itself is well worth a visit, particularly at feeding time but also walking down to see the elephants bathing in the river was a real spectacle. Get a seat at one of the bars/restaurants overlooking the river and you can enjoy the elephants as well as having food and drinks at a reasonable price considering the location. We sat here for an hour and just watched, amazing! The elephants in the orphanage were tethered to prevent them running away which was slightly of putting but once you understand the history and that after starting with just 4 rescued elephants they now have many many more, quite a few who were born there but more importantly that they regularly release them back into the wild in the rain forests with ongoing checks on their welfare. Makes it worthwhile.

Watching Tame Elephants
100worldt... [TA], , Gaithersburg, Maryland

If you don't have another event planned to see elephants, this would be worth it. We did this, then went on an elephant safari in one of the parks and saw the elephants in the wild-much better. Here you can see tame elephants eat and walk to the river. If you have time, go to one of the national parks and see the elephants in the wild instead.

Good place to see the elephants
korsarz [TA], , Warsaw, Poland

if you arrive in the morning at 9.15am you can see (or do) the feeding of baby elephants (drinking milk from the bottle), at 10.00am all elephants are walking across the road to the river, you can watch how about 60 elephants walk by 2 meters from you, I can say it's quite impressive, and then how they play and relax in the river...

afterwards we took an elephant ride in one of the places offering it down the road

Carole G [TA], , Morpeth, England, United Kingdom

We found this place that good we went back 2 days later for more.
This place is a must as we have never been lucky enough to witness as many elephants in one place before. From 6 month to 40 years old and have a total of 86 elephants. To see them trooping down the road and in to the river is a sight i will never forget.

Little elephants
Honza B [TA], , Prague, Czech Republic

You can see many large and little elephants here, orphans and wild - they are so nice really. Our children was happy, it was best place for them, best trip in Sri lanka. We rided elephants here in nature. They have bath in river. Beautiful country and river, and all. Only problem we must give money to people that are working with elephants. It is busines but it is ok.

A great experience
Emily B [TA], , Chelmsford, United Kingdom

A once in a lifetime experience. You can feed, touch and ride elephants, and the orphanage is the best place to do it as other sellers do not treat the elephants as nicely. Don't get me wrong be prepared for chains and a few whips, but on the whole the elephants seem well looked after. You get to watch them march to the water to bath for an hour which was lovely, and the riding of the elephant was such a great experience although hard to hold on! It was 2000 ruppes for the ride and 2500 ruppes to enter the main orphanage.

Not a great experience
OnTheGoSu... [TA], , Sunnyvale, CA

I love elephants and especially baby elephants, but this experience left me a bit cold. I did not like to see the babies in short chains. I understand the explanation that this is for their safety as well as the tourist. The chains just seemed way too short for small animals. The orphanage seemed more like a business rather than an orphanage because of lack of compassion by those taking care of them.

The best part of the day was watching the elephants in the river at lunch. The views were lovely and watching the elephants play and roll around in the river was delightful--except when the mahouts walked over and whacked them with a pole when they went some place he didn't want them to go. Food at the restaurant overlooking the river was good. Service very slow.

Mixed feelings
The_Miri... [TA], , Miri, Malaysia

This well known tourist spot left me with mixed feelings.

First, it is not an orphanage. 15 minutes there and it is obvious it is a business, and all the babies I saw had their mothers with them.
Next, the conditions were far from ideal. There seemed to be a lot of "disturbed" elephants. That may account for the abudnance of chains they have to wear.

However, the highlight was undoubtedly being stood next to the exit gate as the whole herd of 30 or 40 headed to the river. I have never been that close to elephants before.
TOP TIP: Do not bother going into the orphanage, but head down to the riverside hotels, order tea & brunch and wait for the herd to come down & bathe.

Fed the young
LorraineM... [TA], , Cambridge, United Kingdom

Great afternoon feeding the young ones and then sitting by the river watching them all play in the river whilst having a long cool drink and a snack
This is the 5th time and I'm still mesmerised by it all could watch them all day

Do you love animals?
Imagine20 [TA], , Lincoln, Nebraska

If you actually love animals, don't go here. This is a tourist trap with elephant victims. Chained baby elephants and prices that are 100 more for foreign tourists. I recommend going to one of the other rescues or orphanages in the area, or if you just want to see the elephants go at the end of their bath time and watch them cross the road, because that's free and you're not paying money for cruelty.

Elephant Zoo...
tianyi z [TA], , Beijing, China

It's good to have the chance to see so many elephants in one place, especially when they are going to bath. It's a good idea to produce paper from elephant dung. The reason I don't want to give a higher rating is that the place seems to be too commercial.

Not sure
Ponytailp... [TA], , London

My wife and I love elephants and have seen loads in the wild in Kenya. This is different and we went thinking it was for rescued baby or young elephants. I am none the wiser as very little info available. Was upsetting seeing the babies chained up but assumed that stopped them hurting themselves although one or two were doing that repetitive thing. Feeding them was a bit of a money making ritual as they only give them a bottle and if you want to do it they charge you for thirty seconds of doing the same, just enough to get a photo.There are some injured elephants there so I suppose they are being helped although they just seemed to be chained up in one place. Lots of the elephants do seem able to roam about and feed and I guess they are ones that have been previously trained. When the elephants charge over the main road and down to the river is fun and they definitely seem to enjoy that bit with many of them being given a personal scrub. So, if you havn`t seen elephants in the wild this is a good way of getting close up. Obviously there is money involved and the question is " what would happen to these elephants if this place didnt exist ". So I guess I would err on the side of better to have it than not but it is sad as well.

Katie N [TA], , Thornybush Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Wow it truly was amazing seeing so many elephants bathing! Then visiting the park as well was great too, feeding them and seeing the really baby elephants. What a good job this orphanage does for the elephants here!

apolk [TA], , Leigh-on Sea, United Kingdom

Difficult, on the one hand it was great to see so many elephants and so many different age groups and to see them being looked after. On the other hand, chained animals, some of whom were in obvious distress surrounded by idiots who thought it was cool to feed them and pet them (at a price) was heart breaking. In a way, this is a must see, in another, be prepared to have your heart tugged at.
Would recommended the river bathing, quite impressive and certainly a little more palatable.

The Elephants are Majestic!
Elena N [TA], ,

I loved seeing the elephants! They are so gentle, and having the opportunity to feed two, you can see their eyes are so gentle and knowing. It's apparent that they are very comfortable with people although you recognise they're still wild animals.

Also, it was really wonderful to watch them enjoy their time in the river! Watching the baby elephants play and dive, swimming around the adults and pulling on their tails, it was like watching children at the park.

The only negative was seeing the chains they use on the animals - but it looks as though overall they're well cared for.

While I didn't buy any, I was actually impressed with the ingenuity of using the elephant dung to make paper :)...

A bit touristy, but still a great experience
Emma M [TA], , London, England, United Kingdom

Great seeing the elephants up close, and i would definitely recommend feeding one of the adult elephants, but be aware of the guys who work there letting you touch the elephants... They will demand money after wards. Just do NOT give them your camera to take a picture of you, some people apparently then have it taken ransom!

Lovely seeing the elephants bathing!

Elephant Contact!!
Simona326 [TA], , London, United Kingdom

Wow - we left our resort at 06.30 in the morning to make sure that we reached the Elephant Orphanage in good time for feeding. It was extremely busy but we were lucky enough that our guide had already pre-booked tickets so we were able to progress straight through (there is also a separate queue to tourists). The baby elephants being fed were very cute and it was also good to see how the centre cares for disabled elephants as well. There was plenty of room for the elephants to roam and they seemed very contented. We got really close to elephants of all ages and got some amazing photos as memories. Mid morning the elephants walk through town to refresh and play in the river (quire surreal) - i think this is the part of the day that the elephants love the most! There are some great viewing spots and the whole experience was well worth the early start.

Definitely worth a visit!
TRAVELLER... [TA], , Cardiff, United Kingdom

I had read very mixed reviews about Pinnawala before visiting Sri Lanka, however, I would definitely recommend a visit.

Don't bother paying to bottle feed a baby elephant - certainly the worst (and only negative) aspect of the day!

Other than the bottle feeding of the baby elephants who were all chained to the floor, the rest of the visit was very pleasant. The elephants all look content and well cared for, and have plenty of natural space to roam around in. Mid-morning they let them all walk down to the local river where you can see them splashing around and enjoying themselves!

There were a few elephants with chains but generally large males for safety reasons.

Great experience
Melanie S [TA], , Gosport, England, United Kingdom

What a wonderful place. Elephants of all ages that have been abandoned or orphaned, there are also some that were injured by the mines left by the Tamal Tigers which is heart renching. I got to feed milk to one of the babies which was over as quick as it began but worth it & afterwards we walked down to watch them having a bath in the river which was brilliant. Highly recommended.

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