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
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.
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.
Wow, it sounds that quiet good number of elephants are around. It is good place to drop in if u get time,
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.
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!
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
Wonderful spot on the river to learn about elephants and their antics. Several shops and a beautiful setting.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.