Made up of undisturbed exotic natural beauty, richly diverse wildlife, lined all over with tea plantations, and set against a mind-boggling backdrop of mythological and historical accounts, Sri Lanka is all about the love and admiration of nature. When it comes to preserving nature and the animals, Sri Lankans are very well known for it. One such place that depicts the empathic nature of the Lankans is the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
If you are planning on spending a holiday in Sri Lanka then spending a few days at this unique orphanage dedicated to rescuing and taking care of orphaned elephants is something you must experience.
Here is everything you need to know about the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage:
Where Is It
Pinnawala elephant orphanage is located in the village of Pinnawala in the district Kegalle at a distance of about 90 kms from Colombo. It is also located 13 kms Northeast of Kegalle town in Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka.
Initially, the orphanage was located in the Wilpattu National Park which then shifted to the tourist complex at Bentota and then to the Dehiwala Zoo. Finally from the zoo, it was shifted to Pinnawala Village on a 25-acre land adjacent to the Maha Oya River.
Pinnawala elephant orphanage is a world-famous breeding ground of Asian elephants and although it is very popular, there is no direct way of reaching it. However, getting there through the scenic beauty has a charm of its own. Here is how to reach Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage:
- By Bus – A bus journey is probably the easiest way of reaching the elephant orphanage. There are numerous bus services available connecting Kandy and Pinnawala. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach the desired destination. Prior to getting into the bus make sure that you ask the conductor if the bus will be going to the sanctuary or not. The buses are available readily and regularly throughout the day and can be boarded at any time of the day. The Pinnawala Bus Stop is just a couple of kms away from the main entrance of the sanctuary.
- By Train – The closest railway station to the Pinnawala Sanctuary is the Polgahawela station. The train heading towards Polgahawela will start from 8:30 am in the morning and will go on till 8:50 at night. The train journey takes almost 2 hours to reach the final destination of Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary.
- By Tuk Tuks – On reaching the bus stop or the railway stations, both of which are located very close to Pinnawala Sanctuary, you can easily book affordable Tuk Tuk services. These Tuk Tuks will drop you off right at the entrance gate of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
History of the Elephant Orphanage
One of the most interesting facts about Sri Lanka is that it loves its elephants. Established by the Sri Lankan Department of wildlife conservation in 1975, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage provides care and a safe haven for the orphaned baby elephants found in the wilderness. The primary purpose of the orphanage has been to provide a lifeline to the orphaned baby as well as adult elephants left for dead in the wild.
Prior to the invasion of the British in Sri Lanka in 1815, an estimated 30,000 elephants had lived on the island. During the 1960s, after nearly a century of game hunting in the region and jolly slaughter by the British colonialists, the elephant population on the island began dwindling and came close to extinction. This tragedy prompted the Sri Lankan government to initiate the making and development of this orphanage. The good news came later on when the elephants were saved and they did not become extinct.
Care and Management of the Elephants
Young elephants happen to fall into pits and ravines while on their quest to explore the surrounding jungles and wilderness. Other orphaned elephants happen to be displaced from their natural environment and wild habitat. Today, with the successful collaboration of local and international elephant experts, the orphanage has commenced a scientific captive-breeding program as well for the resident elephants there. This has made the sanctuary one of the most successful captive breeding programs for Asian elephants.
There are about 50 mahouts or experienced elephant handlers who take care of them and cater to all their needs. The younger elephants as well as the female population here roam around freely in the Pinnawala Range in a herd during the daytime. They are herded together twice a day to get bathed together and drink the river water. Adult males are involved in performing some light handy work within the sanctuary like transporting their feed from one place to another. All the elephants are fed in the stalls. Other than relying on the nearby natural food resources and bulk food feed for the elephants are brought in every day.
Best Time to Visit
The months from December to March are considered to be the best time to plan a visit to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. During this time the weather is very pleasant and mostly dry making it possible to easily go out and enjoy a holiday together.
October to November should be avoided since it is the time for peak monsoon season in the island nation. This is not the best time to go out exploring and sightseeing as the lashing rains would disrupt all your plans.
Detailed Timings for the Elephant Orphanage
Feeding Time – The feeding time for the elephants is as follows – 9:15 am to 10:00 am / 1:15 pm to 2:00 pm / 5:00 pm to 5:45 pm. The elephants are fed about 76 kgs of green matter and around 2 kgs from a food bag containing maize and rice bran. This feeding takes place without fail every single day.
Bathing Time – The elephant bathing time takes place from 10:00 am to 12 noon and from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm in the evening. Tourists and visitors will get an opportunity to interact with the elephants during this time and also frolic around with them in the water. The sight and experience here a spectacular. During their bathing time, the elephants are very cheerful and playful.
Fruit Feeding Time – The elephants at the orphanage are fed fruits from 9:00 am to 9:45 am and from 12 noon to 1:45 pm. Fruits are a crucial part of the elephant’s diet to meet their essential nutrients needs and also to provide them with energy. Tourists can bring some of these fruits and feed the gentle giants themselves, in the presence of a handler of course.
Watching these gentle giants being nurtured and brought up in a safe environment is something you don’t get to see a lot. Make sure to add this experience to your Sri Lanka Tour Package.
Points to Consider
The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has a set of rules and regulations for visitors to follow during their visit there. These rules are:
- Carrying a valid ID proof to get discounted entry into the park for SAARC locals and nationals.
- Smoking within the orphanage premises is strictly prohibited.
- Carrying a ticket at all times is mandatory.
- Do not tease the animals or disturb the naturally growing vegetation.
- Do not make loud noises that may startle or disturb the local animals.
- No entry into restricted zones. This is for your own safety.
The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a safe haven for abandoned or abused elephants and it was opened with the intention of protecting them. You can visit there, get to know more about these giant animals with soft hearts, and have a great family time.