Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

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Almost nothing in Sri Lanka splits our readers’ opinions more than this government run pinnawala elephant orphanage near Kegalle. Initially created to protect abandoned or orphaned elephants, it’s one of Sri Lanka’s most popular attractions, but today some people think it seems to have largely lost sight of its original aims and is more a zoo than anything else. Some people love the place and the opportunity it gives to get up close and cuddly with elephants, but many more fi nd it an out and out ripoff with no conversational value whatsoever. Whichever category you fall into it’s safe to say that nowhere else on the island, except at peraheras (processions), are you likely to see so many pachyderms at close quarters.

There are around 80 elephants of all ages.The elephants are controlled by their mahouts, who ensure they feed at the right times and don’t endanger anyone. Otherwise the elephants roam freely around the sanctuary area. The elephants are led to a nearby river for bathing daily from 10am to noon and from 2pm to 4pm. Meal times are 9.15am, 1.15pm and 5pm. You can bottle feed a baby elephant . The afternoon light is better for photographs, but there are also more visitors at that time. If it’s been raining
heavily, bathing in the river is sometimes cancelled as the waters are too high.

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