I recently returned from a nature filled trip to Sri Lanka. One of the places we were sure we wanted to visit was the Pinnawala Orphanage, which was highly recommended by friends and family. The place definitely lived up to our expectations as the majestic creatures we met there melted our hearts. This is a great place to visit if you are unable to venture out into a Sri Lanka national park to observe elephants in the wild.
Our journey started from our hotel in Negombo going through winding roads and intimate towns with rustic houses to Kegalle where the orphanage is located. Though the entrance fee for foreigners is quite steep, for Indians and people from any SAARC countries there is a price discount so make sure to take your passports along. I was also happy that the money we paid goes towards providing the elephants a clean habitat with sufficient food and qualified trainers.
The orphanage spreads over acres, extending to Maha Oya River and it was great to see the elephants treated and cared with respect. The place was established around 4 decades ago by the Sri Lankan Wildlife department and was taken over by the National Zoological Gardens consequently. Currently elephants of all ages can be found there and are provided a habitat similar to their natural environment.
Baby elephants are bottle fed in the orphanage and if you are lucky enough to be there during the scheduled feeding time, you can enjoy them gulping down bottles in no time. I loved to see the animals calm and composed in their wide enclosures and well fed.
For a small amount of extra payment, you would get a chance to feed an elephant an array of fruits.
There is also a scheduled bath time for the elephants, yes you heard me, you get a chance to watch these elephants splashing around in the nearby river just like they would in the wild. We watched in awe as the elephants were led down the road in a train with baby elephants trotting behind in line.
After taking numerous photos and still not believing its true, we settled down to eat at a restaurant with a river view, watching the elephants wander off to the jungle and rubbing themselves in red mud after taking a bath (how counter productive haha).
I am one who strongly believes that animals should be left on their own and only be observed and enjoyed from far and this place fit the bill exactly. So, the next time you get a chance to have an interaction with any wildlife or animals, please be
respectful and try to minimize your contact with them, try to not ride elephants/camels in places where they are ill-treated. Believe me, this is the best way which makes you and animals happy and ensures your money is used in the best manner. Try to explore places like this orphanage in the city you are visiting next and set a new trend. Let’s move towards more responsible tourism.
More information on Pinnawala Zoo – http://nationalzoo.gov.lk/pinnawalazoo/