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“So good I returned”

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Ranked #1 of 3 things to do in Pinnawala
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Attraction details
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Level 6 Contributor
210 reviews
50 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 252 helpful votes
“So good I returned”
Reviewed May 22, 2011

The "elephant orphanage" is a refuge for old, maimed or otherwise unwanted elephants. It is extremely rare to see working elephants in Sri Lanka these days. You can see some in the wild if you are lucky and go on safari (such as Yala).
But these are rather artificial surroundings and the animals are not in the wild habitat, but I really I really can't understand the people who say "don't go there" or say the elephants are all chained up. It's just been the case when I have been there (more than once).
It was the same in April 2011 as it was in January 2006 on my previous visit and I loved it. At 2,000 LKR per head it is not a bargain, but it is a great way to see elephants close up and get some fabulous photos. The only thing I didn't like before was the feeding milk to the baby elephants from bottles (it may have changed in 5 years but probably not).
It's best to arrive so you get to see the elephants bathing. But before and after that they live across the road and most roam freely. Just a handful of elephants there have been chained up and they don't go down to the river either - that is for the safety of the public. The best time is when the siren sounds and the elephants all march en masse out of the river.
You can sit in a cafe and watch them from afar if you don't want to go close. I think it is great experience for all ages. Not sure I would make a special trip from Colombo just for that - but combine it with other sights in the Kandy area.
There was no free parking at Pinnawala so it also cost an additional 100 LKR on a piece of wasteland nearby. We didn't bother with the souvenir shops that also line the lane down to the river.
Our driver/guide made sure we got to see the elephants bathing and thought we would not want to go inside as well. But it is worth it and taking the time to enjoy the unique experience.

Visited April 2011
1 Thank ilovemiddleeast
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed May 6, 2011

I found our visit to pinnawala very disappointing. The elephants were eating and were all chained up at the time. Only the babies were allowed to roam free. The people working there are opportunists of the worst kind and ask for money for everything which definitely puts a damper on the visit. Some of the elephants are also clearly distressed and rock back and forth in their chains. It would be good to have someone around to tell you a little about the elephants but there was no one in sight when we were there. All around disappointing.

5 Thank Ottosworld
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“The Poor Elephants”
Reviewed April 6, 2011

We have just come back from Shri Lanka, the people were good and the places we saw were good, except the elephant orphanage. If you have any emotions for elephants or animals please do not go and support this place. I found that the Shri Lankan people who worked here were consistently prodding an poking these poor animal with long pointed sticks and continually forcing these animals to perform for the public for a few tips. The whole experience disturbed me and from here I would not go near any other elephant attraction to see what I considered was animal cruelty. If this attraction were in England then this place would have been shut down for the way it treats its animals.

Visited April 2011
6 Thank levi061
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hyderabad, India
Level 5 Contributor
70 reviews
35 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
“Nice elephant orphenage but watch out for tauts”
Reviewed March 23, 2011

Pinnewala is a good place to be in, specially if you like elephants. The place offers various facilities like Feeding milk to baby elephants, bathing elephants, ride etc.

We took the bathing one and it was very good. the mahaut actually made us give a bath to the elephant (and we also got drenched...)
The elephant ride was unique. Unlike in other places, they dont use saddles here. Meaning, you sit on the animal directly (with just a cloth mat on it). So, be prepared for that! Elephant hair is long and pirckly though, so its not very comfortable and stable, but it gives a raw feeling! i liked it.

There are quite a few folks there who want to rip you off, not very common in Sri Lanka, but at this place yes - so do watch out for it.

Visited July 2010
2 Thank arahul
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Surrey, UK
Level 4 Contributor
25 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 41 helpful votes
Reviewed March 11, 2011

This is NOT an orphinage, it is a zoo and a bad one at that. The baby's were being fed in a small enclosure surrounded on all sides by people flashing cameras, talking waving things. Remember these are wild animals, there were also a couple of adults to make up the numbers they were swaying about clearly distressed. Outside in the main enclosure, the mostly adult elephants, were hearded up in a dusty paddock to be viewed in the full sun in the heat of the day. There is no programme for releasing these money making animals and it was distressing to see them treated like that. We did not stay long. PLEASE if you want to see orphan elephants visit the Elephant Transit home at Udawallah. There the puplic are kept at a distance from the elephants and they have a programme to release them back into the wild. The Born Free charity backs that one.

Visited February 2011
13 Thank EleHunter
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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