We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.


Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Ranked #1 of 3 things to do in Pinnawala
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Reviewed January 24, 2013

Its quite a commercial place and a famous tourist spot for Lanka, there are two admission prices for locals and tourists making it accessible to all. There is a small cafe, with adequate food.

It was amazing to see so many elephants up close, there are hundreds of free roaming giants there. The animals are well looked after and clearly very happy- watching suckling babies, elephants in love and meeting the three legged elephant with no fences was an experience I will never forget. Unfortunately missed out on the ele washing, but next time...

The only bits I didn't like as a big animal softie, was the prods to get the big bull who was chained to raise his trunk for photo opportunities. I went on a elephant ride before which i regretted as it distressed me greatly due to the animals condition and treatment, so it was amazing to see such happy elephants in a lovely environment.

3  Thank AlisonPictures
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a ReviewReviews (3,196)
Traveler rating
Traveler type
Time of year
  • More languages

2,097 - 2,101 of 3,196 reviews

Reviewed January 24, 2013

A chance to get up close with these wonderful mammals; it may be that some conservationists are not keen on the human / animal interaction but it certainly enhances understanding of the creatures. They are wonderful!

1  Thank Keith85
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 24, 2013

It is amazing watching these beautiful animals playing in the river and sliding on the muddy river banks (hilarious!). For an additional tip you will be allowed to touch the young elephants and make pictures with them. It is worth visitng as there are not many place where you will be able to see so many elephants together in one place.

Thank Qrnick
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 24, 2013

If I could give it less of a rating I would.

Firstly this is not an orphanage at all, that is a scam to get tourists in. The whole place is exploiting elephants that have been in this place for years, and are being born into this hell. All day long the elephants are dragged by spears for tourists to take photos and for the rude and aggressive staff who go on and on and on trying to persuade you to take advantage of these huge, beautiful, intelligent creatures as they are.

As you can see any positive reviews of this place are from selfish people who are so happy to touch or get close to an elephant but clearly couldn't care less about their welfare. These are the people that I must have seen posing and smiling in front of an old, blind, elephant who is tied by a chain to a wooden column, unable to move more than a foot. I know that this particular elephant has been here for at least 20 years tied up, most probably longer.

Other elephants are also chained up constantly within the reserve, even in the water when they are taken down to drink. Various stories come from the workers about why this is occurring, all of them different, none of them matter, as it's quite clear that when the doors are closed these elephants are treated even worse than how we see them treated. I can't bare to imagine, but the fear in the eyes of the elephants, both grown and infants, when they run away scared from the staff here makes it quite clear that they have been beaten by these spears and sticks before to make them behave in such a manner.

Elephants are animals that are constantly munching away at grass also as they walk along and I could see scarce food for these elephants, they are fed once a day, one guy told us, this isn't enough and so all day long the able sighted elephants spend their time trying to steal from the blind elephant, who is given an abundance of food, is surrounded by leaves, that he doesn't want, but is given by tourists who will then be goaded into paying the incessant workers there a fee.

As well as all this, this is one of the highest one off payments for an excursion that I paid for in the whole country, one I so regret seeing, £10 to see these elephants or £8 (even less if you can haggle further) to go on a safari, in protected land, where hundreds of elephants roam freely, and happy, amongst the jungle with greenery to munch on until their hearts content. And iff all of these elephants can do it this so called orphanage is a complete unnecessary disgrace. Being inside this place made me so angry, it was the worst town I visited, I had found the people all over the country to be friendly, here they were exploitative, pushy and rude.

I am so sorry that I saw this place but if my review makes people not visit, then it would have been worth it, I took hundreds of photos of the place and tried to capture how badly the elephants are treated, please see the few selected below.

If you want to see elephants in Sri Lanka see them on safari, they look so much happier and content and they are free and left alone to do what they want to do, they are not here for our amusement, to be tied up for years on end, uncomfortable, these elephants are just prisoners that are being exploited completely, it is not an orphanage, it is just a zoo, where for a fee and the cost of an elephant's freedom you can touch an elephant or have your picture taken with them. I heard visitors reciting how it's better from them here they are protected from poachers, I know that I would rather be dead, not chained up by metal chains that have been there for so long, my leg now has a space for them to fit into, or being constantly dragged about by a man with a spear in my head.

But they don't have to be dead either, they could be put back into the wild, where I'm sure they were snatched from in the first place and put into this reserve, they certainly are not orphans.

17  Thank Maria K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 23, 2013

It was my first experience with elephants, so for one hand I loved it. I really enjoyed seeing their river bath, they were with happy and relaxing behaviours.
But on the other hand I was disappointed, first because some of them were in bad conditions, always with chains and expressing many signs of captive stress, it was painful to see.
Even the hose bath of the little ones was doubtful, I couldn’t understand if they enjoyed it or if they were obliged by the handler.
I also noticed that many elephants had serious diarrhea, I suppose they don't treat them.

This must come to an end, they have signs in the entrance not to give tips and never the less that place is all about tips: to make a foto, to feed them, to touch them. Let them be at peace, enjoy looking at them and help stop this parallel business that doesn’t help the elephants.

6  Thank TCRibeiro
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers who viewed Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage also viewed

Kegalle, Sabaragamuwa Province
Kegalle, Sabaragamuwa Province

Been to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing