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“commercial circus: don't go”

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
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Level 1 Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“commercial circus: don't go”
Reviewed June 4, 2013

We visited Pinnawala with our two children and our impression is that this has little to do with an orphanage. The main goal is to shake out tourists as much money as possible. The day we were there, the river was too high to bath the elephants. Although this is the main attraction, the admission price of 2.000 SR per person was the same. For this money you can see a zoo with some elephants standing around. If you want to come closer to them, you have to pay extra. If you want to take picture, you have to pay. If you want to feed bananas, you have to pay. For 250 SR they offer you to give a bottle of milk to a baby elephant. This is also a misunderstanding, as the staff gives this bottle and you may also touch the bottle, which is finished in 3 seconds. The staff is unfriendly and hardly communicates with visitors, other than harsh orders. They just can't care less don't wether you are satisfied with your visit or not.

If you want to see elephants, there are plenty opportunities to do so in Sri Lanka. If you want to see them and leave with a very unsatisfied feeling, this is your place to go!

Visited June 2013
Helpful?
2 Thank Jeroen P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Brighton, Canada
Level 5 Contributor
47 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“Exciting to watch at the river”
Reviewed May 29, 2013

We took visitors from Canada to the elephant orphanage last week-end. The location is about 5kms off the Colombo - Kandy Road at marker 60kms. Admission is $20 for tourists and $2 for locals. Best time to get there is either 09:30 or 13:00 as the 50 or so elephants are paraded from their compound, across the road and 200 m to the river at 10am and 2pm. You can first go to the compound for a walk to see them roaming about and visit the 'baby' area. You can even feed the babies (for a small fee) if you wish. Also a mahood (trainer) will offer to take your picture beside an elephant (small fee). The best place to see them is at the couple of restaurants down by the river. Sit, have a snack or a beverage and just watch the antics of the elephants, especially the younger ones. You can ask a mahood if you can feed an elephant (small fee) but it is quite the experience. A well worth visit if in Sri Lanka.

Visited May 2013
Helpful?
Thank Travel-Buff60
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 3 Contributor
10 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“Left feeling very uncomfortable”
Reviewed May 26, 2013

If you like the combination of a zoo and a circus with mahouts or helpers constantly asking you for money to have your photo taken with an elephant then this is clearly going to be somewhere you will like. But for us seeing elephants constantly being harassed by mahouts with hooks, males out of the main public gaze on chains constantly weaving and the feeling that this is all geared to money making made us feel very uncomfortable.
We tried to see through all this and witnessed the bottled milk feeding of two very young orphans, the older elephant with the bottom of a foot missing who was clearly very well looked after by his kindly mahout.

At the river one elephant struggled down with massive chains on and only the babies seemed to enjoy the experience.

One sensed that this started off as an orphanage with good intentions but has slid in to something which at the end of the day made us feel very sad and hope that there will be changes coming.

Visited May 2013
Helpful?
2 Thank Philip P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Mumbai (Bombay), India
Level 6 Contributor
451 reviews
257 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 118 helpful votes
“Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage”
Reviewed May 24, 2013

It was a magnificent view to see so many elephants walking one behind the other to go for a bath and then back. There were two baby elephants too who were so cute looking and you will fall in love with them. When the elephants are arriving for their bath it is followed by music and everyone in the crowd also follow them around. Its fun watching them have a great bath and enjoying themselves.

Visited September 2012
Helpful?
Thank Zarin S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Amman, Jordan
Level 5 Contributor
75 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
“tips everywhere!”
Reviewed May 21, 2013

The very first place we went to in SriLanka.
we had breakfast at a restaurant between the orphanage and the river.
After a long trip, the Breakfast was Awesome (now to think of it, it was ok).
we saw the elephants going to the River for their bath time, and i had to run to get myself tickets to be able to have the chance to experience bathing them.
inside the orphanage we were taken to see the wild elephants that are still chained to be trained.
i wanted to stand close to an elephant to take a picture and touch it, but got really bothered from the trainers/workers there, for which they stick to you and keep asking you to help them i.e. tip them.
when i went to help bathe the elephants at the river, i was given a bucket of water to pour on the elephant, and again everywhere i went, the workers were trying to get tips, by sticking to me, holding my hand to listen to them, (cries of help, help help everywhere)
i found that very disturbing.
anyway, i wanted to buy some souvenirs, my husband thought that we should see other places first, in case we found cheaper shops. but i insisted on getting something from there because i didn't know whether or not we will pass from this road or not. (and i was right, we didnt find anything in other cities about the orphanage).
i advise you to visit ALL the shops on that Road, and get the best price, and keep bargaining.
i was very happy from the things i bought.
this was my first time seeing an elephant live, and they were ADORABLE!

Visited September 2012
Helpful?
1 Thank Farah K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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