Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage near Kegalle, Sri Lanka

If you are looking to see Elephants in semi wildlife conditions, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage ( පින්නවල අලි අනාථාගාරය ) in Sri Lanka is a must visit place. Situated near Kegalle ( කෑගල්ල ), its about 90Km from Colombo and would take around 1.5 hours to reach from Colombo. It’s on the Colombo – Kandy highway so tourists frequently visit this place on their way to Kandy. It’s probably the only place in the world where you can blend in with hundreds of these majestic animals at close range. As mentioned the animals are in semi wildlife conditions, so officially you are not allowed to touch them. But you do get the opportunity feed baby Elephants and touch some of the larger ones when taken to the river for a bath.

Elephants bathing at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Elephants enjoying a bath at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage Time Table

If you are visiting the orphanage timing is very important because then you can watch the Elephant procession to the river, see them bath and bottle feed baby Elephants without spending too much time at the sanctuary. This is the time table last time I visited but it is subject to change

Time Activity
08.30 AM Opening time, Visitors can start entering
09.15 AM Bottle feeding baby Elephants
10.00 AM Going to the River
12.00 AM Herd returns to the orphanage, the larger ones are fed
01.15 PM The baby elephants are bottle fed again
02.00 PM The herd again leaves for the river
04.00 PM Herd returns from the river
05.00 PM Bottle feeding of Baby Elephants
06.00 PM Closing Time

As you can see if you time your trip you can get involved in all the activities without spending a lot of time. Bottle feeding baby Elephants is definitely something you should see and get involved in.

Bottle feeding baby elephants at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Bottle feeding baby Elephants it the most popular activity

Image courtesy : Travel Photos

How to Get to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

If you are coming from Colombo, take the Colombo – Kandy highway. After passing Kegalle there is a left turn, there are plenty of signs so its hard to miss. It will take around 1.5 hours to reach there from Colombo, more if you get caught up in traffic.

Train is another option. The nearest railway station is Rambukkana and the orphanage is around 3Km from the station. It will cost less than Rs. 150 if you take a 3-wheeler from the station. There are quite a few express trains starting from Fort that stops at Rambukkana so it might be quicker by train.

Entrance Fees and Other Costs

The Entrance fees are very reasonable unless you’re a tourist. The entrance fee is 20 times the local price for tourists. This can be very embarrassing if you visit there with your foreign friends.

Adults Rs. 100.00 ( ~ 0.8$ )
Children Rs. 30.00 ( ~ 0.25$ )
Tourists Rs. 2000 ( ~ 16$ )

If you want to use video cameras an additional fee for Rs. 1000 will be charged. However no one seem to enforce this rule and I saw plenty of people using there video cameras. You do have the option of using your camera phone if someone did try to enforce this.

If you want to touch the elephants near the river when they’re bathing then you need to give some additional money to mahouts. This is strictly unofficial so there is no specific charge. I have seeing people give from Rs. 100 – Rs. 500 . For commercial filming you need to get permission from Director of National Zoological Gardens.

Facts and History of the Orphanage

The orphanage was founded in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife Conservation to rehabilitate orphaned calves and injured Elephants. This became critical during the war period when the number of injured Elephants rose quickly because of land mines etc. Soon it because a tourist attraction and now there are many activities available for visitors. It’s a popular Elephant research center and you can arrange special viewing facilities.

injured Elephant at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

One of the many injured Elephants at the Orphanage

Pinnawala Elephant orphanage has the largest captive Elephant herd in the world. Visit the Elephant Encyclopedia link to learn more about the Elephant population.

The biggest criticism against the place is that mahouts are forcing baby Elephants to pose for pictures. Although they do command and shout at Elephants it isn’t as bad as it sounds.

If you want to buy souvenirs there are plenty of shops just outside the orphanage. There are many items made out of Elephant dung and Elephant hair found in the tail. An interesting way to use the waste.

Feeding Times and Bathing Times

This section was added because many people ask what is the best time to visit the orphanage. I personally enjoyed viewing the procession of elephants going to the river and bathing. The river is a picturesque place and perfect for taking pictures. But I know quite a few people who enjoyed feeding baby elephants. If you take a look at the time table you can see that it is possible to enjoy both these activities in around 2 hours. So I’d say 9.00AM to 11.00AM and 4.00PM to 6.00PM as the best times to visit the orphanage.

Research and Volunteers

The orphanage has the largest captive Elephant herd in the world. So it’s a popular destination for Elephant researchers. During my visits I have seeing some people actively getting involved in bathing and feeding the Elephants. After some inquiries I learned that they are volunteers from some foreign university. So there is the opportunity and volunteer and get involved more if you’re a big Elephant fan.

Pinnawela Orphanage Contact Details

Unfortunately the official website seems to down for a long time. Below are contact details I found via other sources.

General No +94 (0)11 2712751-3
Director +94 (0)11 2729790
E-Mail zoosl@slt.lk

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  1. Have you been on holiday to Sri Lanka? What cities do you recommend?…

    Kandy is definitely worth a visit because there are so many things to see there. The Temple, adjoining museum, Peradeniya botanical gardens and some ancient template which has some amazon architecture. Another favorite destination of tourists which is …

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