Our tour guide asked us after breakfast if we wanted to see the elephant feeding or just the elephant bathing at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. The difference is we can leave a little later if we choose the latter and with that reason, it was a unanimous decision from all of us in the group that we’d rather just go there during the bath time. It was only the 4th day of our trip and yet, I felt like we’ve been Sri Lanka for a week already with all the activities and long drives that we’ve done in the past couple of days.
I was also quite happy that we’ll skip the elephant feeding time at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage as I’ve received some really horrible feedback about it from some of my clients mentioning that the elephants are actually used as a spectacle rather than taken cared of in this “orphanage”. It has become a money-making tourist trap more than what it’s really supposed to be – an elephant orphanage. One of our clients told us how these elephants were all tied in a chain during feeding time to stop them from running free so that tourists can feed them and take photos with them – of course for a fee. Elephants will also be forced to lie down in a river so that tourists can bathe them which as well comes with a fee. But of course that’s just one person’s opinion isn’t it? Or so I thought. Before going to Sri Lanka, I researched about the places that we’re going to visit and I have seen some similar views about Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage on tripadvisor and some other bloggers too think of the same thing. So the idea of skipping that part of our visit just made me happier as I won’t have to see the horrific situation of this orphanage but will still be able to witness the elephants’ bath time at the river.
We arrived at around noon and our guide told us to run towards the river as there’s only a few minutes left before the elephants go back to the orphanage. So we did ran, past the tourist-trap shops selling all kinds of overpriced souvenirs. The riverside was packed when we arrived and my camera was clicking nonstop as soon as I was able to find a place with a great view of the river.
I must say that it was rather magnificent to see them roaming freely as they bathe in a huge river, I didn’t expect the river to be that big though. I went closer to the bathing spot of the elephants, as close as I’m allowed to and there were some local guys asking me if I want them to take my picture with the elephants. I said no immediately as I know they’d ask for a tip afterwards.
To be this close with a huge elephant is probably one of the best things that you can experience out of the visit in the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. All I had to do was to extend my arms and I can practically touch the nose of one of those elephants but I didn’t, because I was scared. Lol. They stayed for I think another 10 minutes or so before the caretakers called on them to fall in line towards the main road. It’s just really funny to watch all these huge beasts literally following what their caretakers were asking them to do. They all created 3 lines all of them facing the main road. With just one whistle from the caretaker they all started moving to go back to the orphanage.
Once the herd was gone, we had lunch at one of the restaurants overlooking the river. The food wasn’t at all great but the view from up there was quite amazing!
After lunch, we had a little time for shopping. Of course we haggled as much as we can and I was able to buy a LKR2000 elephant pants for only LKR900. No, I’m not kidding.
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