Exploring Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage: A Complete Guide

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a popular tourist attraction in Sri Lanka. It is a haven for orphaned and injured elephants. The orphanage provides care and shelter to these majestic creatures and is open to the public for viewing. This article is a complete guide to exploring the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.

History and Importance 

The Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation opened the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in 1975 as a safe place for elephants who had lost their parents or been hurt. The first batch of five baby elephants was brought to the orphanage that year. Since then, the orphanage has successfully bred and raised over 100 elephants, making it one of the world’s most extensive captive elephant breeding programs.

Initially, the orphanage faced many challenges in funding and management. Still, it gradually gained popularity as a tourist attraction, and today it is one of the most visited places in Sri Lanka. The orphanage has also played an essential role in elephant conservation efforts, as it has contributed to the breeding of elephants in captivity and helped to reduce human-elephant conflict in the country.

Sri Lanka is home to the largest population of Asian elephants in the world, with approximately 7,500 individuals. In recent years, however, the Sri Lankan elephant population has faced many problems due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and conflicts with people. In addition, the orphanage conducts research on elephant behaviour, nutrition, and reproduction, which has helped improve captive elephants’ management and welfare.

The orphanage also raises public awareness about the importance of elephant conservation and the threats facing Sri Lanka’s elephant population. Teaching people about the orphanage’s work and the problems elephants face in the wild, the orphanage helps people understand and support efforts to protect elephants in Sri Lanka and worldwide.

Activities at the Orphanage and Near

Visitors can do various things at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage that allow them to observe and interact with the elephants safely and responsibly. Some of the most popular activities include:

Watching the elephants bathe in the river: Visitors can watch as they are led to the river for their daily baths. This is an excellent opportunity to observe the elephants up close and see them playing in the water.

Daily at: 10.00 am – 12.00 pm and 2.00 pm – 4.00 pm

Bottle-feeding the baby elephants: Visitors can purchase a bottle of milk and feed it to the baby elephants, which is a fun and memorable experience.

Daily at: 09.00 am – 09.45 am and 12.00 pm – 1.45 pm

Touring the orphanage: Visitors can take a guided tour of the orphanage and learn about the facility’s history, the work being done to conserve the Sri Lankan elephant population and the daily routines of the elephants.

Learning about elephant behaviour and conservation: The orphanage has a museum and education centre that provides information about elephant behaviour, biology, and protection, as well as the challenges facing the Sri Lankan elephant population.

Photographs with the elephants: Visitors can take pictures with the elephants for a fee, a popular activity for tourists.

Visit Pinnawala Open Zoo: The Pinnawala Open Zoo is the first zoo in Sri Lanka to be held in an open-air setting. It is also the second zoo to be opened in Sri Lanka, following the Dehiwala Zoo. The Sri Lankan and global zones comprise the zoo, located on a plot of land that is a total of 44 acres in size and divided into two areas. The Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Chital, Sambar, and wild boar are among the most popular animals in the zoo, along with the African Lions, Sri Lankan Leopards, Asian Elephants, and Asian Elephants. The park’s most vast space dedicated to animal observation is the leopard inclosure.

Best Time to Visit

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is open to visitors year-round, but the best time to visit depends on your preferences and what you want to see. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Weather: Sri Lanka has a tropical climate with high humidity and frequent rain. The dry season runs from December to March, generally considered the best time to visit the orphanage. During this time, the weather is sunny and warm, with little rain. On the other hand, the wet season runs from May to September, with heavy rains and high humidity, so visiting during this time can be more challenging.

Crowds: The orphanage can get crowded with tourists, especially during peak travel seasons. If you prefer to avoid the public, visiting during the off-season months of April, October, and November is best. However, remember that the weather may not be ideal during these months.

Elephant behaviour: The orphanage elephants have routines and behaviours, and some activities may be more visible at certain times of the day. For example, the elephants are typically bathed in the river early in the morning, so if you want to see this activity, it’s best to arrive early in the day.

Location and Accessibility

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is located in the village of Pinnawala, about 90 kilometres from the capital city of Colombo in Sri Lanka. The orphanage is situated on the banks of the Maha Oya river, which provides a natural habitat for the elephants and allows them to bathe and play in the water.

The orphanage is easy to get to by road. People can drive themselves or take a taxi. The journey from Colombo takes approximately 2-3 hours, depending on traffic conditions. Alternatively, visitors can take a train from Colombo to Kegalle, the nearest railway station to the orphanage. From Kegalle, visitors can take a tuk-tuk or taxi to the orphanage.

Admission Fees and Opening Hours

Admission fees for the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage vary depending on your age and nationality. As of 2023, the costs are as follows:

Sri Lankan nationals: Adult LKR 250 / Children LKR 100

SAARC Nationals: Adult USD 10 / Children USD 5

Other Nationals: Adult USD 15 / Children USD 7.50

Visiting Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and Pinnawala Zoo (Combo Tickets)

SAARC Nationals: Adult USD 10 / Children USD 5

Other Nationals: Adult USD 20 / Children USD 10

NOTE: Only accepts payments in the currency of Sri Lanka. ( Source

The admission fee includes access to the orphanage, the education centre, and the opportunity to watch the elephants bathing and feeding.

The orphanage is open to visitors from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm daily, and visitors are encouraged to arrive early to observe the elephants’ bathing routine in the morning. However, remember that the elephants’ schedules vary, so it’s always best to check with the orphanage for the most up-to-date information.

It’s worth noting that the orphanage strongly emphasises responsible and ethical tourism, and all visitors are expected to follow specific rules and guidelines to ensure the safety and well-being of the elephants. For example, visitors cannot ride the elephants or engage in activities that could harm or stress them.


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