The Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawela in Sri Lanka is one of the world’s finest places to get up close and personal to a large herd of elephants. Set up by the Department of National Zoological Gardens, Pinnawela is located 90 km. away from Colombo . It was established in 1975 and several animals brought here at the inception are now mature enough for breeding, which is the ultimate aim of the institution. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has largest captive herd in the world.

The Pinnawala elephant orphanage has not only got the largest captive herd of elephants in the entire world but it also has become the most successful elephant breeding centre, according to reports.

At this orphanage you will find elephants of all ages which are abandoned or otherwise unable to fend for themselves by way of being injured. They are looked after with loving care until such time they are ready to work or be freed back to the jungles. The unique feature is that one could feed the baby elephants with bottles of milk during the feeding times. The elephants are also bathed daily in a river located across the orphanage.

The orphanage is open all day but it is best to try and coincide your visit with the twice daily feeding and bathing. At 9.15am and 4.15pm , the baby elephants are taken into the stalls where they are tethered and then bottled fed with milk, providing endless photo opportunities. It has become a major tourist attraction because of its uniqueness.

This might be a crowd pleaser but it’s not the highlight; what really steals the show is the bathing. Follow the herd out of the orphanage and down a 400 meter track to the river. Here the elephants are left to wallow and play in the shallow water that flows swiftly over smooth rocks. The younger ones play and hose themselves and each other while the older ones seem content to stand around and cool off quietly. The herd is allowed to stay at the river for about an hour, plenty of time for you to find a perch on the rocks or in one of the restaurants that overlooks the water. It’s not hard to make the crowds disappear from your view and imagine that you are close to a truly wild herd of elephants.

This is an ideal site for photography, research and education on elephants as the visitor is able to observe a large herd comprised of week old babies to sixty year olds.