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Worth a visit
Rating 1.4 (226 votes)

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Listed under Conservation in Northwest Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka.

  • Photo of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
  • Photo of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Photo of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Photo by flickr user S Baker
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I never in my life thought I’d be at the wrong end of an elephant, close enough to be cleaning up its poo and having to watch out for more deliveries, but that’s just a day to day event when a volunteer at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. I thought getting sprayed by an elephant was something that only happened in films with trained elephants but I think elephants have got more of a sense of humor than they’re credited with and are far more likely to spray you in pure jest or because they can.

Getting to spend time with elephants you realise just how clever they are and how lively. When they’re all playing together they slide down the river banks like it’s a game or almost frolic (I know that’s not a word people may associate with elephants) in the rain. Some of them enjoy a good rough scrub with coconuts, like a bath, and some are more standoffish and only like some of the mahouts, they’re like people that way, all of them with totally different personalities. They’re also amazingly intelligent and can be trained to do all sorts of things to only what seem like tiny vocal commands.

As well as the orphans I had the opportunity to see some pregnant mums and a baby only a few hours old. Can and elephant ever be considered to be tiny – the answer is yes, and like a foal taking its first ungainly steps. We were able to ride the elephants and to go on an elephant safari and see them in the wild.

I would recommend this experience to anyone who wants to live a different life for a few weeks, to get closer to nature and to do something totally different with their holidays. You see so much more than you would as a tourist and though the work can be hard at times, and you do get strong, fit and tired mucking out the elephants, the afternoons are all spent by the river relaxing with the group of 70 or so elephants and that’s another experience I can believe I had. The more you put into this the more you’re going to get out of it and though you can take time out from the rest of the group if you want I was lucky enough to be there with people who were really committed and though we could have slept in later and spent less time by the river in the afternoon, skipping the effort of getting all the elephants down there, we all wanted to spend as much time as possible mucking in. Literally.

Written by  Diego Thoms.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Anybody like to volunteer at Pinnawala elephant orphanage which has given home for over 80 elephant

FIlming charges

There is a cost/charge to film/photograph at Pinawalla. Is that correct??

Besides, travellers worldwide, is there any other organisations that organise such unique experience

1 Reply

yes.. you can visit

Hi Diego, how did you go about organising the volunteering?

Was it organised through a volunteering group?

I look forward to hearing from you,


4 Replies

Hi Sophie - I contacted Diego via a volunteer organisation in the UK, and there are several that are able to help you organise a trip to Pinnawala - let me know if you'd like more details.

Hi Sophie

You can volunteer with this group

Please do mention Worldreviewer when you contact them


If they can't help you there then I think it was Globe Aware who put me in touch with Diego.

Hello sophie,

I would like to start a organization to bring volunteers to work with elephants at Pinnawala elephant orphanage. I live in Pinnawala and have experience about volunteering. I am searching for coordinators from other countries.I will send you my quotation for food,accommodation, and orphanage charges if you are interested.

looking forward to hearing from you!

thank you,

charith Abeynayake.

How much is admission Fee please

we are thinking of visiting in February from columbo could you give an idea of costs and do tours go regular from columbo to pinawala we may also take the local bus,

thank you

1 Reply

There are numerous tour options but the entrance fee, if you're arriving by local bus, is pretty low, around US$5.

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