Don’t let yourself be fooled by the pictures I’m sharing today. I know, they look pretty nice, doesn’t they? And seeing elephants in “real life” was a great experience, of course. When we planned our trip to Sri Lanka, I googled a lot, visited other blogs and read about their experiences in Sri Lanka, what they recommend to do and what not. I saw a lot of pictures shot at the elephant orphanage in Pinnawala (a towns somewhere between Colombo and Kandy). All these pictures looked amazing, and I really wanted to go there as well. I also checked the reviews on Tripadvisor and most of them were very good. Of course, there were some bad reviews saying that they torture the animals and that they’re chained up and stuff like that. You always find reviews and comments like this, when you google for something that has something to do with animals, even zoos get bad reviews. And since most of the other reviews were very good I thought the bad ones were only expectations.

The truth is, I was fooled by all the pictures and the good reviews.

Pinnawalla Elephant Orphanage – I wouldn’t visit this place again

When we arrived, I was super excited about seeing elephants in real life, and I couldn’t wait to enter the park/ orphanage. It was feeding time the time we arrived, and we went straight to the place it was performed. This was the first moment I got doubtful. We stayed there for maybe two minutes before

Pinnawalla Elephant Orphanage
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we wanted to leave. The elephants were walked around and stopped every couple of meters. Then they had to drink in front of the visitors so that they can get their shot. I didn’t take any pictures. We left, but I wanted to give it another try and walk along the area. I was sure that the elephants are walking around freely in this area. You need to know, that the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has two main attractions: the feeding and the bathing in the sea. Since there is nothing they have to do for the visitors in between, I thought they would be somehow free to do what they want.

Well, that’s not the case. The elephants were congregated, to give another great picture for the visitors. Guards were all around to make sure; they stay at the place they want them to. Whenever an elephant walked too far away, they made sure they go back by threatening them with a spiky stick, or they hit them on their legs. They asked almost every visitor if they want a picture and if one said yes, they hit the elephants until they were standing in the right direction for the visitor to get the best shot. I mean, how horrible is this? How can you even want to take a picture, when you see what they’re doing, so you can get the shot? Of course, I said no!

Another really said the thing is, that some of the elephants are chained up. They say they have to do it because these elephants are “dangerous”. But seriously? I saw how they tied the chains up to specific points in the lake, so the elephants would stay there. Once again to make possible the visitors get a great picture. None of the elephants you can see in these pictures was tied up, but some of them were wearing chains around the neck (don’t know if you can see it clearly).

I think there’s not much more to add. It was so important to me to write this post because I know that the pictures I took do look quite nice and it could give you the wrong picture of what this place actually is. I hope you read these words and don’t just look at the pictures. Please don’t ever visit this place or a similar place like this. I would never visit an elephant orphanage again!

elephants bathing in a lake
Elephants in Sri Lanka
Pinnawalla Elephants