Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

General information about Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage:

 The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is located in the northwest of Kegalle, halfway between the present capital Colombo and the ancient royal residence Kandy.

It was founded in 1975 for feeding and providing care and sanctuary to orphaned baby elephants that were found in the wild jungles by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Department.

 In 1978 the Department of Wildlife handed out the orphanage to the National Zoological Gardens. A captive elephant breeding program was launched in 1982.

Since the inception of the program over 20 elephants have been bred here.

The purpose of the orphanage is to providing these elephants with an imitation of natural habitat.

Nevertheless, the center makes an exception for taking elephants to the Ma Oya river twice a day for a bath, and bottle feeding all the babies less than three years old. Usually, mahouts and volunteers will be in charge of this interesting part.

Each animal is also given around 76 kg of green matter a day and around 2 kg from a food bag containing rice bran and maize.

The orphanage is recognized as the largest herd of captive elephants in the world.

Observation of the elephants bathing is largely considered as the most magnificent spectacle in this attraction.

How to get to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage:

Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage is situated in the village Pinnawala in the district of Kegalle at a distance of 90km from Colombo and 37km from Kandy. Through the A1 Colombo-Kandy main road, you can easily reach Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.

From Colombo:

By train: Take the train towards Kandy and get off at Rambukkana – the closet railway station to the village Pinnawala [about 2km), then catch a bus towards Kegalle or take a tuk-tuk to reach there.

By bus: Catch the bus from Colombo to Kandy and get off at Kegalle, then take another bus towards Rambukkana.

By private car: Book a private car with driver to visit Pinnawala is the most comfortable and flexible options.

From Kandy:

By train: Take train towards Colombo and get off at Rambukkana and take bus towards Kegalle.

By bus: Take the bus from ‘Good shed’ bus stand to Kegalle, Colombo or Negombo and get off at junction to Rambukkana (4km before Kegalle) and switch to the bus to Rambukkana. Total journey takes around 1.5h.

By private car: Book a private car with driver to visit Pinnawala is the most comfortable flexible options.

 History of the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Wilpattu National Park was the original location of the orphanage in 1972. Afterward, the orphanage was moved to the National Holiday Resort at Bentota Beach in the south-western coastal belt and then to the Dehiwala Zoo, 11km south of Colombo.

In the year of 1975, the Department of Wildlife of Sri Lanka set up its present home: Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawala, Kegalle.

Since then it never turned back on an orphaned elephant: it welcomed all and expanded from 4 orphaned elephants to a gang of no less than 109.

The purpose of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

The primary purpose of the orphanage has been to provide a lifeline to the orphaned baby elephants and adult elephants lost in the wilderness.

There have been many cases when the elephants need to be supported and rescued. For example, the orphaned baby elephant fell into pits and lost out of the herd, or its mother had been killed

Another common accident was that the mother elephant had fallen into a pit and died leaving the baby elephant lost in the jungle. Sometimes, it was to help injured or handicapped elephants.

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was built to provide the sad victims of such situations with better conditions.There are over 100 people including a group of mahouts supporting the orphanage.

 The elephants get chances to mate in the free movement of the herd within the enclosed land of the orphanage. In 1984, the first baby elephant of Pinnawela was born.

In addition, thanks to local and foreign elephant experts’ supports, the Orphanage has commenced a scientific captive-breeding programme for elephants and therefore has become one of the most successful captive breeding programmes for Asian elephants.

Slaughter of the Elephant Population by the British Colonialists:

Before the invasion of the British in Sri Lanka in 1815, about 30,000 elephants lived on the island. In the 1960s, the elephant population was close to extinction because of game hunting and terrible slaughter by the British governors.

The tragedy of decimation of the elephant population prompted the Government to initiate the Pinnawal Elephant Orphanage. The good news is that there are over 3000 elephants living in Sri Lankan wilderness.

Opening time in Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage:

The Orphanage opens at 8.30 in the morning and closes at 6pm daily. Bottle feeding is at 9.15am, 1.15pm & 5pm and bathing times at the river is at 10am and 2pm.

The bathing hours are followed up by the feeding hour at the main center of the orphanage. Baby elephants are bottle fed. Selected visitors have a chance of bottle feeding milk to the baby elephants.

Daily activities at the Pinnawala Orphanage


08.30 hours – Open to visitors

09.15 hours – Bottle feeding

10.00 hours – Herd leaving to the river

12.00 hours – Return from the river

13.15 hours – Bottle feeding

14.00 hours – Herd leaving to the river

16.00 hours – Return from the river

17.00 hours – Bottle feeding

17.30 hours – Ticket counters close

18.00 hours – Close to public

Pinnawala Entrance Ticket Fees

Foreign Adult – approx 16 USD
Foreign Child – approx  8 USD

* a special 50% discount for the citizens of SAARC counties.

The Story of Pinnawala

The story of Pinnawala has attracted many animal activists and scientists from all over the world. A substantial number of books and research articles on Pinnawala have been published in several languages.

Millions of films, videos, photographs about the elephants of the Pinnawala elephant herd have been released by professionals and amateurs.

The message of conservation from Pinnawala has been passed on to thousands, if not millions of people, after their visit to the orphanage.

Tips for visiting Pinnawala:

Pinnawala village is regarded as an elephant place. Apart from Elephant Orphanage, there are the Maximus Elephant Dung Paper Factory and the Millenium Elephant Foundation and dozens of private elephant owners.

  1. In Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, the major activity is clearly elephant sighting. Visitors can feed elephants, see elephants bathing in the river but can not ride the elephants here.

    Tip: According to our customers’ feedback, the Orphanage is quite commercial. They don’t treat the elephants well enough.
    The activities here are pretty boring as same as in an ordinary zoo. If you particularly want to do elephant sighting especially in their natural habitat, the better alternative is going on safari.

  2. . In Millenium Elephant Foundation, visitors can take part in some activities:

    • Try out “Elephant Walk Experience”: about 30-minute walk with an elephant around the grounds watching and observing the elephant accompanied by guide; bathing the same elephant.
    • Join “Volunteer Program”
    • Ride an elephant
    • Wash an elephant’s back with a coconut husk
    • Visit on-site museum
    • Feed the elephants

    Tip: Same as Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Millenium Elephant Foundation is generally said to be commercial and elephant abuse. Especially, elephants are forced to make many circles per day for elephant riding in the same path with walls alongside.
    And of course, if you do elephant riding here, your turn will be one circle around 10 minutes. It is not a good choice for animal lovers to visit this place.

  3. In the Maximus Elephant Dung Paper Factory, visitors will have a chance to learn how Elephant Dung Paper is produced.It is free to visit this attraction, so you should take it into account

    Maximus Elephant Dung Paper Factory produces 100% recycled handmade products from elephant dung and office waste paper manufactured in Sri Lanka
    Elephants are not carnivores, so they consume a diet of fruit, veg, palm leaves, bark etc.

    An adult captive elephant eats 200kg of vegetation and produces around 100kg of dung a day. The elephant dung is absolutely perfect for making paper using traditional paper production by hand.

  4. With local private elephant owners in this area, elephants are seen as their pets living in better conditions. Here, visitors can feed, wash elephants. Specially, you can ride an elephant to the jungle or river or wherever you want not just a boring path and the amount of riding time can be up to one hour. In these places, you definitely get better services and more attentive staff. 

    Tip: It is friendlier for you to visit these houses than The Orphanage or The Foundation. Moreover, you will have more time to interact with the elephants, enjoy your private time and don’t have to stand in the queue to wait for your turn. Last but not least, you can see better elephant care here as well as not feel guilty to visit this place.

Tour to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and nearby places:

Our company - Fasttur will arrange for you a privite tour with comfortable air-conditioned car and English speaking driver to Pinnawala. We also can recommend you some other better service location. The tour can be done from any locations in Sri Lanka and at any time. We usually include Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in the program of Kandy tour.

Tour cost: 

From Kandy - 55 usd/ pax
From Colombo and Negombo - 70 usd/pax
From Bentota and Kalutara - 90 usd/pax
From Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna - 100 usd/pax
From Mirissa, Weligama - 110 usd/pax
From Trincomalee - 110 usd/pax
From Tangalle - 120 usd/pax

*At least 2 traveller going on tour

* To clarify the cost from other locations write or call us.

What is included. Entrance tickets

Included in price:
comfortable 4-seater car with air conditioning
gasoline, parking, toll roads
English-speaking driver
entrance fees

Not included:
Elephant riding
Food and personal expenses