Visit Elephants in Sri Lanka in a National Park, not Pinnawala

Visit Elephants in Sri Lanka in a National Park, not Pinnawala

Visit Elephants in Sri Lanka in a National Park, not Pinnawala

Over 15 national parks in Sri Lanka host wild elephants. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage claims they take care of the orphanages but it actually is one of the main tourist attractions for travelers on organized tours following their Sri Lanka travel route.

Pinnawala has become super popular since beautiful photos were getting shared on social media by huge influencers. We had high expectations of Pinnawala but left with a heartbreaking experience instead.

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visit elephants national park sri lanka pin

This article will inform you about the best places to see wild elephants in Sri Lanka and why to not visit Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Because why should you visit an elephant ‘orphanage’ while wildlife is just around the corner?

What’s in this guide:

4 x Best National Parks to see Elephants in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, there are many national parks where you can see wild elephants. And even better you don’t have to go into a national park. They simply pass the main road during early morning or late afternoon.

Sri Lanka has incredible wildlife walking around and these are the best ones to see Elephants in Sri Lanka based on personal experience.

1. Kaudulla National Park

Kaudulla is the unknown little brother of Minneriya, it hosts over 250 wild elephants and the chance of seeing more than 5 elephants is really high. It is located near Sigiriya and can be easily combined with a 3-week route through Sri Lanka.

Read: Kaudulla, Best National Park in Sri Lanka

2. Yala National Park

Yala is the most famous park of Sri Lanka and that’s not without a reason. The area covers a big part of the South-East coast. Spot many wild elephants and even leopards here.

Read: Glamping in Yala National Park

yala national park elephants in sri lanka

3. Minneriya National Park

Near Kaudulla is Minneriya. A more popular national park and also a huge range of wild animals like elephants.

Minneriya national park sri lanka tropical bird

4. Udawalawe National Park

A beautiful park with many parrots, deer, buffalos, monkeys and of course, elephants.

Udawalawe is a good next destination from or to Ella.

Read: 7 Awesome Things To Do in Ella, Sri Lanka

udawalawe national park sri lanka

Why Elephants in Sri Lanka Should Not be visited in Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawala Elephants Orphanage is beautiful in the photos posted on social media, promoted by influencers but the reality is far from beautiful. During sunrise, the locals guide the elephants out of town into the river where most of them get chained to a ring attached to a rock. Normally that’s hidden under the water surface but if you have a low tide, it suddenly becomes a different experience.

elephants in sri lanka pinnawala chain

The same locals were washing the elephants just for the show to the visitors. The elephants are scared and that’s not so strange since they’re being hit with sticks and getting a full human’s weight hanging on their ears to get them to kneel into the water.

elephants in sri lanka pinnawala

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is not a sanctuary, they have a completely unnecessary breeding program which should be released in the wild but are actually kept to serve as a tourist attraction. Do you really want to support this?

Then they came, in a whole different way than we had expected. Local people walked the elephants out of town, chained, into the river. Attaching them to rings on the rocks in the river. Hidden under the water surface so it won’t really get on photos. But we had a low tide that day.

Please, please, please people. DO NOT support this. More evidence of the situation can be easily found on Instagram, just look closely.

View this post on Instagram

Little one #pinnawalaelephantorphanage

A post shared by Emma Wilcock (@emmaw124) on

Chained, as if it is taking a bath in the river :-) 
And another one..
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Ella Galle Guide Unawatuna

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