One of the highlights from my tour round the south part of Sri Lanka was elephant riding in Pinnewala (or is it Pinnawala?). It was a hotly anticipated part of the trip in fact and we saved it for the last few days of our visit to Sri Lanka. Despite having been to a load of countries with native elephants before, Sri Lanka was the first ever country where I saw an elephant outside a zoo. I normally travel either alone or with my girlfriend, but for the first time in 2 years my parents were visiting Asia to meet me, so I was on an elephant with my Dad! Here’s the rundown on it, something I’d definitely recommend!
How to get to Pinnewala
The nearest large city to Pinnawala is Kandy, Sri Lanka’s second biggest city after the capital Colombo. So ideally you want to base yourself in Kandy while doing Pinnawala, though if you have lot of time on your hands, staying nearby is a better option and there are resorts in and around Pinnawala. Either get a private bus, hire a driver or get the local bus 662 to Kegalle, getting off at Karandunpona Junction and changing onto the 681 bus to Pinnawala (it’s heading to Rambukkana). We had a driver called Eraj of A & I Travels, he comes recommended by the way, here is his e-mail: [email protected] and website www.aanditravels.com .
Where to see elephants in Pinnawala
To be honest if you visit Pinnawala and don’t see an elephant I can only assume you have been locked in a capsule with no view of the outside world. Elephants are a part of life here – they nurture them, look after them, breed them, and essentially use and exploit them for tourism. It works both ways. Tourists want to see elephants. Locals want to make money.
But what about the poor elephants?
Well thankfully for the most part they are well looked after, from what I saw anyway. And you can support this by giving donations and buying things in the town, which we also did. The elephants are fed and watered and bathed regularly.
On the main road into Pinnawala from Kandy you will see a load of places advertising for Elephant trekking, elephant riding, elephant viewing and general elephant related stuff. If you’re part of a tour group or bus, then they will have a place in mind already and you will do your elephant riding there. If you are with a driver, he will be more flexible and let you choose where you want to stop for your elephant riding. Take your pick – we went to.
How much does elephant riding in Pinnawala cost?
It’s a flat rate of 2000 Rupees. There’s no bargaining to be had and in honesty when you consider they are looking after the world’s largest mammals, then it’s worth paying it. Don’t even think about bargaining on this occasion but do reject those rip off merchants trying to flog you stuff – that money will go in their pockets not to the elephant sanctuary. Support the town and the elephant sanctuaries first and foremost.
Where is the elephant riding in Pinnewala?
OK so the one we went to isn’t actually IN Pinnewala, but it was the Club Concept Elephant Safaris in Randeniya, Hiriwadunna, Kegalle. It’s less than 10 minutes drive from central Pinnewala. I kept the ticket so I could write up the contact details for you:
Telephone: 035 2263377 Fax: 035 2263130
What is included in elephant riding in Pinnewala?
On our tour we got basically 3 things:
1. 20 minutes of elephant riding (basically just across a bridge over a river and back again)
2. 5 minutes in the water bathing with an elephant (I also cleaned its back using a coconut shell)
3. Entrance to a small ‘museum’/room full of information on elephants.
Get your information to digest here, leave a donation and marvel at the facts, but at the same time realise how the elephant is actually in danger of becoming extinct – the numbers are in the thousands and in Bhutan they are in the hundreds.
What is elephant riding in Pinnewala all about?
Just a bit about the elephant riding itself then – basically its a maximum of 2 people per elephant, you grip onto a chain that is round the elephant’s body. You set off and are followed by the elephant keeper – he escorts and the elephant duly follows him. You can give your camera to one of the other guys working there or your friends to take photos of you.
* Stay steady and keep your balance – falling off is possible and you don’t want that!
When you’re in Pinnawela you can also hunt out souvenirs, have a beer and watch a live elephant parade through the street (I’ll write about the town separately!). Pinnawela itself is a few kilometres drive from the Club Concept Elephant Safaris. Don’t forget to stay connected by subscribing to my updates and liking out my Don’t Stop Living Facebook page.
My Videos from elephant riding in Pinnawala, Sri Lanka: