From Kandy City we went on a day trip with tuk-tuk to the Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka. Along the way to the Orphanage, there were numerous spice gardens and lots of handicraft shops selling leather goods and souvenirs.
The orphanage is government run and was initially created to protect abandoned or orphaned elephants. It was set up in 1975 to rescue four orphaned baby elephants when they could no longer be looked after at Dehiwala (Colombo south) Zoo. Today it has become the home to the largest captive group of elephants in the world and is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular attractions, both among tourists and locals.
Inside the Orphanage there are about 80 elephants of all ages and sizes, walking around a fairly large territory.
For some extra rupees you can feed the elephants fruits, like bananas and pineapples.
The elephants are controlled by their mahouts (keepers), who feed them and watch out so they don`t endanger anyone. They do however walk freely around the area and among the visitors most of the time.
The orphanage also houses baby elephants, which are really cute! Apparently, it is possible for visitors to bottle-feed a baby elephant if you paid extra. Everything cost extra!
What To Expect
The orphanage part of the park was a bit awkward and touristy, and not as nice as witnessing a wild elephant in the jungle like we did in Yala National Park.
But still, it`s safe to say that nowhere else in Sri Lanka are you likely to see that many elephants so close up.
We got to the orphanage around 9 o`clock in the morning, so we would be able to participate in the elephant bathing.
Each day from 10 to 12 in the morning, and from 2 to 4 in the afternoon, the mahouts take all the elephants down to a nearby river for bathing.
When we were there it was the dry season, so the water level in the river was low.
In the rainy season, when the river is at its maximum, they sometimes have to cancel the bathing due to strong currents.
There were quite a few tourists when we were there, but not too crowded. Next to the river were a couple of cafes/restaurant, where you can have a meal or a cold drink with a nice view overlooking the bathing elephants.
In this area, there are a lot of sellers! One Srilankan man came suddenly over to me, grabbed my hand and started to read my palm. He held my hand so tight that I really had to struggle to free it from his grip. And of course, he wanted a lot of money for it! Very annoying!
There are a lot of souvenir shops along the road that the elephants and the tourists walk to get to the river. A very popular souvenir are paper made out of elephant poo. Yep, poo! 🙂 We went into a shop where they showed us the whole process. The poo is dried in the sun and boiled, and the resulting pulp is then used to make high-quality paper. The texture and color of the paper varies according to the elephant’s diet, while other ingredients like tea and onion peel are also added in order to get the required finish. They make really nice things out of this elephant poo paper, like note books, cards, photo frames, photo albums and so on.
You can buy things made out of elephant poo paper at Amazon.
Mixed Feelings About The Elephant Orphanage
This government-owned elephant orphanage is both loved and hated by people. Some think it is a nice opportunity to get up close with elephants, while others think it is a rip-off with no conservational value whatsoever. We had a mixed feeling about the place. It did not seem like the elephants were suffering, but we are no elephant experts.
Visiting the orphanage is of course far from the same nice experience as spotting a wild elephant in the jungle or in the national parks, like we did in Yala National Park. This felt a bit like a zoo, though a fairly nice one with open spaces and areas for the elephants to walk freely about.
I think that if this project really does save and protect abandoned or orphaned elephants that otherwise would have died, then it may be doing some good. On the other hand, they do breed elephants for tourism and keep orphaned elephants in captivity for the rest of their lives with no intention of reintroducing them to the wild. There is also no denying that this is a money making tourist machine, and I am honestly very divided in my opinion on this place.
You need to make up your own mind if you want to visit this place or not. We will not be visiting again as we prefer to see elephants in their natural environment in the many national parks in Sri Lanka.
Where To Stay In Kandy
Kandy offers a wide selection of accommodation for all budgets, and here you will have plenty of choices when it comes to finding the right place to stay. Kandy is a big city and the competition seems to be tough so you can find some excellent deals here.
Below are some of the best accommodation options in Kandy, including the address and price.
We stayed at Sharon Inn
Sharon Inn is located up on the hillside above the Kandy Lake. The road up to the hotel is a bit steep but we walked to Kandy Lake several times. Owned and run by a family where the wife is German. It is a decent hotel, and we were happy with the accommodation and the service, although it is a bit run down. It is recommended in the Lonely Planet.
Our favorite part of our stay here was the dinner buffet in the garden. Each evening they serve traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry with lots of different dishes, for only 7 us$. A very good value. The food was excellent, among the best we had in Sri Lanka.
We had one of the top floor rooms and had spectacular views from our balcony. The rooms are however quite basic, albeit with private bathrooms. It is a bit over-priced for this kind of room standard, but the location is great.
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Viyana Boutique Hotel
This new boutique hotel is located within easy walking distance to the Temple of the Tooth Relic. The rooms are large and modern with comfortable beds and free WiFi. The staff is enthusiastic and helpful. Some of the rooms have views overlooking the lake.
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Staying Outside the City Center
Kandy can be a busy and noisy city so it is worth considering staying a little outside the city center. Especially with transportation being so cheap and readily available.
Elephant Stables is a beautiful little hotel in a colonial style bungalow about 10 minutes drive away from Kandy center. There is a lovely pool and a nice view overlooking the green valley. It's a small intimate hotel where every guest is taken care of and made to feel exceptionally welcome. It is somewhat expensive but if it's within your budget then this comes highly recommended.
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If you want to get away from busy downtown Kandy then this small hotel is a great option! Located about 20 minutes drive from Kandy center it overlooks the valley and offers spectacular views of the area. It has a huge swimming pool and the friendly staff makes you feel right at home. If we ever visit Kandy again, we will for sure have a look at this! 🙂
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We used the Lonely Planet`s Sri Lanka travel guide on our trip, which we love. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below:
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What do you think about animal orphanages that are also big tourist attractions? Ok or not? We`d love to hear your opinion in the comment area below! If you like this blog post, and find it useful, please share and like it on social media! Thank you so much! 🙂
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