Pinnewela Elephant Orphanage


Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary

Meet the world's largest herd of protected elephants

The Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary was founded in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation, to protect and care for orphaned baby elephants found wandering the nearby forests. Since opening, the sanctuary has gone on to become home to the world’s largest herd of protected elephants, with around 100 Asian elephants being cared for.

From its humble origins, the sanctuary has grown and now serves as an orphanage, nursery and breeding programme for the wild Asian elephants of Sri Lanka, as well as offering educational and outreach services to the local community. There are over three generations of elephants living at the sanctuary, from the calm matriarchs to playful new-borns. The bond between the elephants old and young is wonderful to behold.

Visitors to the sanctuary can get up close and personal with these gentle giants and can even feed the orphaned babies with fruit or bottles of feed. Every day the herd marches down to the river to drink, wash and play and visitors are invited to viewing decks to watch this ritual, as the keepers scrub the elephants down in the river, occasionally receiving a dousing themselves.

The sanctuary is located just outside of Pinnawala village and it’s possible to visit on a day trip from Kandy, which is only about an hour’s drive from the sanctuary.


Top Tips from our Experts


Destination Manager

“Take some spare cash so that you can by fruit and vegetables to feed the baby elephants.”


Brand & Advertising Campaign Manager

“The elephants have a daily timetable, with feeding and bathing times listed at the front of the building. Checking the day’s schedule will ensure you get a good spot, close to the action, at all times.”