This week I visited the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage where 70 elephants of all different ages live. I’d meant to go last weekend, but there were elections in the Central Province, and traveling in and around Kandy was time-consuming. The president was in town for a few weeks, and there was also a large meeting with members of parliament. Because of this there were 20,000 extra police in the area rerouting traffic, stopping cars, and shutting down parts of the city, so travel, even by tuktuks which can squeeze through tiny spaces, was slow and stressful.
So, after all the election madness died down, it seemed like a good idea to do something fun. Brian and I went with our driver, Sangeeth, in his tuk tuk for the hour long ride to the Elephant Orphange. We were able to pay the local entrance rate, 1/10th the foreign rate, because of our resident visas.
When we arrived the elephants were being rounded up for their trip through town to the river. The elephants ranged in size from tiny babies to huge adults that towered over us. I was able to have my picture taken with an elephant, but only after handing over a little money to the elephant wrangler.
Before we went over to the river we stopped to visit some baby elephants. They ran right up to us, probably because they hoped we had food.
By the river, watching the elephants were lots of tourists; European, American, and Sri Lankan. Some of the European and American tourists were very sunburned and wearing ridiculous shoes, like one women we saw who was wearing 4 inch espadrilles with polka dots on them. There was a large group of Sri Lankan students who were excited and terrified by the elephants.
Also, there were lots and lots of elephants, maybe 50 or 60, hanging out in the river and getting their baths.
After the bath time the elephants were herded back through the town to their feeding area. We watched as a baby elephant was fed milk from a big bottle. Tourists are able to feed the babies, but this involves paying for an extra baby-feeding ticket.
On our trip back to Kandy, Sangeeth stopped to show us another elephant, one with the largest tusks in all of Asia. I’m not sure if this is true, but he was certainly impressive. Apparently not all Asian elephants have tusks, and those that do are called tuskers. It was an elephant-ful day.