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Pinnawala is a village in Kegalle District of Sri Lanka and is around 90 km from the capital, Colombo. It is well known for its elephant orphanage, however, based on general internet searches and this Guardian article highlighting ethical elephant sanctuaries, we elected to visit the Elephant Freedom Project while we were in Pinnawala instead of the Elephant Orphanage. In this guide to Pinnawala, you’ll find some insight into our lodging and our experience at the Elephant Freedom Project.

From the Colombo airport, we went directly to Pinnawala via taxi which took about two hours. We chose to stay at Eden Lodge for two nights. It had very basic accommodations, but had a nice view from our balcony (see above). However, after visiting and staying in Pinnawala, we would highly recommend taking a day trip here from either Colombo or Kandy instead. There are very minimal restaurant options, not a lot of great lodging accommodations and there is also not much to see or do. 

While we weren’t crazy about our stay in Pinnawala, spending time at the Elephant Freedom Project was definitely one of our highlights in Sri Lanka! We chose to do a half day in the morning, which cost about $37 USD per person. It was quite pricey for our backpackers budget but it was definitely worth the experience. You can book ahead of time on their website and they take credit card payments.  

When we arrived at EFP, we were very lucky that no one else signed up during our time there, so we ended up with our own personal tour and lots of one-on-one time with Kumari, the amazing elephant that EFP is currently care for. Our half day consisted of meeting Kumari by giving her lots of bananas, cleaning out the dung out of her bed, taking her for a long walk and then bathing her in the river. We also had the chance to go into town where the elephant dung factory was located and they explained the process of how paper and paper products are created with the use of elephant dung. 

During our morning at EFP, we were able to ask a lot of questions about Kumari’s life. Our guide was very informative and transparent which we really appreciated. Your time at EFP also includes a delicious Sri Lankan lunch.

MUST READ: Top things to know before traveling to Sri Lanka’ blog post! 

What is the Elephant Freedom Project? 
The Elephant Freedom Project is a small family run shelter for captive elephants. It is located in Pinnawala, where there are many elephant riding places. They limit the amount of visitors every day which gives visitors a very special experience with the elephant(s).

Why you should go to the Elephant Freedom Project? 
There is absolutely no riding and mistreatment of the elephants.

Why is riding elephants bad? 
Elephant spines are actually very weak and are not meant to hold a lot of weight on their backs. Imagine an elephant that has to carry humans on their backs for very long hours every single day of their lives. Elephants are also “tamed” to obey humans. By doing so, they are most likely abused in various ways (wearing multiple chains on their necks or around their feet or poked by sharp objects).

If you’re deciding to check out Elephant Freedom Project, we absolutely recommend it. All of the relevant information can be found on their website and we definitely encourage you to support this organization when you visit Sri Lanka! 

Before you travel anywhere, always do your research and find places like the Elephant Freedom Project. It’s up to travelers to stop unethical animal tourism.

MUST READ: Top things to know before traveling to Sri Lanka’ blog post! 

Long story short, there is nothing worth mentioning from a food perspective from our experience in Pinnawala. We booked our taxi from Colombo airport to Pinnawala through our guesthouse. We asked our driver for local restaurant recommendations, he told us to go to Yummy Burger (which later we found out he conveniently owned). We ended up paying 900 rupees each ($5 USD) for a not so yummy burger!

That’s our guide to Pinnawala but like always, all opinions are entirely our own. Above all, enjoy Sri Lanka!

Disclaimer: We have no financial incentive to promote lodging or any other services. This recommendation comes solely from personal experience.

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