CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Animal Magic - Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka

PUBLISHED: 18:37 11 July 2011 | UPDATED: 12:04 28 February 2013

Animal Magic - Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka

Animal Magic - Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka

Flatulent bubble baths, splashes and showers: Karen Bowerman watches a herd of seventy elephants enjoy bath time at Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka...

Splosh! An elephant rolls onto its side; a dome-shaped island rises out of the river. Soon theres a whole collection a path of giant, irregularly placed stepping-stones. The current alters its course. It swirls in and out of sinewy ears, flushes dust from creases of skin and dowses deep-set eyes. Jets of spray shoot up from appreciative, unfurled trunks.


A whistle pierces the splashing sounds in the river: bath times over! I hear a loud rumble, a sign of contentment. Its a chance response, from a beast with a bony body, wart-splattered back, and tusks that could have graced a mammoth. The other side of the river, splodges of grey act unaware. The elephants, cleansed and shining, lumber lazily through the water, wandering and wallowing, against a backdrop of sprawling coconut plantations and steamy, hazy hills.



Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage


Rambukkana Road, Kegalle,Sri Lanka


Many eco tour operators offer specialist wildlife holidays / wildlife and sightseeing holidays in Sri Lanka. One of the leading operators iswww.jetwing.com. Sri Lankan Airlines flies direct to Colombo from London Heathrow from 500 return.

Animal Magic



Flatulent bubble baths, splashes and showers: Karen Bowerman watches a herd of seventy elephants enjoy bath time at Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka.



The owner of the gem shop closes his shutters, the man with the trinket stall moves his tinkling wind chimes to one side, the tuktuks draw to a halt - the elephants are coming through.



Casually, and in their own time, the beasts of Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage lumber across the main road and into the small side street that slopes towards the Ma Oya river near Kegalle in central Sri Lanka.



They pass within a few feet of me: dusty eyes blink, skin hangs in folds beneath scaly bellies, mothers coax babies closer, youngsters jostle for space. Seventy odd elephants shamble towards the water, heading for a bathe.



At the river they put on an entertaining display a couple link up, trunk to tail and wade in; an elderly matriarch, her skin patchy and pockmarked, showers herself; a newborn delights in his own flatulent bubble bath.



But my favourite is the elephant that balances on a massive rock in the shallows, swirling the current dreamily with his trunk. His ears flap, open and close, like massive, leathery butterfly wings.



I head towards the river, over rocks worn smooth by erosion and the feet of those whove clambered this way before. Beside me two Indian girls in bright blue saris point and giggle, a father hoists his child high, a young couple hold hands and smile. All eyes are on the antics in the river.



A couple of grumpy, elephantine adolescents stand at the waters edge, refusing to go in, wishing they were somewhere else. The crystal clear water washes over their ankles, breaking in bubbles round their stumpy legs. One sways sulkily, its small ropey tail swishing idly from side to side. The other stands bolt upright, its trunk tucked close to its torso. Occasionally its ear twitches or it blinks, but its hoping not to be seen.



A cow elephant with flabby haunches approaches from behind. Theres a moments confrontation, the whoosh of a trunk and a bout of deafening trumpeting. The teenagers look nonchalantly then swing their heads and torsos in the other direction and slosh sullenly through the water. I lose them amid a mass of blotchy bodies and the flash of a curved tusk.



The elephants keepers, most in their twenties but some as young as fifteen, throw the odd, casual glance in their wards direction. Some carry poles with metal hooks at one end. They poke the animals when play gets out of hand and encourage them, with odd bursts of shouting, to lie down in the water. The day is hot, a scalding 35 degrees; the rivers the only chance to cool down.

0 comments

More from Out & About

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Wild camping can be one of the best ways to escape the crowds for a night or two and lose yourself in the landscape - SOPHIE PAVELLE chooses her five favourite places to ‘wild-life’ camp in Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

From sandy beaches and lighthouse-topped cliffs to views of the Jurassic Coast, the Devon coastline offers many perfect locations for a seaside walk. We pick 10 of the prettiest routes to take

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Take our quiz to find out how well you really know Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As the weather starts to warm up and the Devon countryside beckons, LIZZIE JANE of the National Trust in the South West offers plenty of walk ideas for you to try. Whether you want a relaxed Sunday stroll or a more strenuous hike, here are 10 walks across Devon (and beyond) to help you escape the crowds and head off the beaten track

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The South West Coast Path is celebrating 40 years by calling on people to help raise £40,000. To show their support, teams from Devon’s top tourist attractions are preparing to take to the trail. CHRISSY HARRIS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Away from the hustle of places like Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, North Devon is peppered with tiny coves, empty beaches and wooded walks leading to secluded bays that feel a million miles away from the tourist trail. BECKY DICKINSON reveals her pick of the best kept secrets on the North Devon coast

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

As part of her regular series where she visits Devon’s best places for 24 hours, Lydia Tewkesbury has this time been to Sidmouth

Read more
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ranging from rocky and windy walkways along the South West Coast Path to the sandy beaches on the picturesque coastline, the district of North Devon is one of the prettiest coastal areas in the South West of England. In no particular order, here are 10 of the prettiest villages in the district of North Devon

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

In Devon’s towns and cities there’s an awful lot you can do in just 24 hours. For her regular feature, Lydia Tewkesbury travels to see what you can do in a day in Kingsbridge

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Villages in Devon are some of the prettiest in the South West. From beautiful little hamlets on the outskirts of the moors to seaside communities, we pick 10 villages in Devon you need to visit

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Dust off your walking shoes and head to South Devon – here are 6 reasons why the area is so good for a stroll writes Victoria Rogers

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

There is something quite life-enriching about being by the water and in Devon there are plenty of ways to enjoy it, writes Fran McElhone. Including surfing, wild swimming, water skiing and more, here are 10 great ways to enjoy Devon’s water

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Encompassing large swathes of Dartmoor and plenty of the county’s most distinctive sections of coastline, it’s no wonder that the South Hams district is home to some of Devon’s prettiest places. We pick out 10 of the best towns and villages the area has to offer

Read more
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Devon is as beautiful underwater as it is above. Chrissy Harris highlights the best places to discover our county’s hidden depths… Here are 6 great places for crabbing, rockpooling and diving

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search