Elephant Orphanage visit at Udawalawa | Sri Lanka

I am usually not keen on any animal-related activities. Still, when I read that the transit home I came across on my evening walk was a rehabilitation center for elephants up to 5 years of age, I decided to give it a try.

The Elephant transit home was set up by the Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1995. The facility allows visitors only to view the feeding of elephants from a safe distance (like a podium).

In 2022, the Elephant transit home completed 27 years of existence. By 2019, they had released 119 elephants back to the wild. They monitor these released elephants using radio collars. These elephants roam freely in the adjoining jungle and are fed every three hours.

Ticket Price: SLR 500 (for Adults and SLR 250 for children up to 12 years of age)

Timings: 10:30 am, 2:30 pm, 6:00 pm (these elephant feeding times)

How to reach Udawalawa from Ella: Ella to Wellawaya by bus, Wellawaya to Udawalawa by another bus. I’m not sure if there are any direct buses. I had started a bit late during the day being fooled by the short distance of maps. It’s always a good idea to start early in Sri Lanka and not go by travel time on google maps.

Tip: Do not trust the locals at this bus station. I saw them lying to a bunch of other travelers regarding unavailability of a connecting bus. 

My Experience

I was taking a rather long evening stroll when I noticed the sign ‘Elephant Transit Home’. I had no idea what it meant so I got back and read about it. It looked like a place that would exist even if there were no tourists, so it was not an animal circus that I fear animal-related activities entail.

Over the weekend, I went back on this scenic path through the village of Udawala which is rather quiet. I ended up at the transit home but only to be told that they open the place only during feeding time. So, it’s a good idea to just line up for tickets half an hour before the feed time.

There were quite a few people and while waiting for the ticket counter to open, I did reevaluate my decision. In the end, I ended up staying and I didn’t regret it.

The visitors walk past the office section and end up at a small stand with a distant view of the feeding station. Elephants are lined up and allowed to go for feeding three at a time. Looking at those baby elephants being babies was an absolute delight.

The babies, rather new to the disciplined life, often try to run back to the milk station. They have to be guided back to the other area where they have branches and leaves to munch on.

Apart from the transit home itself, I found Udwalalwe to be a beautiful, calm village. The rentals were the cheapest in Sri Lanka. The village has a stream flowing through it and I very soon chose a spot on this stream where I would sit with my feed dipped in the water and read my book which I got a natural pedicure from the fishes.

Also, I didn’t take the animal safari here even though that’s what it’s famous for.

Tip - For my digital nomad friends, the internet was really bad here. Both wifi and my phone data. So do stay near the town, if you have meetings to attend. 

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