Technically, having flown the nest and moved out I should be independent and no longer reliant upon my parents. This has turned out to be true to a certain extent. But when the opportunity arose to crash in on my parent’s trip to Sri Lanka I was more than willing to become parent-dependent once again and take them up on the offer! I had never been to Sri Lanka before, so with the prospect of ticking off another beautiful country from my bucket list was exciting. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like the idea of getting some winter sun and being spoilt once in a while?
My mother, being one of the most organised and forward-planning people I know, wanted to get the itinerary planned and down to a t well in advance. This meant that for several weeks, emails flung backwards and forwards between everyone’s inboxes with suggestions, ideas and preferences with everyone eager to visit different places. There was one thing I was completely unwilling to compromise on, and was, quite frankly, very brattish about- the elephants! For as long as I could remember, I have been in love with these wrinkly giants and the prospect of seeing them somewhere other than a zoo in Essex was just far too exciting and too good to pass on. Luckily for both myself and my poor suffering parents, visiting the elephants was on the final itinerary!
So on our first day after touching down in Sri Lanka, Tillak, our rotund and very chirpy driver, took us to Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary. The drive was a shocking insight into what would turn out to be a turbulent and troubled relationship between the Sri Lankan climate and my hair that for the next fortnight would manifest itself in off the chart levels of hair frizz (levels never experienced before, even after brushing through my holiday corn rows aged 6). This will explain the lack of photographs of myself for the rest of the trip (excuse my vanity).
On arrival at our destination, the Sanctuary was, as expected, very commercialised. The walk down to the river where the elephants were bathing was lined with snake charmers and pushy street sellers, but it was worth it once we clapped eyes on these beauties…
When you get down to the riverbank you have the opportunity to photograph the elephants as they splashed and played in the water. Be careful about the staff from the sanctuary though- they try to get extra cash from you for taking pictures but you really need not give them anything! Just be firm and refuse. One poor lady was lead down to have her close-up taken with the elephants and she was made to hand over extra dosh, she then watched them feed a banana to the elephant which then required extra payment, and this went on and on. She barely had enough notes leftover for an ice-cream by the end of the elephant photo shoot. My father on the other hand, strode over the rope, took his own close-ups and left with wallet full.
But enough of the wisdom and sneaky tips. Let’s not distract ourselves from this cute chap who waved his trunk around and jiggled his bottom from side to side.
If you are as much of an elephant fan as myself, then you’ll find this place truly majestic once you’ve got past the touristy bits and have blocked out or become immune to the hassling for money. Seeing these creatures up close and personal, is an incredible and unforgettable experience. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but seeing nature’s giants puts everything back into perspective and brings you back down to earth with an almighty thump.
When we visited Pinnawala most of the elephants were in the river so that is where we spent the majority of our time, but it is worth sneaking back to the main sanctuary where we found these poorly brothers playing tug of war with their trunks.
The elephants were a fantastic start to the trip and well worth a visit. It is a shame that we weren’t able to see elephants romping around in the real wild but if you want to guarantee seeing them up close then it made a brilliant plan B. If the sanctuary was anything to go by, Sri Lanka was going to be a wonderful trip, and we were indeed correct!