Elephant rides in Sri Lanka

April 8, 2012

I'd like to ride an elephant in Sri Lanka. Where do I have to go? How much will it cost?

April 8, 2012

Elephant Rides in Sri Lanka


Interaction with elephants is one of the most unforgettable experiences people have on their trips to Sri Lanka. You can have this experience too, in two ways - one option is to do a elephant-back safari at a national park, and the second is to visit a charitable institution that deals with elephants. Here's more information on both options:

1. Habarana

Located 210 km north east of Colombo, Habarana is one of the popular choices for elephant riding. It is the transit point of the large herds of wild elephants at the National Parks of Minneriya and Kaudulla. What travelers love is the river that the elephants will have to cross through along the safari way.

habarana (Source: jaliyaj)

Here are a couple of reviews giving you more information about rates:

Cost around 50 USD per jumbo (seats 6) for a one-hour ride, including the staff walking along with you and making snaps and video if you like so. Best from March through about July, this time it's more or less dry but the river (coming from the east) where you wade through is full enough. Giving the jumbo the chance of making a nice 'submarine' effect when it wades through - for the passengers only the feet might get a bit wet ;-)
The rough amount, AFIK, is 50 USD per elephant (assuming one guide next to the mahout). A casket holds upto 6 Western-size people. So depending on how they can 'pool' tourists the price can be shared. With possibly a small increase if the ad-hoc party on top of the elephant needs multiple guides walking with the grey friend, each using a different video- and/or photo camera. If it's only two people with no chance for pooling, the price per person becomes 25 USD...

 (Source: TripAdvisor)

Another tip is to settle the price with the guide taking pictures/videos of you in advance to avoid arguments later.

Elephant Riding at Habarana, Sri Lanka
Views: 7550Rating: 4.5Duration: 533 secs
Habarana is a small city in the Anuradhapura District of Sri Lanka. The city is famed for its chain of high class tourist resorts. Habarana is a popular tourist destination for safari lovers as it is the starting point for safaris in the nearby Habarana jungle and the Minneriya sanctuary
vansespeiris (Source: vansespeiris)


2. Millennium Elephant Foundation

Another option is the Millennium Elephant Foundation, a charitable organization. Located in Kegalle, it is closer to Colombo (approximately 80 kms away from the city). The elephant rides here are bare-backed, without the "howdah" (chair). Besides the elephant rides, they have other activities like washing the elephants and getting an elephant shower! You can also visit their onsite museum. The rates here are higher than at Harabana and the National Parks.

ELEPHANTS UP CLOSE (Source: ronsaunders47)

Here's a review:

MEF was an amazing experience. You can choose between either a 15, 30 or 45 minute bare back elephant ride and spend as long as you like feeding and washing an elephant and also experience the elephant washing you!! The local guides also are happy to take photographs with your camera during the whole experience. We have lots of fantastic photographs of our time there. For UK people the cost is quoted at about either 5, 10 or 15 GBP depending on the length of the elephant ride. For most people, a 15 minute ride would be enough. Riding an elephant bare back is not the most comfortable experience although it is still very special! At MEF you can still do all of the other things even if you only pay for a 15 minutes ride. Our own driver/guide negotiated a much lower price for us, although when we saw how much this very underfunded organisation did for the elephants, we gave a very good tip.

 (Source: TripAdvisor)

Race Day at MEF
Views: 90Rating: Duration: 81 secs
The elephants at MEF have a race


3. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is also located in Kegalle and is a third option. Some reviews disparage the tourist-y atmosphere of the place. It is also more expensive since you have to pay Rs. 2000 as an entrance fee and the ride is another Rs. 2000. Again like the MEF, there are other activities besides the rides including feeding the elephants and watching them bathe.

ELEPHANTS BATH TIME (Source: ronsaunders47)

We visited today and was uncertain what to expect due to mixed reviews on here. All I can say is GO! It is well worth it. The inside feeding bit is a bit touristy and like a zoo and the staff do try to milk all of the tourist photo opportunity money off of you, but when you go down to the river and see them bathe it is a fantastic experience and one of the top things I've seen during my holiday in Sri Lanka

 (Source: TripAdvisor)


Pinnawala elephant orphanage
Views: 2661Rating: 5Duration: 720 secs
Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is an orphanage and breeding ground for wild elephants which is situated northwest of the town of Kegalle, Sri Lanka. It was established in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife Conservation on a 25-acre (10 ha) coconut plantation on the Maha Oya river.
kenkari120194 (Source: kenkari120194)


Closing Notes

Do get back to us for any other information you may need, like other fun activities in the country :)

Have a great time with the elephants!


Answered by Extensive travel experience plus one year with mygola makes me willing and able to make your travel problems go away :) Danielle Pereira