Sri Lanka could just as easily been called Elephant Island due to its numerous elephant conservation projects. Thousands of the Asian elephant species (smaller than the African elephant) thrive in these parks. A national emblem for over two thousand years, the Sri Lankan elephant is originally from India; Sri Lanka was once linked to India by a land bridge which has since collapsed which explains how elephants reached the island. There are several ways of visiting these beautiful, respect-inspiring animals: the first is via a 4wheel drive excursion which is organised by the national park in question. For a less urban manner, the Pinnawela elephant orphanage on the way to Kandy, or the transit house of Udawalawe are open to visitors. Here the residents consist mainly of orphaned elephants which are brought up until ready for independence. The better known of the two is the orphanage, which tourists flock to in order to witness elephants gracefully lumbering to the glistening river for a bathe or to stroke the 'toddler' elephants. A significant part of the Department of Nature Conservation's program, the orphanage has looked after orphaned elephants for over thirty years now. The Udawalawe transit house welcomes 60 sick or orphaned elephants at any one time where, as the name suggests, the 'residents' are temporary. It is therefore not permitted to touch the elephants here as the aim is not for them to get accustomed to human presence. The elephants are treated, fed and released back into the wild. Whatever your preference, be it an intimate encounter or a mass adoration party or caresses and baby language, one must not leave the island without having approached this mesmerising endangered species.
The red paths of the tea plantations
Mysticism up Adam's peak