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The picture that started off my wanderlust to head to Sri Lanka was the fact I could have breakfast with elephants. I saw it everywhere.
Every Instagram influencer seemed to be doing it. My pinterest board provided hundreds of pins on it. I was hooked on the idea.
So, when I finally booked my flights to Sri Lanka last year, I made it my mission to make it one of my top experiences!
Elephants are my favourite creatures. They’re so majestic and I could watch them all day.
I had already had an encounter on a safari in the famous Udawalawe National Park but being able to wake up to them outside my bedroom door was a whole different ball game.
This is the ultimate guide of how to have breakfast with elephants in Sri Lanka.
So, tell me, where can I have breakfast with elephants in Sri Lanka?
There are many different places that you can do this in Sri Lanka but I decided to head to Pinnawala.
Pinnawala is situated around 2 hours away from Negombo which is a happening beach town. This is a great alternative to the boring capital city of Colombo.
So, if you are planning on having breakfast with elephants, then I would plan to stay in Negombo at the start or end of your trip.
Negombo is only a 20 minute drive away from Colombo international airport, so It’s the perfect pitstop!
Pinnawala is home to the elephant orphanage but, I will not recommend that here.
I would recommend doing some research before visiting that place. If you want to experience breakfast with elephants than I would highly recommend one of the few hotels in the area.
To get the best picture opportunities, Hotel Pinnalanda is the hotel for you.
Not only is this hotel situated right on the river bank where the elephants come out to bathe, it also has the best views when you wake up and come out onto your balcony.
Top tip: You can’t check in until 4pm unless you buy a ticket to the elephant orphanage! If you arrive before 4pm, you can hide out in the Pinnalanda café and get a pick up to the hotel at 4pm.
The rooms at Hotel Pinnalanda
Unbelievably, Hotel Pinnalanda has really cheap room rates! I was expecting for a room with a view and experience like this to cost a fortune!
But, for a mere £35-40 (depending on the season) you can have a lovely double room and breakfast with elephants included!
The rooms are basic but clean and come with a double bed, TV, coffee and tea making facilities.
As I was there in monsoon season there were quite a few ants in the room but, this is normal when it’s rainy across all of Sri Lanka.
The balcony is a shared one and there are three rooms available. So, it’s extra important that you book your room in advance, especially in peak season.
Try and get the room on the closest side to the restaurant, this is the one closest to the elephants.
You can request but I think it’s a first come, first serve basis.
When do the elephants come out to play?
Due to the hotels in the area all providing the same experience, a handful of elephants will come out to bathe and play at around 8.30 am.
Then at around 10am – 12pm a group of around 30 elephants will come into the river to play and then again at around 1pm in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, check out is around 10am but, the Hotel Pinnalanda guys are so sweet they will definitely let you have your breakfast a bit later. If that’s what you would like to do, of course!
Be careful of heading here in rainy season
I was here in October and had no idea that the rains would be so heavy (no wonder the flights were cheap!) and that obviously comes with complications.
The river in Pinnawala overflows when it’s monsoon season and unfortunately, this means that the elephants can’t come out as it’s too deep for them.
A lot of the elephants try to head for the other side of the river and, in a previous instance, a baby got swept away and needed to be rescued!
So, now, they have to wait until they’re completely sure it’s safe for the elephants to come out and play.
In the river, which is quite shallow, there will be little yellow markers on the stones there. If you can’t see those markers, then the elephants can’t come out!
Unfortunately, the first night I stayed here I didn’t get to have breakfast with elephants due to the water levels being too high.
I was naturally disappointed and so booked another night, just in case the water levels went down the next day. It was a gamble, but luckily the elephants did come out! I felt so lucky to see them.
As they came out later than usual, the hotel Pinnalanda guys were so amazing.
They made me the most amazing late breakfast and let me set up my table in the good lighting haha! Anything for the gram.
Is it ethical? Did you see any abuse?
When I was here, I didn’t see any chains or bull hooks being used.
All I saw were 30 elephants who were over the moon to be able to cool down in the water after a day of not being able too!
They were having the most amazing time, splashing around and playing with each other.
Now, I didn’t visit the elephant orphanage so I can’t account for what goes on there. But, watching them playing in the water and squealing with joy really touched my heart.
The guards were there keeping an eye and making sure that they didn’t hurt themselves or run away which could mean that they were liable to poaching. They were also on hand to provide spraying them with water.
Don’t miss breakfast with elephants in Sri Lanka!
Pinnawala is definitely the place to go if you want to experience breakfast with elephants in Sri Lanka.
There are not many places in the world where you can go to sleep and wake up to these beautiful creatures outside your door!
Make sure you put this magical experience on your bucket list.
Read more of my Sri Lanka travel guides
My ULTIMATE Sri Lanka Bucket List
The top places to visit in Galle Fort
A complete guide for Nuwara Eliya
Tips for hiking up Sigiriya Rock
The ancient town of Polonnaruwa
The Ultimate Udawalawe Safari guide
Top tips for the Sri Lanka south coast