Elephant Rock, Elephant Gate, Elephant Mountain. Temple elephants, king-toting elephants, huge herds of elephants, elephants in forests and elephants at lakes: eles are big in Sri Lanka – in every sense. You can see these hefty beasts in spots all over the island on a Families Worldwide holiday. But what makes them so special here?
Quirks of biology play a part. Asian elephants are quite different from their African cousins: for starters, they’re smaller – up to about 5 tonnes – though still as heavy as three cars. Their ears aren’t as big, and they have more prominent shoulders. Only males have tusks (females bear virtually invisible ‘tushes’), and in Sri Lanka those are rare, and so venerated – often they’re housed at temples and involved in religious festivals.
Visit Kandy in August and you might be lucky enough to see big tuskers, decked in glitzy costumes and blinking with fairy lights, parading down the streets during the Esala Perahera – the ‘Festival of the Tooth’, a high-volume carnival with beating drums and honking horns, when the sacred Buddha’s tooth is honoured. They’ve played a big role in the island’s culture – in past eras they’ve carried kings and been trained to fight one another.
But most of the 3,000 elephants that live on the island today roam national parks such as Uda Walawe. In the dry season, big herds group together and head to lakes or tanks (reservoirs). The most famous of these spots is at Minneriya, where hundreds of eles buddy up in a spectacle known as The Gathering – watch out for them when you and your kids bike through the park.
Sadly, elephants are endangered all over the world. In Sri Lanka, where few sport big tusks, habitat loss and human-animal conflict are the biggest problems. So orphanages have been set up to look after babies that have been lost or injured – a magical place to visit for children and parents alike. For the most memorable encounter, time your arrival for feeding time and stick around to watch the eles splash about in the river with their mahouts as they take their twice-daily baths.
Inspired? Let us take you there…
Visit Sri Lanka on either one of our Small Group Adventures or we can tailor-make a trip for you.
Please phone us on 01962 302062 for more information.