A father and a son on an elephant back, riding through a lake with the Sigiriya rock fortress far away
Going on an Elephant Back Safari in Sri Lanka

A vacation in a tropical country should be enriched with different and unique experiences to make it a memorable one. Well, if that’s your expectation of a vacation, then you must come to Sri Lanka. This paradise island is basically an all-in-one package. From a misty, tea clad mountainous region to a gorgeous beachline, Sri Lanka has it all. Besides, if you know about Sri Lanka, then you may already know that this country is a safe haven for the majestic giants, elephants. There are more than 3000 elephants in Sri Lanka. You’ll be able to see herds of Asian elephants in many of the national parks in the country. Yet, do you like to get a closer experience with the elephants while enjoying the beautiful surroundings? Then, you should definitely try an elephant back safari in Sri Lanka. And yes, it would offer you a lifetime experience.

Hence, we thought of sharing with you the delight of this wonderful activity. Continue reading to know all about it!

Why Should You Go on an Elephant Back Safari in Sri Lanka?

Well, there are many reasons why you should go on an elephant back safari in Sri Lanka. Simply, an elephant back safari is a fun way to explore the picturesque locations in Sri Lanka. Hence, this activity is very popular around several environmental and cultural attractions on the island, where you have a lot to observe in the surroundings.

Besides, elephants are not animals that we can see on a daily basis. Elephants live only in a few countries in the world. Therefore, this is the best way to spend some quality time with the mighty giants of the land. Going on their back allows you to see the beauty of the surrounding from their perspective. Needless to say, this will be one of the most unique experiences that you can get in Sri Lanka.

Also, Sri Lanka is a small island, but there are so many tourist destinations to visit. Among them, the national parks attract the most number of tourists every year. However, jeep safaris are popular around the world, so, aren’t you just tired of the usual jeep safaris? Especially when you are in an exotic tropical country like Sri Lanka? That’s why you should definitely try out an elephant back safari.

This is a thrilling experience that a tourist can obtain only in a few countries like Sri Lanka. After all, it is one of the latest activities that became popular in the Sri Lankan tourism industry. Therefore, if you love these majestic beasts and exploring the wild, make sure to go on an elephant back safari when you are in Sri Lanka. An elephant back safari will be a memory of a lifetime for sure!

Best Places for Elephant Back Safaris in Sri Lanka

One of the best things about Sri Lanka is that there is a wide range of tourist attractions within close proximity. Hence, there are several locations where you can have the adventure of an elephant back safari. So, to make your trip to Sri Lanka a little bit easier, here are some of the best and the most popular places in the country to go on an elephant back safari. 

  1. Pinnawala
  2. Habarana
  3. Sigiriya
  4. Minneriya
  5. Yala
  6. Kaudulla

Need more information about the unique experiences that each of these areas would offer you? Keep calm, and scroll down!

1. Pinnawala

Pinnawala is the most famous home for Sri Lankan elephants. That is simply because of the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, which provides care for about 100 orphaned elephants. Hence, it certainly happens to be the most popular place for elephant lovers visiting the country.

Pinnawala used to be a very remote area then and now with the fame of the elephant orphanage, it is a more developed area. It is situated in the Kegalle district of Sabaragamuwa province. The distance between Pinnawala and Colombo is 93.5 kilometres. Moreover, it is located just 40.9 kilometres away from Kandy. Hence, reaching this area will never be an issue if you are planning to travel between a few cities in Sri Lanka.

However, one of the most anticipated activities to enjoy in Pinnawala is an elephant back safari. If you are looking for some quality time to spend with the elephants, then this is the place to go! We cannot assure you that you would get a chance to go on an elephant back safari within the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage premises. Still, with the fame of this place, there are many service providers established around the orphanage and in the Pinnawala area. Therefore, if you visit the Pinnawala area, finding a place to enjoy this activity won’t ever be an issue.

Most of these elephant back safaris will last for about half an hour. It would be a fun little ride. Further, most of the time, there’s a bonus gift included for the ride where you can help in giving a bath to the elephant. However, please note that the best time for the safari around Pinnawala is from 9 am to 1 pm.

2. Habarana

This is probably the most sought after location for elephant-back safaris in Sri Lanka. Habarana is situated in the neighbourhood of two of the most popular national parks in Sri Lanka which are Minneriya and Kaudulla national parks. So, this small town of Habarana is a transit point for the elephant population living in these two national parks.

It is a city in the Anuradhapura district located in the heart of the famous cultural triangle of the country which invites a lot of tourists to visit the beautiful natural paradise. An elephant back safari is the best way to explore the breathtaking natural views of the area which consists of jungle, swamps, pathways and the Habarana village. There’s a distance of 181.1 kilometres between Colombo and Habarana. Moreover, it is located 94.8 kilometres away from Kandy.

If you are looking forward to an elephant back safari in Habarana, make sure to visit during the time period from March to July. It is considered the best time period for the safari as the water level of the river is high enough to ride the elephant in those months. You can safely enjoy the amazing views around the riverine terrain from a safari ride with these well-tamed elephants. Besides, the scenic views will add to the unique experience of an elephant safari in Habarana.

3. Sigiriya

The ancient rock fortress in Sigiriya is an iconic cultural attraction in Sri Lanka. Hence, this historical landmark is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Many locals refer to it as the eighth wonder of the world. It is indeed a marvellous and mind-blowing creation by the ancient king of Sri Lanka, King Kashyapa. Apart from the iconic features like Sigiriya frescoes and the ruins of the ancient palace, there’s a fantastic 360° view of the surrounding from the top of the rock fortress.

However, as you visit this wonderful ancient rock fortress, you can also indulge yourself in several tourist activities around the Sigiriya premises. Elephant back safaris are also among them. What makes the safari experience here absolutely unique is the view of the majestic Sigiriya from a different perspective. The ride will also take you through a scenic route into the wild and to the nearby rural village areas to see the jaw-dropping views. Don’t forget to take your camera to the safari ride as you will be able to capture some valuable photographs on this journey.

The village of Sigiriya is located in the Matale district of Central province. There’s a distance of around 175 kilometres between Colombo and Sigiriya. Further, it is located around 90 kilometres away from Kandy. Considering the climatic conditions, January to April is the best time for an elephant ride in Sigiriya. After all, this is a must-have experience when you are visiting this wonderful historical town.

4. Minneriya

Minneriya National Park is so special because there, you will be able to witness a huge elephant gathering. It is a spectacular wildlife phenomenon that is second to none. However, this park is situated in the North Central province, and the surrounding area of this park also shelters a good number of elephants. Hence, the village of Minneriya is famous for elephant back safari and many service providers are based around this area.

The nearest major city to the park is Polonnaruwa. The distance between Minneriya and Colombo is around 190 kilometres and it is located 104 kilometres away from Kandy. Owing to the rich water resources available in this area, it provides shelter to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Hence, Minneriya is a great example of Sri Lanka’s wildlife at its best, and this is an amazing location where you can go on an elephant back safari as well.

If you are visiting Minneriya to go on an elephant back safari, make sure to visit this area between May to October. These months are considered the best time period to visit there as many elephants from the surrounding parks also migrate to Minneriya during this time. There are several resorts and guesthouses around the park that arrange elephant back rides. Reach out to your tour guide to arrange a memorable journey with the majestic beast. Usually, the safari will last for about 3 hours and that’s more than enough to have an adventurous journey with an elephant.

5. Yala

Yala National Park is probably the most popular wildlife park in Sri Lanka. It is also the second-largest national park in the country. Yala national park is often included in the must-visit list of many tourists visiting Sri Lanka. Yala provides shelter to an amazing variety of flora and fauna. Besides, it is home to many Sri Lankan elephants, Sri Lankan leopards and aquatic birds. There are about 300-350 elephants living in the Yala national park.

The closest major city to Yala is Hambantota. This area is located 287.4 kilometres away from Colombo and 228.3 kilometres away from Kandy.

However, not only the park but also the surrounding area that is scattered through the Southern and Uva provinces of Sri Lanka is rich with hundreds of elephants. The speciality of an elephant back safari in the Yala is that you’ll be able to enjoy the wilderness of the forest to the fullest with an elephant. Imagine exploring through the thick forest cover and witnessing different kinds of wild animals, while travelling on an elephant’s back! Well, you can give a break to your imagination if you pay a visit to this wonderful area. You can enjoy the amazing sights of the undisturbed ecosystem of the Yala area during this safari, away from the usual hustle-bustle of the city.

6. Kaudulla 

Kaudulla National Park is another superb wildlife park in Sri Lanka that can guarantee an unforgettable experience. The dry evergreen forest cover of this park provides shelter to a number of different flora and fauna species. The elephant population of the park can rise to 200 due to the migration of elephants from the other national parks in the neighbourhood of Kaudulla. Hence, this whole area is rich with elephants and creates perfect opportunities for elephant back safaris. Hence, apart from the very popular jeep safaris to Kaudulla, many tourists also love to try out elephant-back safaris in surrounding areas of the park.

Kaudulla is situated in the North Central province of Sri Lanka, and the nearest major city is Polonnaruwa. The distance between Kaudulla and Colombo is around 200 kilometres and it is located approximately 120 kilometres away from Kandy. The best time to visit Kaudulla is between August to December.

From an elephant back safari in Kaudulla, you’ll be able to enjoy the views of herds of elephants roaming freely in the park and also of a variety of colourful birdlife. There’s an incredible landscape to explore in Kaudulla and obviously, an elephant back ride will be an extraordinary experience to have in such a landscape. Especially, if you are craving that adventurous feeling in your safari, then definitely try out an elephant back safari enjoying the greenery of the Kaudulla. There are only a few national parks in Sri Lanka for elephant back safaris and Kaudulla is one of the best places for you to try it out.

FAQs about Elephant Back Safari in Sri Lanka

An elephant back safari must be a brand new experience for most of you. So, you may have some doubts about arranging your safari experience in Sri Lanka. Keep reading to know all the information that you need to know before planning your elephant back safari in Sri Lanka. To make it easier for you, here are informative answers to some FAQs about elephant back safaris in Sri Lanka.

1. Are Elephant Rides Safe?

Elephants can be quite scary and intimidating since they are basically the most gigantic animal on the land. Therefore, it is just impossible to ride a wild elephant. Still, there is nothing to worry about as only well-tamed elephants are used for elephant-back safaris in Sri Lanka. Such elephants are used to carrying tourists on their backs so they won’t cause any harm.

And most of the time, a wooden saddle is placed on the back of the elephant to make it more comfortable and safe for the tourists. However, the visitor has the most responsibility to take care of themselves during the journey. So, try not moving a lot, bending to the sides and grabbing the tree branches to avoid possible accidents. Always keep in mind that you are travelling with a wild animal and be alert.

Also, it is a must note that the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority has no authority over the regulation of the service providers who cater elephant back safaris. Therefore, it is up to you to choose the reputed service providers who provide a responsible service. Tourist Guides and the reviews regarding the service providers will help you with it.

2. How Many Riders Can Go on an Elephant Back Safari at a Time?

Well, this can vary according to the service provider. Usually, only 4 adults are allowed to share an elephant back safari at once. Otherwise, it would be too heavy for the elephant to carry. Then, only 4 adults can fit into the wooden saddle or onto the bare back of the elephant. But if you are travelling alone, you can also book an elephant for yourself but you should be willing to pay extra. Always consult the service provider before deciding how many of your group should go on the elephant. A tour guide will accompany you on the elephant back safari, as per your request.

3. Can Children Go on Elephant Back Safari in Sri Lanka?

Yes, you can take your small tourists on an elephant back safari as well. It will be an experience of a lifetime for them for sure. Yet, it is better if the kids are above the age of 3 years old for safety reasons. However, the parent can decide whether their toddler can go on the safari. Still, never let the kids go on the elephant back safari on their own and most probably, they won’t be allowed to do so as well. Therefore, an adult should accompany the kids on the safari to always keep an eye on them. If you are taking small kids on the safari, make sure to hold on tight to them and don’t let the kids move around during the safari. Always be attentive to the kids to make it a memorable and safe journey for the kids.

4. How to Book an Elephant Back Safari in Sri Lanka?

Now you know about the best places in Sri Lanka to go on an elephant back safari. After choosing the destination, you can easily book the safari in several ways. If you are travelling in the country with a tour guide, you can book the safari via them.

And also, you can inquire with the tour guide about the best service providers in the area. Then, your travel agent can also book the elephant back safari for you.

Besides, many service providers in Sri Lanka now use online platforms to promote their businesses. So, you can book the safari online as well. You can also get the necessary information on the trip from an online platform.

If not, you can visit the service providers around the destination by yourself to book the safari on the spot. Make sure to book the safari with the best option for you.

5. How Much Would an Elephant Back Safari Cost in Sri Lanka?

Well, it is hard to mention an exact price for an elephant back safari in Sri Lanka as it may vary depending on various factors. For instance, the duration of the safari, nature of the destination, entrance fees and additional services provided during the safari such as village tours, river bathing and refreshments can weigh in depending on the price of the tour. However, the prices usually stay above 20 USD. If you want to know the exact price before visiting, you can always contact the service providers for further details.

The Bottom Line

There are so many amazing things to try for a tourist in Sri Lanka. This will include brand new and extraordinary experiences as well. An elephant back safari is one such experience. This different and thrilling adventure will make your tour so much more memorable and worthwhile. However, the vibe of an elephant back safari is totally different as you can sit back and enjoy the surroundings on a slow journey on an elephant. You’ll also be able to have an idea about the behaviour and the day in the life of an elephant as well. So, when you are planning your vacation on the paradise island, don’t forget to include an elephant back safari. The elephant back safari will be the highlight of your Sri Lankan tour for sure. Happy and safe travelling!