So when we were in Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) in October 2010, I thought it would be a good opportunity to go see how they were taken care of at this orphanage. We were staying at Sapphire Hotel in Colombo and hired a car with driver through the front desk.

The next morning the driver arrived at the appointed time, and we were pleased to see that the car was a medium sized one with air conditioning. The driver also spoke good English and seemed quite amicable.

The orphanage is situated in a coconut grove in the village of Pinnawela which is 90 kilometers or 55 miles away from Colombo, so it took us about two hours to reach the place. The driver turned off at the town of Kegalle, and from there the road to the orphanage was narrow and mostly forests lining it.

For foreigners the entrance fee is 2,000 Sri Lankan rupees which is around $15. Local people pay a much lesser fee. No problem, as I am used to the two-tier system of charging much more to foreign tourists (especially in developing countries) than the locals. However, we had arrived there too late to see the bottle feeding of baby elephants. It seems that we had just missed it! So we just walked around the grounds and waited to see the bathing of the elephants at 10 am.

It was a procession of perhaps 20 elephants with their mahouts slowly treading towards the river nearby while we visitors stood by the roadside taking photos. We then followed the herd and took our places on the rocky banks of the river. There was a restaurant there with table and chairs but it was full. Anyway, we figured that we could take better pictures from outdoors.

It was indeed an interesting sight of the elephants interacting together, and with their handlers. They all seemed to enjoy bathing and playing in the river.

We then walked back to the orphanage as we wanted to see the elephants return to their individual pens. They came back in twos and threes instead of in formation, like they did when they went to the river.

Although the primary purpose of the orphanage (it is also a nursery for the newly born baby elephants) was to provide a lifeline to the orphaned baby elephants and adult elephants lost in the wilderness, I wondered at that time whether proper health care was being given to them. For instance, we saw a young calf in one of the enclosures. It had some visible wounds on his body, and when we wanted to take photos we were not allowed to do so by the men whom I assumed were employees of the orphanage.

This place is a popular attraction for tourists visiting Sri Lanka. I just hope that the bulk of the revenue collected from overseas and local visitors all go toward the elephants, and not for administration like in some similar organizations! By the way, 'Lonely Planet' magazine has listed Sri Lanka the Number 1 travel destination for 2013, so I expect a lot more tourists are going to be heading towards the country this year than in the past.

Our driver was faithfully waiting for us in the car park when we came out of the orphanage. On the way back to Colombo we stopped at this herbal medicine store not far from the elephant orphanage. I imagine the driver got some commission from bringing people there. However, the shop was located in pleasant tropical surroundings and I enjoyed the brief respite.