Each day, the 90 elephants living at the Pinnewala Orphanage are led from their feeding grounds to the nearby Maha Oya (Maha River) to bathe. The elephants are split in to two groups so half get to go to the river in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.
The path to the river runs partly through a narrow village street that is flanked on both sides by commercial establishments, including two hotels that have balconies overlooking the Maha Oya. As expected, tourists flock to the hotels for the vantage point views.
The elephants' daily bath ritual is a popular tourist attraction. As much as I enjoyed watching them frolicking in the water, I was equally fascinated watching them heading down to the water.
With their mahout in the lead, I could hear their footsteps long before I saw the elephants marching in my direction.
There is no etiquette when it comes to how elephants march so they basically filled up the width of the narrow street as they eagerly made their way towards the water. It was like watching a bunch of school kids being let out for recess; there was a bit of pushing and shoving and a bit of "shouting", elephant style but all the elephants eventually made it down to the water. They did leave behind one broken storefront window though!
The Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage is located near the hill town of Kandy. If you go to Kandy, plan on a half day trip to Pinnewala to watch the elephants bathe. It will be an experience you will never forget!