The Cheapest Elephant Safari in Sri Lanka

One of the things that people usually include on their Sri Lanka itinerary is going to see the majestic wild elephants that can be found (if you know where to look) in various corners of this wonderful island.

Some head to Yala, Uda Walawe and Minneriya National Parks to join an organised safari, or the less adventurous head to the elephant orphanage at Pinnawala, we don’t really like organised tours and as long term travellers we have to survive on a tight budget so we needed another option….

Thanks to some local info and a bit of research we have just seen more than 10 huge, wild elephants at close range, with no one else present, all for the cost of 4 Great British Pounds for 2 people!

The lowdown for the cheapest elephant safari in Sri Lanka:

  • Stay in Uppuveli on the East Coast just North of Trincomalee.
  • Rent a scooter from Sunrise Guesthouse at 4pm (the timing is key) – we paid 500 LKR (£2.50) for 4 hours.
  • Head back to the main road, turn left and ride into Trincomalee to put some petrol in the tank as it WILL be empty – we put 300 LKR (£1.50) in which was plenty (the petrol station is right in the centre opposite the main bus station).
  • Go back in the same direction you came from, and 100 yards after the turning for Sunrise Guesthouse turn left.
  • Follow this road for around 3km until you reach the junction for the main Anuradhapura Road (the A12) and turn right.
This building is on your left just as you reach the A12.

This building is on your left just as you reach the A12

  • Ride for just over 4km and the entrance to the cheapest elephant safari in Sri Lanka is on the left.
The grand entrance to the cheapest elephant safari in Sri Lanka.

The grand entrance to the cheapest elephant safari in Sri Lanka

As we mentioned earlier, timing is key, if you rent your scooter at 4pm and follow our instructions you should arrive around 5pm which is prime time to spot the elephants.

Now at this stage we must tell you something, the elephants are wild and come out of the jungle to find food, but the farmers are wise to this and have installed electric fences to protect their crops (you can see these clearly along this road) meaning they have to go elsewhere for food.

Now, the elephants head to the local municipal rubbish dump to eat…


Elephants, lots of them…


The cheapest elephant safari in Sri Lanka


At this stage, they were getting a little close so we retreated

This does mean that the cheapest elephant safari in Sri Lanka involves visiting the local rubbish dump, which is shocking and a true indication of how humans continue to destroy the habitat of wild animals.

Being a dump, it was a bit smelly, and not the most picturesque of settings, but whilst we were there more than 10 large, wild and amazing elephants came out of the jungle to search for a snack.



It was a unique and humbling experience, we have been on ‘proper’ safaris before in Africa, India and Sri Lanka but there was something kind of cool about the DIY status of our most recent safari.

Not only were there elephants, but dozens of birds of prey were circling and a number of peacocks were strutting around displaying their fine plumes making this a serious value for money safari.

Why do humans continue to force animals from their natural habitat?

Check out the peacock in full effect to the right of the elephant!

Check out the peacock in full effect to the right of the elephant!

That’s not all you get for your money, about 2km before your reach the cheapest elephant safari in Sri Lanka there are some hot springs you can visit for 50 LKR (that’s 25 Great British Pence – we didn’t bother, but we hear they are worth a visit if you have time.

Check out the hot water springs en route to your DIY safari.

Check out the hot water springs en route to your DIY safari

We’ve given you enough info so that you too can enjoy the cheapest elephant safari in Sri Lanka, but only you can decide if you fancy spending a couple of hours at the local rubbish dump where wild elephants who have had their native land destroyed forage for food amongst the garbage.

Truly majestic animals in a kind of sad setting…

It is of course sad that we (the human race) have developed land that was previously home to wild animals, and this experience demonstrated that fact clearly. Will we learn and begin to protect areas that are habitat to wild and endangered species? Here at Vegan Food Quest we hope so, but our full time vegan tarvel adventure has shown us many examples where humans have no regard for other inhabitants of our planet…

Check out a selection of other vegan travel blog posts…


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  1. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs November 25, 2014 at 1:43 am - Reply

    Guys, I’m really loving that you got to see those amazing creatures, which I love so much. But I must admit it is a bit heart breaking to see them on this rubbish dump! The human-elephant conflict is a big problem, but after all elephants been here before us, like any other wild life and we people should do so much more for protecting animals so maybe next generations will be able to experience them as well.

    • TravelMush November 25, 2014 at 11:49 am - Reply

      You are right, it is so sad that we have encroached on the natural habitat of wild animals, not just here but in all corners of the globe.

      We have ‘reclaimed’ sea so we can build hotels and airports, we have built huge dams across rivers, causing massive areas of land to flood, so we have more fresh water, we are destroying the rain forests to plant palm oil, and we are slowly building on meadows, in jungles and over green belt land so we can have new houses and new roads.

      Will we learn?

      I’m not sure, human greed and the need to consume is out of control and we are more concerned by this than the future of ‘our’ planet and the creatures that call ‘our’ planet home.

      It was an amazing experience to see these majestic creatures in their new ‘natural’ habitat and for us, in many ways is better than a safari driven by tourism or an orphanage that is little more than a zoo, but you are right, it is far from ideal…

  2. Franca November 25, 2014 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    It’s amazing to know that these elephants are still wild and free to roam where ever they want to. At the same time it’s very sad to see them reaching the rubbish dump in order to find food, is it because their natural habitat has been partially destroyed? If so, when are we (as human beings) going to learn not to take advantage of other beings natural space?

    • TravelMush November 26, 2014 at 1:18 am - Reply

      Not sure we will ever learn to be honest..

  3. eileen November 26, 2014 at 3:48 am - Reply

    I think it’s wonderful you saw elephants ‘up-close-and-personal’, an amazing experience, they are beautiful, magnificent animals. But I felt overwhelmingly sad that they are forced to find food on a rubbish tip, something wrong somewhere.

    • Paul November 26, 2014 at 9:19 am - Reply

      There is not much building or development going on in this part of Sri Lanka which made me think about why they are on the rubbish dump looking for food? Is the food they normally eat in the jungle to scarce or is the rubbish dump and ‘easier’ option?

      Either way, it is pretty sad to see such majestic creatures knee deep in huge amounts of plastic etc…

  4. Senaka Weeraratna May 13, 2020 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    The British killed more than 10,000 elephants during the hey day of colonial rule in British occupied Ceylon. It was done to clear the hill country for coffee and tea plantation purposes. Rewards were given by the British authorities for the bounty. Several other prolific killers of elephants such as Samuel Baker did the killing as a pure sport. Sri Lanka has a right to claim reparations from Britain for the Elephant Holocaust.

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