CASE STUDY: PINNAWALA ELEPHANT ORPHANAGE
Hiya. I have a story to tell...
My name is Lesley Rogers, I'm the PA to Head of Legal for Virgin Mobile in
Trowbridge. WOW I have something amazing to share - Virgin have given me the
funding to live a life long dream to wash an elephant and I hope you enjoy
the journey too.
My journey started on the 21st July 2009 when I boarded the plane at
Heathrow to fly 11 hours to the island of Sri Lanka. I had never been Far
East before and had no idea what was waiting for me! I had to tell myself, I
am now on the adventure of a life time, so get a grip and here we go.
arrived at lunch time and was greeted by one of the people who would be
looking after me for the next 16 days. The journey to the Ja-Ela House was
scary they donít seem to have any rules for the road it was like wacky
races. Motorbikes every where, tuk-tukís all over the place, it was quite
Day 1 - After a very restless night listening to all the
strange noises and coping with the heat, I awoke about 5.30. It was really
quiet except for the noise of crickets, birds and the wildlife. Later that
day I was taken to Colombo to have a look at the capital of Sri Lanka. It
was all so different and quite crazy really. The shops seemed so
disorganised, but interesting. Naranjella (the house mother) asked if I
would like to see the main Buddhist temple - of course I would - so off we
went. When we arrived I asked if I could take some photoís and when I was in
the main part of the temple a monk approached me and he asked me to follow
him. I followed him and outside was the most beautiful elephant. I was
overcome with emotion, he was amazing, my first sight of a real elephant and
it was awesome.
Day 2 - Had a quiet day and just rested and lazed around the
house, went to the local store did a bit of nibble shopping. Watched the
chipmunks playing on the roof of the house (these are the local squirrels!).
Started my diary because I did not want to miss a minute.
Day 3/4 - We drove the Kegal House where I would be staying
for the rest of my time in Sri Lanka. It is nearer to the Elephant Sanctuary
in Pinawala. I was so excited at the prospect of being so close to the
elephants. I was anxious as well because I was not sure what this would
entail. We started by cleaning the elephants sleeping quarters, lots of
elephant pooh (Allo Betty as it is called in Sri Lanka). We would clear all
the leaves and tree trunks into a tractor trailer and off they would go. It
would take about 2 hours of intensive labour and in the heat it was hard
work, but most rewarding. All the other Travellers volunteers that joined in
the experience were great because we were all like minded people who adored
elephants. It was wonderful.
Day 5 - I went down to the river and washed an elephant called
Raja. What a treat that was and I was amazed at how hairy elephants actually
are! I was handed a coconut shell and told to rub. It was emotional for me.
I was crying and talking to this elephant like a burbling idiot and can
confess so were most of the others, I was in heaven.
One of my favourites was Raja. How amazing he is at 63 years old. Raja is
blind. He had been shot by poachers in his head causing the blindness. They
can not remove the bullets as they are too close to his brain. He is cared
for by the sanctuary and has been with them for a long time. He is very
happy there and I think enjoys the attention he gets. Quality of life is
This was what I have dreamed off since I was 8
years old, to have a childhood dream come true is amazing, I can not tell it
in words, JUST AMAZING.
Day 6, 7, 8, 9 10, 11 - Working with the elephants in the
sanctuary made every day an adventure. There was always something going on.
We would clean out their night sheds for their arrival after their afternoon
bathe. To watch 50 something elephants race back to their clean bedrooms was
I have walked with the elephants, fed babies,
cleaned up after them, spent an afternoon talking with the vet about
elephants, watched them play and scratch, watched a baby get to grips with
her trunk (it was hard work but when she finally picked up the twig she gave
the biggest squeal of delight and went to show her mum!) and to put the
icing on the cake I rode an elephant. I feel as though Iíve been to heaven
I have had the most amazing time and loads more to tell and if you want to
find out more please ring me I would be more than happy to share it with
you. I would need the whole of Roger to write about my 16 days in Sri Lanka
I am the luckiest lady in the world to have been
given the opportunity of living a lifeís dream. It was more than I could
have imagined and has changed my life completely. I will be going back to
Sri Lanka next year, I have left my heart over there and need to go back to
pick it up.
THANK YOU SOoooooooo VERY MUCH VIRGIN for making it happen and thank you to
TRAVELLERS WORLDWIDE for making it such a smooth experience with no
travel/accommodation or visa problems whatsoever. IT WAS AMAZING AND I
RECOMMEND THIS EXPERIENCE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS AN ADVENTURE.
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