Sri Lanka is a tropical island nation 31 kilometres off the southeast coast of India. It was a British crown colony for over a century, gaining independence in 1949. Now a democratic socialist republic, it is home to a linguistically and religiously diverse population.
Kandy is a city in the centre of the country, lying in the middle of hills of rare vegetation species. The Kandy Valley crosses an area of tropical plantations, mainly tea. For a city with just 110,000 residents, it has a lot to offer the visitor. Everything from Dalada Maligava, a temple complex where the tooth of Buddha is housed, to shopping, ranging from colourful and vibrant markets to exquisite boutiques.
With all it has to offer, though, the Pinnawela elephant orphanage is surely the most marvellous place to visit. It was established in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Department on a 10 hectare coconut property on the Maha Oya River. It has the largest herd of elephants in captivity in the world. It also operates as a breeding place, and twenty elephants have been born there since 1984.
Pinnawela was designed to give care and protection to orphaned babies found in the jungle. Most mothers had been killed for their ivory, but some had just fallen and died. Income from visitors is vitally important to the maintenance of the orphanage, which is now well-known and regarded worldwide.
A typical day at Pinnawela begins with milk being fed to babies at 8am. At 10am and 2pm, they are walked to the Maha Oya for a two-hour bath, something they absolutely adore. Dinner is served between 4.30pm and 6pm, when they are returned to their stalls and tethered for the night. Before going to sleep the babies are fed more milk and older elephants have a snack of coconut, jackfruit or palm leaves.
As there is little food they can gather around the orphanage, large quantities arrive every day jackfruit, coconut, kitul, tamarind and grass are some of their favourites. Each is given around 76 kilograms of green matter a day, and two kilograms of food mixture of rice, bran, maize, powdered gingelly seed and minerals.
There is no stress or threat to the animals, and when not eating or bathing, they roam freely and a herd structure is allowed to form.
If you fancy making a base to explore Kandy a little further, a few days at the Amaya Hills Resort, high above the countryside, is the way to go.
The cool retreat has 91 rooms and suites with details borrowed from temples and Kandy's historic architecture. All rooms have balconies overlooking the valley or forest-covered hills of Heerasasagala.
Food and beverage outlets include Rasawasala Restaurant offering indoor and al fresco dining, the Tea Room, Dumbara Bar and Le Garage, an underground nightclub.
The hotel pool has superb views, there is a squash court, gymnasium and billiards lounge and those who love the outdoors can indulge in jungle treks, hiking, cycling, fishing, night safaris, birdwatching and tea estate tours.