We had a very packed schedule in Sri Lanka in eleven days and our first stop after flying into Colombo was the Millennium Elephant Foundation. I had already read bad things about Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage so decided to give that a miss and was expecting more from this place as it was supposed to be a sanctuary. That's not what I would call it. This was a bad start to our Sri Lankan experience and thankfully, it transpired to be the worst. Our trip picked up considerably after leaving.
Our driver/guide arranged the entrance for us and inside we were immediately met by a guy who directed us to the river to wash one of the elephants for a few minutes before being directed to mount the elephant and then taken for a quick five minute stroll before being directed to get off again. The mahout then demanded a tip, I gave him a tip and he asked for more and he and one other guy were clearly not happy about the size of the tip I left. I increased it, they still looked unhappy and asked for more. This was the only time in Sri Lanka that I experienced anything like this. It's true that most people expect tips for service but the crucial difference is that most of the time they don't demand it, they actually provide some service first and finally are grateful when you do tip. That wasn't the case here.
Afterwards we were shown around the 'museum' which essentially is a room under a mud hut with a few bones (which felt inappropriate for a sanctuary) and some pictures and then the guy who shows you around the museum expects a tip as well. We didn't give him one, he looked very offended. The whole thing lasted ten minutes and was all a bit forced. Stand here, hold that, do this, now pay me. I can't say I enjoyed it at all and it was all over within ten minutes. No time or freedom to stroll around or take our own pictures.
Later on our Sri Lanka trip we went on an elephant trek in Habarana which was brilliant and a safari at Eco Park. My advice, skip past this place.
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