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    Posted June 30, 2013 by
    Pinnawala, Sri Lanka
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Travel photo of the day

    More from JuleeK

    Bath Time at Pinnawala


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     On a trip to Sri Lanka in July 2012, Julee Khoo visited the Pinnawala Orphanage by the Maha River, where she captured these bathtime moments with a herd of elephants. 'What struck me the most was how revered this animal is to Sri Lankans,' she says. 'I've often had my reservations about housing animals in zoos and orphanages but having been to Pinnawala, I can honestly say that these animals are truly well cared for.' Her fifth image was featured as CNN's Travel Photo of the Day for February 20, 2014. See more from Julee's trip to Sri Lanka here.
    - jccarp, CNN iReport producer

    Each day, the 90 or so elephants living at the Pinnawala Orphanage, in Sri Lanka, 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 and we made our way down to one of the hotels ahead of the elephants’ arrival. I couldn’t sit still so I headed back up to the street to wait for them.

    With their mahout in the lead, I could hear their *voices* and footsteps long before I saw the elephants marching in my direction.

    There is no etiquette when it comes to how elephants march so they 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!

    It was a hot summer’s day in Sri Lanka and watching them move about, you could tell just how much the elephants enjoyed their time in the water. Especially the young ones who were frolicking about in the water as young human children do – a lot of shoving each other under the water. They were incredibly cute!

    The elephants headed back to their feeding grounds after about an hour or so of being in the river. It was remarkable watching how well trained they are – stopping and then moving forward only on the voice command from the mahout. Watch the video filed under image #10 and you’ll see what I mean.

    The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is located near the hill town of Kandy. It was started as an orphanage but these days, it serves more as a breeding facility with the babies being born here rather than arriving as orphans. Still though, injured elephants are brought here for recovery and to live out their lives. We saw one that had a foot amputated after it had been caught in a trap.

    If you go to Kandy, plan on a half day trip to Pinnawala to watch the elephants bathe. It will be an experience you will never forget!
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