The Elephant Freedom Project (Ananada Elephant Sanctuary) has been an amazing experience which I highly recommend. This program exceeded my expectations and provided a great insight into Sri Lankan elephants. The program's aim is to rescue elephants and provide them with a safe and happy life where they are not being used for riding or hard labour. They let the elephant roam freely and do not chain it up or restrict them in anyway.
I stayed 2 nights at the elephant project and was welcomed into the home of a beautiful Sri Lankan family who provided me with food, tea and travel advice. They were very friendly and accommodating but most importantly, they were very passionate about keeping this project alive. The full day activities included cleaning the elephant enclosure, walking with the elephant, a cooking lesson, a trip to a dung factory where elephant dung is made into a variety of stationary, lunch, washing the elephant in the river and lastly, a trip to a local school to teach English.
The guide during our program was amazing, knowledgeable, funny and a great photographer! He respected the elephant and was happy to answer any question we had. My favourite part of the day was washing the elephant where we used coconut shells to scrub the elephant clean. He was a very happy elephant whilst our group was pampering him.
This program is the only one of its kind in this area of Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, the other elephant 'sanctuaries' in this area mistreat their elephants by chaining them up and using them for elephant rides.
It has been an absolute pleasure to support this program and I hope to see it continue to grow in the future with more volunteers and travellers.