I intend to pass through Pinnawala with a bus tour group of high school students, and wanted to stop and walk down the "main street" in Pinnawala, to see the elephants in the river at mid day. I do not want to go to the Elephant Orphanage itself.
Our Sri Lankan tour company has informed me that we cannot see the elephants in the river without paying US$16 for an elephant orphanage entry ticket, irrespective of whether we enter the orphanage grounds or not. I have been to Pinnawala at mid day some years ago, and am sure we didn't have to purchase tickets to walk down the street between the shops, to the wire fence at the river edge.
Has this changed? Do we now have to purchase expensive tourist tickets even if we are only looking at the elephants in the river?
If this is the case, can we eat lunch at a restaurant such as the Pinnalanda while the elephants are in the river, or do we have to pay an elephant viewing surcharge there as well?
Thanks for any clarification.