They called me the pachyderm whisperer

Ok they Margaret, and Crystal 2 Californian sisters also staying at the Ashram; actually called me an elephant whisperer. I like elephants. They seem to like me. Maybe I was an elephant in a previous life, if you believe in reincarnation, which as I'm spending 2 weeks in an Ashram is sort of required in the same way bankers should believe in capitalism.

You get to sit properly on your elephant 1032 x 1600

I've spent the day on an elephant in Thailand, visited the orphanage in Sri Lanka, and marveled at wild elephants in Kruger park in South Africa. But somehow, the visit to the elephant sanctuary at Neyyardam near Trivandrum in Kerala, India was the most satisfying.

Elephants like a hug too 1200 x 1600

This information is mainly directed at people staying at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram at Neyyardam, however should be useful for anyone who wants to visit the elephant sanctuary.

What time to visit?

They seem to wash the elephants between 09:30 and 11:00. So I'd recommend getting there at 10:00 at the latest. You could conceivably fit this in after morning yoga if you skipped the first meal. However a better idea is to visit on Friday your day off from regular Ashram activities.

How to get there

I've heard you can get a boat across the lake. It costs Rs1700 return and can take up to 10 people, and is quite a pleasant trip. But I don't know how you will get bananas!

Elephants are just big dogs who don't bite 1600 x 1200

We took a rickshaw from the “taxi-riksha welfare association” stand 200m from the Ashram entrance. The quoted price was Rs300 return and he would wait for us, or Rs150 one way. One way might be a bad idea as there were no rickshaws waiting for fares at the sanctuary. Everybody seemed to come, and leave with the same transport. It is a reasonably long and bumpy ride. We actually decided to travel to Kattakada instead of returning to the Ashram, and renegotiated the price. If you want to go this route its probably best to fix the price at the start.

Feeding directly to mouth; they don't bite, just slobber 1200 x 1600

What to bring

Don't wear your nicest clothes! If you're going to ride, wash, or cuddle the elephants you'll get a bit dusty at least. If you wash the elephants you'll be thigh deep in water, swim trunks are a good idea.

We told our rickshaw driver we wanted to buy bananas, and he said he knew a good shop. We went past various banana vendors until we got to his recommended fruit seller. Where we were quoted Rs20 per kg. I would recommend getting 1-2kg per human. Don't worry, you won't have to peel the bananas, elephants eat as many as they can get skins and all.

This septuagenarian bull is huge and gentle 1286 x 1600

One of the mahouts pulled out a package of pan, and fed his elephant one of the pan leaves. I'm pretty sure there was no pan (a mild intoxicant) on the leaf, but the elephant reacted like a cat who hasn't seen fish for a month. It was quivering (in a subdued elephantine way) in anticipation. So it might be worth bringing a few pan leaves, and see if its elephant(cat)nip. If you do please leave a comment below so I can update the main text.

Elephants are happy to take titbits with their trunk, and put in their mouth themselves. However you can put it directly in their mouths if you want to get up close and personal. Be prepared to have a hand covered in elephant slobber.


It costs Rs10 to simply enter the park, and Rs200 (Rs100 for Indians) to have an elephant ride, which also lets you help wash the beasts. Even if riding an elephant seems a bit cheesy do it. Its a sanctuary for unfortunate elephants, not a zoo or circus so your money goes to a worthy cause.

A rousing scrubbing in progress 1393 x 1600

Bring lots of Rs10 notes as well, as every elephant handler likes a tip, but Rs100 is a bit excessive.

Why wash an elephant?

Elephants are big. To some they're intimidatingly big. Somehow an elephant lying on its side in the water seems less imposing. And elephants love being washed. So helping wash them is an excellent way of getting familiar with them.

Pachydermal sexual harassment? 1200 x 1600

Guilty, anyone know a good animal lawyer? 1200 x 1600

If the elephant sniffs you with her trunk this is good. Elephants like dogs can tell a lot from the phenom­enons in your sweat; about your state of mind, if you like them etc. So sniffing shows she's interested in you.

Mind you some elephants just have no decorum when it comes to interested sniffing.

If the price of bananas or the entry price changes, if pan leaves are indeed nectar for elephants, if somebody actually does take the boat, or if there any other cases of poorly behaved sniffing elephants or something is plain wrong please leave a comment so I can update.

2011-05-04 03:16:42 Teyah

Thanks for the insight. It birgns light into the dark!
2012-02-25 15:08:22 jo Hamilton

Thany you so much for creating such a wonderful page. I am going to The Ashram at Neyyar Dam in late November and I'm sure that visiting the elephant sanctuary will be one of the highlights.Can't wait! Namaste Jo
2012-09-24 23:09:03 Eagle

I thought I'd have to read a book for a dsiovcrey like this!
2012-10-19 13:12:16 AHuds

Thanks so much for this! Really great information. I am going to the Ashram in a couple of weeks and I am just as excited to visit the Sanctuary as I am for the whole Yoga Vacation
2013-02-27 19:32:56 John Mathias

Hi, I am interested in visiting the sanctuary and wondered if it is open on Sunday. I couldn't find any info online, but thought you might know. Thanks! John
2014-12-13 13:47:57 Rose

Yeah, that's the tiketc, sir or ma'am
2015-09-17 18:32:17 Cahaya

The Elephant Sanctuary Tour takes you on a drive through the scenic Malaysian countryside to visit the Kuala Gandah Elephant Orphanage Sanctuary. Malaysian countryside to visit the Kuala Gandah Elephant Orphanage Sanctuary.
2015-10-23 05:20:48

The Elephant Sanctuary is unique in that it offers visitors the incredible opportunity to walk hand-in-trunk with the elephants. Enter the world of the Elephant with Elephant Back Riding.
2016-03-05 13:37:32 Sarah

Thanks for this info! I'm off to see the elephants at Neyyar tomorrow, and this is the most information I could find. I'll update tomorrow.
2017-07-19 14:56:49 Shakti Pune New

I and my family want to go for elephant . We are coming on this Friday in Kovalam , Kerala . Pls let me know how can I visit your place. Thanks Shakti 8554906959

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