The country. Sri Lanka is an island situated southeast of India. Colombo, the capital of that independent country, is located a 1h20 flight from the Indian coastal town of Chennai. For nearly 25 years, the country was confronted, mainly in the north of the island, to a rebellion of the Tamil Tigers who were defeated in 2009. Sri Lanka was also severely hurt by the 2004 tsunami.
Since several years, the economy of the country has grown considerably. The standard of living of its population has improved. The country's infrastructure has grown strongly thanks to external aids and at the cost of a heavy external debt. By taking over the largest part of the new port of Hambantota, the second largest in the country, China occupies a growing share in the economy of Sri Lanka.
Tourism. The Sri Lankan elephants form the largest subspecies of Asian elephants. Their population declined dramatically over the last two centuries. Currently, the Sri Lankan elephants are protected. Killing one carries the death penalty.
Sri Lankan elephants are estimated to be today approximately 6,000. They are found only in the north, east and southeast of the island in the national parks but also outside of these protected reserves. They usually live in herds of 12 to 20 units headed by the oldest female.
Elephants fulfil a symbolic, cultural and economic function in Sri Lanka. For example, beautifully decorated elephants take part in the Esala Perahera, a sumptuous Buddhist festival that is held each year at the end of July/early August for ten days in Kandy. However, the loss of elephant habitat and the presence of sugar cane and banana crops can result in conflicts between elephants and locals.
Sri Lanka has two conservation centers of elephants. The elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala takes care of dozens of orphaned or wounded elephants. The Orphanage is located near Kegalle, about 40 km from Kandy and about 90 km from Colombo.
Visiting the elephant orphanage is a good opportunity to approach and closely observe these animals while visiting the national parks allows to see them - remotely - in the wild and to discover other animal species (leopard, water buffalo, Sri Lanka deer, sloth bear, many birds, reptiles, and many more depending on the visited park).
In addition to 26 national parks covering a total of 5,734 km², Sri Lanka has many other popular attractions:
-- Many seaside resorts that spread in the southern part of the island on 120 km between Beruwala to the west and Tangalle to the east, including Bentota, Unawatuna, Koggala, Weligama, Merissa, Matara and others.
-- A fabulous heritage, in particular the cultural Golden Triangle of Sri Lanka including ancient royal capitals such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy as well as the sites of Sigiriya, Dambulla (all five being UNESCO's world heritage) or Mihintale, and many others. Also an important colonial heritage (including the old town of Galle, world heritage of UNESCO).
-- A magnificent nature: the central highlands of Sri Lanka and the Sinharaja forest reserve (both are also part of UNESCO's world heritage), the botanical Garden of Peradeniya, the numerous and beautiful tea plantations (specialized in black tea, Sri Lanka is the world's third largest tea producer), and the production of spices.
-- Unique religious sites such as the Temple of the Tooth (Buddha relic) and Adam's peak (sacred place of several religions).