Dambulla Sri Lanka

Wild Elephant Trash Dump in Dambulla, Sri Lanka

Elephant Trash Dump

As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Apparently in the city of Dambulla in Sri Lanka, this humble adage applies also to elephants. We learned this for ourselves when we stumbled upon a herd of wild elephants in Sri Lanka…right at the Dambulla trash dump. Where is the best place to see elephants in Sri Lanka, you ask? Read on, and find out!


Off-the-Beaten Sri Lanka Tourism Path in Dambulla

Where is the best place to see elephants in Sri Lanka? Rasta Bob would say Dambulla.

The Sri Lankan rasta named Lucky Bob with a red beard like fire and a reggae tuktuk had taken us in and made us his own. He filled us with curry, rice, vegetables, fruit, Lion beer, philosophies we half understood through his accent, took us around his little corner of the universe, told us his memories of the Tamil Tigers, about the way Sri Lanka used to be, about the way it is now, and, emphatically, with his thin wispy dreads blowing in the wind, his voice deep, hoarse but excitable, his narrow face pulled up almost comically in a smile identical to the rasta doll dangling from the side of his tuktuk—about his many joys in life (not least of all was a good joint).

The Secret to Cheap Flights

It was this charismatic yet elusive figure known as Lucky Bob who had led us to discover the wild elephants that come to feast in Dambulla’s garbage dump.


Don’t go to Sri Lanka unprepared! Check out our ultimate Sri Lanka Travel Itinerary!

Dambulla Sri Lanka Elephant Trash Dump

It’s not every day you stumble upon an entire herd of wild elephants chomping at the bit in a field of garbage. And yet, two days into our Sri Lanka trip, that’s where we found ourselves with Lucky Bob.



Lucky Bob drove us over to the dump on our way back from climbing Sigiriya rock. The rain (which had been going hard most of the day) had finally stopped, but not without first turning the dump into a muddy quagmire. The mush would eat Lucky Bob’s little ol’ tuktuk alive if it attempted to traverse it, forcing Bob to pull over and lead us through the mud on foot. Out of the tuktuk, and into the muck, I could finally see what must be one of the most beautiful trash dumps ever, even with the filth and litter. Billowy cotton candy clouds embellished a sky as blue as Jared Leto’s eyes. A patchy yet lush green carpet of vegetation covered the sludgy deep brown mud, and on top of it all, of course, sat piles and piles of garbage.

We also climbed the Lion Rock of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. Make sure to check out our guide!

Dambulla Trash Dump

True to his word, Lucky Bob extended his arms and gestured to the reason we were ankle high in mud and rubbish at all—in the distance stood a herd of about 20 wild elephants, babies included. There they were, in all their glory, the amazing wild elephants of Sri Lanka. The trek itself was made difficult by the quicksand state of the wet mud, and Lucky Bob recommended we keep our distance, for the animals’ sake as well as our own. Because of the rain that day, we had left our big cameras at home and only had a GoPro and an iPhone 4s with us. Thus, we only have a grainy iPhone snapshot of the herd to offer you. Still, Lucky Bob certainly delivered on showing us where is the best place to see elephants in Sri Lanka.

If you love Sri Lankan wildlife, you can’t miss a Safari at Yala National Park!

Elephants in Dambulla's trash dump
Besides our excitement at seeing so many beautiful wild elephants in Sri Lanka in such close proximity we felt serious concern for the welfare of the animals. Despite laws requiring the fences to be maintained, enclosures were virtually nonexistent. Wild Sri Lankan elephants flock to the dump like ants to a picnic, feasting on the smorgasbord of discarded food remains, unwittingly introducing a deadly amount of plastic and other toxic materials into their bodies. Consumed trash obstructs the elephants’ intestines, and the toxins can poison the elephants, leading them to painful deaths. Even worse (if that’s possible): baby elephants are the most vulnerable.

For some beauty without the trash, you’ll love the Secret Beach in Mirissa, Sri Lanka!

Want to Learn More About Sri Lanka Elephants?

For more information regarding the safety of wild elephants in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Elephant is a fantastic place to start. If this cause is something you care about, you can also donate to Saving Ganesh , an organization of elephant conservatists whose explicit goal is to serve and protect the elephants of Asia.

We hope to use this as a gentle reminder that above all else, good travel is mindful travel! Be mindful of the places you are visiting and living in and your impact on them, not just for the local people, but for the wildlife as well!


Want to See the Dambulla Elephant Dump for Yourself?

If you stay at the Relax Guesthouse, Lucky Bob can hook you up and show you the ropes (or if you’re more adventurous, you might want to rent a tuk tuk yourself!). Lucky Bob was a fantastic host, and very helpful in divulging Dambulla’s local flavor to us during our very short stay there. If you want to go to major Sri Lanka tourism sites like Sigiriya Sri Lanka, Rasta Bob can help you. If you’re looking to get off the typical Sri Lanka tourism path, Rasta Bob can also help you.

For more Sri Lanka travel, check out our guide to How to Spend a Day in Kandy, Sri Lanka!


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Your local's guide to finding WILD ELEPHANTS in Dambulla, Sri Lanka! A perfect way to spend time in between visiting the Lion Rock of Sigiriya!

Your local's guide to finding WILD ELEPHANTS in Dambulla, Sri Lanka! A perfect way to spend time in between visiting the Lion Rock of Sigiriya!

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  • Reply
    Tar Heel Voyager
    April 18, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    It must be the most beautiful dump in the world! I’m enjoying the blog so far.

    Also thanks for stopping by my blog and showing some love!

    • Reply
      April 19, 2016 at 9:56 am

      Thanks a ton for your words of support! We’ve got more in the works, as well! 🙂

  • Reply
    April 21, 2016 at 1:49 am

    Enjoyed the posts I read. Sri Lanka was unfortunately missed while I was traveling India. Guess I’ll just have to make my way back there. Look forward to reading more.

    • Reply
      April 21, 2016 at 8:23 am

      Thank you! Yes, Sri Lanka is often touted as “India Lite” but it really does have its own unique character that makes it totally worth a trip in its own right! We’ll definitely be back when we get the chance.

  • Reply
    April 22, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Thank you for supporting my own blog. Keep up the good work, this post was really interesting!

  • Reply
    April 26, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Great blog. Very interesting. My brother heads IFAW and does a lot of work with elephants. He was just in Sri Lanka and we were discussing his trip. I look forward to checking out more of your site.

    Zulu Delta

    • Reply
      April 30, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      Wow, that’s amazing! We’d love to hear more about your brother’s work!

  • Reply
    May 5, 2016 at 12:12 am

    Ahh I love your blog, it’s so wonderful to see things that I would never get to see!

  • Reply
    Television of Nomads
    December 18, 2016 at 11:37 am

    […] Elephant Trash Dump in Dambulla, Sri Lanka […]

  • Reply
    Take Rubbish
    December 15, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Excellent Blog!! I like your blog; you are doing well work. Thanks for this work.

  • Reply
    Television of Nomads
    January 3, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    […] Television of Nomads […]

  • Reply
    Television of Nomads
    January 4, 2018 at 4:42 am

    […] spending the day in and around Dambulla (maybe try some Kottu, visit a local produce market, or watch some wild elephants in the local trash dump!), you can take an evening bus to Kandy. Kandy is about a 2 hour bus ride from […]

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