Elephant Trash Dump in Dambulla, Sri Lanka

As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Apparently in the Sri Lankan city of Dambulla, this humble adage also applies to elephants.

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).

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.


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. 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.

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. 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.

Elephants in Dambulla's trash dump

Besides our excitement at seeing so many beautiful wild beasts 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. 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.

Want to Learn More?

For more information regarding the safety of 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 Dump for Yourself?

If you stay at the Relax Guesthouse*, Lucky Bob can hook you up and show you the ropes. Lucky Bob was a fantastic host, and very helpful in divulging Dambulla’s local flavor to us during our very short stay there.
*Relax Guesthouse, Dambulla: 265/1, 3rd Lane,Yapagama Side, Dambulla, Sri Lanka 21100

Elephant Trash Dump in Dambulla, Sri Lanka

Questions/Comments? Post them below or send them to us here!

Do you have any of your own elephant stories? Post them below! We’d love to hear from you!


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  1. 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!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 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.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 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.


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

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 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

    Liked by 1 person

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

    Liked by 1 person

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