iSurprise The Elephant House

The elephant viewing platform

Dutch period property

This house is more than 300 years old, of the earliest properties in the Matara Fort. From old Dutch maps we can find it was located next to the four stables where the elephants and tuskers were held by the VOC before export.

The annual VOC trade target was set at 80 elephants and 4 tusks.
— VOC records

Viewing platform

The wooden deck above the front verandah is a rare architectural feature. We believe that it was purpose-built to observe the elephants. We find many illustrations of these types of wooden structures, also known as ‘elephant snares’ in the history books, such as Description of Ceylon by Phillipus Baldaeus. The high huts were typically built by villagers in the jungle for the Governor or Dissave to observe elephant capturing. Not an easy job in the thick forest. Most of the elephants shipped through Matara came from Kotawaya, Tangalle and Walasmulla villages and were carried from Matara inland to the fort, either by road or using the Nilwala River.

I was born here and have lived here since. But I had no idea that this was used as an elephant viewing point.
— Mr Palliyaguruge, Owner

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