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A few months ago, I was asked to post my »decision making process«; probably because Sri Lanka is not a very well known destination on this forum. I was reluctant to do it before the trip, also because it involved one thing strongly recommended not to do, and I just didn't want to jinx the trip. Now, safely and happily back at home, here I go: Africa captured our hearts, and with 2 trips absorbed and the third one already booked for, I wanted to go somewhere else. In September of 2015, after just finishing 3 weeks of the Azores, I knew it would have to be green, and with prolific wildlife, and with some colourful cultural parts. Asia is colourful, yet I have had no real information about its wildlife side. Luckily my co-worker was travelling through Sri Lanka a month before. Experienced in Asia (Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia) his words were encouraging; this was the part of Asia that has still retained some of its old ways. First step was to find out about flights costs. Turkish Airlines is our preferred airline company, both for decent on-board quality given to economy class passengers, but more for its daily flights between Ljubljana and Istanbul. As I liked what I have found, my decision was easy. Not so for Zvezda. She has visited Sri Lanka in 1991, after 2 weeks in India … and according to her words, it was a disaster. Weather, roads, food, environment, general vibe, the only country she has been to and did not want to go back. Me, being a bit of a stubborn guy, dismissed her words as obsolete and outdated. The next step was to go on the relevant Tripadvisor forum, always a good source of useful information. This was not my first impression about the Sri Lanka forum. And then a shock; while researching for self driving options I have encountered replies by local DEs (Destination Expert) and regular members that went from »do not attempt to self-drive« over »only for suicidal persons« toward »plain stupid« . What the heck, it is a 21st century out there, and I am not asking about driving from Sana'a to Mogadishu?! Back to my co-worker. Although more of a backpacker type, he has rented a car for his family, one week. According to him, traffic is chaotic and dense, and one should drive utmost defensively (which he doubted I would be able to do) but if following the rather simple local road rules, possible. Phew! Now I needed to find more first-hand experiences. Most of the folks I contacted did not drive themselves, and warned me against it. But those that did it, said it is entirely doable although not for those with weak hearts or short temper. Maybe not for me, then?! So, either car&driver or to join the organised tour. Second option sounded even worse. Then I reread the only post about Sri Lanka on Safaritalk: http://safaritalk.net/topic/12314-wildlife-expedition-to-sri-lanka/ by @Nature Traveller . One company is on the list. Going through relevant birding sites I have found two more. A tentative itinerary was sent to them, for 20 days. After a month or so of tweaking the itinerary I also received their quotations. Not happy with what I saw, I turned to car&driver option. Again, three recommended drivers sent me their respective quotations. This time costs were better but the correspondence with them did not meet my expectations. If I am about to spent 20 days in a car with a person not my wife or my daughter, I want to be sure we will »click« even before the journey starts. Didn't happened. OK, let it be self-driving then. A Dutch birder, Alex Schouten has posted his self-driving & birding trip report, and luckily also his email address. He gave me enough assurances that I am not either suicidal nor stupid, and if I have enough experience in driving on the left hand side in the foreign countries, I should go for it. So last piece of the puzzle was solved. And the most important piece, I have to add. And words of our own @@PeterHG were also encouraging enough, although he chose the other way. Not yet entirely sure about my decision, I thought that having a local person in the car for the first few days would add to my driving confidence. One reply on Tripadvisor, one email and one »click« was all I needed. After 5 days spent with Prasanna, I have to thank my guts for telling me he is the man. Self-driving it is! Comparing the quotations received by various car&driver options, and the quotations from specialised birding related tours, the difference between the two was north of 1000 USD border. That says using a driver who would act also as our birding guide would cost us at least 50 USD per day. Not a huge amount, if using one for a week or so. But for 3 weeks, I recon, we are still not so dedicated birders to afford one. Another decision done. Self birding it is!
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