One of Flash Pack’s most trusted guides, Donald has run trips to Sri Lanka for the past four years. He lives in Kandy and in his spare time, he loves to read up on the history and culture of the island.
To be a good guide, you have to be kind, honest and humble. You have to live in the moment and act according to what you see.
I tell Flashpackers, “When you’re with me, you’re a traveller not a tourist”. It’s not about just visiting a place like everyone else. We go into details and we dig together, with the help of the people who live on the island.
I’ve been travelling across Sri Lanka for seven years now and I say to my groups, “Use me – use my knowledge. Ask me a question and then we’ll begin a conversation.”
Flash Pack groups come from all different backgrounds. Lawyers, doctors, scientists, writers, photographers: you’re dealing with a huge amount of knowledge.
People really work on asking good questions about Sri Lanka, and because of that, I grow as a guide. I learn from them and they learn from me.
So, my job is not only about showing people the road: we are sharing a journey together.
Flashpackers are unique. We meet other travellers on the island at temples, archaeological sites and in popular towns like Ella. But Flashpackers smile more than everyone else; they seem more energetic and free.
And whatever we do on a Flash Pack trip, we do it together – I get everyone involved.
Read more: 9 reasons why Sri Lanka will stir your soul
For example, the group won’t just eat a curry that someone cooks; instead, I take 10 minutes to show them how it’s made. Then it tastes more delicious because you know all about the ingredients, whether that’s fried lake fish, long beans or coconut salsa.
And that’s the same with every experience we share together: you need to bring people into the moment.
When we release baby turtles into the ocean at the end of the trip, it’s about creating a long life. When Flashpackers understand how important and unique the moment is, most people end up quite tearful.
The same is true when we climb to the top of Sigiriya Fortress. I build up a picture of the architecture and conservation around the place, so people really feel its value within – they go “wow”.
Sri Lanka is a friendly nation: we spend a lot of time talking to local people and going into their houses, to get a real idea of local culture. Tiny details add flavour to the adventure, so every day is different. Flora, fauna, customs and traditions: all these things belong to a small island and when they come together, it’s mind-blowing.
I don’t just show the beauty of Sri Lanka, though. If there’s something bad or needs work on, I go through that detail. I show the garbage, how people are not disposing of things properly, how people don’t queue. I show my groups the good and the bad sides to my country and that makes it interesting. If you show only the good, no-one’s going to trust you.
I am very proud of Sri Lanka, it’s my home. I feel emotional showing things to people and I can’t wait to share the new things I discover as I travel everywhere. Rainforest, whale colonies, different religions, surfing spots, 434 species of bird – whatever you can think of, it’s here.
It’s a really sad moment to say goodbye at the end of a trip. Everyone asks, “Is our group your best group?” and I always answer, “No, I can’t say that – everyone is unique in their own way!”
Over 10 days, we create something huge. It’s not just a trip to see the trees or the wildlife, this is about humanity; people bonding, with a real energy.
Wherever people come from and whatever they do, they leave Sri Lanka as a group, and as friends. They get to know each other very well over 10 days and they share something equal and memorable. That makes me happy.
Sri Lanka is one of Flash Pack’s most popular trips. Join us for epic hikes, jaw-dropping safaris, boutique hotels and more right here
Images: Flash Pack