From over 1,000 nominations, ten outstanding guides have made this year's shortlist. Now we need your help to crown the winners
Where he guides: India
Booked through: Intrepid
Commended in last year’s Guide Awards, Dheeraj (‘Monty’) Bhatt was born in a tiny village in Rajasthan, grew up in Bundi and began leading unique trips into the rural parts of Rajasthan at the age of 16. His supporters called him “an impeccable guide,” with “an amazing ability to communicate with people from all different backgrounds, cultures, and ages.”
“His attitude completely changed my experience and view of India,” said one supporter. We loved the stories of him helping travellers chat with local children in Varanasi, and planning and organising a wedding for one couple in Pushkar.
Where he guides: Various
Booked through: Dragoman
“Patient, articulate and good humoured... in three or four languages”, “a one-man Lonely Planet” and “one of the best travel guides I have met” are just some of the accolades showered on overlanding guide Luca Alfatti. Since joining Dragoman in 2006, Italian-born Luca has driven all over South America, Africa and India, and from London to Beijing and back again. His supporters loved his enthusiasm, his seemingly unlimited knowledge (“from history, politics, to where to find the best local kebab”), and his determination to add special and unique experiences to his tours.
Where he guides: Various
Booked through: Bigfoot
An International Mountain Leader since 1994, Alan has led treks all over the world, including the Himalayas, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Iceland. Alan has been shortlisted for his charity treks, assisting and guiding visually impaired climbers and trekkers in the UK, India and Nepal. “The empathy and sensitivity he showed to each individual”, “his leadership qualities” and “calming and reassuring personality” built self-esteem in his groups and brought places alive for groups of mixed ability and disability. Alan also has phenomenal knowledge of flora, fauna and geology.
Where he guides: India/Nepal
Booked through: G Adventures
Bhupendra Sharma “has the largest heart in the world” according to his supporters, who report that “nothing was too much trouble for him”. The G Adventures guide “went out of his way from sun up to after the sun went down, making sure that we were all having the time of our lives each and every minute,” one client reported.
Bhupendra would impress entire groups with his ability to go “over and above the call of duty”, for example by helping guests to purchase and personally deliver school supplies, food and a goat to some families in need.
Where she guides: Africa
Booked through: Tour d’Afrique
“There is nothing she is not capable of doing” is the message from Sharita Van Der Merwe's supporters. As well as “exceptional cycling ability and physical strength, Sharita [is] always supportive and positive with slower riders” and is not only up to the monumental task of “planning, organising, and leading” the Tour d'Afrique, which she has done since 2009, but “she also gets on her bike and rides it!”
This means she can really empathise with the cyclists' problems, dreams, hopes, fears and pain. And, according to her supporters, “a Tour d'Afrique without her is no tour at all.”
Where he guides: China
Booked through: Wendy Wu
According to a very happy group of supporters, Emmanuel Tian is not only “a wonderful ambassador for China and the Chinese people” but also “the perfect guide” with a gift for looking after people in his care. He has worked as a guide since 2007 and can’t imagine doing anything else. Emmanuel's clients are never bored, as his in-depth knowledge of China is “sometimes in a story, sometimes in a song.”
They were also impressed by his sensitivity and empathy. As one supporter said: “I cannot find words to say how wonderful Emmanuel was.”
Where he guides: Burma/Myanmar
Booked through: Golden Travel/Panoramic Journeys
Described as “a true role model of a guide,” Nyi Nyi ('Frankie') Naing, a former teacher and translator, has been a freelance tour guide in Burma since 2000. Many of his supporters have commented on “his jokes and great sense of humour,” his “extensive knowledge and pride in his country,” and ability to effortlessly balance the different needs of a group. One supporter was even moved to write a poem for Frankie “to thank him for being such a wonderful guide and for giving us the most amazing introduction to his country.”
Where he guides: Europe
Booked through: Contiki
Hugh manages to combine “fun and educational” as he wrangles groups of young people around Europe. One supporter claims “there was never a dull moment with Hugh around.” Another recounts: “I learnt more from Hugh than I did at school.”
It’s not just Hugh’s educative qualities that have earned him a nomination; he goes “out of his way to ensure the happiness and safety of everyone, including 4am visits to the hospital,” and would “be out with us until every last person got home safely,” his client's gushed.
Where she guides: Alaska
Booked through: Hallo Bay Wilderness Camp
Canadian Simyra Taback-Hlebechuk has been guiding bear tours in Alaska for over ten years, and is a certified ‘Leave No Trace’ Master Educator. But it’s the way she shows “her generosity as well as her love for being a guide” and her dedication to education that earns her nomination. She teaches the Girl Scouts Women in Science programme, provides free tours to scientists and students, funded a year at Hallo Bay camp for a bear-enthusiast who otherwise couldn’t afford it, and made possible the last wishes of a man dying of cancer.
“It’s a pity all guides aren’t as good as Simyra,” said one supporter.
Where she guides: Istanbul
Booked through: Independent
Arzu Tutuk was born and raised in Istanbul, and she really knows her city. Arzu started off as an engineer, but her love of Istanbul won through and she’s been a guide for 14 years. Her supporters say she has “really excellent local knowledge – from the big historical sites, to more off-beat attractions.” She also “knows her food... from street fare to fine dining,” and tailors walking tours of the city to “perfectly meet the interests” of any group. But bored teenagers are her speciality – as she’s “a great entertainer as well as educator!”
Congratulations to the following superb guides who deserve a special mention:
Andrea Petic, Oasis Overland
Balvinder Singh, Exodus (India)
Deepen Rai, Explore (Nepal)
Eric Petersen, Travel Indochina
John Mamuya, Mamuya Tours (Tanzania)
Myles Farnbank, Wilderness Scotland
Nyi Nyi Tum, KE Adventures (Burma)
The Wanderlust World Guide Awards 2012 bursaries have been donated by Swarovski Optik; prizes donated by Nomad and Powertraveller