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Wanderlust World Guide Awards 2015: the shortlist

From thousands of nominations, we’ve selected a shortlist of eight greats for the Wanderlust World Guide Awards 2015 – and now we need your help...

Can you believe it? The Wanderlust World Guide Awards celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2015. And it grows from strength to strength – yet again, you have nominated a record-breaking number of great tour leaders and guides, singing the praises of the inspirational individuals who have made your trips so memorable. But now we need you to help again.

We’ve shortlisted just eight of the nominees (not easy!) and we want to know if you have ever travelled or worked with any of them. If so, please send us your comments by email, via the World Guide Awards website, or by post (address below), to help the judges decide. The top trio will be recognised and awarded bursaries in a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society on 13 October 2015.

Sue Guthrie

Where she guides: Ethiopia
Booked through: Explore
Sue, who’s led for Explore for over 12 years, is obsessed with everything Ethiopian, and classes the country as her second home. In 2013 she won Explore’s internal Deepen Rai guide award – can she go one better? Many of her clients think so.

“I’ve never encountered a guide so aware of the responsibility associated with their role in promoting responsible tourism,” says traveller James Patrick Clarke. “Sue took every opportunity to stress its importance, and also provided examples of where, by her own initiative, she’d instigated practices among local communities that encouraged financial independence and dignity.”

Mark Steadman

Where he guides: Asia
Booked through: Wild Frontiers
After a madcap trip in Central America, Mark swapped his job in the music industry for leading adventure tours. He loves “the lack of repetition – every day, every client, every tour is different.”

His clients clearly love him, too: “Frankly Mark was the best, most conscientious guide we have ever had on our travels,” says William Alexander. “He actually listens to what his customers want.” When Mark isn’t leading he lives in Laos where he runs The Lone Buffalo Foundation, set up in 2010 to honour the legacy of an inspirational local man, Manophet. Mark set up a school in Phonsavan offering free English lessons and sport facilities for young people.

Hamid Oumezdou

Where he guides: Morocco
Booked through: KE Adventure
After studying History & Civilisation at Marrakech University, Hamid realised his real vocation was working in tourism. Born in the High Atlas, he is an incredibly multi-talented leader. His native language is Berber, but he’s also fluent in English, French and Arabic, and has a passion for introducing groups to local traditions and village life, encouraging groups to be socially responsible.

“His open, cheerful nature and the information he gave us added a great deal to our understanding and enjoyment of a very different way of life,” says traveller Anne Till. “Hamid was so proud of his culture that we felt privileged to listen to his stories.”

Orlando Haraseb

Where he guides: Namibia
Booked through: Audley & Ultimate Safaris
Guiding in Africa requires a number of skills: comprehensive knowledge of wildlife, history and culture, and also the ability to handle unexpected situations in the wild. Orlando manages this with bells on, going above and beyond for his clients.

His CV is eclectic: he was on the Namibian Police Force and played football for his country on 49 occasions. But he’s passionate about guiding: “It’s a way of meeting new people and enjoying the thing I love – the wonders of nature!” “His knowledge is boundless,” says traveller Peter Harris. “Wildlife, geography, geology, botany, history, cosmology, politics: there was simply no question to which he could not provide an answer.”

Kelsey Tonner

Where he guides: Worldwide
Booked through: Backroads
Kelsey was born to travel: on the day of his birth, his parents decided to take a trip around the world with their tiny baby. Kelsey remembers nothing but reckons it shaped the man he is today. Raised in Nova Scotia, he’s been a wilderness leader, dog-sledding guide and volunteer coordinator in an Inuit community. Now he guides for Backroads, everywhere from the USA to Europe, Costa Rica to Vietnam.

He’s also founder of Be A Better Guide, a project that aims to bring guides, tour leaders and tour companies from around the world to one website for free, ongoing training. One of his clients sums him up: “Phenomenal. I could not say enough good things about Kelsey. Truly impressive in every way.”

Asanga Bandara Rajapakse

Where he guides: Sri Lanka
Booked through: Intrepid Travel
Infectious. That’s how many clients describe Asanga’s passion for his country and sustainable travel. Born in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country, and a guide for ten years, Asanga has a vast knowledge of Sri Lankan culture and customs, and the ability to explain the details in a fun, interesting way.

“After Asanga had completed his guide exams, he went to the library to read all the books on the ancient sites,” recounts traveller Siobhan Cicmirko. “Once he’d read those, he found the library was missing a few important books, so he ordered them, read them and then donated them back to the library! That’s the level of dedication Asanga has!”

Dheeraj ‘Monty’ Bhatt

Where he guides: India
Booked through: Intrepid Travel
Monty’s been leading tours across India for Intrepid for nine years, and has been nominated and commended a number of times by Wanderlust for his work and excellence in leading/guiding.

He is very familiar with all regions of India, and his openness and passion for new projects and challenges makes him a unique tour leader. A real people’s person, he is always willing to go the extra mile for customers. “Monty managed to stride that difficult line between ‘best mate’ and ‘teacher’,” says traveller Helen Lazarus. “He is excellent at judging the right tone – always informative, never lecturing.”

Herson Guevara

Where he guides: Costa Rica
Booked through: Travelsphere & Viatur Travel
Herson knows his stuff. He’s been guiding in Costa Rica for 19 years, and has qualifications in everything from Pre-Colombian Culture and Medicinal Plants to Spiders and the Banana Industry.

But it’s not just his estimable knowledge that makes Herson a great guide. “He has a good sense of humour and each day would bring a laugh from everyone,” says traveller Carole Evans. “He was also able to deal with any situation. There was a volcanic eruption while we were there; his own home was covered in ash, but he carried on with his job under stress and allayed our fears.”

Commended guides

Congratulations to the following fantastic guides who also deserve a special mention:
Jude Holliday, Wild Frontiers
Indika Prasad Kumara, Intrepid Travel
Alexa Kershaw, Discover the World
Niki Vinogradoff, Urban Adventures
Ricardo Cervantes ‘Tonatiuh’, Tucan Travel & Gorila’s Tours
Uden Sherpa, KE Adventures
Daniele Binaghi, Journey Latin America


Have you travelled with one of the eight extraordinary shortlisted guides? If you have a tale to tell or praise for one of these incredible tour leaders, please drop us a line. Tell us what you love about their work and why you think they deserve this coveted industry accolade – the only one of its kind.

 Please note that the finalists have now been announced