The 2012 shortlist

From over 1,000 nominations, ten outstanding guides have made this year's shortlist. Now we need your help to crown the winners

Dheeraj ‘Monty’ Bhatt

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.

Luca Alfatti

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.

Alan Ward

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.

Bhupendra Sharma

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.

Sharita Van Der Merwe

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.”

Emmanuel Tian

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.”

Nyi Nyi ‘Frankie’ Naing

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.”

Hugh McMillan

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.

Simyra Taback-Hlebechuk

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.

Arzu Tutuk

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!”

Now we need YOUR help!

Have you travelled with one of these guides?

Do you have first-hand experience of any of these remarkable guides? If so, please drop us a line with your thoughts and tell us why you believe they deserve the profession's topmost accolade.

Send your comments to:

Wanderlust World Guide Awards (name of guide), 1 Leworth Place, Mellor Walk, Windsor, SL4 1EB.

Or, send us an email (with the name of the guide in the subject line) to topguide@wanderlust.co.uk.

The deadline for testimonials is 1 May 2012.

Commended Guides

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

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Comments

18 comments
  • 31st March by carmen.peters1

    Luca Alfatti was my guide/driver with Dragoman from Accra to Dakar two years ago.  It was my first overland trip and at the age of 53, I was nervous about joining other younger, more experienced travelers.  Luca made all of us feel very comfortable and included.  He was also excellent at handling some of those inevitable tensions that arise between 18 people traveling in close quarters for six weeks.  He was very professional and fun at the same time. The next time I'm able to take a trip, I'll be looking for one led by him!


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  • 5th April by Alvarourtecho

    Luca Alfatti was my guide/driver with Dragoman from Quito to Rio De Janeiro about 3 years ago.



    I had no idea what the trip was going to be like and was a bit curious about whether I had made a good decision. Shortly after meeting Luca I soon felt totally comfortable and sure that I had made the right choice.



    He knew everything we needed to know and more. He was always very friendly, helpful and professional. He was always full of life and fun. Its safe to say that if I ever decide to do a trip again I will make sure Luca leads it. I have heard of other people doing overland trips and none of them seemed to have had anything close to someone like Luca guiding them through their experience. I genuinely hope Luca wins this competition, he deserves it. 



    Alvaro


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  • 5th April by alex007

    Hugh Mcmillian was my tour manager for scandinavia, russia, berlin and prague with contiki.  He did an exceptional job as a leader thru I would argue pretty dangerous places.  His balanced approached of fun and facts kept every minute intresting...even when stuck at a boarder for 5 hours!  My expreience with him was so positive that i even considered tour managing...now thats an inspiring leader!



    ALex,

    Contiki client !


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  • 12th April by thetinymun

    Frankie (Nyi Nyi) was the leader of our tour to Burma in November. He knows the country, people and politics inside out and is the perfect host. His planning and running of the day-to-day logistics were flawless and he made sure everyone had a fantastic experience, but what makes him special is his openness, zest for life, keen interest in the world and his sense of humour. I cannot imagine spending a dull moment with Frankie. He’s kind, intelligent, enthusiastic, and engaging, an excellent guide and a great companion.


    Frankie started the Travel Myanmar Tourism Group, a forum for the industry. The group’s members sponsored two medical students, who were about to leave the university due to financial hardship. He was also involved with relief work after Cyclone Nargis and volunteers in projects such as providing clean water for orphanages. He is a pioneer of his profession, connecting and helping people where he can. I really hope he wins this award.


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  • 17th April by Lizzy3

    Tian Emmanual



    Wonderful guide, looked after us tirelessly he was also very generous giving us little treats when we were waiting for flights, above and beyond the call of duty.



    Karen


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  • 22nd April by crunchathon

    I was lucky enough to have Luca Alfatti guiding our trip from Douala to Accra a couple of years ago. While he had enough personality for a crew of guides/drivers (!) he always made sure every passenger was looked after. This included finding time in between driving/cooking/organising/deflecting bribe-mongerering officials to get to know everyone individually and help tailor the trip to our wishes.

     

    Luca instilled much confidence and reassurance in all of us on a trip where many challenges were thrown in our path. His local knowledge, passion and his professionalism were ingredients for a unique and memorable trip.Good luck luca!!


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  • 24th April by mmpope

    Over many years we have traveled extensively throughout the world and without a doubt our Tour Guide in China, Emmanuel Tian was the best that we have ever had the pleasure to experience.. His expansive knowledge of China, excellent command of English and a wonderful sense of humour makes him one of the greatest Guides that any tourist can wish for. Emmanuel is a true professional Tour Guide. His organisational and personal skills are exceptional. His sense of humour and overall expression of happiness is infectious - when a tour guide is so happy then the entire group responds with very happy and outgoing attitude. Wendy Wu Tours must be proud of the asset that Emmanuel Tian brings to their organisation

    We wish Emmanuel every success in the Awards

    Mervyn & Margaret


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  • 24th April by hilarywheeler

    Luca was my tour leader on my first ever Dragoman trip in Southern Africa. I was nervous about spending 5 weeks on an overland truck with the same people but what a trip that was. Luca was patient, fun, flexible and totally at ease with the locals. Before I knew it I'd booked 16 weeks overlanding in West Africa with Luca. The challenges here were numerous but with his leadership and enthusiasm we crossed the Sahara desert, rebuilt roads in Cameroon and successfully passed through what seemed like 100's of checkpoints manned by drunk, gun toting teenage soldiers in Nigeria. Luca never lost his cool, always remained cheerful and happy and from dawn until dusk tirelessly worked to ensure all his passengers had the trip of a lifetime. Luca gets my vote.


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  • 25th April by Roger7

    Emmanuel Tian is quite simply the best tour guide we have ever had. He is warm and friendly, calm and courteous and very knowledgeable about China - a great ambassador for his country. Nothing is too much trouble for him and nothing upsets him, not even the horrendous traffic jams in some of China's major cities. His English is excellent  and even his stories and jokes, of which he has many, are funny and entertaining - you can't be bored on one of Emmanuel's tours!


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  • 25th April by evaandmich

    Luca Alfatti was our tour leader on our overland trip in East Africa in 2009. It was a trip of a lifetime, not only because of the country and the other passengers, but also because of Luca. Nothing was too much for him, he was always helping the passengers. He acted as being one of us, doing activities with us or having a chat with us (and not being 'above' of us). He was good fun, but in the meanwhile also professional. He listened to the wishes of the passengers and tried to keep everybody satisfied. After the trip, he stayed in contact with us, what is nice as well. Hope we'll have him as tour leader once again!


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  • 29th April by leewilson86

    I think Bhu deserves this award. I have done a various number of trips around the world and Bhu is the one guide who always stands out amongst the other great guides. His knowledge; willingness to help everyone; ability to listen to the group and react very cleverly to their needs in order to keep everyone happy; and his fun loving character contribute highly to why everyone loved his Delhi to Kathmandu trip. Even exactly a year on from that trip now, my tour mates all still say how fantastic he was and we would love to do another trip with him again in the future.


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  • 11th May by riddler100

    I travelled on a china delights tour with emmanuel tian in March 2012. This guide was amazing from the begining to the end he was always available and even went as far as doing little extra things. For example so we would not miss any touring he would go to the bank for us to exchange money if we needed it as lines in chinese banks are very long so we would not miss any sight seeing and he would wait in line while the local guide was with the group. his attention to detail was also amazing.He was also happy and always there to help in anyway he could i am currently looking at doing another tour with this company and i have requested emmanuel to do this. i have done many tours and this guide is the best i have come across.


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  • 12th May by SandyS

    My 3 friends and I had a wonderful holiday in China in 2011.  There were so many highlights but the main ones for me were as follows:    Xián (Terracotta Warriors & bike riding on the Old City wall),  Lijiang (The old City with its cobbled streets, beautiful buildings and scenery, Kunming (Stone Forest) and Dali (a very peaceful place). 


    But the tour was made even more special by our wonderful National Tour Guide Emmanuel Tian (Manny to us). 


    Manny is well organised and is always a step ahead making sure that things go to plan or if not changing plans to suit our needs, without missing a beat.


     


    He delivered great customer service, always being genuine, respectful at all times and in a humorous manner (telling funny jokes or stories).


    Manny has in-depth knowledge about the history and culture of this vast country ‘China’ and his willingness to share his knowledge freely to all that will listen. 


    He is a great ambassador for his country and his people.  He is a credit to his family and himself and also to Wendy Wu Tours, as he is passionate about his job and does it to the best of his ability and well beyond at times.


    Manny spoke excellent English and tried to teach us Mandarin (but unfortunately not with much hope). 


    He was very approachable and a happy soul who would always goes the extra mile for each and everyone on his tour.


    He made every tourist feel special and nothing was ever too much trouble for him.


    He has the ability to connect a group of strangers ranging from different ages and countries into forming long term friendships during the tour.


    When Tourist receive their dossier telling them of who their National Guide will be, If they are lucky enough to find Emmanuel Tian named on their information sheet, they don’t yet know it but they are about to experience the holiday of a lifetime.  Something that will last with them forever, made possible by the No 1 Tour Guide of the Year as voted by Wendy Wu Tours and hopefully Top Guide of 2012 by Wanderlust UK

    SandyS


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  • 12th May by bobthebuildermuth

    Emmanuel (Manny) Tian was my national tour guide during a China Delights tour in March 2012.  I was very impressed with Manny's attention to detail throughout our 21 day tour.  He made himself available 24/7 and really looked after the tour group like a father...

    I would rate Manny's service overall as AAA but specifically:-

    Knowledge of Chinese History & Culture - 11/10

    Organisation 10/10

    People skills 10/10

    Entertaining skills 10/10

    humour 10/10

    Many of my friends are interested in a trip to China and I have already recommended Wendy Wu tours but specifically if Manny Tian is the National Tour Guide,

    Manny is an extraordinary human being and the world needs more like him.

    Regards

    Nang Mosley

    Hendra, Australia





     

     



    Regards

    Nang Mosley


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  • 13th May by bobthebuildermuth

    My wife and I are experienced travellers and have just returned from an awesome best ever 19 day Wendy Wu Group Tour of China (circa 19 March to 7 April 2012). What we saw and experienced was undoubtedly made all the more special & enjoyable because of our National Guide, Emmanuel Tian (Manny as he likes to be called). Manny made himself available 24/7 during the tour and nothing was ever a problem. It was all the little extras that Manny introduced throughout the tour that kept everyone entertained. No one was ever bored. The level of exceptional service and attention remained constant throughout the whole tour. A few examples of the exceptional service that Manny provided are summarised as follows:

    - One of the group had their birthday during the tour so Manny purchased a birthday cake (complete with spectacular pyrotechnical display) and birthday card signed by the group - the group thoroughly enjoyed this unexpected touch.
    - Travelling on the many coach trips was always enjoyable and entertaining thanks to Manny who regularly provided commentary on the local culture and conducted Chinese language lessons. He has a great ability to create jokes on the run as circumstances unfold. and there were many that unfolded on our trip. Manny regularly bought small samples of local produce for the group to sample. Some was unusual to say the least but it all added to the China experience.

    - The seamless changes to the itinerary (to suit prevailing weather conditions) were only noticed by those in the Group that were monitoring the itinerary however everything in the itinerary was delivered, albeit in a rearranged order. Regular updates on the days activities and any changes were fully explained.  

    - There was little time spent queuing at any venue as Manny always phoned ahead. Everything seemed to go like clock work.

    - Our tour passed through Manny's home town of Xian and we were privileged for Manny to invite the group to his flat to meet his wife. Their hospitality was an added extra with pineapple,  pineapple beer and chicken's feet laid on for everyone...Mmmmm the pineapple beer was a winner - I didn't even know it existed and I class myself as a beer drinker. 

    - Manny was not just about promoting Chinese culture and customs as he was keen to know about our respective home cult


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  • 13th May by John6709

    Emmanuel Tian (Manny) was our National Guide on our recent rip to China on a Wendy Wu "magnificent China" 21 day tour. Manny was fantastic what with his knowledge of all the places we visited; his organisational skills; his people skills in dealing with a large group (20 people) from a variety of different backgrounds and with differing expectations; and we most especially enjoyed his impromptu lessons on the bus trips about China ranging from the spoken and written language to titbits about the places we were traveling thru. He has set the bar very high for all the other guides out there - thanks for a great holiday Manny!!!


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  • 14th May by protead

    14th may 2012 by protead

    Manny Tian was our amazing national tour guide recently in China.His enthusiasm and pride in all aspects of China was infectious.His knowledge of sites and  sights whether social,geographical or political was phenominal.In fact I can't think of enough superlatives to do justice to his talents.On top of these he was a caring person who ALWAYS  went that extra mile for his tour members.This was done with a smile.He was self effacing about his service.His sense of humour and repertoire of corny jokes kept us amused on long bus trips.His command of spoken English was amazing and any word that was new to him was noted for later Googling!He is certainly a gem.My husband and I can not thank him enough for our fabulous experiences in the country he so obviously loves.


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  • 23rd May by nwilson94

    Emmanuel Tian, our good old Manny, was the most amazing tour guide on my first trip to china from when he met us at the airport to when we had to unfortunately say goodbye after 19 days of fun. He went beyond a tour guide and took our group of 19 on and acted like our protective dad! He was very knowledgable about everything in every city/town/village we visited, tired (rather unsuccessfully, unfortunately) to teach us some chinese, entertaind long bus journeys with amusing stories from previous trips (of which I am sure our group will feature in the future), bought local foods for everyone to try, most notably many, many, many mangoes! He made sure everyone on the tour was comfortable, safe and most importantly, having as much fun as possible. Not only did he tell us about his culture, country and everything else (!) but he was interested in what we had to teach him, knock-knock jokes were not fully mastered by the end of the trip though! He was always confident, organised and calm, even when some people (a-hem) might have been running late for a flight, he was always calm and collected which made the trip relaxed and so much fun. I cannot wait to return to China and pay a visit to our warmest  and most welcoming friend Manny and I wish him the best of luck with these awards and his future family plans!! :D  


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