A group of hikers in the snow. (Dreamstime)
Award Words : Wanderlust Team | 11 April 2017

2017 shortlist announced | World Guide Awards

We’ve whittled thousands of your nominations down to just eight outstanding guides.

Harry Rakotosalama

Where he guides: Madagascar
Booked through: Rainbow Tours

It’s safe to say Harry loves the landscape and traditions around him. Prior to being a guide, he worked as a temporary agent for Madwa, an organisation that aims to protect and enhance the craft traditions (basketry, homeware and textiles) of Madagascar, South Africa and Swaziland.

Now living in Antananarivo, he has been guiding for Rainbow Tours’ Malagasy partners Zà-Tours for the past 11 years, taking travellers to the country’s wilderness spots. He adores wildlife and has even worked with specialist film crews.

One thing’s for sure, you won’t go hungry on any of his trips, as he started out as a chef on organised camping tours.

Fernando Silva

Where he guides: Peru
Booked through: Aracari Travel

Racking up nearly 30 years’ experience in tourism, Fernando had already mastered several roles before becoming a fully qualified guide in his native city of Cusco. He’s well aware of the fragility of sites such as Machu Picchu and believes responsible tourism is key to protecting these places for generations to come.

The Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman is his favourite, though, citing the personal connection he feels with his ancestors. He’s not shy in the company of A-listers either, having led actor Richard Gere and U2 frontman Bono among the thousands of others. Maybe he could become a celebrity in his own right, in the guiding world.

Jacob Shawa

Where he guides: Zambia
Booked through: Robin Pope Safaris

With several older brothers involved in national parks, Jacob was surrounded by books on wildlife from an early age. This interest continued to be developed at school, where he was made chairman of the wildlife club. Passing his guiding exams in 1997, he joined Robin Pope Safaris in 1999.

After a number of roles, he became the head guide for Luangwa House when it opened, and now few can match Jacobs’s enthusiasm for and knowledge about the African bush. Adapting his guiding style to each group, it has even been common for him to come back from a game drive with local children in tow and the entire vehicle joined in a singalong.

Hayley Shephard

Where she guides: Antarctica
Booked through: Polar Latitudes

Hayley loves her office job: extreme weather, remote locations and wildlife and scenery that takes the breath away. Even after 13 years of adventuring to Antarctica, she never gets tired of walking among the penguins, floating past icebergs or waiting for a humpback whale to breach. In her own words, she’s "addicted". It’s an obsession that rubs off on her clients, too.

Prior to guiding, Hayley was a school teacher specialising in outdoor education and environmental science, before extending her classroom to the wild. Now she lives on Vancouver Island, Canada, the perfect home for a lover of the outdoors, and is a keen kayaker in her spare time.

George Pu

Where he guides: China
Booked through: Wendy Wu Tours

Hailing from the home of the Terracotta Warriors, Xi’an, George loves to share everything his homeland of China has to offer with those on his tours. Guiding with Wendy Wu Tours for four years, he has become one of their most popular leaders, thanks to his warm nature, fantastic knowledge and undying commitment to going the extra mile.

He also adds flavour to his trips by drawing on his own experiences and anecdotes of authentic Chinese life, something he enjoys sharing with his group. He says his favourite place is Tibet, for its breathtaking scenery and the warm, humble and extremely welcoming locals. They sound much like a reflection of the great George himself.

Aye Moh Moh Myint

Where she guides: Myanmar
Booked through: Kuoni

Having graduated from Dagon University in Yangon, it’s no surprise that ‘Moh Moh’ loves to study her craft. Those who have travelled with her praise her encyclopaedic knowledge of Burma (Myanmar), with a Mastermind-like coverage of its politics, traditions, history and, most importantly, the best vantage points.

Plus, as Donald MacPherson attests, when she doesn’t have an answer, she goes the extra mile: “If she didn’t know, she’d have an answer for us the following day.” She’s always keen to learn as much as she can about every member of her group, too, and has the best remedy for the end of a long day of exploring: her wicked sense of humour.

Dinesh KC

Where he guides: Nepal
Booked through: Intrepid Travel

Dinesh is Nepalese through and through. Born in the Everest region in the east of Nepal, he has worked for Intrepid for 11 years. He started as a porter before being promoted to a group leader, but whatever role he’s taken on, he’s always been passionate about ensuring travellers explore the country’s stunning mountain ranges.

He’s been described as friendly, helpful, hard-working and dedicated to promoting Nepal’s treasures. But traveller Matthew Gates says that an ability to create togetherness is Dinesh’s greatest attribute: “He made us feel like a family after just a few days, a wonderful dynamic that made my trip so much more special.”

Khalid Lamlih

Where he guides: Morocco
Booked through: Intrepid Travel

Khalid was always meant to be a guide. Growing up in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, he was fascinated by passing tours, listening closely to their leaders. When he was old enough, he began assisting other guides, learning from people from all across the planet and slowly building up an understanding of how travel could change people and the way they saw the world.

Now, having worked as a tour leader for ten years, Khalid loves showing visitors his home country, and still has a burning passion for meeting people from all corners of the world. If he had to pick a highlight? Helping a group of travellers join in at a traditional Moroccan wedding party.

Commended guides...

Congratulations to the following guides, who also deserve a special mention!

Narantuya Gursed, Goyo Travel
Ashraf Masoud, AHI Travel
Clive Minnitt, Light & Land
Hamzeh Rezaee, Undiscovered Destinations
Chandara Rin, G Adventures
Chhon Chhea Yut, Ayana Journeys
Krishna Pujari, Reality Tours & Travel 
Tashi Dhendup, Blue Poppy