At a lively event at the Royal Geographical Society we announced the winners of the 2017 World Guide Awards.
Finalists and guests gathered at the Royal Geographical Society (6 October) to see who was announced world’s best guide for the twelfth Wanderlust World Guide Awards. After receiving numerous entries and several judging rounds, Khalid Lamlih who guides in Morocco for Intrepid Travel won the gold prize.
Hayley Shephard who guides in Antarctica for Polar Latitudes placed silver, while Dinesh KC from Intrepid Travel took bronze home to Nepal. A huge congratulations to all three finalists for your outstanding achievements.
Special guests on the night included author Bill Bryson, and wildlife broadcaster Mark Carwardine, who assisted in announcing the winners and entertaining the audience.
We were also delighted to catch up with last year’s winner Samer Saied from G Adventures. After placing Gold, Samer spent his bursary (£5,000) on several Egyptian causes that he feels passionate about, including the Magdi Yacoub Foundation’s Aswan Heart Centre; the Children’s Cancer Hospital in Egypt; the Saint George Scout Team in Cairo; and G Adventures’ Planeterra Foundation.
We would like to thank all guests who attended and were able to celebrate alongside us on the night. In addition, we would like to mention a special thanks to our event sponsor, Craghoppers, and to Swarovski, for providing spectacular prizes for the three finalists and their continued support for the awards.
Here is a reminder of who our three finalists were, what the judges thought and what the guides plan to do with their bursary prizes.
Where he guides: Morocco
Booked through: Intrepid Travel
Growing up in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, Khalid was born to be a guide. He was drawn early on to observing leaders of passing tours, watching and listening to their actions closely.
He was eager to learn more, and as soon as he was old enough, he began helping other tour guides, soaking up as much knowledge from them as he could. He followed them around the world, learning his trade and amassing a font of information that has helped open his eyes to how travel, and his role as a guide, could change the people he leads and how they see the planet.
This early desire has turned into a ten-year career as a tour leader, and one that has rightly seen him earn plaudits. He adores showing people his home country of Morocco, and still retains that passion for meeting those who herald from anywhere and everywhere. Some of his most satisfying times, though, have come when involving visitors in his home culture. The stand-out moment? Assisting a band of travellers in becoming immersed in a traditional Moroccan wedding party.
“Khalid was so generous in sharing his heritage and personal experiences in Morocco. He is one of the best human beings I have ever met.”
“He went out of his way on several occasions to provide different options and activities. He was also a fantastic storyteller and great fun.”
“Khalid has an enthusiasm, energy and a zest for life that has far surpassed any guide we have travelled with.”
“When I think of Morocco, I think of Khalid. He cared for us like a kind father cares for his family, creating lifelong memories.”
Mandy Nickerson was really impressed by Khalid: “Through his anecdotes and knowledge, it’s clear Khalid is hugely passionate about his home country, and that’s what totally transforms a trip.”
Khalid wants to invest his bursary into an educational programme for the nomads he grew up with. It would contribute towards a shelter and furniture for a ‘mobile school’, to teach basic reading and writing skills, so that children can pass on their knowledge to future generations.
Where she guides: Antarctica
Booked through: Polar Latitudes
You often hear people moaning about their boring office job, but not Hayley Shephard. That’s because her office is the wild outdoors ofAntarctica, where extreme weather, sparse locations and wonderful wildlife are a daily sight.
After 13 years of guiding, she is still amazed when floating past icebergs or walking among penguins, and you can hardly blame her. She can’t get enough of the icy vistas she explores, and this passion feeds into the groups she leads.
Hayley is a born guide. Before becoming atour leader, she was a teacher, specialising in outdoor education and environmental science. Now her classroom is the wild outdoors, and hernatural instinct to share her bounty of knowledge spreads inevitably to those lucky enough to accompany her on her tours.
“Hayley’s confidence and experience puts everyone at ease.”
“Hayley is an ambassador for nature and she made me want to revel in every inch of it.”
“Hayley tailors an experience of a lifetime. I saw things through the eyes of an adventurer, a solid citizen, a caring environmentalist and an all-round great person.”
“She was not only dedicated to us, our safety and our experience in exploring the beauty of Antarctica, but also to the protection of the environment for future generations to come.”
“Hayley really brings the landscapes to life, and that makes for an unforgettable experience. She never gets tired of the places she guides in, either, which really rubs off on you and your desire to travel,” commented Myles Farnbank.
Hayley will use part of her bursary to train as a paramedic. As she often works in remote locations, she doesn’t get to practise first aid as much as she’d like. Becoming a local paramedic would mean she could regularly use her skills in communities such as Churchill or Alert Bay. Hayley would also use some of the money to support non-profit organisations that educate locals and fishermen in the Vancouver Island region to become more ‘whale aware’, as humpbacks are increasingly becoming entangled in their crab and prawn traps.
Where he guides: Nepal
Booked through: Intrepid Travel
“Travelling with Dinesh, I felt like I had a second dad.” That’s what one traveller said after a tour with him, explaining how reassured he felt. Traveller Matthew Gates backs up the idea of a tight-knit atmosphere on Dinesh’s Nepal tours: “He made us feel like a family after just a few days – a wonderful dynamic that made my trip so much more special.”
Over his decade with Intrepid Travel, Dinesh has picked up wide-ranging skills from a number of roles (including being a porter) before becoming a group leader. With all this experience, he combines his helpful, hard working nature with a love for Nepal, to guide wide-eyed travellers around its mountain ranges and hidden treasures. Needless to say, they go away fulfilled.
“Dinesh will remain a friend for life. He’s a top man, top leader, and made our once-in-a-lifetime adventure extra special.”
“He goes the extra mile. He even managed to organise a birthday cake for me at 4,500m during our hike – an incredible feat!”
“Dinesh’s knowledge and his sense of excitement made the trip so memorable. If I ever go back to Nepal, I will only settle for him.”
“He is a master at what he does: patient, wise, knowledgeable, empathetic and hard-working. He is a shining star among tour guides.”
“Dinesh had a knowledge of the culture of Nepal and its mountains that was utterly mind-blowing. Not only that, I always felt like I was completely in safe hands.”
“His dedication knows no bounds,” said Lyn Hughes. Derek Moore added: “Generating a family atmosphere among strangers is hard to do, but Dinesh does it time and time again, and those who travel with him reap the rewards.”
Nepal is always close to Dinesh’s heart, and he explains that’s exactly where his bursary would start: “I’d help the renovation of homes damaged in my community by the 2015 earthquake. I’d also use the money to help an agricultural-based education programme at my village’s school, Garma Higher Secondary, and an NGO like Seven Women, which empowers people through literacy and other skills training.”
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