Wanderlust magazine, the bible for independent-minded travellers, has announced the four winners in its annual World Guide Awards, which honour the very best tour leaders from across the globe.
In a ceremony at London’s Royal Geographical Society, Italian Luca Alfatti from Dragoman, Burmese Nyi Nyi ‘Frankie’ Naing who guides for Panoramic Journeys, G Adventures guide Bhupendra Sharma from India/Nepal and Alaskan guide Simyra Taback-Hlebechuk from Hallo Bay Wilderness Camp, were officially named as the world’s greatest travel guides for 2012. Presenting the awards were writer Bill Bryson and Zoologist and wildlife presenter, Mark Carwardine.
The final four all won binoculars from Swarovski Optik, plus equipment from Nomad Travel Stores and Power Traveller, as well as bursaries to spend on community projects or furthering their own education.
The Gold Award has gone to Italian guide Luca Alfatti, who guides worldwide for Dragoman. As an overlanding driver, Luca has been with Dragoman for six years and has driven the length and breadth of South America, Africa and India as well as from London to Beijing and back again – he even inspired one of his own clients to go on to become a Dragoman driver.
A fluent linguist in at least three languages, Luca wins a £5,000 bursary and plans to support a community in rural Guatemala as he returns to Central America with Dragoman in 2013.
Coming in a close second with the Silver Award is Alaskan brown bear guide Simyra Taback-Hlebechuk from Hallo Bay Wilderness Camp. Simrya has been a bear guide for over ten year sand plans to donate her £2,500 prize money to a selection of non-profit organisations including Friends of Katmai who bring awareness to brown bear conservation and The Homer Animals, an animal shelter in Simyra’s hometown.
The Bronze Award goes to both Bhupendra Sharma and Nyi Nyi ‘Frankie’ Naing who will both receive £1000.
Bhupendra, who guides in India and Nepal for G Adventures, will spend his bursary on education expenses for a few less privileged local children and the remainder will be donated to a monastery.
Burma/Myanmar guide Frankie from Panoramic Journeys is an ex-teacher and translator, who now gives clients every opportunity to engage with local culture and people. He has been involved in some of the communities that he helped out during Cyclone Nargis and wishes to use his bursary for further support.
Now in their seventh year, the awards are the only ones of their kind to recognise the individuals who are at the frontline of so many of our travel experiences. Wanderlust invited its readers to nominate and vote for guides, with a shortlist from over 1000 nominations, which were then judged by the team of experts who chose just four overall winners.
The full results of the World Guide Awards 2012 will appear in the December/January issue of Wanderlust, on sale from 15th November 2012, priced £3.99.