Wanderlust World Guide Awards 2013: Who was voted the winner?

Have you ever been on a trip where the tour guide has gone out of their way to make your dream travel experience a reality?

Have you ever been on a trip where the tour guide has gone out of their way to make your dream travel experience a reality? That’s what the Wanderlust World Guide Awards were set up to do – to celebrate these unsung heroes of the travel world.

The event, now in its eighth year, was established by Wanderlust Editor-in-chief Lyn Hughes in memory of her late husband and co-founder of the magazine, Paul Morrison. Paul was passionate about the importance of good guides and the difference they can make to your travels. He often said, “I need someone to bring this to life for me.” A record-breaking number of nominations were received this year with more than 1,000 guides put forward. These were whittled down to just three finalists who were scrutinised by the judging panel, which included travel writing legend Bill Bryson and TV wildlife expert Mark Carwardine.

Lyn Hughes revealed who took the gold, silver and bronze bursaries at the awards ceremony held at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Bronze: Dario Ghirlando

Hailing from Ethiopia where he guides for Wild Frontiers, Dario is fluent in four languages and has a degree in Travel and Tourism. Dario, who has been guiding since he was 18, said: “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t do this.”

In his testimonials clients said: “Dario managed to illuminate all aspects of my Ethiopian trip and bring the country alive before my eyes” and “He made the whole group feel special – a hard act to follow.” Lyn Hughes added: “He takes every opportunity to expose his clients to the local culture and he has inspired people to go back to Ethiopia to teach or volunteer.”

Dario plans to spend his £1,000 bursary on women’s education in Ethiopia, to empower women so they don’t need to rely on their husbands.

Silver: Hossam Moussa

Hossam ‘Sam’ Moussa started out working for five-star hotels in Egypt but grew tired of it. When he found his passion for guiding and began his career with Intrepid Travel, he never looked back: “The best part is the freedom of working for yourself. I love this job, it’s the best job in the world.”

Those who have visited the pyramids with him said: “He made it incredibly easy to just enjoy the tour and not worry about a thing – best time of my life.” Judge David Back, conservation fundraiser and former guide, added: “He’s proud of his country, and inspires all his clients to love Egypt too.”

Sam is planning to use his £2,500 bursary to help educate and care for street children through local projects.

Gold: Deana Zabaldo

She may be from San Francisco, but Deana’s second home is Nepal where she guides with Mountain Madness. She’s fluent in Nepali and her knowledge of the country’s culture and religion is extensive. She also runs a non-profit organisation to benefit the local people, giving her insights that many guides don’t possess.

There is also the added challenge of dealing with altitude on her tours. She said: “It is very rewarding to see people make it through.” Her clients commented: “If anyone felt sick or in pain, Deana offered sensible and sound advice, allowing trekkers to make their own decisions.” Judge Mark Carwardine added: “A gifted communicator, caring and sympathetic, who succeeds in making clients of all abilities feel good about a difficult journey – she’s clearly remarkable.” Deana said that the best thing about guiding was, “being part of people’s life-changing experiences”. As she took to the stage to claim her prize she remarked: “I’m honoured and humbled to be recognised for my work as a guide.”

Deana will donate part of her £5,000 bursary to a sustainable organic agriculture programme, Changing Lives Nepal. She will use another part to further her own development as a leader, so she can strengthen her ability to make a positive contribution to the world. 

Image by: Kim Traynor

Have you experienced top service from a guide? Which trips were your most memorable? Have your say below.