Paul Morrison Guide Awards: 2009 Shortlist

Our annual chance to highlight the world’s best guides has thrown up its usual wealth of local talent – picking just five was an impossible task

Wanderlust staff
14 April 2009

The Wanderlust Paul Morrison Guide Awards, now in their fourth year, have once again unearthed a bumper crop of the world’s best guides – from a Jordanian ‘walking encyclopaedia’ to an Ecuadorian fauna/flora/football buff.

Thanks to the many Daily Telegraph and Wanderlust readers who sent in their nominations, whittling them down to just five individuals was tough. Commiserations to all the great guides who didn’t make it this time.

Thank you for all your testimonials for the shortlisted guides. The judges will now consider all of these and the results will be announced at London’s Royal Geographical Society on 13 October – we’ll have further details on how you can be at the ceremony nearer the time.

Tejendra Singh

Where he guides: India

Booked through: Intrepid Travel

Born in a small town in Rajasthan, Tejendra loves sharing ‘his’ India with people from other countries. His infallible knowledge of Indian history and customs has been highly praised: “Without Tej I would not have learned to appreciate India’s beauty and probably would have flown home in that first week instead of staying for two months,” said one reader.

Always keen to facilitate interaction between tourists and Indian people, Tejendra has been known to teach the language and enable visitors to share Diwali prayers in local homes.

His care and dedication also made many people feel like they were travelling with a best friend. “I got ill and Tej escorted me to the doctor,” said another reader. “He then went to three chemists to get my prescription and when I got home he had left two answerphone messages asking if I was alright.”

Diego Torres

Where he guides: Ecuador

Booked through: Explore

Diego is no stranger to this shortlist, having made it to the final eight last year.

The ecotourism graduate speaks impeccable English and is committed to responsible travel. “I love to have contact with nature and local people,” he has said. “Responsible tourism is not a choice but the main rule to make this game fair.”

“Diego was available dawn til bedtime and treated everyone alike,” said one reader. “He knew the Spanish, English and Latin names for plants and also tossed in a few football facts!”

His charisma and humour has enhanced numerous trips. “Diego was popular with each member of a very disparate group, which says it all,” explained one traveller. “He was efficient, even-tempered, always smiling, knew so much about his country and, most importantly, managed the tour with such a light touch.”

Lucho (Luis) Diaz

Where he guides: Peru

Booked through: Journey Latin America

Peruvian Lucho has years of experience running tours in his homeland and has been called “the greatest ambassador the country could have”. His passion and knowledge have been highly commended, as has his sensitivity.

One reader said he was so “in tune with the group that he’d spot when things weren’t quite right with people and get things sorted out without the need for them to raise the issue”. “He was first class in every way, including his caring attitude when group members were unwell,” reported another.

In fact, he has been credited with putting his groups’ happiness above all else. “Unknown to the group, Lucho’s father-in-law was extremely ill and actually died during the tour,” recalls one reader. “He was having to cope with all sorts of problems at home but he never let that get in the way of looking after us.”

Yamaan Safady

Where he guides: Jordan

Booked through: Walks Worldwide

Dubbed the ‘greatest tour guide in all of Jordan’, Yamaan’s knowledge of the history and politics of his country and beyond is matched by his wilderness expertise.

One traveller remarked: “He was encyclopaedic in his knowledge of Jordan and was able to compare Bedouin culture and values to those we were more familiar with”. Another noted: “He showed a depth of knowledge about our surroundings and the local animal, bird and plant life.”

He impressed many with his inquisitive, sensitive nature, spending time asking each group member about their lives and always being conscious of varying stamina levels.

“Out of all the guides we’ve had, Yamaan stands head and shoulders above the very best,” said a reader. “Although he has been to Petra many times he made us all feel as though it was his first visit, just as it was ours.”

Ian Harmer

Where he guides: Zimbabwe

Booked through: Dragoman

Having grown up chasing rhino and running around the Matobo Hills, Ian has an intimate, first-hand knowledge of Zimbabwe. He has worked as a guide for more than 20 years and can lay claim to having taken more people to visit Cecil Rhodes’ grave than anyone dead or alive.

A true bushman, he believes in exploring on foot rather than in 4WDs. He has also set up the Matobo Biodiversity Trust in order to help conserve rhinos and return the park to its former glory.

After a family trip, one reader commented: “Ian had the kids spellbound for two days. In fact, from the 11-year-olds up, we were all captivated.” Another reader enthused: “It was the most exhilarating wildlife experience in my 27 years of visiting Africa. The man is a genius.”

>>Find out more about the Paul Morrison Guide Awards and relive past award ceremonies here

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