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Once again, we were inundated with nominations for this year’s World Guide Awards, the only event of its kind globally. Reading through the hundreds of testimonials for guides and tour leaders from each corner of the globe reaffirms to us the importance of these awards and how great guides can change lives with their support, passion and knowledge of travel. We are honoured to be a part of their journey, helping these unsung heroes get the recognition they truly deserve.

But then there’s the tricky task of selecting the winners, especially for the highest accolade of the night, the Gold Award. That job lies in the hands of our judging panel, which this year includes travel experts John Telfer, Paul Goldstein and Mark Carwardine. All have experience of guiding and tour leading themselves and have worked with many guides over the years. Their industry expertise has helped whittle down the nominations and find the most exceptional guides.

We announced the awards in a live online ceremony on 29 June 2023 – the first time we’ve ever gone virtual! If you were not able to join us, read on to find out who was crowned in the Wildlife & Safari, Walking & Outdoor, History & Culture and Tour Leader categories, and of course, the Gold Award winner.

Watch the World Guide Awards 2023 virtual ceremony below...

History & Culture

History & Culture winner

John Shepherd

UK (guides worldwide) for Andante Travels

Born in London, John has been passionate about archaeology since the age of nine. He began his career in the 1980s where he assisted in excavating post-war London, before moving to the Museum of London where he stayed for two decades, becoming a senior curator. Now, John conducts post-excavation research for a private archaeology company.

John's work at the museum involved interaction with the public, through lectures, presentations, tours and publications. This is what steered him into tour guiding. He now leads multiple overseas tours each year for Andante Travels, part of the Specialist Journeys Group.

John's key area of expertise is the Roman world, especially Roman provincial life in Italy, France, the UK and Croatia, with his favourite areas being Campania and the Bay of Naples region in Italy. He is continuously praised in his testimonials for his friendliness and ability to transport his guests into the past with his incredible historical knowledge.


"John Shepherd’s expertise, experience, and excellent communication skills combine with a kind nature, genial disposition, and enthusiasm for culture and history that is contagious."
"Like discovering and travelling with a very knowledgeable new friend."
"A brilliant expert tour guide. I now look for tours that John is guiding as he is superb and enhances my enjoyment of the holiday exponentially."
"If I could he would always be my guide."

Walking & Outdoor

Walking & Outdoor winner

Phurba Sherpa

Nepal for Intrepid Travel

 Phurba was born and raised in Lukla, the gateway to Mount Everest. He grew up watching his elders taking tourists up in the high mountains and to Everest Base Camp, which always fascinated him and led him to his future as a guide.

In 2012 he began working with Intrepid Travel as a porter, before being promoting to assistant guide in 2016. Due to his hard work improving his language and communication skills, Phurba soon started leading groups in different parts of Nepal. 

Phurba is praised for leading groups of different people into the mountains – regardless of their background, culture and age – and helping them achieve their different objectives and goals from the trip to make their dreams come true. 

Alongside his guiding, Phurba dedicates time to assistant guides and porters to help improve in their career and become safe and responsible leaders. His local work in the community to safeguard culture, wildlife and communities is just further evidence of his compassionate nature.  


"In my many years of travelling I have never come across an individual that has immersed himself / herself in the role and looked after the group and individual needs of the travellers."
"He is able to understand all the emotions that a hiker feels through an Everest Base Camp hike. The lows and the lower lows, he was a friend and leader throughout."
 "His compassion, organisation, friendliness and expert knowledge made our trip a life-changing experience."

Wildlife & Safari

Wildlife & Safari winner

Malick Suso

The Gambia for The Gambia Experience

With more than 20 years of experience, Malick Suso is a birdwatching expert in the Gambia and has been described by Chris Packham as the 'very best' at his craft.

 Malick became interested in birding at the young age of 12. His enthusiasm was inspired by his uncle who taught him everything he knew about birds in the Gambia.  

 Said to know the terrain of the land like no other, Malick takes his guests on tours to the habitats where the most colourful species live, exploring mangroves, forests and rice fields.

 He receives high praise not only from one of the UK’s top naturalists and TV presenters, but also from his clients, who praise his knowledge and skills of spotting and calling birds, and his ability to sensitively respond to the needs of his guests


"Put simply, Malick Suso is one of the best birders I have met anywhere on Earth, his knowledge and understanding of avian behaviour, physiology and ecology is top-rate and his recognition skills are phenomenal. He has a great sense of humour and critically an outstanding ability to communicate with people of all ages and abilities about wildlife, the environment and the Gambia’s history. I first met him in 1995 and have co-toured with him more than 25 times in the Gambia and Senegal. His bird mimicking skills, calling to species to lure them out, are legendary. He is honest, decent, diplomatic and sensitive, not just to the needs of his clients but also to cultural and political issues. He is without question the best guide I have ever worked with anywhere."
Chris Packham

"He lives for the job because it's his passion. He has dedicated his life to birds and to teaching people who come to visit the beautiful country. I believe no one deserves this award more. He is the most kind-hearted, funny and engaging guide out there."
Megan McCubbin

Tour Leader

 Tour Leader winner

Ali Al Aligi

Saudi Arabia, Freelance

Based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Ali Al Aligi first started dipped his toe into guiding in 2001 after wanting to share his knowledge and passion of the desert with others.

 It all started when his colleagues began to ask him to help them plan organised trips into the desert, be a cultural mediator between them and the people who still live in the desert, and also show them survival skills.

 This led Ali to grow his knowledge of his homeland Saudi Arabia, from desert orientation and wildlife to local history and archaeology.

 When the Kingdom opened in 2019 to international visitors, Ali saw his services as a guide grow exponentially and takes great pride in how many guests return to him to explore more areas of Saudi Arabia.


"He’s a true desert djinn that unveils for you the truth of a millennial place and culture."
"The people he takes along are not his guests, but rather are treated as friends."
"He guided us with his heart. I could see his passion and joy to show us what Arabic culture is like and what’s behind everything we saw."
 "Ali is most humble and kindest human being I have ever met."

Tour Leader winner

Sara Lamzouwaq

Morocco for FTLO Travel and Epic Morocco

Sara is a highly praised tour leader in Morocco, enhancing the country's local cultural and lifestyle experiences for travellers, and representing a minority of female guides.

She first became a guide in 2018 after seeing the positive and life-changing impact tour guides made on their clients and wanted to help create those unforgettable travel experiences for visitors. She also wanted to help pave a path for females to become tour leaders in Morocco too, as she soon realised it was a male-dominated industry.

Since working at FTLO Travel and Epic Morocco, Sara has felt empowered and enjoys the freedom to design her own tours. She has built relationships with local women, who she in turn wants to empower by providing them with opportunities to generate income and support their families.

It is this rapport with the local women that leaves a lasting impression on her clients. Despite differences in culture and language, she brings groups together like a family.


"She is a shining star. She has a great future ahead of her as an ambassador of her country. She taught us about history, art, architecture, she made us laugh and she made us cry with her humanitarian heart. Sara loves everything about Morocco! The history, culture, food, and especially the people. While Sara is very knowledgeable about Morocco, her love for Morocco takes that knowledge and turns it into a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those lucky enough to be guided by her."
"She is a one-of-a-kind guide who was born to do this."

The Gold Award

The Gold Award winner

Hamid Oumezdou

Morocco for Intrepid Travel

Hamid is a dedicated tour leader residing in the vibrant city of Marrakech. With a remarkable 13 years of experience as a guide in Morocco, he has led countless mountain treks and immersive city tours.

 Hailing from a traditional Berber family in the picturesque village of Tighza, Hamid possesses a profound connection to the rich heritage of Morocco. The Berbers, the original inhabitants predating the arrival of Arabs, have contributed immensely to the country's cultural tapestry.

 Hamid’s deep-rooted ties to his homeland inspire him to offer his guests an authentic and sustainable experience that genuinely supports local communities' lives. He is driven by an insatiable curiosity for the history and culture of Morocco and derives immense joy from meeting individuals from diverse backgrounds. While pursuing his studies in history and civilisation at Marrakech University, he realised he wanted to share his knowledge and wonders of his country with visitors, leading him to a career in guiding.


"He is such a natural at this job, he was absolutely born to do this, and it's clear he has such a passion for it. Our whole group spoke often on the trip about how great he was and even a year after my trip, I still think about how much fun he made my visit."
"I worked as a leader for a decade and I know what it takes to constantly deliver at that level. Hamid constantly sacrifices to ensure his groups not only have a safe and enjoyable trip, but leave feeling like they are the most special guests to ever visit Morocco."
"I’ve had a lot of tour leaders over the years and he was like no other."
 "Hamid is not only an amazing guide, he is also a wonderful human full of kindness, care and compassion. His local and historical knowledge completely blew us away. He went above and beyond to make our trip memorable. Until this day, he is my favourite tour guide I've ever met in my last 15 years of travels all around the world."

Highly Commended

Peter Momoh Bassie

Where he guides: Sierra Leone

Book through: Tourism is Life

Peter Momoh Bassie is a well-respected tour guide, known for making Sierra Leone's complex culture and off-the-beaten-track gems accessible for everyone.

Nilufar Kuchkarova

Where she guides: Uzbekistan

Book through: Wild Frontiers

Born and raised in eastern Uzbekistan, Nilufar Kuchkarova started her career as a guide in 2009, and has been showing tourists around her home country ever since.

Leila Yarub Hafiz

Where she guides: Saudi Arabia

Leila Yarub Hafiz is a full-time tour guide in Saudi Arabia and the only certified guide to speak Italian. She shares her knowledge on the Kingdom's beauty and traditions with her (mostly) Italian guests. 

Glenda Araya

Where she guides: Costa Rica

Book through: Exodus Travels

Glenda is a favourite among travellers in Costa Rica, teaching them about the country's rich biodiversity while also embracing the locals' “Pura Vida” lifestyle.

Jagat Narayan Chaturvedi

Where he guides: India

Book through: Tiger’s Den Resort, Bandhavgarh

Jagat was born and raised in Bandhavgarh National Park. Specialising in safaris, he understands the importance of how tourism can increase awareness of conservation.