Photo: Snow peak tour guide on the Matterhorn in Switzerland
Senior Photo Editor Dan Westergren snapped this photo of his tour guide as they neared the top of Mont Blanc in the Alps. "If one of you falls off," the guide said, "the other two have to jump in the opposite direction."

Photograph by Dan Westergren

Meet Ten Guides Who Can Transform Your Trip

  • Roberto Strippoli

    A native of Puglia, Strippoli is a font of Italian history. In the off-season, he focuses on his culinary and sommelier studies. He is a multisport guide for Backroads.

    "A favorite spot is the little 14th-century Cetrella church going up from Anacapri to Monte Solaro. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture with balconies that face the Gulf of Naples, and guests just love it. The view, the nature, the colors—that’s the essence of the Amalfi coast. It’s a great example of integration of architecture and landscape. And it demonstrates how clever those Christian mystics and hermits really were."

  • Kennedy Omwenga

    A safari director for Micato Safaris, Omwenga grew up tending goats in the western highlands of Kenya, where he returns at times to serve as a Kisii tribal chief.

    "My hope is for guests to connect with the local people so that they can understand the diversity of our cultures and appreciate how different our lives are compared to most Americans’ lives. At the same time, I show that we’re more alike than they may think. We all hope for a better future for our children, for a cleaner planet, and for peace. Also, many travelers are surprised to learn that some Kisii people have Facebook pages, even though they still live in the traditional way."

  • Nic Polenakis

    Polenakis, an independent guide for Africa Adventure Company, was born in Zimbabwe and is specially trained to lead walking safaris.

    "I often sit for hours in anticipation of a kill and will analyze and investigate every fresh leopard track, rhino dung midden, steaming elephant dropping, buffalo wallow, lion roar, or any clue to the whereabouts of the animals. However, I just as passionately explain African culture and history, seek birds, insects, and reptiles; identify trees, grasses, and shrubs; and discuss everything else to do with conservation and ecotourism. To me it’s all about revealing the big picture and not necessarily only the Big Five."

  • Alfredo and Joaquin Meneses

    Alfredo, an independent guide in Ecuador for Southern Explorations and other outfitters, is an expert kayaker, completing more than 50 river descents. Joaquin often joins his father on family itineraries.

    "One of our guides dislocated a shoulder on the Jatunyacu River. It looked bad. Suddenly an Indian woman appeared as if from nowhere. She picked up a stone, smashed some plants, and rubbed them on him, then took his arm, and with the most gentle movement, put it back in place. This is the kind of thing we see in the jungle. Joaquin: I make friends with the kids on the trip and show them things my dad taught me."

  • Peter Hillary

    Hillary, an expedition leader and expert for National Geographic 
Expeditions, first climbed Mount Everest in 1990, 37 years after his father, Edmund, made the first ascent with Tenzing Norgay.

    "I have a genuine love for the journeys upon which I am embarking and I get pleasure out of sharing it with other people. My favorites are unquestionably the Himalaya (they’re almost like a second home) and Antarctica. They are contrasting worlds, one brimming with life and people and the other an ice-age wilderness."

  • Lel Tone

    Tone grew up in Switzerland and began skiing in the Alps when she was just two years old. She is a heli-skiing guide in Alaska for EpicQuest.

    "Alaska is immense and beautiful. Often this combination is overwhelming and intimidating. Over the years, I’ve found it’s important to be all guide and part counselor. It is important to be aware and have compassion. There is nothing better than seeing the joy in a smile of someone who just skied a line they thought they couldn’t or pushed through fears or lack of confidence, something that brought them to the edge of their comfort zone."

  • Annie Dowling

    A cultural guide in India and China for Tauck, Dowling once worked with refugees in Asia.

    "In China, I get the guests up early so we are the first ones into Pit Number 1 at the Museum of the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses. We stand in absolute quiet with the figures offering mute testimony to Emperor Qin’s megalomania. In India, I love taking guests to Varanasi. Picture the evening ceremonies: the drama at the Manikarnika cremation ground, the faithful bathing and worshipping the sun, the golden light on the stone mansions along the ghats. It’s colorful, magical, and soul-stirring."

  • Monica and Maria 
Elena Malpezzi Price

    The siblings grew up in the bike touring business and bought Experience Plus! Bicycle Tours from their parents.

    Some guests aren’t comfortable talking to strangers, especially if they don’t speak the same language. I love to be the catalyst in connecting guests with locals in Italy. Ultimately, the more we all communicate, the more we understand about the world. Maria Elena: It’s important to be intuitive to people’s needs and know how to juggle the individual and the group experience, so guests can relax while being encouraged to join in the fun and camaraderie.

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