Extraordinary travel guides receive special honours
The top accolade is shared between Selwyn Davidowitz, who guides in the Western Cape area of South Africa, and Danut Marin (an Exodus Travel guide), a guide from Romania who specialises in the Carpathian Mountains area. The runner-up is Goyotsetseg Radnaabazar (from Panoramic Journeys) who is based in Mongolia and is the first female guide to reach the finals.
Set up to recognise the difference that a great guide, whether a naturalist, a sherpa, or a tour leader, can make to your travel experience, a shortlist of six was whittled down from more than 160 guides from around the world who were nominated for this year’s award.
The judging panel was led by Bill Bryson and included Lyn Hughes of Wanderlust, top naturalist Mark Carwardine, and Mark Ellingham, founder of Rough Guides. In addition, the panel was thrilled to be joined this year by Michael Palin.
Both winning guides have fascinating stories to tell and have been recognised, not only for their outstanding contribution to tourism and making a true difference to people’s travel experiences, but also for their own tireless work within their local communities and ensuring the interaction of the two.
Selwyn has been an independent guide for the past eight years, realising his passion for the profession from many enjoyable trips showing visiting friends around his native Cape Town. A former owner of a clothes factory, he creates personalised itineraries for his guests and combines these experiences with trips to the township of Kayamandi. Here his foundation funds two crèches and runs projects such as ‘fruit for trash’, encouraging up to 250 children to clear up rubbish in return for fresh fruit.
Danut has lived in Romania’s Zarnesti all his life. He left school at 14 to work in an ammunitions factory. However he strove to make more of his life and after studying for a wildlife guiding course, he now works in the Piatra Craiului National Park and the Danube Delta. For the last four years he has been heavily involved in the Rowan Romanian Foundation where he carries out cultural and social programmes for psychiatric hospital patients, as well as the gypsy communities. He helps to open visitors’ eyes to the real history of Romania, the ethnic tensions, the hidden orphanages, at the same time as showing the country’s mostly undiscovered wildlife gems and supporting eco-tourism projects.
In addition to cash awards and equipment, Selwyn and Danut will both receive a bursary* of £5,000 to spend on community or self development projects.
The annual award was created in 2006 as a tribute to Paul Morrison, Wanderlust’s co-founder, who died in 2004. Lyn Hughes, Paul’s widow and co-founder and editor of Wanderlust, says: “I am thrilled we have had such a great response to the awards. A travel guide is the one person who can inspire you to climb that mountain or get as excited about spotting an elephant shrew as an elephant. More importantly they can often be an important bridge between your travel experience and an understanding of the local community.
Judge Bill Bryson says: “We have heard some amazing stories about our guides from their many testimonials. It is these individuals who create life changing experiences for us all as we travel, which is why these awards are so precious.”
The full results of The Paul Morrison Guide Award 2007 will appear in the November issue of Wanderlust, on sale from 12 October, priced £3.80. More details are online at Wanderlust.co.uk.