The REI Adventures Top Guide Award recognizes our trip leaders who consistently exemplify the highest standards of customer service. While we believe that our entire guide team around the world is second to none, every year we choose to honor a select few who go beyond our already high expectations and consistently create a truly unforgettable travel experience for our members. Annual REI Top Guide award winners are invited to Seattle each year for a recognition ceremony at our Flagship Store and a chance to reconnect with past trip members.
The REI Adventures Top Guides for the 2012 season are:
Donald was born in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania and lives in Arusha with his wife, daughter and son. He is fluent in three languages: English, Swahili and Japanese. Donald has had one career in his life—guiding safaris in Tanzania. He is intimately familiar with the flora and fauna of the various regions visited during game drives - ask him anything while on safari, and he'll have the answer! His favorite piece of gear is his backpack and it goes everywhere with him. All his personal a professional gear can fit into it and can be accessed immediately. While Donald professes to be shy, he is very entertaining for his guests. Travelers appreciate Donald's sense of humor as much as his superhuman bird-spotting! If he could share one tip with his fellow guides, it is to "love your job and always strive to excel in whatever you do". Great words to live by.
Erik was born a naturalist and grew up with a deep passion for the wonder and beauty of the great outdoors. He started his career as a financial controller at a video post-production house in Atlanta but longed to find a way to spend more time outside.
He discovered his calling as a guide while solo backpacking in the majestic Great Smoky Mountains. Since 1998, Erik has been sharing his love for and knowledge of the area with clients from around the world. He and his wife Vesna have been instrumental in protecting the rich biodiversity of the Smokies, working together with Earth First, World Wildlife Fund, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, and other organizations to prevent development and provide thoughtful insight into the impact human activity has on this national treasure.
When not guiding, Erik keeps himself busy fly fishing, mountain biking, canoeing, playing chess, learning to play guitar, or hanging out with his wife and 22 year old daughter who just graduated from Yale. Erik is a 2012 Top Guide.
When Ilaria "met" REI, it was a perfect match. Born and raised in Tuscany, Ilaria loves sharing the beauty of Italy with curious travelers and delights in hearing her clients' stories. Her philosophy on guiding trips? "Create a fun group dimension where everyone feels special and taken care of. If you are sincerely having fun traveling with your guests, they will be happy and will remember the trip forever!" Clients praise Ilaria's enthusiasm and attentiveness to the needs of everyone in her groups. It's no wonder Ilaria was chosen as a Top Guide for 2012. After living a while in London, Ilaria now resides in Bologna where she leads schoolchildren in drama programs when not guiding trips for REI. You might also find her playing her accordion and singing. Travel is her biggest passion, and she and her boyfriend have taken two fantastic road trips through the western United States, driving thousands of miles to visit one national park after another.
Miguel was born and raised in Cusco, Peru, where he still resides. He speaks Spanish, English and a little Portuguese, enjoys cooking and racquetball, and worked in computer engineering before becoming certified as a guide. Clients highly praise Miguel for his professionalism and warmth, and for his in-depth knowledge of not only the ancient Inca but present-day Peruvian culture. He also loves to shed light on Peru's plants, birds and animals. Thrilled to be part of REI Adventures, Miguel delights in getting to know REI customers and wants to make sure they have a fantastic trip. "It's no wonder Miguel was chosen as a Top Guide for 2012." This award allowed Miguel to make his first visit to the United States. His favorite quote is from author and poet Maya Angelou, paraphrased here: "People will forget what you said and did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
A native Croatian, Robi was born in Dubrovnik and resides in Zagreb. He is fluent in English and German, but can share a word or two in at least 10 other languages! He enjoys traveling and has been to Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia and Bosnia. Before guiding, Robi wore many hats including that of an accomplished musician, singing a cappella and also playing the guitar, drums, flute, mandolin and piano. In his free time, Robi loves to play sports, especially soccer. He was on a professional team, but injuries sidelined him. Anything outdoors is guaranteed to be fun for Robi - hiking, kayaking, running, climbing, cycling, sailing...you name it!
Somchith was born and raised in Luang Prabang, Laos, where he still resides with his wife and young son. He received his guide certification from Lao Nation Tourism Administration and personally leads every departure of our Laos & Cambodia Multisport Adventure. He is fluent in Lao, Thai and English, and is equally at home in the city and countryside. Clients appreciate his knowledge, wit and patience, and his ease in leading visits to isolated villages that most tourists don't have theopportunity to visit. His favorite way to relax is with his fishing pole and a body of water. It's no wonder his favorite quote is "Laos PDR—Laos People Don't Rush." Somchith considers winning REI's 2012 Top Guide award one of his biggest accomplishments, along with getting married and having his own family. This award allowed Somchith to make his first visit to the United States.
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