Six R E I adventures travel guides in front of headquarters.

REI announces 2017 Top Guide award winners

Six guides honored for leading world-class outdoor adventures

Mar 14, 2018

SEATTLE – REI Adventures, the award-winning active travel company of national outdoor co-op REI, has announced the winners of its Top Guide awards – an annual recognition honoring the company’s top travel guides from around the world. Six adventure experts representing the United States, Czech Republic, Portugal, Ecuador and Thailand take home this year’s honor of being the best of the best.

The six guides receiving an REI Adventures Top Guide award and the trips they lead include:

Alena Rucklova (Czech Republic) – Czech Republic Hiking – Vienna to Prague, Vienna to Prague Cycling, Prague to Budapest Cycling

Alex Leckie (United States) – Grand Canyon Phantom Ranch Hiking, Zion and Bryce Canyon Signature Camping, and Yellowstone and Grand Teton Signature Camping

Isabel Ourelo (Portugal) – Portugal Coastal Hiking

Jaimie Matzko (United States) – Great Smoky Mountains Backpacking and Great Smoky Mountains Adventure - Signature Camping

Juan Fernando Duran Cassola (Ecuador) – Galapagos Islands & Machu Picchu Multisport, Galapagos Islands Multisport, Amazon Basin and Galapagos Islands Family Adventure, Galapagos Islands and Otavalo Highlands Multisport

Thanawat Yotchiangkhong (Thailand) – Thailand Multisport

This is the 14th year that REI Adventures has awarded Top Guides. Winners are determined from independent customer reviews, which are available on the travel company’s website. The travel leader also gives significant consideration to guides who best represent REI’s values and brand, and partner with the co-op to strengthen the company’s travel offerings around the world. In addition to the wide range of responsibilities an REI Adventures guide has in the field, guides are focused on limiting environmental impact when they lead trips for the co-op through using Leave No Trace principles and, wherever possible, utilizing reusable or recyclable materials.

Traveler kudos:

“I turned 65 on the ride and have completed biking trips with four other companies. I have never had a guide as knowledgeable as [Alena]. She was a great guide and a strong rider. Her knowledge of Czech history, culture and terrain was extraordinary. I would highly recommend her to other groups. She was an exceptional individual.”

“Alex Leckie is amazing…He had an astounding ability to pull gourmet food out of his backpack and treat us beyond all expectations. He was a good listener, and answered our questions with expertise… humbly helping us at every turn. What a gem!”

“Isabel made our experience wonderful! She learned our names immediately, checked in to see how we were doing, and was always available to assist as needed. Her energy and enthusiasm were infectious. With her guiding, I discovered that Portugal is a small, welcoming country with a rich history, stunning coastline, exquisite cuisine, and warm-hearted people. My REI trip provided the structure and staff that allowed me to experience many highlights of Portugal within a short time.”

“Jaimie has hawk eyes that seem to see every interesting living thing from plant to fungus to reptile and bird. I’m the ripe old age of 46, but I know that I was just as entranced by her explanations as the 18 year olds on our trip. I enjoyed hiking in the Smokies so much that I returned in August 2017 with my children to see the eclipse! I definitely credit Jaimie for sparking my love of the Smokies and an increased understanding of nature.”

“Juan Fernando Duran was excellent. The logistics of the trip were flawless. His knowledge and enthusiasm were impressive…We particularly enjoyed his ability to provide timely and interesting information about flora and fauna without lecturing us. Juan Fernando went above and beyond our expectations! Grade = A+”

“Tri was absolutely phenomenal. He was tireless and made the trip special for everyone in the group... His perspective and commentary on everything from the origins of Buddhism, the hill tribes of northern Thailand to the flora and fauna we encountered was terrific. We were well taken care of from start to finish. It was a treat all around.”

About REI Adventures:

Award-winning REI Adventures has been a global leader in worldwide guided active adventure trips since 1987. As the travel business for national specialty outdoor retailer REI, the company offers unique itineraries focused on sustainable, human-powered outdoor adventure, including hiking, biking, kayaking, climbing and more. Guests experience iconic destinations as guides take them off the “beaten path,” and provide opportunities to explore a destination, get to know the local people, their culture, the flora and fauna and discover things they would not be able to duplicate on their own or with another travel company. REI members receive a special discount price on most trips. For more information, full itineraries and trip reviews provided by guests, visit

About the REI Co-op

REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of 23 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 188 locations in 42 states and the District of Columbia. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.comREI Outlet or the REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. Adventurers can take the trip of a lifetime with REI’s active adventure travel company that runs more than 100 itineraries across the country. In many communities where REI has a presence, professionally trained instructors share their expertise by hosting beginner-to advanced-level classes and workshops about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.