Your votes are in. We received almost 2,000 nominations, each filled with anecdotes and stories about what made your trip so special, the difference your leader made to ensure you had the greatest adventure of your life.
We’ve gone through every single vote, collated the results and are proud to announce the winners of our Leader Awards 2015.
Rayselis Rodriguez (leads A Taste of Cuba )
If you want to learn about revolutionary history, the day to day of your average Cuban, and how to make the perfect mojito, look no further than Rayselis. She’s a real expert at ensuring her groups get an authentic Cuban experience. It can be a tricky place to be a leader, but this is a lady who always has an ace up her sleeve. Repeatedly people mention her humour, her ready smile, and warm generosity.
“ Ray was absolutely wonderful from the moment we met her, to the moment she tearfully left us. We genuinely felt cared for and she didn't stop making sure we were having fun the whole time. Our questions were answered, our concerns addressed and our tour ran incredibly efficiently, despite a few setbacks with the weather - there was always a plan B and C ready to be implemented with a smile and a joke! An absolute gem!” - Helena B
Judges’ Comments on Rayselis
“It very quickly became clear as we read through the voting forms and online reviews, that our customers absolutely love travelling with Rayselis! Her warm, caring personality, her ability to avert any crisis and her insider knowledge of her country are just a few of the attributes that ensures each and every client has the trip of a lifetime in Cuba!”
Alvaro Saiz (leads Walking the Picos de Europa )
Local boy Alvaro was born and bred in the Picos de Europa Mountains, and his knowledge of the delicately balanced ecosystem and passion for these peaks is unrivalled. Time and again his feedback praises his attention to individuals, and you’ll find he always takes time to speak to every person in the group, learn everyone’s interests and idiosyncrasies. He then makes sure to point out special things for each person – a rare flower to the budding botanist, or the locally sourced ingredients in tonight’s dinner to the food enthusiast.
“Alvaro is my idea of the perfect group leader. His passion for the mountains and the wildlife of the Picos De Europa was truly infectious and made our hikes fascinating. He truly deserves this award.” - Daniel W
Judges’ Comments on Alvaro
“The judges were overwhelmed by the amount of praise bestowed on Alvaro by our clients. We couldn’t ignore that fact Alvaro scored top marks on almost every Holiday Evaluation Form, and he was a very worthy runner-up in last year’s awards too. Well done Alvaro – here’s to another year of inspiring like-minded travellers in the Picos!”
BEST OVERSEAS TEAM
CUBA (three leaders: Rayselis Rodriguez, Alex Berjaga & Lazaro de la Maza)
What a team! All three of our Cuban trio made it easily onto our shortlist for this year.
As individual leaders they excelled and together they are unmatched. All three are noted for their sense of humour, friendliness and hard work to ensuring every member of their groups have the best possible experience in Cuba, a destination whose popularity seems unstoppable.
Johnny Villalobos Muñoz (leads Discover Costa Rica )
What Johnny doesn’t know about Costa Rican nature isn’t worth knowing. He studied to become a naturalist guide because of his love of the outdoors and it’s his passion for conservation that makes him so special as a leader – from answering every imaginable question on birdlife, to suggesting the best optional activities, to always being ready to add extra time and effort above the itinerary to ensure everyone gets the most out of their time in Costa Rica.
“Johnny quite literally made my recent trip to Costa Rica. His encyclopaedic knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for everything about his country were impossible to resist. He was, in a word, brilliant and deserves every accolade you can bestow.” - Annabella W
HALL OF FAME
Roshan Fernando (leads Discover Sri Lanka )
The very special Hall of Fame Award goes to Roshan, whose name has come up time and again in our leader awards. Travellers have been singing his praises for over twelve years that he’s been leading, and his experience is undoubtedly part of his consistent ability to transform a group of strangers become a group of friends over the course of a holiday. He’s a true credit to Sri Lanka, and a well-deserved winner of the coveted Hall of Fame.
“Extremely enthusiastic, he obviously loves his country and managed to pass that love on to the group. He kept the group together for the whole fortnight (no mean feat) and was always available for all of us. In a nutshell he made a wonderful trip even better and I cannot imagine anyone could have done a better job.” - Patricia R
A special mention had to go to Sara Bull. Here’s what our Director of Operations and Leader Award Judge Mike James had to say:
"Sara is already a member of our Leaders Hall of Fame, but year in and year out she stands out with not only the number of nominations, but also the warmth of praise from our customers who are so impressed by her inspirational leadership. We could not let this year pass without highlighting her continued incredible contributions."
Sara leads the following trips:
Walking in Tuscany | Discover Northern Tuscany | The Simien Mountains Trek
Congratulations to all our shortlisted leaders! Being shortlisted is a huge achievement and they all received multiple outstanding nominations.
Suresh Bandara, cycling leader in Sri Lanka
Dahn Nguyen, cycling and discovery leader in Vietnam
Long Le, cycling and discovery leader in Vietnam
Christine Rooney, walking leader on The Amalfi Coast, Italy
Roberto Aguilar Torres, cycling leader in Costa Rica
Santo James, discovery leader in India
Ubaldo “Bobby” Quispe, trekking leader in Peru
Jose “Pepe” Valdivia, trekking and cultural leader in Patagonia, Argentina
Thank you for voting. Our Leader Awards are open for voting all year round.
To nominate a leader you loved for the 2016 awards, please fill out the nomination form here.