2022 EcoTripMatch.com Best Nature Tour Guide
The winner is Ann Tumpesia from Narok, Kenya!!
Please scroll to the bottom to read about each of the finalists. You will be impressed!
IN THE WORDS OF THEIR NOMINATORS….
Ann Tumpesia, Narok, Kenya
Ann Tumpesia is one of the best guides I have ever ridden with. I have been to Africa many times and know the difference between excellent and mediocre. Ann was EXCELLENT! Her knowledge and ability to communicate about the wildlife at just the right time is uncanny. She just seemed to know when to speed up and when to stop when tracking animals. Her pleasant manner and obvious knowledge about the land, the animals and the people made such a difference during our game drives.
Ann is a sterling example of what a guide should be and truly an outstanding example for African women!
She was incredibly informative, not only identifying species, sharing facts about their behaviors, appearances, and life cycles, but she also provided fascinating information regarding conservation threats and measures. Ann completed a conservation-oriented program and her wide knowledge base and her passion contributed to a wonderful experience with her as our guide.
Not only do her skills set her apart from others, but her open, friendly, and engaging personality made it feel as though a friend was taking us on safari. To interact with groups day after day with such a welcoming attitude shows that Ann can provide incredible service while encouraging those she guides to continue exploring and learning about the unique wildlife and benefits of ecotourism.
This work is Ann’s calling. She embodies it. Her ability to quietly yet effectively communicate important information about all species, habitats, behaviors is very impressive. She sets the foundation and allows nature to teach its lessons.
Additionally, it was wonderful to have one of the few female guides in the Maasai Mara, in an otherwise male-dominated industry and career path. Ann is an enthusiastic conservationist and nature lover who struggled to fulfill her dreams in a male-dominated guiding profession and a culture that did not embrace girl child education.
Annie was wonderful and each individual in our eight person group agrees that she deserves any and all accolades she is given! She deserves the highest recognition possible. She is a gem. She is a winner!
Bruce Lawson, Hoedspruit, South Africa
After 30 years of guiding Bruce continues to inspire his guests and students alike. Bruce is one of a handful of guides who has dedicated their life to Wilderness guiding and conservation and takes great delight in introducing people to wilderness and all that nature offers.
Bruce started his guiding career in the Manyeleti Game Reserve in South Africa as an apprentice guide and since then has guided throughout the African continent, USA and Australia. The better part of his 30 years guiding, Bruce has been on foot leading people of multi-day Wilderness Trails in National Parks throughout Africa, accumulating an impressive 21000hrs.
Bruce and his wife, Dee, spent a decade in the far north of the Kruger National Park training trails guides in the art of walking in dangerous game areas. He was on the board of The Field Guides of South Africa (FGASA) as vice chair for 8 years and is a national assessor for all guiding qualifications to the highest level. Bruce is now on the FGASA standards setting committee for the Trails Guide qualification.
Not only is Bruce a dedicated and passionate wilderness conservationist, but is also a true humanitarian. In 1997 Bruce and two mates walked unsupported from Cape Town to Cairo to raise money for Rotary International’s “Polio plus” campaign raising an impressive five million Rand ($330,000) thus helping eradicate this disease from Africa. More recently in 2020, Bruce was a founding member of Tshembo (Hope) Africa Foundation and undertook a 1000km walk around his garden to raise money for food parcels for communities on the boundaries of reserves stricken by the Covid pandemic and in 20 days managed to raise
R982 000 ($65,000). In 2021 he undertook a Guinness Book of Records attempt doing 30 000 burpees in his hotel room in quarantine in Australia raising R1 000 000 ($66,000) for Rangers protecting wildlife in the greater Kruger National Park.
Although Bruce’s passion is wilderness and wilderness conservation, he is also a very accomplished bird guide. Bruce’s father started Lawson’s Specialized Birding and Wildlife Tours for which Bruce lead many tours introducing people to South Africa and Africa’s avifauna. His sister has since taken the reins and now runs the business while his daughter, who has been on numerous Wilderness Trails with him, works in the Wildlife Tourism industry in South Africa.
Bruce’s philosophy is simple…. “Direct human-nature experiences in wild places are fundamental in calibrating human values and orientation towards both conservation in general and specific places. Conservation will not succeed unless the general public cares, and they are unlikely to care enough if they no longer experience nature directly” he quotes.
Bruce’s in-depth understanding of nature and wilderness, his unfailing sense of humor and willingness to impart knowledge make him a sought after and inspirational guide, trainer, and mentor.
James Mwere, Kampala, Uganda
James Mwere is a senior Tour Guide and Tourism Officer who loves visiting natural attractions in our country to find first hand information about them, with the aim of documenting and sharing his experience with the outside world. He has been working in the field for 10 years and has great knowledge about the tourism industry.
He is the current team leader of the Tour Guides Forum Uganda.
James is patriotic about his country with a passion for tourism and training youth in order to boost tourism, especially after Covid-19 reached Uganda. He is also playing a big role in the conservation of tourism and climate change in Uganda. James is the brains behind Tulambule campaign in Uganda (to encourage Ugandans to be tourists in their country). Most people do jobs for money but he does it because he loves his country.
As a guide, he is well equipped with effective skills and has knowledge of the historical sites and various cultures in Uganda. He is charismatic and has an outgoing personality and communicates well with everyone. He has great organizational skills, planning tours, organizing excursions, giving sightseeing advice, and interpreting and translating information to tourists. He has guided many tourists from different countries and shared experiences and knowledge through the different tourism organizations which he leads.
James Mwere is very passionate about tourism and loves what he does. He is friendly, well educated about nature, both flora and fauna. He is a very fun-loving, receptive, accommodative, amazing tour guide. He is very jolly and has an outstanding personality that everyone would wish to meet. James customizes the trips to each person or individual’s needs, from the stops he makes along the road to the foods he helps you order. When you’re with him, you feel at home.
James has been supportive in employing and training female tour guides. He has built a strong team and for me to see them as one family gave me a comfortable feeling of safety and superb service.
James has been a blessing to many people. l watched him, and some of his fellow guides, donating to people in a village. The smiles were so heartwarming.
He has taught me a lot about wildlife l never knew existed in my country. Personally, I was not so interested in nature, but the interactions with James made me love nature and my country, Uganda. He deserves this award.
Alan McSmith, Hoedspruit, South Africa
After over three decades, Alan continues to break new ground as a wilderness guide. He is one of a handful of operators leading pioneering safaris to Ennedi and Zakouma National Park in Chad.
Once a permanent resident of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Alan co-pioneered a series of unsupported, exploratory dugout canoe traverses of the Delta. Each traverse lasted for four weeks and in the process he has racked up over 3000 kms by dugout.
He is an established motivational and TEDx speaker and has travelled extensively advocating leadership and conservation at numerous European forums. As a passionate elephant conservationist, Alan is well known for his knowledge of these remarkable animals, and constantly strives to raise the bar of awareness. “Just as they are keystones to an ecological circuit, they are keystones to a greater awareness. An awareness of a sacred attitude toward all life and living,” he says.
A lifetime of exploration and discovery, not to mention the traditional wisdom of local trackers and guides, have made lasting impressions. Wilderness, therefore, is no longer a place but a way of life and he remains committed to share meaningful wildlife encounters and the intrinsic value of wilderness conservation.
Alan’s deep understanding of the wild and his readiness to share it with all who are interested makes him a much sought after wildlife educator, trainer and conservationist. But it is not just his knowledge and experience that makes spending time on safari with him so special; it is also his gentle, self-effacing manner, sense of humor and relaxed character that makes it such a treasured event.
Alan is married to accomplished hospitality director Sarah and has 2 grown children, Jake and Meg (who is studying to become a guide; the legacy continues)!
This man has immense knowledge of the environment, its fauna and flora. He has traveled Africa and his knowledge is extensive in both the people culture and wildlife.
Agnes Kilena, Nairobi, Kenya
Agnes Kilena is one of Basecamp Explorer’s most outstanding guides. She is the first female Maasai guide in Masai Mara, meaning that she has been instrumental in paving the way for other female guides to join guiding as a career. She is fluent in English and has very good communication and guiding skills. Today, Basecamp Explorer has at least 5 female guides following in her footsteps.
Agnes is fluent in English, Swahili and Massai language. She is very knowledgeable about Massai Mara Ecosystem. She has all the good qualities of a Driver/Tour guide and indeed, she is very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna, not only on the terrestrial land, but also in the aquatic ecosystem.
Coming from a marginalized and patriarchal community in Kenya, Agnes is the first born among 6 siblings. Her father was opposed to her education and that of her sisters. Her mother however, fought for her to receive an education and made sure she attended primary and secondary school. Agnes was later enrolled and trained as a guide in Koiyaki Guiding School, a capacity- building institution supported by Basecamp to train young Maasai men and women in nature-based courses such as guiding, providing them with an opportunity for a better life. Agnes’ educational goals did not end there. She would like to pursue further education, but she has an obligation to educate the rest of her siblings first. Having realized the destruction of Masai Mara’s resources will greatly affect the Maasai community’s livelihood, Agnes would like to help protect the wildlife in the Mara and conserve the Mara ecosystem. In the near future, she hopes to pursue Management and Wildlife Conservation, as she aspires to be a warden in the parks. She would like to focus her knowledge and skills fighting poaching. Having seen first-hand how Masai Mara are affected by issues such as climate change and wildlife depletion, Agnes endeavors to help find sustainable solutions to addressing them. She will also educate the younger generation on the importance of securing Masai Mara for future generations.
From an intercultural perspective, and coming from a community with very strong cultural values, Agnes was among the guides chosen to participate in a cultural exchange program in Basecamp’s properties in Norway. The aim was to promote intercultural awareness and show how the Basecamp story is similar in both Kenya and Svalbard. Basecamp chose the most outstanding guides to take part in this program and she was among them.
In her free time, Agnes dedicates her time to giving motivational talks to the girls in the Talek area of Masai Mara and in Koiyaki Guiding School. She is a living example to the Maasai women in these remote villages that anything is possible if you have courage and determination. The guests love it when she takes them on a game drive as she is kind, joyful and extremely knowledgeable about the terrain and the wildlife of Masai Mara. Her best skills are encouraging and educating people about conservation. You can tell she is loved by reading the reviews on various platforms such as Trip Advisor and her passion for her work is greatly reflected in how she interacts with the guests leaving them yearning to return to the Mara.
As part of EcoTripMatch.com’s mission to support conservation through ecotourism, we began the annual, EcoTripMatch’s “Best Nature Guide of the Year” recognition award in 2017. Ecolodges, eco-tour companies, travelers and others from all over the world have nominated those special people who do an exceptional job of connecting tourists to the natural areas they are visiting.
Voting ends 11:59 EST on Friday, February 25th