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Winners of the 2009 Exodus Tour Leader Awards

Exodus Tour Leader Awards 2009In the January edition of Extracts we launched the inaugural Exodus Tour Leader Awards. As a company we wanted to formally recognise what a fantastic team of leaders we have and to show the world how proud we are of them.

We prepared a short questionnaire that asked clients to rate their tour leader. As we realise that some leaders work for us full-time and some may only lead a small number of trips per year, we designed a simple system that allowed for this variation. The votes were duly counted and a short-list drawn up.

The Judging Panel
We chose a select group of senior Exodus staff and a well-respected external judge (Justin Francis, the Founder & Managing Director of, who carefully considered all the short-listed leaders, compared the voting scores and studied the client feedback. The Exodus judges were Peter Burrell (Manager Director), Mike James (Operations Manager), Olly Townsend (Leader Operations Manager), Ben Roseveare (Sales and Marketing Director), and Phil Normington (our resident travel expert).


The Winners

After careful consideration of the 300 leaders that we received votes for, we managed to draw up a shortlist of nine. It proved impossible to decide on an out-right winner so eventually we decided to have two joint winners - Sara Bull and Gebre Egzhabier – both equally deserving of the £1000 prize. The remaining seven of our exceptional leaders win the Highly Commended accolade. Thank you to everyone who voted and congratulations to the winners.

Winner: Tour Leader AwardsJoint Winner – Gebre Egziabher – leader in Ethiopia
Joint Winner – Gebre Egzhabier – leader in Ethiopia
Judges’ comments:
'Gebre has so many qualities as a leader: efficiency in the face of adversity, sensitivity and compassion to the group and communities he visits, intelligence balanced by a great sense of humour and courteous to all he meets. For many clients though it is his incredible knowledge and pride in his own country married to a passion to share this with visitors that truly stands out.'

Client comment:
'I have travelled to 156 countries and Gebre was the very best tour guide I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He is the most knowledgeable person I have ever met and very passionate about his country. Wherever we went everyone had a lot of respect for him, which tells me a lot about him.'

The Telegraph writes about Ethiopia: Treasures of an ancient land and Gebre, download the article (pdf document)


Winner: Tour Leader AwardsJoint Winner – Sara Bull – International leader
Joint Winner – Sara Bull – international leader
Judges’ comments:
'Sara manages to combine fantastic mountain skills with a vast range of more esoteric ‘soft’ skills – intuition, understanding and diplomacy. Her infectious enthusiasm and passion for her work shine through and her ability to get the best out of everyone means that where ever she leads trips, her clients will have an amazing holiday!'

Client comment:
'I don’t think I have ever seen a tour leader put in such an effort above and beyond the call of duty. Not only was the trip extremely well organised but Sara worked tirelessly to deal with many health issues which affected the group. To top it all she did all of this with a smile on her face and I believe she still enjoyed the trip as much as anyone. Just amazing!'




The Exodus Leader Award 2009 – Highly Commended

Exodus Tour Leader Awards 2009: Highly Commended

The 7 leaders who are all Highly Commended are:

Balvinder ‘Bali’ Singh (India)

Erkki ‘Eki’ Ollila (Finland)

Hilda Roque Perez (Peru)

Holger Davalos Fernandez (Peru)

Lhakpa Tshering Lama (Nepal)

Roshan Fernando (Sri Lanka)

Steven Parker (International Leader)



The Leaders:

Balvinder 'Bali' Singh – Indian Leader
Balvinder Singh (Bali)Judges’ comments: 'Bali, as he is known by all, goes out of his way to bring to life what it is really like to live and breathe India. Charismatic without being overpowering, with a wonderful sense of humour and fun, he is tireless, sensitive, kind and courteous. In the words of one customer, “a thouroughly decent human being”. And obviously a top notch leader!'

Clients’ comments: 'Friendly, caring, interesting, organised, funny - Bali showed an excitable group the sights, smells, food and culture with enthusiasm and patience to ensure that everyone had an unforgettable trip with fantastic memories.'

Balvinder has been nominated in the Wanderlust World Guide Awards 2010, please see our news page for more details.

Erkki 'Eki' Ollila – Finnish Leader
Highly Commended: Erkki 'Eki' OllilaJudges' comments: 'The head of a small team of staff running winter activities in Arctic Finland, Eki has proven himself to be one of the finest Exodus guides around. His love for the wilderness and his country is demonstrated by his excellent photography, but what shines through is his ability to pace the week perfectly with a new or unexpected feature each day. Charm, humor and patience complete the package.'

Clients’ comments: 'Always helpful, motivating, thoughtful and environmentally responsible. Nothing too much trouble, encouraged everyone of every ability to do well and feel good about themselves. Could never hope for a better leader in every aspect.'

Hilda Roque Pérez – Peruvian Leader
Highly Commended: Hilda Roque PérezJudges’ comments: 'Hilda is a special personality - warm, caring, spontaneous, motherly, and accessible to all. This, of course, is complemented by her knowledge skills and experience, and complete dedication. She clearly has the ability to look after each person as an individual, while handling the logistics of the entire Inca Trail party. Many of our clients feel they have made a true friend in Hilda.'

Clients’ comments: 'From the moment we met Hilda it was as if we had known her for years. She was very friendly and had an absolute wealth of knowledge about the country and the trip we were about to embark on. Her knowledge, experience and selfless commitment to her group made this the best holiday by far we had ever been on.'

Holger Dávalos Fernández – Peruvian Leader
Highly Commended: Holger Dávalos FernándezJudges’ comments: 'A long-term Exodus man, Holger seems to just get better and better. Mature, wise, and humble, he is able to judge exactly the amount of his vast knowledge people need, and continues to impart it with charisma, passion and humor. With his great experience he seems to have perfected the art of tour leading'.

Clients’ comments: 'Holger transformed my two-week Exodus trip to Peru into the holiday of a lifetime. He is the perfect leader and guide - he knows a vast amount, but wears it lightly, loves his country and his people, and treats everyone, including his local companions, drivers and guides, with real warmth and respect.'

Lhakpa Tshering Lama – Nepalese Leader
Highly Commended: Lhakpa Tshering LamaJudges’ comments: 'Lhakpa is one of a team of great Exodus trek leaders in Nepal, many of whom were nominated for these awards. On challenging high altitude treks Lhakpa's local knowledge of all things Sherpa along with his calmness in any crisis, cheerful and encouraging humour and equal care he shows to both trekkers and local staff won many votes. He deserves praise for embracing and working hard for our solar cooker project in the Khumbu region of Nepal.'

Clients’ comments: 'For extra dedication in doing the job, for the attention paid to all trip details, for supporting and noticing everyone that needed help even without asking and most of all for the genuine smile and enthusiasm that defines him and that was shared with everybody - thus making this trip the best you can have.'

Roshan Fernando – Sri Lankan Leader
Roshan Fernando was awarded the Responsible tourism award in 2007  by Exodus for his work with a Tsunami projectJudges’ comments: 'Roshan lives and breathes Exodus and in particular his trips in Sri Lanka. His phenomenal knowledge of its people, culture, history and a myriad of other topics, along with his amazing people skills and his dedication to helping anyone that he meets who is worse off than he is, make him the perfect choice to lead our trips there.'

Clients’ comments: 'Humorous, knowledgeable and experienced, Roshan made everything flow easily, had great suggestions and anecdotes and put up with our many foibles and questions with grace and good humour - even though there must have been times when we drove him to distraction.'

Steven Parker – International Leader
Highly Commended: Steven ParkerJudges’ comments: 'Steve has managed to really get under the skin of the countries where he leads trips. His passion, enthusiasm and intimate knowledge of the countries he works in, his phenomenal grasp of foreign languages and his amazing ability to connect with everyone that he meets, makes him a huge asset to Exodus as a tour leader.'

Clients’ comments: 'Steve is by far the best tour guide that I have ever experienced. He is extremely enthusiastic. His knowledge of Japan, the culture, the language, the history and the geography is amazing and made me want to learn more. Steve took great care to ensure that we all had a great time.'


We received nominations for over 300 different leaders from across the globe, which shows what an amazing team of leaders Exodus has. Below are listed all the leaders who received 5 or more votes. Congratulations to them, and to all of the Exodus leaders.

The leaders list who received 5 or more votes and the country/region they lead their trips:

Avtar Singh, India | Oliver Ensor, Chamonix | Often Konzoro, Southern Africa | Pasang Sherpa ( Jr.), Nepal | Mohamed Maachou, Morocco | Keshar Khadkar, Nepal | Krishna, India | Rene Calancha Ccarhuarupay, Peru | Shailesh Tamang, Nepal | Wassan, S.E. Asia | Suzy Hesselden, International | Pasang Bomjan, Nepal | Mohamed Ahmd Alghounemy, Egypt | Maho Khan, Turkey | Paul Goldstein, Africa/Polar | Tuomas Runnakko, Finland | Emmanuel Edizwani, Africa | Eric Woolley, Italy | Ilse Alte, Norway | Joe, S.E. Asia | Khalid, Jordan | Miranda Currie, Canada | Alejandro Moreiras Cumbraos, South America | Christine Rooney, International | Freddy Camara, Cuba | Harish Kumar, India | Jose Miguel Garcia, Spain | Lieber, Cuba | Thanos, Greece | Tuna Ozdemir, Turkey | Ajay Gupta, India | Annie Ly, China | Bongani Sithole, South Africa | Dragon, China | Linda Preston, Africa | Mel Potter, Alps | Prem Gurung, Nepal | Rocky, China | Suresh Moni, India | Youssef, Jordan.

Good luck to all our leaders from the staff at Exodus for the 2010 season!

Related links:

View 2009 Leader Awards

Our Tour Leaders page

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