Explore Tour Leaders gain in-depth knowledge about the areas that they lead in. Although they guide Explore customers up mountains, through cities, into deserts and a whole lot more, some of them don’t get to travel much for themselves to experience other cultures and countries. With this in mind, and to reward some of our best leaders, we have introduced a Regional Awards Scheme.
Participating countries nominate their top leader to travel on an Explore trip in another country for free. By joining an Explore tour, they can see how another Tour Leader does things, providing an invaluable opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences. And of course, enjoy travelling to a new country!
First Exchange: Turkey to Morocco
The first exchange took part earlier this year when Zafer Yucedag from Turkey travelled to Morocco on Imperial Cities and Desert (MR). If Zafer’s name sounds families, it’s because he was also one of the runner ups in our 2012 Tour Leader of the Year awards.
Zafer thoroughly enjoyed his time in Morocco and writes:
“After breakfast on the first morning we took a walk around Casablanca – Morocco’s largest city – en route to the train station. From there we took the train to Rabat. It was very nice to talk to local people on the train. The Moroccan people are very friendly and very helpful. Most of them speak French and English.
Rabat is the capital of Morocco. There are very nice streets, buildings, a very modern train station and a very beautiful seaside. We visited the Chellah area. You can see a main gate, historical buildings and Roman ruins there.
From Rabat we travelled to Meknes, the old capital city of Morocco. We had a guided tour, visiting the old granaries which were very impressive. From here we went on to the Roman ruins at Volubilis. Built in a fertile agricultural area, the ruins date back to the 1st and 2nd century. It’s an impressive site with beautiful mosaics.
Next up was Fes – Morocco’s second largest city. We visited the old town with a local guide. The old town was very lively with weavers, brass workshops, coppersmiths and tanners.
On day six of our tour there was an optional camel ride to a desert camp. The camp in the Sahara Desert was one of the highlights of the tour. Our tents were very good and the dinner served in camp delicious. I watched the stars; they were amazing. The camp in the desert was a very good experience.
A few days later we were in the beautiful city of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast. We stayed in the old part of the city. There are lots of beautiful places and buildings in the city. There is a Genoese built citadel, impressive city walls, a museum, sheltered harbour with traditional blue fishing boats and a beautiful sandy beach (which was the highlight of the tour for me). The beach is very beautiful and very long – great for walking.
Last stop was Marrakech. The architecture of the city is very impressive. Our local guide took us to the old part of the city and showed us the walls, palace, famous Djemma el-fna square and open air market. The Djemma el-fna is a site not to be missed; it’s very lively, especially in the evenings. Here you will find story tellers, musicians, jugglers and acrobats. The square leads to the souks (open air market place).
It was good to see different parts of Morocco and meet the local people. And the local food was very, very good. This was my first visit to Morocco and I must say, it was a wonderful holiday.”
Second Exchange: Morocco to Turkey
The return visit saw Moroccan Tour Leader Ali Ait Ichou travel to Turkey to join our Hidden Trails of Cappadocia (GV) tour. Ali writes:
“After a five-hour flight from Casablanca I arrived at the jewel of Turkey – Istanbul. The following morning our local Istanbul guide gave us some good introduction of this great city, such as visiting the Blue Mosque and walking around Taksim main square, with some free time left to explore more of old Istanbul.
The group met back at the hotel and transferred to the airport, to fly to central Turkey - Kayseri town - where we met our Explore Tour Leader, Tolga and drove to Ihlara Valley to start our first walk the next morning. We took our bus to the starting point of the Ihlara walk, following the valley up for approximately 16km, exploring its unique landscapes containing amazing volcanic rock formations, troglodyte dwellings and churches from byzantine period; the walk is extremely easy today.
The rest of the tour is spent in and around Cappadocia. The most astonishing part is the underground village of Kaymakli). It was ideal to be there by lunchtime before the big tour groups arrive. This is an Explore doctrine and because of it we saw much of this site.
Five days were spent in the Cappadocia region, with beautiful walks in different valleys. In this region I was really impressed with the rock formations. I took the hot air balloon ride which was my highlight as well giving us more chance to take a lot of photos. Besides the landscapes, Turkey is also a very rich country with a mixture of cultures and people. I really love this country which I will visit again soon. Thank you Explore for this amazing journey.”