Apart from the destination, one of the most important elements in any escorted tour is perhaps the tour leader. Together with their extensive knowledge and experience, each brings their own inimitable style and flair to a tour, ensuring that you derive maximum enjoyment from these very individual journeys. On occasion you may also be accompanied by a guest lecturer whose expertise in a particular field such as art, architecture, gardens or military history, can only enhance a tour further. Further information about lecturers may be found in the relevant tour details.
Though born and educated on America’s East Coast, Liz Bonham spent most of her holidays with her maternal grandparents in Ayrshire and ultimately moved to the United Kingdom. Liz has worked in special education and is keen on tennis, golf and bridge, though her real passion is travel.
An obsessive enthusiast about wildlife since he can remember, Andy has worked all his life in nature conservation for wildlife trusts, local government and, for 26 years, for the RSPB. He was the RSPB's Regional Director for the South East of England for five years before, taking up the reins as Director of the North of England in 1991. He is widely travelled, having led tours to destinations as far afield as Spitsbergen to the Seychelles and Egypt to Hungary. During the tour there will be informal talks and guidance from expert birder Andy, who will share his 50 years of wildlife watching experience.
Carolyn owned and ran the World Food Cafe in London’s Covent Garden for 20 years. She now works as an author and food writer and together with husband Chris has written several World Food Cafe recipe books about global cuisine. Her recent books including Vintage Tea Party, re-creating the nostalgic world of traditional English teatime treats; Rosehips On a Kitchen Table, a manual for foragers, farmers market shoppers and allotment gardeners; Comfort, recipes to warm the heart and feed the soul; Bombay Lunch Box, about Anglo-Indian Tiffin with a contemporary twist; and Great British Cooking, covering everything from roast beef to making marmalade. Her next book Beside the Seaside, celebrating retro and contemporary seaside cuisine, is out this spring. She also a food and travel writer for Elle magazine.
Since travelling to some of the most remote parts of the world as Photographer-in-Residence to the Royal Geographical Society, Chris Caldicott has continued his globetrotting lifestyle as a freelance photographer, writer and lecturer specialising in food and travel, He has had several books published about food, travel and the spice trade and visited 108 countries in search of the perfect meal, finding most of the top contenders on his many trips to Asia. As a journalist he is a regular contributor to publications such as Vanity Fair, Conde Nast Traveller, The Sunday Times, Harpers Bazaar, Tatler, House and Garden and the Telegraph. He also gives travel photography lectures and workshops.
Born and brought up in East Africa, Jax´s peregrinations have taken her all over most of the globe, with extended spells in the Far East and Middle East, Ethiopia and Turkey. Passionate about people and places, she loves to share her insights and enthusiasm with like-minded souls, who like colour, vitality and travelling a little ‘off the beaten track’!
Caroline Courtauld MBE
Caroline Courtauld is a writer, photographer, and documentary film producer and researcher. Her latest documentary for PSB (USA) Building China Modern, has received wide acclaim. Publications include books on Burma, Hong Kong and China - her latest, Myanmar: Burma in Style beautifully illustrates the politics, history and culture of the country, meeting the people and evoking the magic and mystery of what was once the richest nation in Asia. Caroline resides in Hong Kong and London, England.
Gillian’s family and professional life has led to worldwide travel. Born in Rome and educated in Italy, Switzerland and England, Gillian is bilingual in Italian, fluent in French and speaks some Spanish. As the Director of the BADA Antiques & Fine Art Fair London, Gillian now lives between London and Italy. She is also fascinated with Eastern Europe and has organised and led tours to Macedonia, St. Petersburg, Dresden, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Morocco, and Italy. As well as studying the history, art and architecture, she enjoys exploring the culture, traditions and local life and getting to know the character of a country.
After a long service in the British Army and having lived in either Bosnia or Kosovo for 2 ½ years, Andrew Cumming continues to be fascinated by Former Yugoslavia. He has worked on the issues that have plagued this region for the last 20 years and has steeped himself in the history and culture of the Balkans. Despite having come to understand some, but definitely not all, of the things that make the Southern Slavs tick, the mystery remains for Andrew and that is what fascinates him. He now lives in Wiltshire with his wife and has three daughters.
Amelia has visited and worked in Myanmar regularly over the past 10 years leading and lecturing on river boat charters as well as expanding her own passionate interest in the culture and plants of Myanmar. She has travelled extensively throughout the more remote areas of the country, explored many of the rivers as well as completing the whole of the navigable Ayeyarwady River from the far north down to Yangon.
Sylvie was born in Belgium, studied Arabic and Islamic Studies – first at Ghent University, then Cairo University – and has lived in London for more than 20 years. She has written at length about the Middle East and regularly leads trips to the region. Her newest passion is Iran, and she is now a leading expert on its culture and history.
Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE, DL was recently described by the Spectator as the doyen of British explorers. Conservationist, broadcaster, film maker, author of more than 20 books, lecturer, campaigner, farmer and, with his wife Louella, equestrian traveller par excellence, he is one of the few remaining British explorers to merit the name.
He is a Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical Society, a Founder and President of Survival International, the world’s leading organisation supporting tribal peoples. Named as the greatest explorer by the Sunday Times, he has been on over 30 expeditions, including as leader of the Royal Geographical Society’s largest expedition, taking 115 scientists to live for fifteen months in the interior of Borneo. This research and his book, Mulu: the Rainforest, started the international concern for tropical rainforests.
Marie-Thérèse was born in Vienna and now lives in Hampshire. She was educated at the French Lycée and a language school in Switzerland, and is fluent in French, English, German and Italian. Her familiarity with European culture and extensive contacts worldwide are reflected in her unique tours.
Nicola has a degree in History of Art and a background in fine art and photography. Having lived in Paris, Barcelona and Rome, she speaks fluent French, Spanish and Italian and has specialised in these countries, as well as in Turkey, North Africa and the Middle East.
American born, Leslie Hummel, was raised in Argentina, educated in Switzerland and earned her Business degree in San Francisco. Forging her career in Silicon Valley permitted her to continue travelling the world. She speaks Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese, has written books and has been a docent at the Royal Academy of Arts for nearly two decades.
Tania (née Tolstoy) is three quarters Russian, her grandparents having fled Russia in 1918. A degree in Russian Language & Literature, with Byzantine Art, reinforced her passionate interest in all things Russian. This, and the wide knowledge acquired in years of visiting to Russia, make her tours unique.
Harriet lives in Prague (with occasional stints in Ireland and Andalucia) and, having led tours for Specialtours since 1996, now concentrates on Central Europe as her main area of expertise. Fluent in Czech, she is also at ease in German, French and Spanish. She studied History of Art at Yale University.
Antonia Lloyd Owen
Antonia joined Specialtours in 2002 with a degree in History of Art & Architecture and a good understanding of the Decorative Arts. Having lived in Spain and worked in Germany and Austria, she feels comfortable in these countries and has since widened her interest to Scandinavia and the Baltic States.
Anna studied at the Université de Pau in France and uses her bilingual skills in reading European, Russian and Middle Eastern history. She is a keen traveller and painter (exhibiting regularly in London) with a passion for architecture, and has led tours to St. Petersburg, Egypt, India, Libya, Vietnam, Cuba and Costa Rica.
Susie Orso joined Specialtours in 1987 and has arranged and accompanied numerous tours for the Art Fund and specialised American groups. She lives in Florence and has developed many private contacts in Italy, along with a faithful following. Susie is bi-lingual in Italian and speaks fluent French and German, and some Spanish.
Caroline & Peter Stanley
Caroline and Peter are avid travellers with a passion for Asia and the Indian sub-continent. For the last ten years their leisurely and exceptionally comfortable 'roving house parties' have encompassed Rajasthan and many other regions of India, Bhutan, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar.
After many years spent devising and leading walking holidays for Serenissima and other travel companies, Cicely turned to accompanying rather less energetic touring and cruise groups, sometimes together with her artist and writer husband Max as a lecturer. With well over a hundred tours to numerous destinations under her belt, she continues to embark on new adventures with un-dimmed enthusiasm.
Martin has always worked in the leisure industry. He started life as an hotelier which took him to Kenya for nine years, followed in 1982 by 15 years running Abercrombie and Kent before he went on to found The Ultimate Travel Company in 1998. He is well travelled and has a large amount of experience in leading tours to destinations worldwide. In 2018, Martin is leading two exotic cruises, the Laos Mekong and Assam and the Mighty Brahmaputra.
After leaving school, Joanna travelled extensively through Asia working in Hong Kong, Delhi and Calcutta and developing a passion for India. She then spent several years in Los Angeles producing film and music videos. Being half Greek she has a particular love for that country too and has a house on the island of Skyros.