Meet the Team

 
The Southern Explorations difference comes from our people. We are a team of devoted and enthusiastic explorers who have dedicated much of our lives to the destinations we visit. We believe passionately in the importance of sustainable travel, as it applies to destinations both environmentally and socially, and this is reflected in everything we do. Our commitment to providing the most authentic experiences possible means we hire local guides who know the destination best and provide world class customer service. From your first phone call to our team of Adventure Travel Coordinators to the end of your trip and beyond, our team makes it a priority to ensure you always enjoy the signature Southern Explorations experience. 


 Justin Laycob

 Founder & CEO


Justin has been studying, guiding, traveling and developing programs in South and Central America since 1995, having developed a passion for Latin America while studying in Ecuador and Chile for several years. Justin began his career in the adventure travel industry in 1998, guiding for various adventure travel companies in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Panama and Peru. Using his years of experience, contacts and local knowledge, Justin founded his own company to offer first-class Latin American experiences for travelers by asembling the team of like-minded professionals who now comprise Southern Explorations. Under his leadership, Southern Explorations has earned an international reputation for world class customer service, unique travel itineraries, sustainable tourism, and a flawless safety record. Justin travels to South and Central America regularly in order to strengthen and expand his network of contacts and friends, guide special interest groups and develope new destinations. His experiences while guiding and exploring Latin America are evident in every trip that Southern Explorations offers, as he has played an integral role in designing each trip.  He graduated from the University of Oregon, with a double major in Environmental Science and Planning, Public Policy and Management. 



Jonathan Borgida

Senior Director of Sales & Chief Operating Officer 


As Senior Director of Sales & Chief Operating Officer, Jonathan is responsible for setting and implementing Southern Explorations’ strategic course, managing day-to-day operations in Southern Explorations’ United States offices, and for ensuring each and every traveler experiences a trip of a lifetime. Jonathan worked closely with Founder & Owner Justin Laycob to build a company committed to creating custom adventures to amazing places, and is thrilled to bring his passion for travel, his vast knowledge of South America’s people and places, and his experience in planning and operations to the company. Jonathan has over twenty years’ experience in the adventure travel industry; prior to joining Southern Explorations, he served as the Logistics and Operations Manager for the Colorado Outward Bound School. Jonathan holds a degree in Planning, Public Policy, and Management from the University of Oregon.


Marisa Edgerton

Galapagos / Antarctica Sales & Operations


While growing up in Vermont Marisa dreamed of traveling to distant lands, and made those dreams a reality on her first international trip to France during high school. She went on to earn a degree in Travel and Tourism Management at Johnson & Wales University. Extensive European travel left her with a basic foundation in the Spanish language which fueled her desire to explore Latin America. Marisa enjoys all things outdoors, including running, hiking, and mountain biking. Her passion for both world travel and outdoor activities is an asset in helping Southern Explorations’ passengers to personalize their trips.
 


 

Kaitlyn Lavalette

Galapagos Sales & Operations 


Kaitlyn developed a passion for the outdoors while growing up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where she spent her summers hiking up the Green Mountains and her winters riding down them on her snowboard. In college, Kaitlyn expanded her adventures to South America when she spent a semester in Argentina. She experienced big city living in Buenos Aires, but also took advantage of what the region had to offer by exploring Patagonia, Iguazu Falls, Northwestern Argentina and the beaches of Uruguay. Kaitlyn learned more about the logistics of travel planning when she developed an international service learning trip for Champlain College, which required on-the-ground exploratory research in the small west African country of The Gambia. These days Kaitlyn is back in the Green Mountains helping the SE Team coordinate trips to the Galapagos Islands.  

          

 

Eric Bartanen

Sales, Operations & Special Projects Manager

A Washington native, Eric graduated from Seattle University with a major in International Business and Economics. Eric has a strong interest in world religions, cultures, and languages. His excellent eye for detail ensures that all logistics of every Southern Explorations passenger's trip is in order. While not in the office, Eric enjoys a wide variety of outdoor pursuits from snowboarding fresh tracks to dropping cliffs on his mountain bicycle.

 


Angelita Muro 

Operations & Peru Sales

From Lima, Angie worked at our Lima-Peru Operations Office for 2 years. Now, she is working with us at our office located in Seattle as the Operations Assistant. She graduated from Cenfotur Institute in Peru with a degree as an Official Tourist Guide with Advanced English. Angie, has traveled extensively in her native Peru and is knowledgeable about the country’s varied geography and its indigenous cultures. She also worked at a Travel Agency in Iguazu, Argentina. Like our customers, Angie also enjoys travelling, hiking and other outdoor activities.
 



Marcia Fallas

Operations

Born and raised in Costa Rica, Marcia developed her love of learning about the culture, literature and language of other countries through travel as a high school exchange student. She holds a degree in French Literature and Foreign Languages from the University of Costa Rica. Since graduating in 1998, she has worked in the tourist industry, first in Costa Rica and since moving to the United States in 2010. On weekends Marcia enjoys visiting new places, yoga, Latin dancing, reading and going to art exhibitions. Her travel expertise and deep knowledge of her native land are a welcome addition to our staff.
 



Deanna Nicoli

Antarctica Travel Specialist

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Deanna grew up hiking, horseback riding, camping and climbing in the forest around her home, always in search of adventure and wildlife. At age 11, she moved with her family to Naples, Italy for two years, and a passion for history and culture was then added to her desire to explore the natural world. She has since lived in Los Angeles, New York, Rome, and Seattle where she joins Southern Explorations with over ten years of travel industry experience, having arranged international group travel and remote, expedition-style trips before specializing in Antarctica Expeditions. Deanna’s extensive travels have taken her throughout much of Europe, as well as to Turkey, Kenya, Tanzania, India, the Maldives, Peru, mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Argentina and of course, Antarctica -- hiking, kayaking, ice-climbing and paragliding along the way.
 



Juan 

Peru Operations

Juan is our operations specialist for Peru and is based in Lima, Peru. He speaks Spanish, English and Hebrew fluently. A graduate in engineering and a trained zoologist, Juan is a remarkable source of information about Peru's history, culture and ecology. His knowledge and enthusiasm are always appreciated by our travelers.
Ecuador Operations
 


Fernanada

Ecuador Operations
Fernanda is our logistical specialist for Ecuador and is based in Quito, Ecuador. She graduated from the University of Quito with a major in Tourism and Marketing. Knowledgeable in all areas of Ecuador, Fernanda meets all of our guests when they arrive and ensures that their entire trip in her country is seamless. Fernanda manages all of our Ecuadorian guides, hotels and reservations.


Carolina

Ecuador Operations

Carolina’s passion for travel and cross-cultural communication developed during the year she spent in Vermont as an exchange student in high school. After becoming fluent in English and learning about North American culture, she entered the tourism industry on her return to Ecuador. Carolina has since built a 15-year career in the field, making her uniquely equipped to help travelers plan once-in-a-lifetime experiences in Ecuador. Her favorite place on earth is the Ecuadorian Amazon.


Sully

Galapagos Operations


Born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, Sully is very knowledgeable about the culture and history of her country. These interests drove her to obtain a degree in tourism with a specialization in Hotel and Business Administration at Quito’s Universidad de Especialidades Turisticas. She currently manages our Galapagos and Ecuador hotel reservations, keeping us updated daily on ever changing Galapagos cruise availabilities. In handling these complex logistics, she has established excellent relationships with the many Galapagos cruise operators.


Mauricio

Costa Rica Operations

Born and raised in Costa Rica, “Mau”—as he’s known to his friends—entered the travel industry in the early 90s by starting an incoming travel company. His work has taken him throughout the world, from Jordan to Japan, China to India and Egypt, as well as to many countries in Europe and Latin America. As a Costa Rica travel expert, Mau provides our clients an authentic experience of his country, showcasing its beauty and its people, and sharing his love of travel, gastronomy, wine and culture.

 


Laura

Argentina Operations

Laura is our master logistics coordinator for Argentina and the Argentine Patagonia region. With a degree in Tourism from Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires, she has been working in the tourism industry for over fifteen years. She has a great eye for quality and detail, making sure that nothing is overlooked for Southern Explorations passengers. Laura speaks fluent Spanish, English, Italian and some French. She travels frequently in Argentina looking for new great hotels, keeping in contact with our guides and seeking to discover the next great destination in Argentina.
 



Renata

Brazil Operations

Renata was born and raised in São Paulo, the business and finance capital of Brazil. She studied International Business and earned her postgraduate degree in Business Administration at Fundação Getulio Vargas, one of São Paulo’s most respected universities. Upon graduation, Renata traveled extensively throughout the United States, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia, spending significant time in countries where she could perfect her English and German. Upon returning to Brazil, Renata followed a lifelong passion for nature and outdoor activities by settling in Florianopolis on the island paradise of Santa Catarina off the southern coast. Here she has developed a career as a tour planner for visitors from around the globe, showcasing the island's unique attractions. Extremely knowledgeable about all Santa Catarina has to offer, Renata specializes in eco-tourism. When not working, Renata can most likely be found on a nature hike, mountain biking, or discovering a new waterfall or other natural wonder to show future visitors.