Founder Justin Laycob: Black Canyon of the Cubatáo River, Brazil

Founder Justin Laycob: Black Canyon of the Cubatão River, Brazil


National Geographic Adventure Magazine - Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth 2009



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World Wide Explorations, Inc.
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Southern Explorations Travel Style

Southern Explorations is dedicated to providing high quality travel experiences that preserve the fragile lands we visit. By working closely with our customers, we are able to design unique vacations that match their interests and schedule. In addition to customized private tours, our specialty, we also offer pre-set departures to a wide range of South and Central American destinations.
For the most part, our customers are active independent vacationers, unaccustomed to the "guided tour." They seek not just adventure from their travels but a new world view. We therefore strive to provide as authentic an experience as possible with an in-country coordinated and guided trip rather than sending a Western tour guide to oversee their stay. We keep our groups small and assemble itineraries from an eclectic mix of places and activities, some on, but many off, the beaten tourist path. Because we are a small company, we can offer the utmost in personal attention to ensure that each trip precisely suits the needs and interests of our customers in an area of the world we know well. We have built our reputation for quality and customer satisfaction by adhering to the following practices:

Our staff
We employ a staff of knowledgeable travel professionals at our Seattle headquarters and have long-standing contractual relationships with our logistical specialists in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Panama and Peru who help develop and coordinate our tours. All have traveled extensively or lived and worked in our destination countries and share a common business philosophy and environmental ethic.
Group Size
We limit the size of our tour groups to eight travelers, except on Galapagos Island cruises and tours where yacht capacity determines occupancy and on the Inca Trail where twelve travelers is the maximum. This policy offers several benefits. It minimizes our environmental impact, allows us to travel to areas less visited and makes the sightseeing experience more personal. It allows our guides sufficient time to attend to the individual needs of each visitor. Traveling in small groups also increases the likelihood of encountering wildlife in areas such as the Amazon.
We thoroughly research each destination before including it in a trip. Through our knowledgeable staff, we have established strong business relationships in all of the areas we visit which make for unique itineraries of ecological and cultural significance for our travelers and to while providing for their utmost safety and security. We augment our planned trips with an extensive list of optional tour extensions, ranging from a few hours to a few days, to enable our passengers to pursue their interests in greater depth.
We personally inspect the rooms and amenities of all potential hotels and lodges in each tour location and select only those that meet our rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort, convenient location, safety, customer service and ambiance. We give the same scrutiny to the safety and quality of the yacht services we contract with to conduct our cruises. We support lodges and hotels that employ sustainability practices and are owned and operated locally.
We contract with guides who are native to the destination and are licensed and/or certified in accordance with the government regulations of their country. All are fluent in Spanish and English and some also speak the indigenous language of the region. Many are medically trained and some have received additional wilderness medical training in the United States or other locations. To ensure the safety of our travelers, our guides are linked with outside services 24 hours a day in most locations to provide assistance when necessary. Ours is a team of knowledgeable and congenial guides whose priceless insights into the true nature of their homelands add immeasurably to the enjoyment of the trip.
Local Travel Services & Regional Guides
To provide passengers the most authentic experience possible, we contract with local travel services in the countries we visit. Central to this goal is our policy of hiring regional guides instead of assigning the same guide or a western tour leader to accompany passengers for the duration of the trip. This ensures that our passengers are always in the hands of knowledgeable guides who know their destinations intimately.
Sustainable Tourism Practices
Our company and all those who represent us abroad practice environmental stewardship based on the Leave No Trace philosophy. We travel in established National Parks and conservation areas, leaving only footprints and taking only photographs. We select camping locations with the most benign sanitary systems, pack in gear and foods with the least waste feasible and properly dispose of all rubbish. We design all of our trips to minimize travel times and take full advantage of local hikes and walking routes. In this way, we decrease reliance on motor transportation, and enable our clients to become more intimate with places they travel. We donate to organizations dedicated to the conservation of the ecosystems in which we operate to carbon-offset the use of natural resources that our trips cause. Because we believe sustainability applies to economic and social well-being in addition to environmental health, we make sure our tours directly benefit the locations to which our clients travel. We support local organizations, non-profits, and schools to improve the quality of life in the areas through which we travel. We employ native guides, porters, and logistical members of our staff, as well as supporting locally owned and operated hotels, lodges and restaurants. We also ensure fair wages for all with whom we work and contract. This commitment has created enduring relationships with members of our international team and greatly added to our clients' experiences abroad.
Home Office Practices
At our Seattle headquarters, we employ best environmental practices in our daily work. Our energy-efficient office is purposely located within walking distance to all of our major needs to minimize trips by car during our workday. We encourage our employees to use alternative forms of transportation, and some bike or walk to work daily. We have made efforts beyond simply using recycled paper products by making our company nearly all web and computer-based. We mail only the essentials to our clients, communicating predominately by waste-free email and phone. Additionally, we email newsletters and rely on our website to notify travelers of updates instead of mailing brochures that are paper intensive.
Memberships and Financial Contributions
Through memberships and donations, we support the efforts of local, national and international organizations working in South America to preserve ecological stability and to better the lives of the people. A portion of all Galapagos travel fees is donated to the islands' conservation projects and environmental scholarships. We are current members of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, the International Ecotourism Society, the Ecuadorian Rivers Institute, the American Whitewater Association, Headwaters Institute, Cascadia Wildlands Project, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, International Rivers,La Pagina en la Puerta, KEXP FM, the Washington Wilderness Coalition and the Adventure Travel Trade Association. We continually seek new ways to actively support sustainable tourism.

Founder / Director

Justin Laycob
Justin Laycob - Founder Southern Explorations President and Founder, Justin Laycob, 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. He graduated from the University of Oregon, with a double major in Environmental Science and Planning, Public Policy and Management. Justin began his career in the adventure travel industry in 1998 and learned the business by guiding for various adventure travel companies in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru. Using his years of experience, Justin then developed his own company to offer first-class Latin American experiences for travelers by assembling the team of like-minded professionals who now comprise Southern Explorations. Under his leadership, Southern Explorations 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 to explore 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.

Director of Operations & Sales

Jonathan Borgida
Jon Borgida - Director of Operations As Operations Manager, Jonathan is the logistical master and backbone of Southern Explorations. He gained his expertise from seven years of overseeing multifaceted outdoor operations for the youth motivation wilderness program, Outward Bound after receiving a degree in planning from the University of Oregon. This experience is one of the reasons that every detail of each Southern Explorations adventure is meticulously coordinated. When Jonathan isn't arranging trips for people from all over the world by phone or email, he is traveling to South and Central America inspecting hotels, meeting with the guides, and visiting Galapagos cruises. Everyone who works with Jonathan appreciates his in-depth knowledge of our destinations and his efficiency in responding to requests for complex itineraries. He works very closely with each passenger and group to make sure that every question is answered and that trip plans meet all of their expectations His sense of humor, and passion for the outdoors make him a pleasure to work with.

Galapagos / Antarctica Sales & Operations

Marisa Soprano
Marisa Soprano - 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.

Galapagos Sales & Operations

Carrie Beck
Carrie Beck - Galapagos Sales & Operations During her childhood on a farm in Vermont, Carrie developed a true appreciation of the outdoors that is evident today in her love of hiking, snowboarding, and horseback riding. Always eager to explore the world beyond her home state, she solidified her passion for travel on a month-long trip to New Zealand at the age of 16. While attending Whitman College, Carrie studied abroad in France and, after graduation, spent a winter instructing snowboarding in Colorado followed by a year teaching English in Japan. She joined Southern Explorations with previous travel industry experience working for an operator of worldwide walking tours. Carrie is always eager to share her enthusiasm for travel with Southern Explorations’ passengers by helping them choose their perfect trip.

Galapagos Sales & Operations

Angie Coyne
Angie Coyne – Galapagos Sales and Operations As a native of Vermont, Angie has always enjoyed outdoor adventure and exploration beyond her rural home town. During a university year abroad in Italy, the travel bug took its hold and Angie spent the following years traveling throughout China, SE Asia, India, Europe and South and Central America. For 4 years, Angie ran a boutique hotel in Costa Rica where she gained a true understanding of tourism and adventure travel in Latin America. Her insight is sure to help Southern Explorations’ travelers plan an amazing trip! At home, Angie loves cooking, eating, music, gardening and hiking with her jungle dogs who made the trip home with her from Costa Rica.

Galapagos Sales & Operations

Lisa Malmgren
Lisa Malmgren - Galapagos Sales & Operations Raised in rural western New York, Lisa spent her childhood backyard hiking, creek crossing, pond swimming and reading about worlds beyond the Enchanted Mountains. A semester in Switzerland while at St. Bonaventure University confirmed her love for outdoor adventure and world travel. After graduating with a degree in journalism and mass communication, Lisa journeyed to Costa Rica to earn her TEFL Certification; here, she got her first real taste of Latin American culture while living with a host family in San Jose. She spent the following year teaching English in Slovakia and traveling throughout Eastern Europe. These days, Lisa lives in Vermont. She spends her time hiking wherever she can and secretly nursing a minor addiction for Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series.

Sales, Operations & Special Projects

Eric Bartanen
Eric Bartanen - Sales, Operations & Special Projects A Washington native, Eric graduated from Seattle University with double majors 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
Angelita Muro - Operations 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
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.

Computer & Technical Support

Brad Murray
Brad Murray - Computer systems and technical support At Southern Explorations, we're specialists in adventure travel, not computers. When we have problems with our systems, we turn to Brad. We appreciate that he is always looking for new ways to make the information exchange between the office and our passengers easier and more effective.

Web Site Design & Development

HT Mellon
HT Mellon - Web Site Development & Graphics designer HT is Southern Explorations' web master. He holds a Master of the Arts degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and has years of experience as an instructor, guide and participant in various outdoor pursuits including -alpine skiing, kayaking, mountain bicycling In his free time, he travels the world and composes electronic music.
HT says "Let the lifetime of a Holiday begin!"

Content Development

Sandy Lorentzen
Sandy Lorentzen - Content Development Sandy Lorentzen writes content for our website. She has a degree in communications from the University of Washington and has held positions with companies involved in tourism including two international arts festivals and a destination ski resort development. She is co-editor of a traveler's guide to where famous people are buried to be published by Darwin Press, Princeton.


Juan - Peru Operations
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.


Maria - Ecuador Operations
Maria - 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.


María - Galapagos Operations
María - Galapagos Operations A friendly and resourceful Quito, Ecuador Native, Maria is currently studying Tourism Management in Quito at Universidad Tecnológica Equinoccial. She has been working in Ecuador and Galapagos operations for more than 3 years gaining valuable experience in managing passenger services. She also keeps us updated daily on the ever changing Galapagos cruise availability. She is easy going and has established excellent relationships with the many Galapagos cruise operators. In her free time she likes to travel and discover Ecuador’s history and culture.

Costa Rica

Andrea - Costa Rica Operations
Andrea - Costa Rica Operations Andrea is our operations specialist for Costa Rica and is based in San Jose, Costa Rica. She is an expert in finding new and undiscovered destinations in the region. She ensures that our passengers in Costa Rica enjoy their travels to the fullest and that everything runs smoothly. Andrea plays an intricate role in the planning of new itineraries in Costa Rica. She loves adventure travel and always has a friendly greeting for our passengers upon their arrival in Costa Rica.


Alec - Patagonia Operations
Alec - Patagonia Operations Alec handles operations for our Chile Patagonia trips and is our top guide in Chilean Patagonia. He is based in Puerto Natales, Chile. Having worked in the international tourism business in Chile since 1995, he is an in invaluable resource in developing and conducting our tours there. He spends much of his time researching new ideas for itineraries. He speaks Spanish and English fluently. Alec's thorough knowledge of the area and its history is always appreciated by our travelers. He has an infectious enthusiasm for the Patagonia's people, its landscape, and bird life. Alec is master of logistics and organizes our guides, hotels and reservations flawlessly even at the busiest of times.


Laura - Argentina Operations
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.


Yesenia - Panama Operations
Yesenia - Panama Operations Yesenia leads our Panama operations department. She coordinates guides, logistics, and the important details of our Panama tours and is also a natural guide herself. She has advanced training in Ecological Tourism and is one of our specialists in Panamanian history and the large variety of flora and fauna that Panama has to offer. Fluent in English and Spanish, she has also been certified by NAI (National Association of Interpretation). This young adventurous woman enjoys biking and hiking activities.


Renata - Brazil Operations
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.


The International Ecotourism Society Leave No Trace American Whitewater Ecuadoran Rivers Institute Adventure Travel Trade Association KEXP 90.3FM Seattle International Galapagos Tour Operators Association Washington Wilderness Coalition Headwaters Institute La Pagina en la Puerta (The Page in the Door) Cascadia Wildlands Project
International Rivers
National Geographic Adventure Magazine - Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth 2009 National Geographic Traveler -  Tours of a Lifetime 2011 World Wildlife Fund - 50 years of environmental conservation