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Conversations with our Travel Specialists

At OROKO, our Travel Specialists are more than just well-versed in the industry – they are also bona fide travel enthusiasts. There’s nothing our Travel Specialists love more than venturing to uncharted territories and immersing themselves in unique cultural experiences. This passion fuels their commitment to delivering the best personal service to our clients, ensuring that every aspect of their journey is meticulously planned and executed to perfection.

For OROKO Travel Specialist, Iain Gallagher, travel is all about the people he meets and the insights they share about the heart of their countries. His passion for wildlife and the great outdoors has also greatly influenced his travels and led him to extraordinary destinations like Madagascar, Guyana and Antarctica. Whether birds, primates or reptiles, he has always been fascinated by it all since a young age. With an impressive count of approximately 50 countries explored, a stand-out moment for Iain was gorilla trekking in Uganda. After several hours spent navigating the forest, the reward of seeing a family of Eastern Highland Gorillas was nothing short of a David Attenborough moment.

Bisate Gorilla

“Literally being so close that the black back brushed against my leg as she walked by exceeded my wildest imagination and expectations of what the experience would be like. A worthy reward for five hours bushwhacking through steep terrain and thick mud.”

Iain’s travel destinations are not solely driven by his admiration for wildlife; they are also shaped by his love for sports. An avid skier with a competitive background in alpine skiing, he spent several years immersed in the ski industry during his university days.

“Heading to Japan in winter to ski, searching for what’s affectionately known as ‘Japow’ – the deepest snow in the world was epic. Though the powder wasn’t there that season, the combination of skiing and Japanese culture was great. The Japanese beers and ramen seamlessly seemed to replace the fondue and wine that Europe offers. I skied in Furano and Niseko before heading south from Hokkaido down to Tokyo. Tokyo offers so much that I felt I could’ve spent two weeks in the metropolis and still be looking to do more. Kyoto then was my favourite city – picturesque and with so many cultural sites.”

Additionally, rugby is a sport that Iain is deeply passionate about and has led him on some exciting trips, with hopes of many more to come. In fact, his love for rugby was the driving force behind his decision to travel in Africa for six months to coach youth rugby.

“Travelling overland in Africa for six months with Bhubesi Pride Foundation across nine countries and coaching rugby to children in rural communities was an incredible experience. It was amazing to coach the kids and witness how they united from various communities and schools to play sports together.”

This period in Africa, aside from coaching, allowed Iain to experience incredible opportunities including skydiving over the Namib Desert, rafting the White Nile in Jinja Uganda, and bungee jumping off Bloukrans bridge along the garden route in South Africa.

What has been one of the more ‘off-the-beaten-path’ destinations you have visited?

“Guyana was easily the most wild and remote country I have visited. Two weeks in Guyana in the depths of the Amazon rainforest was very wild. Travelling through the country in tiny aircraft and landing in remote jungle airstrips is the only logistically feasible way around. The scale of the jungle really hits you in the sky with nothing to see but lush green landscape from the air and the occasional gold mining track.”

One of the most memorable experiences was witnessing the Kaieteur Falls, the largest single-drop waterfall, in all its glory. “Seeing bizarre animals such as giant river otters, plumed basilisks (the Jesus lizard that can run on water), giant anteaters, tapirs and harpy eagle certainly made the countless mosquito bites and chigger bites worthwhile. A mix of beautiful scrubland, white sand forest and pristine rainforest makes Guyana a wildlife lovers paradise which often flies under the radar.”

Aside from gorilla trekking in Uganda, any other unique wildlife experiences?

“A trip to Madagascar showcased some of the most incredible wildlife I have ever experienced. From the lemurs to the chameleons to the birds, Madagascar has some of the most unique wildlife of anywhere in the world due to its remote location. Masoala National Park, Perinet Mantadia National Park, and Ranomafana National Park were some of the highlights for me as there was so much to see in these dense jungles.

I also got to experience an incredible two-week trip travelling from Ushuaia around the Antarctic Peninsula while also visiting the charming Falkland Islands and South Georgia. What was truly amazing was how close the penguins, fur seals and huge elephant seals would get to you. Having penguins pecking at your shoelaces is awesome. Whales, seas birds, icebergs and stunning views kept us all amazed while navigating through the beautiful landscape.”

Immerse yourself in the boundless natural beauty of the Seychelles

Favourite beach destination?

“I have never seen beaches as unique as in the Seychelles. Two weeks there visiting Praline, La Digue and Mahe was a dream.  Kind locals and a strong Creole culture keeps the Seychelles feeling warm and welcoming. As a beach destination, it is hard to look past the Seychelles which can both offer lots of activities or offer itself as the ultimate R&R location.”

You are one of the OROKO South and Central America Experts – can you tell us more about your experience in these regions?

“Spending eight days in Cuba was a complete cultural immersion. Cigars, Rum and incredible music are what you can expect each day.

Mexico seemed to open us with open arms with Mexico City proving to be one of my favourite cities with its incredible food, kind people, and incredibly fun cultural activities like going to see the Lucho libre. Travelling down through Mexico was brilliant, enjoying the regional specialities such as Mole Poblano in Puebla and Tlayudas in Oaxaca. The Mexican coastline in Tulum was fantastic to explore Aztec ruins and enjoy dipping in the cenotes. Travelling further south to Caye Caulker in Belize gave us a few days of pure Island beachside bliss, with incredible wildlife to see snorkelling and a real Caribbean feel.

The ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) caves near San Ignacio are potentially the most incredible travel experience I have had. After two hours of caving and squeezing through tiny gaps with flowing water to reach the dry chamber of the caves, we arrived at an ancient Mayan site. First, you see ancient pottery and soon after in these beautiful caves with stalactites and ‘mites, you start to see skeletons which were sacrifices to the gods close to 2000 years ago. The highlight then is the Crystal Maiden which is a skeleton that has had water dripping over it for over a thousand years and has crystalised the skeleton of the sacrificed child.

Flores in northern Guatemala is set on a beautiful island in a lake. Swimming in the lake and taking in Guatemalan culture was fantastic. Going to Tikal then to see more incredible Aztec ruins was spectacular and was only made better by the litany of tropical birds brining colour and life to the jungle site.”

Next bucket list destination?

“This changes every week nearly! Travelling Central Asia or the ‘Stans’ overland to Mongolia has been on my mind for many years now but I think a South America trip to Brazil and Argentina might be a more feasible trip at this time. For a closer-to-home adventure, I would love to ski tour along the fjords in Norway in Spring.”

What’s your favourite thing about being an OROKO Travel Specialist?

“I love being able to develop a strong relationship with our clients and really getting to know what they want from a holiday. There is no better feeling than creating the perfect itinerary that brings families and friends together to share magical experiences that will be remembered for years to come.”


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