Before he was five Mark's adventurous parents swapped the crowded streets of South London for the sandy beaches of South Australia. By the time he was six he’d been lost in the outback, hauled up Uluru and cruised back to the UK, his first global circumnavigation complete and a thirst for adventure ignited. An equal passion for all things rock n’ roll led to a successful career in the UK Music Industry.
After a Central American adventure which took him from a 6088 metre Andean peak to a 42 metre deep blue hole, he realised the call of the road had become louder than AC/DC’s cannons! So he swapped his Soho desk for a rucksack and began leading adventure tours.
When Mark isn’t tour leading he resides in Laos where he runs The Lone Buffalo Foundation. Based in Phonsavan, Xieng Khouang Province, this community project was set up in 2010 to honour the legacy of an inspirational local man, Manophet. Manophet dedicated his life to improving opportunities for young people in the region and following his sudden death, Mark vowed to continue his good work by setting up a school in Phonsavan offering free English lessons and sport facilities for young people.
Mark joined Wild Frontiers back in 2010 and has led tours through some of the world’s most exciting destinations such as Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Laos and Burma. He's fascinated by the politics and culture of the Middle East and the beautiful but tragic history of SE Asia.
We are delighted to say that Mark was crowned gold in this year's Wanderlust World Guide Awards, confirming what we always knew: he's the best in the biz.
Q: How did you fall into tour leading?
A: Having returned from a year long jaunt through SE Asia, Central and South America I couldn't face the corporate doors of the music biz again. Instead, the words of a sweet Kiwi kayaking guide about having the most 'beautiful office' in the world resonated – and I headed to Egypt, guided a felukka trip down the Nile – and never looked back.
Q: What do you like most about tour leading?
A: The lack of repetition that dominates most 'normal' lives. Every day, every client and every tour is different. It can be the best and the worst job in the world in the same day! Now I'm based in Laos, its amazing to be able share the food, the people and the culture with clients – and introduce them to my Lone Buffalo project!
Q: Where is your favourite part of the world?
A: Depends for what! Iran and the Middle East for fascinating culture and politics, SE Asia for relaxing and New Zealand for an adrenaline rush.
Q: What was your biggest travel highlight?
A: My first glimpse of Machu Picchu from the sun gate as the dawn mist rose.
Q: What’s the craziest request you've ever had from a client?
A: Finding ourselves 10 miles from the Iraqi border at the Babylonian site of Mari in Eastern Syria I was very nervous when a client who had only 5 countries in the world left to visit (including Iraq) asked if I could arrange a taxi to the border for him...
Q: What’s the one thing you couldn't travel without?
A: Coffee and music. Quality mini speakers, 1TB of music, a hand grinder, plunger and vacuum sealed coffee are the first things I pack.
Q: Which famous person would you most like to travel with?
A: I'd love to take a musical journey around the world with the late Joe Strummer. The mentions of places like Havana, Tibet, Jamaica and Nicaragua in the Clash's lyrics inspired me to go out and see the world.
Q: Have you ever made a cultural faux pas?
A: I learnt very quickly not to strip in public in Iranian bathhouses!