Richard Leonardi

Latin America expert

Raised between Chicago, New York, Denver, Boston and Los Angeles, Richard has travel in his DNA. After exploring much of the US and Western Europe his passion for South American literature led Richard to Latin America, shooting documentary stills across the region and exploring on foot, car and boat 12 countries in Central and South America.

Richard's love for the region gave him the impetuous to stay on in Nicaragua, an ideal base to continue exploring Latin America. Between trips in the region he worked as a photojournalist and founded the country's first adventure tour operator, guided adventure trips, authored guidebooks, documentary photobooks and magazine stories, as well as create the private wildlife refuge Lost Canyon Nature Reserve.

Wishing to share his passion for Central and South America with our travellers, he joined our team at Wild Frontiers, impressed with our company’s long tradition and dedication to authentic experiences and off path travel. Richard’s work for Wild Frontiers travelers has led him to be recognized by magazines Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure as a top travel specialist for Latin America.

BEST TRAVEL MOMENTS

Favourite city

Cuenca, Ecuador / many Spanish colonial cities have more beauty, but also more attempts to please foreigners. Cuenca has a perfect climate and an inherent tranquility that verges on spiritual.

Favourite country

 Nicaragua / unruly and unabashed, Nicaraguans wear their life on their sleeves. The landscapes are sensual, food subtle and laughter sincere.

Favourite meal

Hen soup / if eating a massive steamy bowl in the tropics seems counterintuitive, you need to think less and eat more. Sopa de gallina throws yucca, quiquisque, carrots, potatoes, baby corn and sweet pepper in with a free-range hen and then adds “meatballs” made from ground white corn, hen breast and garlic. This floating farmer’s market is bathed in a bitter orange, fresh mint and cilantro broth that will make your mouth explode and your body sweat (cooling you off). You see, there was a plan after all.  

Most memorable journey

Steering alone a little skiff up the Rio Orinoco in Venezuela's upper Amazon basin for 36 hours, camping on the river banks in a hammock, including a night of moonless navigation, when my indigenous guide took my only flashlight for his boat and then fell in line behind me.

Favourite travel advice

 If camping where there are Jaguars, save your first urine each morning in a jar to spread around the camp site that night is the best way to assure you are not dinner.

What you should know before travelling to Latin America

 Through you will quickly learn this once in Latin America; one should be prepared to eat fresh, share your life with total strangers and not look for logic where it could not possibility exist.  

Best thing to pack before travelling to Latin America

Laughter and a child’s curiosity

Next on your must-see list

The horned fortress of Waqrapukara in Peru, a mysterious Inca citadel perched above a deep canyon that is so seldom visited, one can still camp right next to the site, for now

Richard's Trip Suggestions