Raised between Chicago, New York, Denver, Boston and Los Angeles, Richard has travel in his DNA. After a degree in communications from Pepperdine in Malibu he drove from the coast of Maine to the beaches of southern California through the deep south checking off numerous states he had yet to visit. Then his passion for photography carried him to Europe and work shooting fashion in Paris. On transatlantic flights he read magical realist authors from Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Mexico, which changed his focus to Latin America.
Fascinated by how such a diverse region shared a common vision Richard set out to photograph in black and white series the people of the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. In Nicaragua he stayed on working as a photojournalist until founding the country’s first adventure tour operator, which he grew into the finest high-end travel company in the country offering trips in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
He also found time to contribute to six Central America travel guides and author the first ever European guidebook dedicated to Nicaragua for Footprint in England and worked as a freelance photographer and writer for in-flight magazines and non-profits. He also founded a private nature park called Lost Canyon Nature Reserve in Nicaragua’s central mountain range, dedicated to the protection of an endangered Iguana and used his base in Nicaragua to explore other countries in the region like El Salvador, Jamaica and Peru.
Never to stay put, Richard Leonardi left behind the steamy tropical forests and volcanoes of Nicaragua to live in the chilly alpine forests and lakes of the California Sierra and is our Latin America specialist in our Truckee office, sharing his passionate love and firsthand knowledge of the region with our travelers.
Q: Favourite city:
A: 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.
Q: Favourite country:
A: Nicaragua / unruly and unabashed, Nicaraguans wear their life on their sleeves. The landscapes are sensual, food subtle and laughter sincere.
Q: Favourite meal:
A: Peruvian ceviche, a classic and with reason
Q: Most memorable journey:
A: Steering alone a little skiff up the Rio Orinoco in Venezuela's upper Amazon basin for 36 hours, including moonless night navigation, when my indigenous guide took my only flashlight for his boat and then fell in line behind me.
Q: Favourite travel advice:
A: 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.
Q: Next on must-see list:
A: Galapagos, despite two visits to Ecuador, the Holy Grail of evolution remains on the horizon.