10 minutes with Merel
Merel is one of the most interesting , adventurous and just plain happy individuals you are ever going to meet. Her background is in biology, Dr Merel Dalebout to be precise, her PhD is in the field of evolution and ecology (specialising in whale biology) along with a host of other qualifications. But in the last 8 years or so she has diversified into wilderness guiding. Her love for outdoors and subsequent wilderness guiding has brought her to us and we feel very fortunate.
Her qualifications extend to search and rescue (we won’t be needing that one), canyoning, rock climbing and nature interpretation among other things. She can frequently be found out looking for whales and other wildlife in exotic locations around the world for research, and as part of her other work as expedition team and specialist lecturer on small cruise ships.
In addition to guiding on the Larapinta, the Blue Mountains, the Kimberley and various other Australian walking destinations, Merel has guided trips all over the world; including Madagascar, Tibet, and Ethiopia — the list is endless so I won’t go on, but for Stroll walkers that travel overseas regularly, get ready to meet one of your own.
She is currently based in Alice Springs and will be guiding our Red Centre trips, along with other key trips in areas she is familiar with.
Q. How did you become a guide and end up working for Stroll?
I always have loved nature and the outdoors. While I very much enjoyed my years working as a more traditional university-based research biologist, it involved far too much office and lab time. I felt like I was missing out on what I truly loved. I also realised that one of my true passions lies in reconnecting people with nature (myself included!), something our increasingly urbanized world makes us ever more distant from. And what better way than to do this than through walking! So I began to volunteer with the National Parks Discovery Program (Kuringai Chase National Park, NSW) and then re-trained as a wilderness guide in order to do more of what I love. Any excuse to get outside and be in nature!
While working as a guide for other companies on the Larapinta Trail, I had seen the Stroll walkers rambling about and wondered who they were. They always seemed to be having such a good time! With a little investigation I found out what a wonderful group of like-minded people they are and here I am!
Q. What is your earliest memory of walking in nature?
Over several summer holidays, my parents allowed me to go off to something like a school holiday scout camp for a few weeks. It was so much fun being outside with rope courses, camping out and lots of walking! It really inspired me!
Q. What do you think it is that attracts people to want to walk in nature?
The beauty of the landscape and the deep sense of peace and well-being you get when you walk in nature. After a while all your worries just fall away. I am never happier than when I am out walking.
Q. What is one of your favourite walking destinations?
Definitely Central Australia! I moved to Alice Springs about a year ago in order to work as a guide on the Larapinta Trail but there is so much more than this in the Red Centre. Beautiful walking around Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Wattarka, and the East MacDonnell Ranges too (the Larapinta is the West MacDonnells). The scenery is just incredible! Some great birds too!
Q. What if anything is still on your bucket list?
I try to make the most of every single day no matter where I am. I think your enjoyment of any experience is often about how you choose to perceive a place. So almost anywhere I am, I end up having a wonderful time! I consider myself extremely lucky with all the opportunities for travel and walking that I get through my work. There are so many places I would still like to go. We live on such an amazing planet! Right now, in Australia, I would say Southwest WA for the incredible plants, and, internationally, Alaska and Kamchatka Peninsula for the wildlife — are probably top of my ‘bucket list’. Ultimately though, I tend to go where life’s opportunities take me……and enjoy every minute of it!