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Maila Gurung

Guide at a Glance

  • Locations

    Nepal

  • Activities

    Adventure, Kayaking, Rafting

  • Guiding Experience

    17 years

  • Languages

    English, Hindi, Nepalese

  • Awards

    3 times Himalayan Whitewater Championships winner

  • Favorite Trip

    Sun Kosi

Guide Bio

Get to Know Adventure Guide Maila Gurung

From September to December, Maila Gurung epitomizes what it means to be an Energizer Bunny: he’s on the go, building camps alongside Nepal’s staggeringly beautiful rivers, kayaking, cooking, and tending to the never-ending list of other bits and bobs one tends to on kayaking expeditions to make them tick, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Maila, an adventure-guiding-veteran, knows all there is to know about whitewater, Nepal, and the art of, well, living life to the fullest. Read on to learn how this Kayaking-genius became one of the world’s best adventure guides.

Maila GurungThank you for taking the time to chat with us about your awesome lifestyle, Maila. From your profile, I see you have been in the guiding industry for almost two decades. First, wow, that’s impressive, and second, would you mind detailing how you got interested in being a tour guide?

I grew up alongside the Trisuli river, which is the most popular river in Nepal for rafting. I would go down there every day after school to help the raft guides pack up the gear, do the washing up, anything really to make myself useful. I was desperate to start working as a guide myself; it seemed like so much fun riding the rapids and meeting people from all over the world. When I was about 10 years old, one of the guides put me in a kayak to see how I did, and all the rest is history. I’m fortunate I found my calling from such a young age.

Having worked in Nepal, India, England, and Switzerland, there’s no doubt you’re quite the explorer. Of all these places, which has been your favorite, and why? 

Am I allowed to say Nepal? I know it is my home country, so, for the sake of skirting the issue of bias, I should probably pick one of the other countries, but if I’m perfectly honest, Nepal is my favorite place. There are so many incredible spots to explore here, and there is so much history and culture. To top it off, the people are so friendly, it’s relatively easy and cheap to travel around, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy, be it exploring the expansive, open land via horseback, the rivers by boat, or the charming homesteads by foot.

What draws you to being an adventure guide in different countries?  

I went to India to work for 7 years when I was young, and while I was there I gained  invaluable experiences. With that, I caught the travel bug, and since my work is seasonal (our busiest time is in the Fall), I have the rest of the year to explore. Currently, I’m in the States trying my hand at skiing for the first time! From a professional point of view, however, it’s also good to travel to see how things are done in other countries. The best guides are those who have many skills and unlimited knowledge, and traveling the world will give those to you.

In working for GRG’s Adventure Kayaking, what has been the biggest highlight?

I always dreamt of running my own company, but never dreamed we would be so successful. A highlight for me has been having the World Class Kayak Academy paddle with us for three months. We ran their entire program, and it was the most incredible experience. We love running big groups like that; the more, the merrier.

Other highlights include the look on people’s faces when you take them rafting for the first time, and that we get to camp under the stars for most of the season. Perhaps the biggest highlight is that first cold beer upon returning from a long trip down the river!

I’ve always been fascinated by Nepal, but I have yet to travel there (it’s on the bucket list!). What are your top three things about the country?

  1. The weather: I love hot climates, so Nepal is perfect.
  2. The Sports: Nepal is quickly becoming the most popular place in Asia for adventure sports, be it whitewater rafting, kayaking, trekking, paragliding, canyoning, mountain biking, you name it.
  3. The festivals: Nepal is predominantly a Hindu country, so we celebrate some really colorful festivals. If you can time your holiday during either the Tihar, Dashain, or Holi festival, you’re in for a real treat.

On your “Tamur River Expedition,” you not only trek through remote villages with incredible view of the Himalayas for three days, followed by a seven-day paddle down the mighty Tamur where you’ll camp under the stars on white-sand beaches, you’ll also get the chance to observe local wildlife, and, wait for it…track tiger footprints! Have you ever come across a wild tiger, and, if so, what was the experience like?

I saw a tiger once when driving back from an expedition with the Indian Army. It was around 8pm in a very remote area, and as soon as he saw us he ran down the cliff. Even though I was inside the car I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my body. I have also woken up to footprints surrounding my shelter when kayaking in Nepal. When we know we are in Tiger territory, we tend to light several fires around our camp to make it look like we are a bigger group; tigers don’t often come down when they see too much action.

What are some tips you have for visitors to Nepal? Are there certain customs travelers should pay particular attention to?

There are many customs and cultures in Nepal to be aware of. In fact, I recently wrote a blog article about this very topic. It’s called Cultural Do’s and Dont’s when traveling to Nepal.” To be honest though, as long as you are friendly and polite, people won’t mind if you make a mistake.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

A typical work day? I don’t think I’ve ever had a typical work day! A standard day on the river would be to wake up at 6AM, get breakfast ready for the clients, make sure there is hot water ready for tea, coffee etc., have the raft loaded by 10 in the morning, and then set off down the river. We kayak and/or raft until 1PM, at which point we stop on the riverbank for lunch. After an hour or so, we’re back on the river, and we paddle until around 5PM. Once we get off the river, we set up camp, set up the kitchen, collect drift wood, start a fire, and start cooking dinner. At 7, we enjoy dinner with our clients, and after, we make sure all the equipment is secure before we sit back and relax around the campfire. Let’s just say that from September to December we work every day non-stop. It’s exhausting, but so worth it, and it never gets old.

What is the best trip you have ever lead?

Probably a trip I lead in Ladakh back in 2009. I travelled from Nepal to Northern India with 8 kayaks, which, in and of itself, was a bit of an expedition. We paddled the Tsarap Chu River, Upper Indus and the Lower Indus within three weeks. It was totally different to any trip I had led before, and it made me a much stronger paddler. The landscape up there is out of this world. We finished the trip by riding Royal Enfield motorcycles on one the highest roads in the world. We’re talking 5000+ meters high!

What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve ever had on a guided tour? Ever had any odd requests from clients?

Once we had a group that were very short on time, but had a lot of money, and I’ll tell you one thing: that’s a killer combination; after all, to fit a 3-day trip into 12 hours, we had to bring in a helicopter. That’s right, to save time spent driving, we helicoptered the group to and from the river! To top it off, they also wanted champagne for breakfast, and they requested very specific foods too.

Since I’m a stranger to your part of the world, I’m curious as to what the cuisine is like. What’s your favorite Nepalese dish?

Our local dish is called Dal Bhat, which is basically steamed rice and lentil soup, served with spinach, a pickle, and a meat or veggie curry. Locals normally have it twice a day. It’s very tasty, what with all the herbs and spices, and the bonus is that it is very good for you.

When it comes to jobs, the bottom line is that no job is perfect. Would you mind sharing some of the downfalls of being a guide in Nepal?

The long hours. In season, we work 24/7, and after, from January to March, there are barely any trips, so that’s when we catch up on rest. We go from all to nothing.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Next on my list is Norway. It’s a place in Europe I have never been, and the whitewater sounds absolutely incredible. I’d like to spend a month or so there in the summer.

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I have been guiding rafting, kayaking, canyoning and trekking expeditions for over 15 years now as well as bespoke packages for clients all over the world. I have worked in Nepal, India, England and Switzerland and kayaked several first descents in India.

I have worked for and with some great names in the industry including the World Class Kayak Academy and the Indian Army.

Guiding on Nepal’s rivers is my whole life and I would love to show you what it’s all about.

Maila Gurung's Reviews

  • bashcroft
    Reply

    Can highly recommend GRG and Maila, really friendly staff and really well run trips. Loads of fun and a very reasonable prices for what you get. If you want to kayak or raft in nepal GRG are defiantly the company to go with.

  • mailagurung
    Reply

    As seen on Trip Advisor: I can guarantee one thing: you will be impressed by GRG. We booked a half day rafting trip with the GRG on the Trishuli and it was one of the highlights of our trip to Nepal. Not only was the trip well organised and terrific fun, but the team were real professionals—from having a strong focus on safety, eco-friendly consciousness, getting food to us on time and taking some great photographs. It was our first time rafting and part of the reason we enjoyed the experience so much was because we felt confident we were in the hands of real professionals—these guys know what they are doing. Needless to say, we are really looking forward to going back to Nepal to book a much longer trip with GRG. I cannot recommend GRG highly enough-if you are in Nepal and look to raft these are your guys-don’t even consider any other company! I must mention the comprehensive and extremely cool Maila Gurung (co-owner of GRG) who really took care of us throughout our trip. Though we got in touch with Maila for a half day trip, we saw or heard from him everyday for the week while we were in Nepal. He helped organise our time and arrange the various stuff that we wanted to do-and we wanted to do a lot. He took us around to a few places, perhaps we wouldn’t have ventured at 11 in the evening in Thamel. Still, for however conscientious he is, Maila was never ever pushy or intrusive. He has mastered the art of balancing the role of being a proactive but also laid-back chilled out guide. And his particular breed of philosophical/politico-speak makes for excellent conversation, too! When we were getting from Trishuli to Pokhara-we were unable to get the tourist bus or a private cab of sorts. So we had to take the local bus back (read: local nightmare on four weary wheels). As we were a party of just two girls, we were so very grateful to Maila for coming all the way to Pokhara with us-on the local bus (he was supposed to head back to Kathmandu). While his horror stories about what happens to local buses may not have been particularly helpful on the ride-his company was a source of much comfort and appreciated very much, indeed. It is a difficult to imagine the co-owner of GRG Adventures to be so generous with his time-but that is what sets the company apart from the others. So trust me, if you are trying to decide between a bigger rafting company or GRG, go with the latter because Maila, Chrissy and the boys really take it on themselves to ensure you are having a good time-in ways which bigger companies rarely are ever able to do so. You are paying a good price for excellent service from outstanding rafters.Eva

  • mailagurung
    Reply

    As seen on Trip Advisor: Nepal can be a chaotic place. The Nepalese really do have a different approach to being organised and getting things done and this can often cause problems for westerners that want to pack their holidays with action. . Fortunately you don’t have to worry because GRG’s know how to navigate this cultural gulf to deliver excellent trips. I was nervous before I went to Nepal. I had heard stories of companies promising lots and then pulling out at the last minute. I also knew from experience how things can be fluid and change fast in Nepal and that promises can be broken. For instance; if I book a boat to hire will it have all the right outfitting or will I be paddling a tub? Will my choice of boat get written off the week before I arrive leaving me without a boat. Will my river guide speak english? we all know how dangerous it can be when communications go wrong on the river! was the guide pointing out the line or the hazard? Thankfully GRG’s put my mind at rest. They communicated well before I travelled and suggested an appropriate itinerary at a sensible price (14 days over Christmas new year 2012). They delivered the exact boat and paddle as promised (Everest and Werner powerhouse), They used excellent guides that could get things sorted on and off the river, they were street and river wise enabling us to cut through the Nepalese habit for procrastination and inertia and get on a river every day according to the itinerary. They know how to run rivers in a number of different styles not just the run and read style that Nepalese kayakers use. We eddy hopped some boulder gardens on the Marsyandi to check the lines were clear making our descent safer, we also inspected many of the harder rapids. I know from experience that these things do not always get delivered in a place like Nepal. But GRG’s have mastered that blend of western and Nepalese organisation. Well done.Joe

  • mailagurung
    Reply

    As seen on TripAdvisor: These guys are not only extremely experienced and professional at what they do, but they are by far the most friendly people you could meet in the country! Which says a lot because i have never met an unfriendly Nepali. when we first flew into Kathmandu and arrived at our accommodation in Thamel, myself and my 2 friends were feeling very overwhelmed by everything, as this was all new to us. As soon as we met Maila that afternoon (he is the owner of GRG), he showed us around thamel and introduced us to many friendly people. We immediately felt like a part of the community and were so excited to get on the river. (our multi-river kayak trip wasn’t due to start for over a week and a bit, so Maila was just showing us around as a friend). He showed us the best restaurants, and places to go out and the best things to do around Kathmandu, and many of these things were free. We decided to join in on a day tour of the Trisuli to get warmed up before our kayak expedition in a weeks time, so we hopped on a bus with Bimal (one of the guides) and joined in on a tour of rafters.(we were in kayaks). Bimal was extremely friendly and we felt very supported with him nearby in a kayak if we ended up swimming. The raft guides were all very friendly and professional as well, and we had a great day going down the river! I have already recommended this company to the paddling communities in Canada, NZ and Australia and i recommend everybody who has a spare day or 2 in Kathmandu to go and see Maila just to meet such a great guy, and get on the river! If you have never been rafting before and are a bit nervous, that is no problem, these guys take great care of you! thanks again for everything guys, can’t wait to get back to Nepal for our next adventure! Dylan

  • N Stevens
    Reply

    Maila and his Team are highly professional, skilled and friendly on and off the river and I won’t consider going with anyone else in Nepal. Maila’s knowledge, skill organisation is second to non and he runs safe, fun and exciting trips. Can’t recommend GRG enough.

  • eamon
    Reply

    After a few kayak trips to Nepal, Maila and GRG are the only guide and outfitter I consider using. Maila’s knowledge of the rivers is extensive and his paddling skills on them is amazing. He runs safe and professional trips but manages to always keep them fun with a relaxed atmosphere. Maila and his crew are as much fun off the river in camp as they are when blasting through the rapids. Maila’s trips have a very authentic feel to them and you always sense you’re seeing the real Nepal in its purest form.

  • Tpage
    Reply

    I have been on many trips with GRG and have had the pleasure of kayaking with Maila and many of his team on many occasions. Both GRG and Maila are very professional in what they do both on and off the water. If you are looking for a guide or company then I can’t recommended GRG and Maila enough.

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