In 2019, we were thrilled and proud to hear that one of our very own guides – Coti Mainero at Awasi Iguazu – had won Guide of the Year in Hideaway Report’s prestigious Hospitality Awards. Congratulations Coti! The award is a brilliant achievement and a testament to the hard work put in not only by Coti but by all our guides and staff at Awasi Patagonia, Atacama and Iguazu.
Later in 2019, Coti decided to move from the rainforests of Iguazu to Awasi Atacama to continue developing her extensive knowledge and expand her horizons. A year on from her prestigious award, we catch up with Coti in the world’s driest desert to see how she is getting on.
A year ago you won “Guide of the Year” for the Hideaway Report – congratulations! How did you feel when that was announced?
Well, I was surprised, I didn’t expect it at all! Especially because the person who was sent to visit us was acting like a regular guest. At first I was not sure if he was happy with my work, because he searched on Google all the information I gave him and took so many notes – it was weird!
But having said that, I also, of course, felt very happy to see that all my effort all these years had paid off.
What first drew you to Misiones and Iguazú?
Little by little some members of my family started to moved to Iguazú – I was actually the last one to join them. I used to go on holidays there every year (with coming back to Buenos Aires becoming harder every time). So, I finished school and I decided to move; I was 19 years old at that time. I didn´t want to study Tourism in a classroom whilst living in the middle of a big city – I wanted to be right out there, where things happen.
I felt captivated by the rainforest from the first time I visited. The simplicity of life in Misiones made me a different person.
How did you come to be a guide for Awasi there?
After almost 6 years working as a guide on tailor made tours for several travel companies in Iguazú, one day I received a phone call from Paula (Bertotto, Head of Excursions at Awasi Iguazu). She told me about the hotel and asked me if I wanted to send my resumé because she thought I would fit the profile they were looking for. Awasi is so highly regarded, I couldn’t believe it!
I met Paula when I was around 17 years old. It was on one on my trips to the falls, she was my guide (she didn´t know I loved her job and I wanted to be like her when I grew up) so I said yes immediately!
What was life like in Iguazu working for Awasi – what are your impressions of the region, and the hotel?
It was a real challenge! I had to develop new skills as a guide: driving a 4wd, kayaking, preparing meals for guests outdoors, etc. A regular guide doesn´t have to do all this stuff. And that is why I love it.
As I always say, Awasi came to Iguazú to show that a different level of service can be achieved. Luxurious tourism has developed so much, and Awasi was at the forefront of this in the region.
What was your most memorable experience working as a guide at Awasi Iguazu?
I have lots! I met incredible people at Awasi. I could tell you hundreds of funny moments. But, watching a jaguar in the rainforest is first place on my list.
Jaguars are highly endangered, and it is really hard to spot them in the forest. And after 10 years of living and working in the rainforest, it really was an unforgettable moment.
Almost a year ago, you decided to transfer to Awasi Atacama – how did the move go, and what made you decide to move from the rainforest to the desert?
As a student I always heard about the Atacama desert. I had seen some documentaries about the brightest nights in the world there. So I thought it could be the next challenge in my career. Awasi gave me the opportunity, so here I am!
But if I tell you the truth, I really don’t know what I was expecting when I decided to move. When you think about a desert you have a different image about how Atacama could look like. I tell that to all my guests when I first meet them; forget about all the deserts you have been to. We have snowy volcanoes in summer. This is different!
How do the two places compare? What are the most striking differences? What are the biggest similarities?
They are exactly the opposite, and I use that comparison in my tours. For example, in the rainforest the plants try to develop strategies to catch as much sunlight as possible, so plants can grow over other plants, or they have huge leaves. In the desert, they hide! The leaves in the desert are small and thick, as they try not to lose any moisture. Or they develop thorns, like the cactus do.
In terms of similarities, the ancient cultures are still alive in both places. Guaranies and Likanantai people give us their knowledge, and their way to live with nature and their environment. We just have to listen up.
What’s your favourite thing about working for Awasi?
What I like most is the possibility to listen to what our guests want and use all my experience to recommend what it is best for them. That raises the likelihood of success to 100%!
Also, I love how I can be myself as a guide. Being spontaneous is part of the game.
If you could give one tip to a guest coming to Awasi Atacama, what would it be?
Bring sun protection and warm clothes even if you come during summer. And don’t forget your curiosity and the capacity to be surprised.
Do you think you’ll ever move to Patagonia to complete the “full house” of Awasi experiences?
Of course! I would love to. Is this an invitation?!
If you weren’t an Awasi guide, what would you be?
Ooooohhh this is a difficult question. I think I would still look for something different, a challenge, always being surrounded by nature. In fact, this is what I have always done, and this is where it has brought me.