Meet Ambassador Ali Riley: Destined for Adventure

This month we continue our Ambassador series, featuring the women who accompany every adventure, providing our guests with in-country support and care. They share a wealth of wisdom on travel, while learning so much from you.

What made you want to be an Ambassador? And how many trips have you done?

I’ve always tried to seek things out that challenge me, make me learn, and ultimately bring joy – when I can facilitate any aspect of those things in the service of others, I find it rewarding down to my core.

Before I landed behind a desk in the travel industry, I wanted to be a guide. Life threw me some curve balls and my guiding dreams didn’t come to fruition. So, when the opportunity to become an Ambassador arose, it was an absolute no-brainer. This is where I’m supposed to be. Life has a way of working itself out.

I have done three trips so far.

What is your second love, after travel?

My family. I have the most amazing husband who, among other things, supports my need to travel. I have a curious, precocious, and kind daughter who proudly tells everyone her mom climbed Mount Everest (I did not, just to base camp)! My larger family is fun, loud, and loves to eat and drink wine. 🙂

Favorite destination?

Impossible question! The African continent seems to hold the weightiest memories for many varied reasons. Wildlife has always been a passion; seeing it in-person in Tanzania brought tears to my eyes for the first few days of my first safari. Stop crying Ali, you’re scaring the wildlife!

Then there’s Rwanda, where tracking mountain gorillas combined all of the things I love: being physical, being in nature, and an extraordinary wildlife experience that will probably never be topped. Staring into the eyes of a family of gorillas who were staring back at me was utterly mind blowing; I felt like the luckiest person on the planet!

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the people from the destinations I’ve mentioned. Welcoming, warm, friendly: the most admirable qualities and the loveliest. Now you’ve got me going…Nepal. The people are incredible, spiritual, respectful of the power of nature around them and so very, very warm. I can’t count the amount of times I hugged my guides during my trek to Everest Base Camp.

What sound do you love?

The sound of ocean waves has been my number one sound BUT that was before I experienced sleeping in a tent in the Serengeti. It’s nature on full blast and since your other senses are turned off, you really feel the need to listen to every chirp, rustle, and howl. What was that sound? Was that a lion!? How close are the animals? More than the wonder of it all, you feel connected to it, like you’re a part of it. I think it awakens something primal inside us. It has nothing to do with me, it’s in all of us – everyone is moved by this experience. For me, it’s both soothing and exciting at the same time

Describe your life in one word.


You’ve been given an elephant. You can’t get rid of it. What would you do with it?

I would hug it and squeeze it and name it George. Ha! Honestly, I’d be humbled and super excited that one the most intelligent and sensitive creatures on the planet (I love elephants) imprinted on me for some reason.

What’s something that you’ve tried, that you’ll never, ever try again.

I thought I would never get into a white-water rafting boat ever again. On paper, I should love rafting: it’s an adrenaline rush, it requires physicality, and you get to be out on the water. However, my first time out on the river, some 20 years ago, was nightmarish. I had a questionable guide and it was a dangerous experience. On the AW Canadian Rockies trip, I had to suck it up in order to join the group. I worked through deep fears and apparently some post-traumatic stress as we paddled down the river. I was able to get it sorted in my brain and relax a bit so by the end of the course, I was whooping and woo-hooing and enjoying myself. It is a ridiculously fun activity, and our guides were extremely qualified. Do I need to do it again, though? No.

Would you rather be able to breathe underwater or have the agility of a cat?

Agility of a cat (with the loveableness of a dog…. can I add that bit in? 😉 )