Meet the Judges: The WildChina Explorer Grant 2017

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Voting has opened and the five WildChina Explorer 2017 finalists will soon be decided. But only one can be the overall winner. Make sure you have your say: watch all the application videos and vote.

Now, let’s meet the judges who will have the finalist’s fates in their hands.


Lonely Planet Founder, Tony Wheeler

Since co-founding Lonely Planet after a trip across the world in 1972, Tony Wheeler has become a world pioneer in experiential travel. His dedication to venturing beyond the boundaries of conventional travel has led to him authoring and editing numerous Lonely Planet guides as well as travel books such as Bad Lands and Unlikely Destinations. Tony is currently on his own China adventure, spending 38 days driving an old sports car through the country on his way from Bangkok to London.  Learn more about Tony’s trip in our interview.


WildChina Founder and CEO, Mei Zhang

Mei founded WildChina in 2000 and has built the company into one of the ‘World’s BEST Adventure Travel Companies’, according to National Geographic Traveler. Her pioneering travel philosophies and passion for in-depth discovery has made WildChina a trend-setter in its field. In 2016 Penguin published Mei’s first book, Travels Through Dali: with a leg of ham. This book and Mei’s passion for cultural cultivation were the inspiration for this year’s WildChina Explorer Grant theme of Explore China Differently. Read our blog post about this year’s theme to learn more.


Great Wall Expert, William Lindesay

William Lindesay has spent more than 800 days on the Great Wall during his many years in China, and has completed “the most successful foreign exploration of the Great Wall” according to China’s Xinhua News Agency. The British researcher has conducted extensive surveys on the Beijing portion of the Great Wall and published three books on the subject. In his spearheading efforts to protect this wonder of the world, William has founded a number of societies and programs that engage in Great Wall conservation. Get to know the Great Wall through Lindesay’s eyes.

Explorer grant - Rum-headshot

WildChina Explorer 2016, Dongrui Yu

National Geographic photographer, Dongrui Yu has been on a quest to promote the importance of preserving China’s starry night sky for the past 5 years. His project, Finding Our Lost Stars, was selected as the winner of the WildChina Explorer Grant 2016 by a panel of esteemed judges and Dongrui’s collaboration with WildChina took his passion to protect the night sky back to where it began – his home province of Yunnan. Dongrui continues to photograph China’s night’s sky and is on the search for the perfect location in China for a dark sky reserve. Learn more about Dongrui Yu in our interview with him.


World Traveller Magazine Editorial Director & Chief Photographer, Lei Zhang

Lei Zhang has dedicated his life to inspiring Chinese travelers through his stories and photographs. As Magazine Editorial Director & Chief Photographer of one of China’s leading travel platforms, Lei has travelled to and written about almost every country in the world. He has also explored every corner of the Middle Kingdom. Lei Zhang’s photographs have been published worldwide and his writing continues to inspire a new generation of Chinese Explorers.

These judges will choose from among the top 5 finalists, and YOU have a say whose application makes it before their eyes. We have applicants who want to do everything from track endangered snow leopards to documenting the insect-eating Bai minority culture. View all applicants and vote now.