- 1991, albania, communism, Gent Mati, guide, hiking, history, holiday, Ilir Mati, Laura Payne, Outdoor Albania, treks
Outdoor Albania organises nature-friendly tours promoting the protection of landscapes, bio- habitats, traditions and monuments of Albania and beyond. Outdoor Albania is a company “by travelers, for travelers”, that focuses in delivering great holidays through rich travel experiences that show the real, authentic and off-the-beaten-track Albania.
How it all began
It is 1991, communism has just ended and Albania opens its borders. The first curious tourists enter a country that has kept its beauty to it self for many years. A language quite unlike any other, limited infrastructure and little information about where to go made Albania in to a destination for the adventurists and pioneers pur sang.
A pioneer and adventurist on the Albanian side was Mr. Illir Mati, an electronics engineer retired from fixing submarine sonars for the Albanian Navy. Curious to meet people from other countries and with pride for his country he started organizing “Journeys in the Albanian Nature and Culture.”
Together with his old Ford Transit, lovingly nicknamed ‘The Periscope’, Illir allowed trekkers, climbers, skiers, kayakers, rafters, journalists, archaeologists, anthropologists, geologists and other brave hearts to discover this new opened country. This all was done with great hospitality and a big heart, which gave tourists the feeling as if they were on the road with a personal friend.
22 August 1991, a big date in the history of Outdoor Albania. Illir Mati registered the company, at that time still called “Aulona SUB TOURS”, at the county of Vlorë. Laying the foundation for what later would be renamed into Outdoor Albania. In the years that followed family members, friends and many other travel enthusiasts got involved and together they experienced growth, success and difficult times, while always keeping their travelling spirit alive.
Inspired by his father, Gent Mati also got ‘bitten by the travel bug’. After working with his father, while finishing his study, Gent meets kayakers from Italy. They invite him to come to Italy and for several summers to follow Gent works on the Italian rivers as an instructor. After a few summers Gent decides to expand his borders and travels the world as a safety kayaker.
Eventually in 2003, Gent meets Laura Payne his Dutch partner in business and life and together they decided to go continue trail-blazing the Albanian tourism industry. The business expended and grew in to what Outdoor Albania now still stands for; a tour operator specialized in cultural round trips and active tours bringing travellers the pure and authentic Albania.