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Riaan Manser
Riaan experienced imprisonment (during his journey) in Equatorial Guniea and he was held captive by drugged teenage rebels in Liberia. On both occasions, he secured his release through his charm, amicable personality and exceptional powers of persuasion.

To add to his achievements, Riaan climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and descended to Lake Assal, the highest and lowest points on the continent.

On seeing Riaan’s story on television, Nelson Mandela personally requested a meeting with Riaan, saying it was: “a performance that will inspire the youth of the continent”.

The Explorer’s Club in New York extended a special invitation to Riaan to speak before its illustrious organisation. The club’s members include the first man to reach the North Pole, the first man to reach the South Pole, the top of Everest, the deepest point in the ocean and the first man on the moon.

In July 2009, Riaan set another world first when he became the first person to circumnavigate Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island – by kayak – alone and unaided.

This colossal journey, which saw Riaan paddle 5000 km’s in eleven months, was, he said: “considerably more demanding, both physically and mentally”. He had to conquer extreme loneliness whilst enduring treacherous conditions like pounding seas, cyclones and unrelenting sun, which combined with salt water, almost pickled him alive.

During his circumnavigation, he had many memorable close encounters with Madagascar’s marine life – humpback whales breaching meters away from his kayak, giant leatherback turtles gliding alongside him and even having his boat rammed by a shark.

In April 2010, Riaan’s efforts were rewarded with his second accolade, ‘Out There Adventurer 2009’ and his book ‘Around Madagascar on my Kayak’ also received acclaim.

In March 2011, Riaan began his next challenge. This time, he took on mystical Iceland and her arctic waters with a partner, Dan Skinstad, who has mild cerebral palsy. ‘Around Iceland on Inspiration’ saw the two paddle 2300 km to circumnavigate Iceland in a double sea-kayak over a five month period.

Landings were another of the pair’s biggest challenges. Approaching rocky shores that are being pounded by wind and surf is a hazardous business. Between timings and luck, you’re a second away from disaster at any moment. Their landings were made even more difficult because of their ‘sea legs’ which they’d developed after a long day’s paddle of 8-10 hours. Often, even the softest landings would result in Riaan and Dan spluttering and crawling for a few moments on the black sand on all fours, after tumbling out of the boat during their landing.

As the long days of summer arrived, the pair began paddling through the night. This proved to be a successful strategy, although it messed up their sleep patterns.

“The sunlit nights in Iceland bring calmer winds, so we have been paddling at night quite a bit. It is really surreal to be able to see clearly throughout the night, to listen to the night sounds and to observe the misty night scenes of Iceland”.

On the 5th of September 2011, after 147 paddling days, blistered and aching, they arrived back at their starting point, their circumnavigation complete.

Thousands of people from blue-chip companies to community projects and from schools to non-governmental organisations have been moved by Riaan’s extraordinary (and often hilarious) tales of perseverance and unrelenting resolve. Riaan speaks passionately about his adventures, motivating and inspiring all who attend.

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