In this day & age of the 21st century one would think that all credible world first explorations have been done… but they haven’t. The past decade, Riaan Manser has re-written the definition of tenacity & become the epitome of courage & determination.

(World First):

Manser’s rise to prominence began with the unbelievable world-first circumnavigation of the African
continent by bicycle. It took him exactly two years, two months & fifteen days, alone & unaided, he pedalled a staggering 34 500 kilometres (22 680 miles) through 34 different countries, some of them ranked as the most dangerous & most inhospitable places in our world today. Manser’s achievement earned him the title “Out There Adventurer of the Year 2006” & his first book, “Around Africa on my Bicycle”, became a bestseller & continues to enjoy huge success.

During Riaan’s journey he was imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea &  as held captive by drugged teenage rebels in Liberia. Both occasions he negotiated his release through his charm, amicable personality & exceptional powers of persuasion.

Along the way Manser ate some exotic dishes such as monkey, bat, camel & rat. As if cycling the perimeter of the African continent wasn’t enough, he also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro & descended to Lake Assal, the highest & lowest points in Africa. Once seeing Riaan’s story on television, Nelson Mandela personally requested a meeting with Manser, saying it was “A performance that will inspire the youth of the continent!”

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

MADAGASCAR (World First):

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

This colossal journey, which saw him paddle 5 000 kilometres (3 107 miles) in eleven months, was, he said, considerably more demanding, both physically & mentally. Conquering extreme loneliness whilst enduring treacherous conditions such as, pound-ing seas, cyclones & an 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 metres away from his kayak, giant leatherback turtles gliding alongside him & even having his boat rammed by a shark.

Riaan travelled around Madagascar during a period of extreme political turmoil & he landed up in prison five times, the last time being three nights on suspicion of carrying out mercenary activities.

In April 2010, Manser’s efforts were rewarded with his second accolade, “Out There Adventurer of the Year 2009” & “Around Madagascar on my Kayak”, his book recounting his amazing feat, also received acclaim.

ICELAND (world first):

March 2011 saw Riaan begin his next challenge. This time he took on mystical Iceland & her arctic waters accompanied by a handicapped friend, who suffers from cerebral palsy. “Around Iceland on Inspiration” saw the two paddle 2 300 kilometres (1 429 miles) to circumnavigate Iceland in a double sea-kayak over a five month period.

Manser’s warm-up for Iceland included living & touring South Africa in a refrigeration container for a week. He de-cided to do this to raise funds for his trust ‘No Food for Lazy Man’ which buys sports equipment for underprivileged children, as well as to help him prepare for Icelandic temperatures. However it could never have prepared Manser for the snow he encountered upon landing in Iceland. Manser & other team members had never seen snow before, & in the first few days before they started their journey there were many snow-fights.

Landings were another of the pair’s biggest challenges. Approaching rocky shores that are being pounded by, wind & surf is a hazardous business. Between timings & 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 develop after a long day’s paddle of 8-10 hours. Often, even the softest landings would result in them spluttering & crawling for a few moments on the black sand on all fours after tumbling out of the boat during the landing. On 5 September 2011, after paddling 147 days, blistered & aching, they arrived back at their starting point, their circumnavigation complete.

AFRICA TO NORTH AMERICA (Guinness World Record):

Riaan had always vowed that he would never expose his girlfriend at the time, Vasti, to the dangers of his world; but now the dynamic couple made history by taking on the vast waters of the Atlantic. Alone & unaided they endured a three months & two weeks crossing from Agadir, Morocco & landed in Miami, Florida on the 7th of May. Their final destination, the Statue of Liberty in New York. Not only did they make history by being the only people to have rowed from mainland Africa to mainland North America, but Vasti also became the only woman from the African continent to have rowed across any of the world’s oceans.

The couple, who met in Cape Town in 1999, put their relationship on the line. Enduring giant 8 metre (25 foot) waves in wild storms to being entirely capsized in the middle of the Atlantic. On one of these days Manser was dramatically sep-arated from the boat & almost lost at sea. The physical hardships had their bodies, hands, arms, bums & legs in permanent agony.

CALIFORNIA TO HAWAII (Guinness World Record):

In 2016, after marrying Vasti, the pair decided to set new a standard for the term honeymoon. They embarked on a history-making Pacific Ocean row, breaking the Guinness World Record for fastest row in history from California to Hawaii, a record previously held by a 4-man team.

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