South African adventurer Riaan Manser this week launched a brand-new TV series on Discovery Channel (DStv 121). In How to Adventure, Riaan takes everyday people out of their comfort zones and challenges them to take on nail-biting adventures. Channel24’s Herman Eloff met up with the local explorer to find out more about this exciting new show.
Cape Town – The 44-year-old looks frazzled when he walks into the coffee shop I chose for the interview. Situated in the newly developed Canal District at the entrance to the V&A Waterfront, the Shift Espresso Bar is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the Mother City.
On his way to the interview Riaan had to take a detour after smoke from a wildfire caused several roads into the city to be blocked off. He brushes his hair out of his face and apologises for being a tad late when he shakes my hand. It seems like even a regular trip to town turns into an escapade for this traveller of note.
He is friendly and energetic as he orders a coffee from the waiter and joins me at the table. You’d never guess that Riaan and wife Vasti welcomed a baby boy into the world only four weeks ago – an adventure of a whole different kind.
Riaan’s new show, produced by Oxgy3n Media in partnership with Volkswagen, will see him taking South Africans on mind-blowing adventures right in their own backyard. From snorkeling with seals to jumping off cliffs – it promises to ignite the adventuring spirit in everyone who tunes in to watch.
“This show is a progress of me. It’s the next step. It’s really part of my growth,” Riaan says when I ask him about why he decided to take on this project. He was the first person to circumnavigate the coast of Africa by bicycle after he cycled a distance of 37 000km through 34 countries - a journey that took him two years and two months to complete.
For some that would be enough. But not for Riaan. After his trip around Africa he set off on another journey becoming the first person to circumnavigate the world's fourth largest island of Madagascar by kayak. A trip he did solo and unaided and during which he spent two nights in prison on “suspicion of carrying out mercenary activities”.
But that was only the start. After that he took on Iceland as well as both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans with his wife - breaking records along the way and making history.
IT’S EASIER THAN YOU THINK
“People are going to be watching and thinking; ‘that guy just got it lucky’. But this show has really been 17 years in the making. It’s a big deal for me and something I dreamt about for years,” he explains.
“I remember when my first book, Around Africa on My Bicycle, came out and I had people from all ages come up to me and say they wish they could go on adventures like I do. People would mail me and say they wish they could do what I’m doing but they don’t have the money or time to do it. But those were the same things I didn’t have. I really didn’t have those things either.
“You know from that very first adventure on the bicycle I thought to myself - if people only knew how easy it was to find adventure. If they knew…nobody would be mailing me.
“Of course I can’t expect people to cycle around Africa or kayak to Madagascar. I mean I nearly died there a few times myself. But with this show I’m attempting to take someone’s hand, lift them off the couch and show them how easy it is to do something incredible,” he adds.
ANYONE CAN DO THIS
That’s exactly what Riaan does in How to Adventure. The show, that airs on DStv channel 121 on Tuesday nights at 21:00, takes people from all walks of life on amazing outings in South Africa.
From one of SA’s top celeb chefs, Reuben Riffel, to a Drakensberg Boys Choir student, to a film-maker and a 21-year old beauty pageant winner - they are all shown how to break out of their everyday routines and do something exciting.
“You don’t have to be a crazy adventurous person to do something exciting. The whole idea is that everyone can do this. The show isn’t about me at all. I’m just the qualified guide. The focus is completely on the guests.
“There are three things that usually stop people from going on adventures. It’s money, time and experience,” Riaan says whilst counting it out on his fingers.
YOU DON’T NEED TO BE RICH
“With this TV programme I’m hoping to show that you don’t need to be the richest or most experienced person to try something new. The show will leave you with no excuse to get out and do things.
“Firstly it will inspire you to want to do something. Secondly viewers will see that it’s a lot more affordable than you think and lastly you’ll see that you don’t need to be the most physical person to do these things,” he explains.
The first season of the show is focused primarily on South Africa because the landscape had so much to offer. “It’s a great place to start. You have to start with what you know and this is the perfect platform to show off our country. There’s actually so much of SA that we haven’t shared with the world yet. I’m thinking specifically of parts like the Northern Cape. There’s so much we have to do.”
According to Riaan the main purpose of the show is “to ignite enthusiasm” and with some of his tips and tricks he hopes to guide rookie adventurers everywhere by tapping into his own experiences travelling the world.
“Fear keeps us back. We need to work through the process of uncovering exactly what that fear is. We have to become doers, not just talkers. You have to do what you say you are going to do,” Riaan says.
As we finish our second coffee after chatting for almost an hour, I already feel inspired to draw up my own bucket list and start ticking things off. As Riaan says – adventure is waiting just around the corner.
How to adventure airs Tuesdays at 21:00 on Discovery Channel (DStv 121).
(Photos: How to Adventure/Discovery Channel)