Exploration

Crossing Africa on foot with Mario Rigby

Episode 56

Rigby, an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the outdoors, shares his advice for young explorers, from funding expeditions to proper footwear

  • Mar 30, 2023
Mario Rigby walked 12,000 kilometres from Cape Town to Cairo, an experience he says fundamentally changed him as a person. (Photo courtesy Mario Rigby)
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“If you want to understand what it means to be fully human, go to Africa.”

Mario Rigby’s claim to fame is an impressive one. The RCGS Fellow was the first person to walk from Cape Town to Cairo solo. A Toronto based eco-adventurer, focused on sustainable travel and transport, Rigby covered 12,000 kilometres over two-and-a-half years and had a lifetime’s worth of adventures along the way. He was robbed of most of his money on just his second day out; he was attacked by wild dogs, pinned down under gunfire in a war zone, turned away at borders and detained by police multiple times. But mostly what he remembers is the incredible warmth and hospitality of the people he met along the way — that sense of community, ubuntu, that transcends African borders. It was a journey that he says fundamentally transformed him as a person and how he interacts with the world. He has since focused on being a positive and vocal advocate for diversity in the outdoors, encouraging people of colour to get out and explore nature. As part of that, he cycled across Canada. This fall, he’s spending a month travelling across the islands of the Bahamas using only human power: walking, swimming and paddling. He’s about to start a new adventure TV series with a focus on eco travel, working with the late Anthony Bourdain’s producers. And he’s working on a memoir about his African walkabout. That is the focus of this conversation. As well as amazing travel stories, there are a lot of great tips for young explorers in here, from what to wear on your feet to how to introduce yourself to new communities, learning to accept help and funding expeditions. 

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