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The ultimate adventures according to kayaker Pedro Oliva

Throughout the years of traveling and getting to know new, vibrant cultures and environments, I have been lucky enough to have many amazing experiences.

But aquatic adventures are something special. For me, water is the element that gives me life. To take a dip in the sea, jump off the waterfalls aboard my kayak, surf with a board or just admire a kite surfer rocking in the wind – these are moments that mesmerize me and give me a feeling of absolute peace.

Transporting our equipment to these places, stopping at the water’s edge, and launching into it is a kind of therapy. It connects us with nature.

So, here are three of my favorite adventures: Papua New Guinea, Antarctica, and India!

Papua New Guinea

The most challenging adventure was on the Beriman River in Papua New Guinea. With a small group of kayakers, I explored canyons over 1000 meters deep – probably the riskiest and most dangerous experience of my life.

After arriving in Papua New Guinea, we spent several days preparing for what would become our most challenging adventure to date. Ben Stookesberry, Chris Korbulic, Ben Marr and I made the first and only descent in the history of the Beriman River, one of the most remote places on earth.

40 km
The Beriman River is over 40 km or 50 miles long
800
Over 800 different indigenous languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea
13
It took Pedro’s team 13 days to run 8 of the river’s 13 gorges

We spent 13 days stuck over 1000 meters in a canyon with no idea what layed ahead. We went down rapids and waterfalls with the constant thought in the back of our minds that we might soon be saying goodbye to life.

The enormous attention and effort needed to stay alive in such extreme conditions made us physically and mentally exhausted. We got infections on our feet caused by bacteria that consumes the skin and leaves your feet raw. We saw animals that science has yet to discover and encountered local communities that live in complete isolation. Facing death several times made us face our innermost fears – all with the backdrop of breathtaking landscape.

Pedro Oliva stands in the snow  holding a paddle with a red kayak standing behind him.
Pedro Oliva paddles his red kayak as a bird flies above his head.
A zoomed out image of Pedro Oliva soaring through the air in his red kayak.

Antarctica

In Antarctica, the thrilling marine life and enormous glaciers made this trip more than memorable. Jumping with my kayak from iceberg to iceberg and gliding in the sea alongside giant and friendly whales made this expedition a dream come true.

It took me ten days to cross the ocean at Drake’s Passage, the stretch of water that separates South America from Antarctica. We stayed for 45 days and experienced diverse adventures: we jumped off waterfalls with the kayak, crossed the sea, walked on the icy continent, visited different scientific stations and slid down the enormous icebergs.

Antarctica is the most fascinating place on earth. It makes us feel small in the face of the immensity and strength of nature, but also commands respect and admiration for the phenomena of the earth.

70%
60 to 70% of the wordl’s fresh water is locked in the ice sheets of Antarctica
4785 m
Drake’s Passage reaches incredible depths of down to 15,700 feet or 4,785 meters – that’s roughly the depth of the Titanic wreckage!
10
Around 10 different types of whales call Antarctica home at different times of the year
“Antarctica is the most fascinating place on earth...”
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Pedro Oliva and two other men stand on a cliff above the sea.
Pedro Oliva paddles in white water through a canyon.

India

If I was forced to choose between all my aquatic adventures – I would pick India.
India has a wonderful energy and is one of the friendliest societies I have ever known. It is a place that I affectionately call the heart of the world.

We traveled around India over 7000 km by car, visiting the most iconic sacred points, before embarking on a grand adventure going down rivers on the border between India and China. On our travels we had a mix of adventure, culture, and spirituality. And from our arrival in the bustling, lively city of New Delhi, to our visit to the Taj Mahal and other sacred points in India, I slowly developed an intimate connection with the Ganges River.

2525 km
The Ganges is 2,525 km or 1 569 miles long
400
There are 8 major river systems in India and 400 rivers in total
120
Over 120 languages are spoken in India

The spirituality, the smell of incense, and my contact with this symbol of India – the giant Ganges River – filled me with faith and hope. It was the realization that from even the most polluted place with challenging conditions, smiles are still all around, purification is possible and so is the hope of a better world.

On the border between India and China, we went down clean, icy rivers surrounded by lush forests. Meeting people with Chinese characteristics mixed with Indian was fascinating, it was a great cultural fusion!

We paddled past breathtaking mountains and through challenging rivers without too much risk. What a feeling, to paddle in these waters! There were days aboard the kayak with very little food but an enormous feeling of inner peace. Camping near small huts of isolated families who lived the simplest life in the mountains gave me a feeling of great fulfillment.

“If I was forced to choose between all my aquatic adventures – I would pick India...”
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A close up image of Pedro Oliva wearing a white full-face helmet.

Pedro Oliva
Brazil
1978
2 children
Set the world record for highest kayak waterfall plunge in 2009 at Salto Belo, Mato Grosso, from a height of 39 m (127 ft).
Traveled across six continents and jumped from 40 meter high waterfall, but most of all proud of being a father to his two children

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