Final five fabulous speakers for FEAT


Words: Lisa de Speville

As I pack to head to the Northern Cape tomorrow to write for the annual Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon (my second time at this event), I can't resist letting you know who the final five speakers are at FEAT Kids and FEAT.

I have really wonderful friends who allow me to rope them into being involved with FEAT. One of these is Simon Gear. Simon and I go back to varsity days where we knew each other in passing from Wits Sports Council (me for underwater and him for athletics) and we reconnected years later through common friends. Simon spoke atFEAT (Oct 2011) has elegantly MCd the last three FEAT events. This year he gets the night off to enjoy FEAT as an audience member with his wife and children; they are regular FEAT attendees too.

Peter van Kets takes over the MC reins this year from Simon AND I've even twisted his arm into talking about his recent Arctic adventure. Pete spoke at the first FEAT event back in October 2010 after rowing solo across the Atlantic. He also spoke at FEAT Cape Town in Feb 2011.

You can read the full lists of speakers bios for the FEAT events on the FEAT website:

  • Speakers at FEAT Kids
  • Speakers at FEAT

Please reserve your seats soonest through Tickets are not available at the door (online, pre-bookings only).

NOTE that we've got two events on this year with FEAT Kids in the afternoon and FEAT on the night of Thursday, 8 October 2015. It is school holidays for most Gauteng schools so please bring your children along to FEAT Kids. And even if school and related afternoon activities are on, an afternoon spent at FEAT Kids will be so much more rewarding. I'll gladly write get-out-of-extracurricular-activity letters to your child's school.

Please 'Like' our FEAT South Africa Facebook page for regular news of adventurers, speakers and this year's event.




KAI FITCHEN's love for the mountains came from clambering up and down Table Mountain whenever he could. “It was a place to have fun but also a place to get away,” he says. At the age of nine, Kai was diagnosed with epilepsy. His self-confidence collapsed, but still he continued climbing. Six-years later, in 2009, Kai summited his first major peak, Mt Kilimanjaro. “With too little oxygen in my lungs and chilly toes, I was fired up to do another,” he recalls. The next year (age 16), Kai was selected for Mike Horn’s Pangaea Young Explorers Expedition. There in the Himalayas, under the majestic shadow of K2, Kai’s team climbed an uncharted 6,000-meter peak and did research on the effects of climate change on the mountain environment. Next up: Mt Elbrus in Russia. However, Europe’s highest showed him the dark side of mountaineering; from litter scattered around camps to his climbing partner almost dying due to bad decisions on the ascent. Since then, Kai has travelled across Africa and South America, climbing big peaks and doing it in a manner which is responsible, sustainable and that contributes to communities.


KEEGAN LONGUEIRA’s biking expeditions began in December 2011 when he used his year-end university holiday to cycle from his home in Witbank to Cape Town, a journey that took him 22 days. He repeated the 1,800-kilometre ride the next year but with only two weeks available, he put in more mileage each day and wrapped up the journey in 10 days. And he did it again in December 2013 – meandering route that took him 14 days. And then… Keegan announced his new project: a biking expedition from Cairo to Cape Town, which he began on 2 January this year. He was chasing Robert Knoll’s World Record of 70 days. From early on, Keegan was plagued by injury and skin infections and by the time he reached Sudan, it looked like his record opportunity was lost. Four-days behind record pace, he cut out planned rest days to make up distance. He crossed Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana before eventually arriving back in South Africa. 59 days, 8 hours and 30 minutes after setting off from Cairo, Keegan reached Cape Town and clocked a new World Record time. At FEAT Kids and FEAT Keegan speaks to us about this expedition.


TIM BIGG’s passion – since his university days in the mid-70s – has been canoe racing. Tim represented South Africa at canoe marathon races around Europe, won the Dusi Canoe Marathon a few times and has completed numerous international kayaking expeditions. Tim writes about some of his expeditions in his self-published book, ‘Three Rivers of the Amazon’, a story of his adventures paddling the three main tributaries of the Amazon River: Urubamba River (1981), the Apurimac River (1985) and the Maranon River (2004). Between these expeditions Tim worked as a geologist and then as a timber farmer to raise his family – three sons and a daughter – and to fund other kayaking expeditions to Alaska, Colca Canyon, Peru, the Himalayas and a host of rivers around Africa like the Zambezi and Congo. After 20 years of timber farming in the Natal Midlands, Tim and his wife Margie moved to Hout Bay where Tim restarted his career in Engineering Geology. He upskilled by completing an MSc in 2014 and has been working on projects in South America and Africa. “My passion is painting, trail running in the mountains, surf skiing and kayaking,” he says. Tim is also involved with outreach projects in the Hout Bay townships.


ROBYN ZIMMERMAN comes from a long line of scouts and thus it was inevitable that she too would join scouts by the age of 13. “I have been extensively involved in all aspects of scouts – first aid, pioneering, hiking, camping and community service,” she says. In 2011 Robyn received Springbok colours for scouting, a level that only 2% of scouts ever reach. This is the highest award attainable and the scout is required to complete all the requirements for the Springbok award before their 18th birthday. Among the requirements, the scout must complete at least 40 hours of community service, lead a hike of over 30 kilometres in unfamiliar territory and plan and construct a pioneering project. “Now, as an adult in the movement, I am currently running my own troop,” Robyn says. She also belongs to a Rover crew. The Rover programme focuses on services to others. Robyn studied a BA Law at Wits University and she is currently working with a public-benefit company involved in youth leadership development.


PETER VAN KETS made his name in the world of extreme adventure by winning the pairs division of the 5500km unsupported Woodvale Trans-Atlantic Rowing Race in 2008. He returned to the race in 2010 – this time solo. He spent 76 days alone in a seven-meter rowing boat and crossed the Atlantic unsupported. Pete spoke at the first FEAT event in Jo’burg in October 2010 and at the first FEAT Cape Town in February 2011Together with Braam Malherbe, Pete raced across Antarctica to the South Pole during an unsupported, 888-kilometre event in 2011 that commemorated Scott and Amundsen’s journeys 100 years ago. Only a few months ago Pete headed again for snow and ice – this time North to the Arctic. He travelled to Svalbard with his Norwegian expedition partner Håvard Svidal. They sailed across the Barents Sea and spent 12-days trekking and skiing around the Svalbard Islands with a pack of sledding dogs. This year Pete returns to FEAT not only as a speaker, but also as our MC. We’ve given Simon Gear, who has MCd FEAT for the past three years, the night off to enjoy FEAT in the audience with his family and Pete will take the reins to guide us through this extraordinary evening of talks.