Man on a mission

Described as the greatest modern day explorer, Joburg-born Mike Horn once swam the length of the Amazon River. During the day he dodged snakes and piranhas, and in the evening he hunted for his dinner and slept on the dangerous riverbank. For Horn, it was all in a day’s work.

In what car did you learn to drive, and what was your first car? Any fond memories of them?
I learnt to drive in my mother’s Mini. My first car was a blue Volkswagen Beetle. We always had to push-start the Beetle as the battery was dead. We would also squeeze seven people in the VW to go and watch the cricket at the Wanderers cricket grounds.

What is your favourite 4×4 that you’ve owned or driven on an expedition?
The Mercedes-Benz G-Glass – there is no better vehicle for an adventure.

How did you get into the life of an adventurer?
I strongly believe one does not become an explorer, I believe one is born an explorer. Although I was too young to recall, my parents have always said that there was something different about me. Since the youngest age, I’ve always been active, outdoorsy and overly curious.


What is the toughest adventure you’ve embarked on or completed?
I’d say the toughest adventures I’ve embarked on are those I did not manage to complete. There is nothing more difficult than finding the mental strength to tell yourself: “I can’t go any further, I must turn back now, or I will die trying.” It is a tough decision to make because essentially you are debating with yourself. “Maybe I should go a little further?” or “Maybe I should turn back now?”
There is a very fine line between giving up and dying while trying.

How do you stay motivated when you swim the Amazon River? Did you have any interesting moments with wildlife that wanted to eat you, like anacondas?
Every day is interesting when on an expedition. In truth, excitement, interesting moments, and fulfilment make up the essence of exploration. No one day is the same as the previous; every day is a surprise, and not always a good surprise. I’ve had poisonous snakes bite me, hungry bears follow me, piranhas circle around me… That’s just part of the job.

What was Pangaea all about?
Pangaea was a four-year expedition around the globe, during which 12 carefully selected groups of international young adults joined me on different adventures to explore, learn and act. These expeditions include trips to Antarctica, the North Pole, across the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, down the Amazon River, into the fjord lands of New Zealand, up the summits in Pakistan, and many more. The aim of this long adventure was to introduce my passion for the world and for exploring to the younger generation in order to shape and connect young international world ambassadors who will help preserve and protect our environment.

For this specific expedition, I built a 35-metre-long sailing and exploration vessel named Pangaea that serves as the base from which to launch social and environmental projects, but also to explore the remote places of the globe. Today these young world ambassadors are professional adults who continue to implement and organise different types of projects around the world.

On your expeditions, has there ever been a moment where you thought “okay, this is it… I’m done for”?
Everyone loves comfort, even I do sometimes, but I also celebrate discomfort. In all honesty, I do not always have the motivation to challenge myself, but one thing I do have is self-discipline. To achieve anything in life, whether it is a personal or career goal, everyone can, and will, benefit from self-discipline. No job will ever offer you pleasure every single day, but it is important to find fulfilment in what you do. If you do not work on and for yourself, whom will you work for? So no, I’ve never had an “okay, this is it… I’m done for” moment. If you’re unhappy, never give up, just readjust.

And your current adventure?
Since I have already travelled once around the world following the equator and another time following the Arctic Circle, I thought it could be interesting to circumnavigate the globe vertically for a change, by passing via the two poles.
In addition, my latest Pole2Pole expedition is a culmination of my many years of exploration, and I wanted to find an adventure that would simply tie everything together. It was time for me to summarise my knowledge and experience into one big and final expedition, while focusing on three main themes: sharing, adventure, and environment.

By travelling around the globe over the next two years, I wish to share my feats with those willing to follow, I wish to take adventure to the next level in the form of mini expeditions such as the crossing of Antarctica and climbing the virgin peaks in India; and finally, I wish to focus on the significance of the environment with the hope to help preserve and protect it for future generations.


What advice can you give an armchair adventurer to encourage them to go on a real adventure?
Whether you are into adventure or not, I believe it is really important to step outside of that comfort zone once in a while and connect with nature. By stepping out of your comfort zone and reconnecting with a natural and ‘disconnected’ environment, you open doors to a new source of energy. By spending so much time in nature, I’ve come to appreciate the true value of life and the significance of this planet we live on.

I’ve also developed an immense appreciation for the time I spend with my family; since I see them so little, we make sure to live life to the fullest when I do.
There are only benefits to going on an adventure once in a while, most people will be surprised to discover things they never knew about themselves.

In a (favourite) nutshell
Meat, meat and meat!
Drink Water is the source of life
TV show Who has time to watch TV shows? I’ve got a life to live.
Sport I love all sports, but prefer above all the extreme sports… I like the adrenalin it generates. That’s when I feel like I’m living life to the fullest.
Movie Haven’t sat down to watch a movie in over 15 years. Last time I watched a movie, was probably The Lion King with my daughters when they were babies.  Band/singer Deep Purple: Smoke on the Water
Place on earth Anywhere far from civilisation.
Camping site Namibia