media release: 05/01/17

Written by Kerry O'Neill Photography by Secret Compass

Media Release: 05/01/17

World-first packraft success

In 2016 a 10-strong expedition team from Secret Compass successfully crossed the Equator in Gabon, as part of a pioneering wold-first trek and packraft adventure in Gabon’s wild Invindo National park. This expedition continues to run after the success of the exped in 2016.

Gabon rafting

The ‘Tale of Two Rivers’ team packrafted within metres of elephants and saw crocodiles and other wildlife as they navigated the remote Djidji and Kongou river systems.

“Three weeks ago we didn’t know each other yet within two weeks we had worked together to successfully trek remote jungle and packraft the Equator to reach our end point,” said expedition teammate Tom H.

“It was tough in parts but everyone needs a certain amount of challenge and ‘delayed enjoyment’ or, Type Two Fun as we called it, in order to push themselves and to get to their inner reserves. It’s only now that our achievement is really sinking in.”

Gabon expedition highlights:

  • Crossed the Equator on foot and in packrafts
  • Explored the Kongou and Djidji rivers
  • Trek Gabon’s equatorial jungles in Ivindo National Park
  • Visited Djidji waterfalls – equatorial Africa’s highest
  • Floated within metres of forest elephants

Teammates discuss their achievements

Teammate Lisa F. said, “I’m unable to describe how incredible the expedition was, from the location to the mental and physical challenges and the unique, world-first element.

“Every element coalesced into ‘perfect storm’, the experience as a whole was even greater than the sum of its extraordinary parts.”

Experienced expedition participant Jim F. summarized the mood of the team, saying, “Secret Compass created an unforgettable expedition in an amazing location; Gabon was incredible. What other country would think of going to a modern day Garden of Eden?”

In praise of Secret Compass’s in-country partners, teammate Anthony W. added, “The local guides were amazing; tough and resourceful, with amazing jungle navigation skills and awesome agility on the river.”

Kerry O’Neill, communications director with Secret Compass, said, “We specialise in exploratory expeditions and world firsts in remote and wild places. This packrafting achievement was challenging for the team, as they navigated through untrammeled jungle and uncharted waters in pursuit of their goal.”

Experienced expedition leaders

Experienced leader Paul Taylor coordinated the expedition for Secret Compass. A former British Army sergeant major, Taylor had just returned from a period in Nepal with Team Rubicon, an organisation that sends veterans to coordinate efforts in disaster zones.

Taylor said, “I freelance for several expedition companies. What I particularly like about Secret Compass is their genuine expeditionary and exploratory approach, which truly lets the team get into some of world’s wildest and most remote corners in a self-reliant way.

“Following last years success, the expedition will continue to run again in 2017. Prospective teammates don’t need to be superhuman or even experienced in this type of adventure travel, they just need to commit to getting physically prepared in time for the demands of the experience.”

Tom Bodkin, director of Secret Compass, said, “This years trip [2016] was an expeditionary first and we are thrilled that the team succeeded. Other expeditions we’ve had in Africa include the trip to DRC’s Virunga National Park and the mountain bike trip in Ethiopia. As a continent, Africa has so much to offer, and we look forward to identifying new adventurous firsts to tackle in the coming years.


Sunset on the gabon rivers
Packrafting metres away from a wild African jungle elephant on the river bank of the Kongou river, Gabon

Press Factsheet download

View or download our Factsheet (one-page PDF) outlining Secret Compass and its upcoming expeditions.

Notes for editors

Secret Compass redefines what is possible by creating pioneering projects in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass is built around a team of trusted experts who combine a passion for exploration with industry-leading professionalism. Secret Compass reignites your primal need for adventure, providing the catalyst for you to come alive and achieve the extraordinary. Meet Secret Compass HQ staff and a selection of its expedition professionals.

Expedition Types include Epic, Cultural Immersion, Adventure Academy and Classics Redefined. Expedition styles include mixed-terrain trekking, jungle trekking and minimalist desert traverses, to mountain-biking, rafting and horseback expeditions. Secret Compass welcomes applications from anyone with a good level of fitness who’s keen to achieve the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places.

Secret Compass destinations

View current expeditions filtered by region here. Past, current and upcoming destinations include Afghanistan, Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Burma/ Myanmar, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Egypt’s southern Sinai desert, Ethiopia, Gabon, Georgia, Greenland, the Himalayas, Iceland, India (Arunachal Pradesh), Iran (Mount Damavand and the Lut Desert), Iraqi Kurdistan, Kamchatka, Kilimanjaro, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Malawi, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, North Korea, Panama, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Siberia, Socotra, South Sudan, Sudan (the Bayuda desert), Uganda, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and more.

Secret Compass TV and Film

Secret Compass TV and Film is trusted by production companies and brands to capture the extraordinary in remote and wild regions thanks to its unrivalled location and risk-management expertise. Credits include location-managing Channel 4’s Walking the Nile/ Himalayas and Americas series with Levison Wood, alongside projects for the BBC, National Geographic, Animal Planet, the Discovery Channel and more.

Secret Compass Brand Projects

Secret Compass Brand Projects works with brands on projects designed to create the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Unique branded content and other projects have to date been staged in destinations from South Sudan and the DRC to Greenland and Finnish Lapland. Clients to date include Mitsubishi, Sony, Nespresso, Giro, Xbox and Jagermeister.


For further information concerning Secret Compass bespoke and team expeditions, TV and Film, or Branded Projects:

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