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Meet Sarah David; the First Australian Woman to Paddle the Length of Africa’s River Nile

Some people take on expeditions for the thrill of the experience, but one Australian woman not only wants to challenge herself but also be a world ‘first’.

Sarah David’s love for kayaking and adventure set her on the road to becoming the first woman to kayak the length of the Nile River in Africa, and she wants to empower women to do the same on the way to her goal. Her route is set – starting in Rwanda following the White and Blue Nile all the way to Egypt – and her fellow expeditionists are a go. All that is needed now is to raise the last bit of funding for this insane journey.

This banker has been into sports and keeping fit from a young age, and one day felt like she needed more fulfilment in her life beyond her career. She’s already got a few kayaking and surf ski wins behind her – winning gold at the ICF Ocean Racing World Championships, coming third in the insane 52km Molokai Challenge in Hawaii and competing in the US Surf Ski Championships.

Through this expedition and her website Paddle the Nile, Davids also wants to build a community of women to do their own ‘first’, and it doesn’t have to be a world first – anything you’ve always wanted to do but have put off because of life.

“While you’re doing your first, how about helping women living in poverty, or refugees, who don’t have access to the kind of education and healthcare we are blessed to have?” writes Davids on her fundraising page for CARE Australia. The expedition will also raise funds for this charity, which funds programmes with women and girls at the centre, promoting equality and empowering communities.

Davids is currently in the final stages of preparing for the expedition, which has a price tag of $116 000 (about R140 064 at R12,07/$), with approvals still pending from the African countries she’ll be travelling through. She’s been training hard to get rid of injuries and weaknesses and by still competing in kayaking competitions. She’s also completed various first aid and survival courses to help prepare her mentally as well as physically.

“Do too much training and you risk overtraining, injury and not wanting to see a paddle before even starting. Do too little and you also risk injury, endangering your fellow paddlers and reduce the likelihood of finishing.”

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Turns out my archery skills are up there with my ability to tie knots 🙄🤣 Easter was spent on a brilliant and very valuable 4 day wilderness survival course up at Glenworth Valley with the team from Australian Survival Instructors. We covered heaps including getting and sterilizing water, building shelters, fishing, learnt navigation skills, made cooking and eating tools out of bamboo, made smokers for fish, leant signaling methods, made fires, covered survival awareness, survival trapping… Plus some primitive pottery and weapons making. And archery. From which I have some very impressive bruises 😳 The weather was perfect, instructors amazing and my fellow survivors were awesome! And got to try out some of the fantastic gear from @kathmandugear 👌🏼 #survived #wilderness #newskills #notarchery #bruised #fun #sleepingrough #nature #adventure #australinasurvivalinstructors #paddlethenile #easter


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The 9-month route will start at the source of the Nile in Rwanda up to the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt, covering 6 853km. Davids and her teams will pass through Tanzania across Lake Victoria, through Uganda to the Murchison Falls to South Sudan. If the situation in Sudan gets too dangerous with the ongoing conflict, she will cross over to Ethiopia to pick up the Blue Nile tributary. If all goes well in South Sudan, they will head up to Khartoum all the way to Egypt and finally the sea.

They will be assisted with security teams and locals guides from Uganda and Rwanda, and will use a combination of kayaks and rafts to navigate the river’s various sections. They will also be carrying all their gear with them which will include food, water, medical supplies and camping gear.

“For me this expedition is way more than being a first and making it from start to finish.  It’s everything that will happen on the way bringing together my great loves – travelling, kayaking, physical challenge, a big dose of adventure and the connection with the people I meet, paddle with and the community of women going out and doing their firsts.”


Written by How Africa

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