Steve Boyes

Steve Boyes


Cape Town, Western Cape


National Geographic Explorer and Founder of the Wild Bird Trust

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Dr Steve Boyes is a National Geographic Explorer and Founder of the Wild Bird Trust. He holds his PhD in Zoology and is a Research Associate at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute for African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town. The National Geographic documentary film currently streaming on Disney+ follows Steve and his expedition team as they undertake their first "megatransect" in traditional dug-out canoes or "mokoros" across the Okavango River Basin from its previously-documented source, the Cuito Source Lake, in the remote Angolan Highlands all the way to the famous Okavango Delta and down the Boteti River to the end of the water in the Kalahari Desert - 2,476km over 121 days. He and his team have poled themselves across the Okavango Delta every year since 2010, and have now explored all major rivers in the Okavango and Kwando River Basins, covering an astonishing 11,000km in their traditional crafts. They are now turning their attention to the Zambezi, Congo, Nile, Chad and Niger Basins. Steve founded the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project to use science to prioritise wildlife corridors along rivers where community-based systems of protection can be established.


Steve Boyes - First Ascent


What are some of your most memorable achievements?

Completing the 2015 Okavango Megatransect documented in the film, Into the Okavango, was an early highlight. We have since discovered many new species to science and have published many scientific papers highlighting the keystone importance of the eastern Angolan Highlands to the water and food security of the entire region for the first time in history. We work with over 60 scientists and have expedition teams spanning 5 countries documenting the secrets and true value of the rivers we explore, always in partnership with local people.

What are the ambitions that you are working towards?

My team and I are about to embark on the most comprehensive hydrological and ecological river surveys ever undertaken, establishing "early 21st century baselines" for all of Africa's greatest rivers by 2030.

What are some of your top tips?

Use the First Ascent Supreme Mattress and bathe in cold water every night, because sleep is the most important thing on long, self-propelled, unsupported expeditions. Take tea tree oil to apply to cuts so that the flies leave them alone.

What is your favourite First Ascent product and why?

The First Ascent Trek Wear long-sleeve collared shirt can be worn for a week without washing, withstand scratchy trees blocking the river, keep you cool, protect you from the sun, and last for years and 1,000s of kilometers.