• Explorer Mario Rigby at the headquarters of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Canadian Geographic in Ottawa during his 2019 cross-Canada cycling expedition. (Photo: Javier Frutos/Can Geo)

A pandemic can't stop modern-day explorer Mario Rigby: he's about to begin a 20-day, 355-kilometre kayak voyage across Lake Ontario. Beginning in Burlington, Ontario, and ending at the Thousand Islands, Rigby will once again test the limits of adventure travel while simultaneously promoting domestic and sustainable ways to explore the outdoors. Spending about seven to eight hours a day on the water, Rigby will kayak up to 35 kilometres each day, while also raising funds for the charity My Stand, which provides mentorship and training opportunities to Toronto youth. 

It's not the first time Rigby's pushed boundaries: in 2018, Rigby finished a solo, two-year 12,000 kilometre journey from Cape Town to Cairo, completed entirely by foot and kayak. In 2019, he cycled unsupported across Canada, traveling 73,000 kilometres from Victoria, British Columbia to St. John’s Newfoundland. Born in Turks and Caicos, Rigby moved to Toronto at 16 and has always been interested in pushing the limits of exploration.

In 2018, Rigby was chosen as one of the 200 nominees for the Most Influential People of African Descent global 100 list and is a Fellow-elect of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.

Rigby will begin his Lake Ontario kayaking expedition July 17. He will carry the Royal Canadian Geographical Society's flag on his trip.

He spoke with Canadian Geographic on his upcoming expedition and shared some thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted his plans.

On the motivation for the expedition 

The purpose of the trip is to encourage people to travel domestically. We call it “traveling in their own backyards.” Getting people to really be COVID friendly and seek adventures within their own province, or within their own country. We are also raising funds for a charity called My Stand to essentially help at risk youth who don't have access to the outdoors. These kids are looking up to me, and they're probably going to be rooting for me so I want to not disappoint them. I want to make sure that we are doing this and that we are spreading that message of domestic travel, but also in doing so, we’re raising funds for this organization as well.

On pushing boundaries

I want to push the boundaries because it inspires people to go above and beyond what they're doing in their everyday lives. In this day and age we need to have those motivational factors to overcome a lot of the obstacles we're going through right now. These are unprecedented times and I think we are required to be brave and courageous. Going on my expeditions is just to help inspire that.

On engaging community and youth during his journey

I'm going to keep an open channel (on social media) with my viewers, and anyone that I used to do talks with at schools. They will be able to follow me along my journey and cheer me on and hopefully, we'll go back and forth in conversation.

On the importance of sustainable travel

It's important to practice sustainable travel because in the history of transportation we have never really looked at the sustainability part of it — we have never really had to! A lot of people go somewhere and don't look at the culture, the roots, the history … A lot of people will go just to feel good. With this kind of travel we need to be more consciously aware of how we’re impacting both Indigenous communities, as well as aware of the CO2 emissions that you emit in the atmosphere. Environmental injustice always links with social injustice, so the two cannot be inseparable.

On what's coming next

There are a bunch of plans for next year, including the Nunavut Project, which is to go up north to look at how climate change may have affected the Indigenous communities there. We are hoping to make a short film on how that's changed and affected those people living up north. Right after kayaking Lake Ontario, I'll be doing the B.C Adventures Travel, which is essentially also about encouraging domestic travel and some of the exciting things that you can do in British Columbia, along with adventure sports.