National Geographic Announces 2016 Adventurers of the Year

picture of National Geographic Adventurers of the Year logo

National Geographic has announced the 2016 Adventurers of the Year, whose extraordinary achievements in exploration, adventure sports, conservation or humanitarianism have distinguished them in the past year.

Online voting for the People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year is now open and will run through Jan. 31, 2016. Fans can go to to vote every day for their favorite honoree. The adventurer with the most votes at the end of the voting period will be announced in February as the 2016 People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year.

This year’s honorees include a wildlife biologist who led a team in dugout canoes from the source of the Okavango River in Angola to its desert delta in Botswana to help protect Africa’s wildest place; a pair of rock climbers who completed the world’s hardest free climb on Yosemite’s El Capitan; a team of women cyclists challenging gender stereotypes in Afghanistan; a German woman who paddled 16,700 miles over four years to complete the first circumnavigation of South America by sea kayak; and a trio of ski mountaineers who completed the ultimate adventure — skiing Colorado’s 100 highest peaks — right in their own backyard.

The 2016 Adventurers of the Year are:

  • Steve Boyes, a South African wildlife biologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, who led a team on a 1,500-mile, 120-day expedition by dugout canoe to collect data to help protect Africa’s wildest place, the Okavango Delta;
  • Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, a rising climbing star in Nepal, who, after an 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit her country, has worked tirelessly to help her fellow Nepalis;
  • American ski mountaineers Chris Davenport, Christy Mahon and Ted Mahon, who, this past May, became the first people to climb and ski Colorado’s 100 highest peaks, all with summits over 13,800 feet;
  • Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson, a pair of American rock climbers who spent 19 days on the side of 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite to complete the first free ascent of the Dawn Wall, a seven-year-in-the-planning odyssey;
  • The Afghan Women’s Cycling Team, a group of women in Afghanistan who have defied cultural taboos and endured harassment by riding bicycles with the goal of competing internationally, ultimately sparking a cultural debate about women’s rights in their country;
  • Swiss pilots André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, who completed the first trans-Pacific flight by solar plane, flying day and night for five days from Japan to Hawaii without using a single drop of fuel;
  • German long-distance kayaker Freya Hoffmeister, who finished her four-year solo journey in April to complete the first circumnavigation of South America in a sea kayak, a 16,700-mile voyage;
  • Ben Stookesberry, Chris Korbulic, Ben Marr and Pedro Olivia, a team of kayakers who made a source-to-sea first descent of one of the most remote and treacherous rivers on the planet, tucked away in the jungles of Papua New Guinea’s New Britain Island;
  • Wildlife photographer Joe Riis and biologist Arthur Middleton, who teamed up to chronicle the Yellowstone elk herd’s annual migration, using art and science to call on policymakers to protect the herd’s vital wilderness corridors; and
  • American ultrarunner Scott Jurek, who capped a 20-year career in trail running with a speed record on the iconic Appalachian Trail.

“This is the 11th year that National Geographic has searched around the world for individuals who personify the adventurous spirit in unique ways,” said Mary Anne Potts, National Geographic Adventure editorial director. “This year’s honorees are extraordinary and inspiring adventurers who push the boundaries of exploration.”

National Geographic has named Adventurers of the Year since 2006. Polish kayaker Aleksander Doba was voted the 2015 People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year. At age 67, he spent more than six months paddling 7,716 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in what is believed to be the longest open-water kayak crossing in history.

To learn more about each adventurer through photos, interviews and a video, and to vote daily for the 2016 People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year, go to or follow @NatGeoAdventure on Instagram or @NGAdventure on Twitter using #advofyear.

About the National Geographic Society

National Geographic is a global nonprofit membership organization driven by a passionate belief in the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to change the world. It funds hundreds of research and conservation projects around the globe each year. With the support of its members and donors, the Society works to inspire, illuminate and teach through scientific expeditions, award-winning journalism, education initiatives and more. For more information, visit and find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.