It was in early 2011, when I met Ben Valks. I vaguely remember that we were introduced to each other because of our adventures. Ben had just published his book 'No Risk, No Life'. He tells about his adventure, riding his Argentinean motorbike, a BMW 1200 GS, from Anchorage to Ushuaia on Tierra del Fuego. I had just finished a huge adventure in preparation for the Panamericana Roadtrip.
Ben in Ushuaia, the end of his adventure on the motorbike
Johan in conversation with Ben Valks
On monday evening 8 March at 19:30 h. Johan will talk with Ben Valks in an online interview. They will talk about Ben his adventure through Latin America, his search for the Black Jaguar and about the Black Jaguar Foundation. You can follow the interview online. Register via the button below
An impressive adventure
Ben's story fascinated me. I bought his book and read it in no time. Without a doubt, for me it is one of the most beautiful travel books I have ever read. It is a passionate life story of someone who chases his dreams and he does not give up when things go wrong. He grew up in a small town in the Netherlands. If, as a child, something didn't work out for him, his parents would say: "If you really want something, you can do it. Just keep trying". A statement that is very recognisable to me.
No Risk, No Life
After travelling from 2005 to 2008, Ben returned to the Netherlands. Searching for a new purpose in his life, he reflected on a number of moments and memories. One of his biggest wishes had not been fulfilled during his trip through South America: spotting the black jaguar. Ben undertook 22 expeditions without success. Although he didn't get to see the black jaguar, the images of deforestation in Brazil's Cerrado and Amazon, the habitats of black jaguars, remained etched on his mind.
Meanwhile he decided to write a book and he found in Brenda Smeenge, his co-author. Brenda had just given up her busy job in marketing to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. Her dream fitted perfectly in the theme of the book; No Risk, No Life. Together, they decided to donate the revenues from the book to the restoration of nature in Brazil. For Ben, this felt like the first time in years he was really giving something back to our planet and he wanted more.
People cause forest fires to create land for cattle breeding
His mission: the Black Jaguar Foundation
He could easily have returned to the world of business, but this would have been too easy for him. The words of the American essayist, naturalist and social philosopher Henry David Thoreau, with which he began his book No Risk, No Life came clearly to mind:
“Do not lose hold of your dreams, for if you do, you may still exist but you have ceased to live.”
It was clear to Ben. He had a new, ambitious mission in life, in which he wanted to leave a significant positive impact on the world. In 2011, Ben Valks became the initiator of the Black Jaguar Foundation (BJF), one of the largest reforestation projects in Brazil. An ambitious and very well prepared project, which we have been supporting with Sapa Pana Travel since the beginning of this year. We compensate the ecological footprint of all our activities and the trips we organise with investments in the Black Jaguar Foundation project.
During our Gente Mágica interview, Ben tells about his adventure through Latin America, his search for the Black Jaguar and about the Black Jaguar Foundation.
The online interview takes place on Monday evening 8 March at 19:30. You can follow the interview online. Register via the button below. The discussion will take about 30-45 minutes and you will have the opportunity to ask questions via the chat. Participation is free and without obligation. The interview is in English. Click here for more information about Gente Mágica or register now.