Papua New Guinea’s Pandi River, on the island of New Britain, is so remote that when kayaker Trip Jennings was planning his source-to-sea first descent, the only maps available were Russian topos from the Cold War era—and the Class V river wasn’t even on them. “It kind of hit me then that I was planning an expedition on a river that had never been paddled before, on an island that had never been paddled before, in the middle of the Pacific where no one had ever even brought a kayak,” says Jennings.
He chose the Pandi because it was an opportunity to bring a crew of scientists and geologists to identify best practices for preserving the planet’s untamed spaces through sustainable tourism. His team of six would eventually find the Pandi’s source after rappelling 400 feet into a cave, tracing it to where it sprung above ground from a rock, then paddling the raging 45 miles to the sea. The wild Pandi winds through dense jungle, surrounded by nearly vertical hundred-foot rock walls draped in vines and other exotic vegetation. “It was kind of like a mountaineering ascent,” says Jennings. “Once you commit to that gorge, you can’t really get out and you can’t really go back up, so the only way is to figure out how to safely descend the rapids—some of which we more safely descended than others.”
Kayaker Trip Jennings has claimed first descents of rivers in North America, South America, and Asia, and shared a world record for kayaking over a 101-foot waterfall in Oregon. But one of his greatest achievements was leading a first-of-its-kind expedition to Papua New Guinea in 2007 to complete a source-to-sea first descent of the 45-mile class V Pandi River, and to develop sustainable tourism practices to protect it. He continues to make films about sensitive conservation topics. Read his Adventurers of the Year profile.
Trip Jennings' Gear Pick: Knife
"I always bring a knife, one that’s small, low profile, and light. I don’t like having a big knife on my belt or even in my bag. I travel as fast and light as possible with versatile gear that will get me in and out of the wilderness safely, and in this case, while spreading peanut butter and cutting tomatoes with the best of them," says Jennings. "If I go on a boating-oriented expedition, the NRS Co-Pilot Knife is always on my lifejacket. If it’s more land oriented, the NRS Wingman Knife is always in my pocket.”