A life of adventure left him with a body full of bullets. Now he lives to save others
Davey Du Plessis was travelling alone down the Amazon River when something unusual caught his eye. A pod of pink river dolphins was passing by. Not wanting to interfere or cause harm, Du Plessis moved his kayak closer to the river bank. But instead of avoiding danger, he inadvertently wandered right into it. A group of people on land shot at him four times, leaving him for dead. It would have been the end of his adventure – and his life – if not for his incredible will to live. “In that moment, I realised giving up was not an option,” he says. With bullets in his leg, face and throat which prevented him from calling out for help, Du Plessis dragged himself through the forest for almost five kilometres before he found a small village. Through the support of complete strangers who assisted him before his family could rush in, Du Plessis survived.
He ended up in this predicament while attempting a solo, unsupported mission through the Amazon in 2012 to collect data for the research organisation Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. A vegan explorer, Du Plessis uses his expeditions to demonstrate how people can positively affect the earth and save endangered species through their lifestyle choices. The 6 700-kilometre journey from the Amazon’s source in the Peruvian Andes to the Brazilian coastline was expected to take five months. Du Plessis was only two months and 2 000 kilometres in when he was shot. To this day, he still does not know why he was attacked.
Instead of deterring the adventurer, Du Plessis is now more convinced than ever of what he can achieve. “My hope is that after sharing my story, each individual will recognise their own potential,” he says. In 2016, Du Plessis began Project 1 000, an initiative that involved running and cycling for 1 000 kilometres in both Botswana and South Africa to raise awareness about critically endangered animals in each country. From one journey to the next, he dares to do the dangerous and seemingly impossible – all to highlight the greater threat of extinction that endangered animals face.