Richard Bangs has often been called the father of modern adventure travel. His goal is “travel that makes a difference, travel that positively impacts the world”. In his 30 years as a world adventurer, river explorer, web pioneer, and award-winning author, he has led first descents of 35 rivers around the globe, including the Yangtze in China and the Zambezi in Southern Africa; published more than 1000 magazine articles and 19 books; produced a score of documentaries and several CD-ROMs; and lectured at the Smithsonian, the National Geographic Society, and the Explorers Club. He produced the first internet travel site (www.mtsobek.com), travel CD (The Adventure Disc), and virtual expeditions (www.terra-quest.com). He is co-founder of steller.com, and is currently its Chief Adventure Officer. It has become the world’s largest travel storytelling platform and app.
Bangs began guiding the Grand Canyon of the Colorado during college. After graduating, he came up with a plan with some friends to run wild rivers in Ethiopia. After they successfully ran the Awash River in Ethiopia, they decided to finance their adventures by taking clients along. Bangs and John Yost founded Sobek Expeditions, named after the Egyptian crocodile god. In the early 1990s, it merged with Mountain Travel to become Mountain Travel Sobek, still going strong today.
Bangs’s media creations ranged across continents and platforms. He was founder and editor-in-chief of Mungo Park, a pioneering Microsoft Travel publishing effort. Later he was the founding editor and executive producer of Great Escapes, another Microsoft Travel initiative. He was part of the founding executive team at Expedia.com and served as its Editor-at-Large. There he was also the creator and publisher of Expedia Travels Magazine (published in partnership with Ziff-Davis), executive producer of Expedia Radio, and founder and executive director of Expedia Cafes. He founded terra-quest.com and the Well-Traveled feature for Slate.com, founded and ran First and Best for MSN, and executive produced Richard Bangs Adventures on Yahoo! News.
For APT (American Public Television), he executive produced and hosted the Emmy-winning series Richard Bangs’ Adventures with Purpose. Each episode was shot on location, in Egypt, New Zealand, Switzerland, Morocco, Norway, India, Greece, Hong Kong, and Costa Rica. His APT special, Richard Bangs South America: Quest for Wonder, featured some of the most spectacular landmarks across South America. The specials won numerous awards. In addition to four consecutive Lowell Thomas Gold Awards from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation, the 12 episodes and special garnered three CINE Golden Eagle Awards, 20 Tellys, two Emmys, a Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International Platinum Award, a Gold in the Destination Marketing Category of the Travel Weekly Magellan Awards, and a nomination for the Environmental Media Award (“The Green Oscars”).
Bangs has also produced and directed for the big screen. In the late 1990s he executive produced The Last Wild River Ride for Turner Original Productions, about a team exploring Ethiopia’s Tekeze River. In 2005 he co-directed the IMAX Film, Mystery of the Nile. The film documents the first successful expedition to navigate the entire length of the Blue Nile and Nile from its source in Ethiopia to the Mediterranean Sea. The four month, 3,260 mile journey ranges from some of the world’s most extreme whitewater rapids to the wonders of ancient Egypt. Bangs and expedition leader Pasquale Scaturro also co-authored a book about the journey.
Bangs’s 2001 book The Lost River: A Memoir of Life, Death and the Transformation of Wild Water won the National Outdoor Book Award in the literature category, and the Lowell Thomas Award for best book. Adventures with Purpose: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Earth, the companion to the APT series, won the 2007 best book award from NATJA. More recent books are Quest for the Sublime (2008) and Quest for the Kasbah (2009).
Richard Bangs won the Friends of the River Mark Dubois Lifetime Achievement Conservation Award in 2007. He also served as president of Outward Bound in 2001 and 2002.