Meet the Athletes who represented the UAE for the world’s toughest race: Eco-Challenge Fiji

Five UAE athletes competed in Amazon Prime’s World Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji. The adventure show returned after 18 years with Bear Grylls and 66 teams from 30 countries participating for 11 days.

Running through jungles, swamps, rivers, and mountains battling conditions such as extreme humidity, torrential rains, and the possibility of hypothermia without adequate sleep are a handful of the challenges that Team Eco Dxb faced during the Toughest Race of the World: Eco-Challenge Fiji.


You may have binged watched this show hosted by Bear Grylls on Amazon Prime this year.

UAE residents Emma Taylor, Ivana Kolaric, Ali Monguno, Dirj Jan Seret, and Carl Simmons joined forces to form Team Eco DXB and trained day and night for this notoriously tough race with experienced racers from around the world.

But how did they land a spot on this famous race?

“Through knowledge of the Eco challenge race coming back after many years. Friends of friends from the outdoor adventure industry also helped us grab a spot on this race. Also, the organizers had the ambition to have many countries represented. Hence we got lucky to be selected to take part,” said Ali Monguno.

Last year, these athletes began training for sailing, ocean navigation, rock climbing, and more.

They had to be certified for a range of racing activities, including outdoor first aid, jungle navigating, abseiling, whitewater rafting, and swift water rescue.

They spent countless hours practising together and learning new skills as they prepared to take part in the gruelling event, which saw 66 teams from 30 countries taking part in the 671 km race.

“Being in Dubai, we do not have access to all the equipment and training that adventure racing disciplines need. Thus, a lot of planning needed outsourcing supplies at a high cost. We were also coping with delivery delays, having to fly outside to complete some training such as jungle training as there are no jungles in the UAE. We also had to coordinate all of our compulsory gear to fulfill the specifications of the competition, and that was a challenge to fly comfortably with all the equipment to the other side of the world,” said Emma.

How did Team Eco Dxb perform at the race in Fiji?

Unfortunately, Team Eco Dxb had to quit after 3 days as they met with a biking incident. “The race was challenging, yet very rewarding. We loved every minute although we had to test our limits with lack of sleep, food, continuing in the dark, being cold and wet, pushing through a storm, working as a team. We made it through 3 days of the race before unfortunately reaching a severe biking accident which resulted in irreparable bike damage and subsequent disqualification as we couldn’t source a replacement bike in time to reach the cut-off at the following checkpoint,” expressed Dirk Jan Seret.

These extreme UAE athletes competed for three days and nights, rarely stopping to sleep or eat, constantly pushing themselves to their physical and mental limits, “This has been a once-in-a-life experience that has completely changed our lives and our minds. Nothing compares to the adrenaline and the excitement you feel when you’re in the race. So many mixed feelings when you are feeling alive and challenging yourself all the time. Taking part in this race was all about surprising yourself with how far you can push when you’re in pain or cold or tired,” said Ivana.

Although the show debuted in August 2020 on Amazon Prime, the actual race happened almost a year ago — in September 2019. The UAE team has now entered the next season of the Eco-Challenge Patagonia 2021 race and is waiting to hear if they will be accepted. “If so, we’ll start the grueling training schedule for that,” Emma said.

The 10-episode adventure series presented by British adventurer Bear Grylls is streaming Amazon Prime Video to over 200 countries and territories worldwide.

Are you keen to take part in an extreme sports race?

1)Your team is most important, if you don’t have a solid team that you can trust and that you can be comfortable with during all your weakest, toughest, trying moments, then you will struggle to complete a multi-day adventure race. You need to rely on each other, be there for each other, push each other, be like family. 2)Before diving in at the deep end & attempting a 10-day expedition race, if you can gain experience in shorter duration 3, 4, 5-day races, this will further your chances.

Carl Simmons gives out few tips for extreme sports fans to training for an event like this.

This article was originally published on November 8, 2021

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