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Dancing with Death - Book Review

United Kingdom – Jean-Philippe Soulé is one of only two people known to have lived among the Mentawai, an indigenous clan of hunter-gatherers who are considered to be one of the most traditional cultures still thriving on earth. During this time, Soulé became acutely aware of their plight, lack of representation in the west and the lack of support offered to preserve their culture and the cultures of other indigenous populations.

Soulé never forgot his time with the clan and, between 1998 and 2001 put his life on hold to paddle 3,000 miles from California to Panama as part of the two-man ‘CASKE2000’ expedition, tasked with raising awareness of indigenous cultural preservation.

In his new memoir, ‘DANCING WITH DEATH: An Epic and Inspiring Travel Adventure’, Soulé recounts that life-changing journey, the NGO it inspired, and how the organization’s demise has ignited a fresh fire in his commitment to preserve these cultures before they are lost forever.


Two men, three years, seven countries, 3000 miles…

The Central American Sea Kayak Expedition 2000 (CASKE2000) is an inspiring journey of exploration, endurance, and self-discovery that takes Jean-Philippe Soulé and his traveling partner Luke Shullenberger from Baja California all the way to Panama.

During this unfathomably grueling expedition, they will face every manner of threat, from sharks and crocodiles, to bandits and stormy seas, malaria, and their own mortality – all in search of a deeper connection to Mother Nature and her guardians – the indigenous people.

This is a tale of adventure, sacrifice, and physical endurance that will leave you breathless with excitement, mourning for our heroes’ losses, and cheering their successes. The evocative, gripping narrative coupled with countless, award-worthy photographs makes this a must-read for those who love travel, outdoor adventure, and the exploration of other cultures.

But most of all, it's for the dreamers who've been told they can't, and stubbornly refuse to listen.

“The time I spent living with the Mentawai hunter-gatherers in 1992 is what ultimately inspired both the expedition itself, and the NGO that came after it,” explains the author. “Today, the Mentawai are under huge pressure to change their lifestyle from their own government, and from the surfing tourism taking place on their land. We were forced to close the USA registered Native Planet NGO three years ago, so I wanted to do something new – one extra push – to raise awareness of these people and the urgent help they need.”

Continuing, “Because the Mentawai have never received any help, they are at huge risk of vanishing rapidly and as quietly as they have lived. We must preserve them, their customs, traditions and trades – so I urge everyone to pick up a copy of the book. There really is something here for everyone.”

Early reviews have been extremely positive. Jimmy Ray comments, “Imagine facing giant waves or pirates or crocodiles, this book takes us on the trip of a lifetime discovering adventure and a culture that really opens your eyes.”

Readers’ Favorite adds, “Dancing with Death: An Epic and Inspiring Travel Adventure by Jean-Philippe Soulé is a wonderful travel memoir and I was hooked from page one. Having read many travel memoirs before, I found this one stands out as written by someone who obviously is a born adventurer at heart, one who also puts in the hard work necessary to actually make expeditions like this possible and successful. The narrative is also interspersed with Luke’s experiences in his own words. There are many photographs in the book which complement the story very well and bring the actual landscape and people to life. This is a great travel book that I would highly recommend.”

Jack Magnus writes, “Dancing with Death gives the armchair adventurer a front row seat as the two explorers face massive waves, sharks and endless hordes of biting, stinging insects. Soulé and Shullenberger’s journal entries are interleaved throughout the book, and I loved seeing the journey through each man’s perspective. Their vastly different world views and personalities underscore the team effort shown throughout their challenging trip, and hearing both participants’ voices added dimension and nuances to the work. Both are solid and fluent writers, perfectly suited for adventure travel writing, and their photography is brilliant. Their accounts of interacting with the indigenous people they met were illuminating and powerful. Unlike most other travel adventure books I’ve read, I’m glad I wasn’t an actual participant in this journey. The sand flies alone were a sufficient obstacle, but I finished the book in awe of the journeyers and what they were able to accomplish. Dancing with Death: An Epic and Inspiring Travel Adventure is most highly recommended.”

About the Author:

Growing up beneath the soaring peaks of the Pyrenees, French-born American Jean-Philippe Soulé has dedicated his life to leading expeditions and guiding across the far-flung globe. After numerous solo mountain and jungle expeditions, he lived in the Siberut rainforest for seven months among the Mentawai, an indigenous clan of hunter-gatherers. This inspired him to conceive of the CASKE 2000 expedition and Native Planet NGO.




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