‘I’ve laid low intentionally’ - Maps Maponyane on blocking out the noise and doing what brings him joy

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Maps Maponyane recently went in search of water untouched by man and free of microplastics.
Maps Maponyane recently went in search of water untouched by man and free of microplastics.
MapsMaponyane/Instagram

He has been laying low from the limelight and working hard in silence. But his latest project is dear to his heart as it is aimed at aiding water conservation.

Businessman and media personality Maps Maponyane and freediving instructor Zandile Ndhlovu partnered with Glenfiddich towards funding one of the Word Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) high-impact water conservation initiatives in the country and travelled to Iceland.

“I’ve laid low intentionally,” he tells Drum. 

“I’ve always wanted to focus on blocking out the noise and just doing what needs to be done, what brings me enjoyment and meaning, and that doesn't require me to be loud. The pursuit of quiet excellence is a constant mission. Stay low and keep firing.” 

Maps’ recent trip to Iceland where winter temperatures at times drop as low as -10 degrees Celsius is one he will never forget. Along with Zandile, he went in search of water untouched by man and free of microplastics and braved the crushing pressure and muscle-numbing cold temperatures. He brought back the most precious commodity on earth as a souvenir to raise awareness around water security.

"Finding water untouched by man meant literally going to the edge of the world – an incredibly difficult trek,” he says. 

“The irony of it all is that if we keep polluting our water, finding the best quality will someday no longer be an adventure to write home about, but a way of life. Something I truly believe no South African or anybody, in fact, should have to experience.

“Most of the work that I have personally focused on in the last few years has had a social change element attached to it, while striving for excellence, so the partnership is a perfect fit,” Maps adds.

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According to WWF, South Africa is still recovering from the 2016 drought and is fast approaching water scarcity by 2025. WWF also reveals that water demand is expected to exceed South Africa by 17 percent by 2030. Maps says he cares deeply about water security, and they both undertook an epic personal challenge to fulfill their ambitions of a country with cleaner drinking and ocean water. 

“Water conservation is something that I'm genuinely concerned about and feel that we all should be concerned about. Having been on the board of the World Wildlife Fund now for the last five years, I've been able to get deep into the issues that affect us wherever our environment and biodiversity is concerned, and water conservation in South Africa is a serious one,” he says. 

“Unfortunately due to numerous reasons, such as maladministration of water facilities, mismanagement of treatment plants, sewerage leakage into our freshwater systems, rivers and groundwater, coupled with climate change causing less rain for catchment areas to collect, etc, South Africa has found itself on the list of the top 30 water-scarce countries in the world, and as a delay in doing something about it, we're rapidly making our way up that list. Water is life and we should all care about its conservation before it's too late.”

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Maps describes his trip to Iceland as breathtaking. 

“Travelling to and through Iceland was an incredible experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. From the moment I landed there I was blown away at the vast and dramatic landscapes, it didn't feel possible that a place like that could exist,” he says. 

“In one direction there were volcanoes and lava fields, in the other there was snow peaked mountains and glaciers, and in the other extraordinary rock formations with waterfalls spilling out from the top of them. It was beautiful and eye-opening and felt like a reminder of the way things should be when we intentionally take care of nature and exist with it in harmony. I was lucky to have met inspiring locals that guided me through the Icelandic terrain, giving me tips on the best way to get to the destination, Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe, found in the Southeast of Iceland.”

He hiked for hours. “I got to experience a taxi in the snow powered by huskies and a sled. I had a tent set up in the freezing cold but also just got to take it all in and enjoy the surroundings in the middle of minus temperatures. In the end, it was mission accomplished when I made it to the glacier and found the water in a sapphire blue ice cave, and it all felt like it was worth it,” he adds. 

“I like to consider myself quite an adventurous person that likes to push extremes, so it wasn't exactly one of the most challenging things I had done, but it was definitely one of the most fulfilling things that I had done.”

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When not trying to save the world, Maps has been running his burger business Buns Out, and working on tv productions. 

“I have been working on the release of a film that was directed by Akin Omotoso and executive produced by myself and Terry Pheto, called Courting Anathi,” he says. 

“I'm also involved with a number of businesses and working on a couple of new shows which I will be presenting, one in the sports space and the other in the lifestyle space, as well as working both locally and internationally on brand campaigns, talks, MCing and hosting events.” 

With Covid-19 having affected many businesses, Maps' restaurant business, Buns Out also took a knock. 

“It's been very challenging but I've been grateful that we have managed to stay in business after everything that has happened with the pandemic,” he says. 

“People, suppliers, staff, customers, everyone has been experiencing their own challenges. Every aspect has been challenging due to the unpredictability that Covid-19 has brought for everyone in some way or another,” he adds. 

“We opened Buns Out five months before the pandemic, and it was packed every day, and then suddenly everything stopped. For months and months, on and off.

"Each time felt like we were starting from scratch as there wasn't enough time to initially fully establish the brand, but the support that we've kept getting to get us this far has been humbling.

"The end of September this year will mark three years for the business, so I think we can be proud that we've made it this far. There's so much to be grateful for and I'm blessed to be inundated with work, travel, and being a part of exciting projects. I'm encouraged by all that has been coming my way and feeling like I'm moving towards reaching my potential always keeps me motivated.”

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