Intrepid adventurer Francois Theron loves to spend time appreciating the beauty of the Lowveld, albeit from a sometimes different perspective.
Born in the Cape, Francois’ family moved to Mbombela when he was two years old, starting a lifelong love affair with this beautiful part of the world. “When I was at school, all I wanted to be was a nature conservationist, being in the bush and working in game reserves,” he says. “I studied a BScFor in nature conservation, and at the end of my first year I realised that was going to be more of a hobby, what I really wanted to do was physiotherapy.” Francois moved from Stellenbosch to Pretoria, where he graduated in 1999 and started work as a physiotherapist in Mbombela the following year.
Now co-owner of LowMed Health and Sports Performance Centre, it’s fair to say that changing his degree was a good move. “My patients always ask me what my favourite part of my work is,” he smiles, “and I always say actually, I love every aspect of it. Seeing my patients pain-free and on the path to recovery is incredibly rewarding. I’ve had sports injuries and multiple surgeries in my personal capacity, so I know what most of my patients are going through, and can help them with empathy and compassion.”
While his work plays a very important role in his life, Francois’ spare time is full to the brim with adventure. The idea of being able to fly like a bird has been a lifelong dream, and in 2017, he took up powered paragliding. “Now I can see places that I have always wondered about, places that are impossible to reach by car or by foot!” he enthuses. “I also took up trail running after my two brothers motivated me to complete the Otter Trail with them. I had a year to prepare and have since done it three times. This enabled me to see places that only trail runners and hikers can explore,” he says. “Taking photos and making videos of what I do, and then sharing it with others is also a passion of mine. This was one of the driving forces behind why I started underwater photography; it enabled me to show my family and friends things they have never seen before.”
Francois comes from a close family. His parents and brothers are all in the medical profession, and he has two daughters, Isabel (14) and Nina (11), whom he absolutely adores. He says God gave him the most beautiful girls. “I love them to bits,” he says. “As a dad, I know I need to set a good example for my girls. I love spending time with them and I often wish we can all be on a permanent holiday. I see myself in them when they do certain things, and in their different reactions to various situations. They always come first. Unfortunately, my kids moved to the Western Cape with their mum and I only see them about four times a year. It’s challenging, being a single parent, but I spend as much time with them as possible. Luckily, technology enables me to ‘see’ them almost every day; and FaceTiming with them is awesome,” he smiles.
Francois and his girls love to explore, and a road trip to Namibia is planned for the end of the year. When he first started working, this dynamic dad used to dive a lot, a hobby which took him to far-flung and exotic places, like the Red Sea, Indonesia, Mozambique, Maldives and most of South Africa’s coastal diving spots. Wildlife and panoramic photography has also taken him far afield, to Amsterdam, Iceland, Canada and Austria.
Despite having seen so many wonders in the world, Francois’ favourite place to be is in the air. “The best is between 10 metres and 1.5 kilometres above the ground, looking down at our beautiful area with a bird’s-eye view,” he laughs. “I have flown over vast areas of the Lowveld, including Manyaleti and some other Big 5 territories, and you cannot beat it for sheer awesomeness. I am inspired by God’s creations and I want to enjoy it, all of it, from the tiniest flower in the field or the largest mountain, to the smallest seahorse or the biggest whale under the sea.”
Francois’ plans for the future include going on an exploration boat to the Antarctic, to see the wildlife that lives in the cold. “I love life,” he says, “and I’m going to live it to the fullest.”