Over the years National Geographic has compiled a rich program of speakers and storytellers, and each year the Speaker Series reaches bigger audiences and motivates more explorers. Spokane hosts three wildly popular speakers in February, March and April at the INB Performing Arts Center.

On February 9, award-winning photographer Steve Winter presents a thrilling journey into the world of big cats. From trekking high in India’s Himalaya in search of rare snow leopards and stalking the elusive jaguar through Latin American jungles to chronicling the nocturnal activities of the cougar, this determined explorer ventures far and wide to come face-to-face with big cats.

One of Winter’s snow leopard images won him the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. His decade-long project to document the world’s shrinking but resilient tiger species recently culminated in the dramatic National Geographic book, “Tigers Forever. This speaking engagement promises to be equal parts amazing and terrifying because no one else gets this close to the world’s biggest wild cats and then brings those images and experiences to an audience.

On March 8, Vincent Musi delivers an offbeat odyssey into the surprising world of animal (as well as human) behavior. For more than three decades, award-winning photographer Vincent J. Musi has covered diverse assignments, from traveling Route 66 to global warming, life under volcanoes, and Sicilian mummies. But an unusual twist of fate led him to the highly unpredictable world of animal portraiture.

Musi gets up close – almost too close – to his unique subjects, despite the fact that they growl, bark, roar, bite, hiss, claw, poop and pee on him. He delivered a career-defining TEDx talk a few years back (which we highly recommend), and only further solidified his gifted-ability to capture pictures of all kinds of animals. With his witty sense of humor, Musi taps into an inner Dr. Dolittle to share stories from his encounters with some extraordinary animals, including a bonobo with a 300-word vocabulary and a crow that makes and uses tools. He visits several exotic pets, the world’s deadliest snakes, rodents of unusual size and other animals you’d never expect to see in someone’s living room. His show will definitely tickle your funny bone.

On April 19, Cedar Wright promises you don’t have to endure the same bruises and blisters to enjoy “Sufferfest 2.” Nevertheless, his show could be a life-changing experience. Consider that Urban Dictionary defines ‘sufferfest’ as: “An activity whereby all participants ache, agonize, ail, be at a disadvantage, be racked, deteriorate, endure, grieve, languish, and/or writhe…but by co-misery, yet co-hesiveness, will have experienced a grand time.”

In “Sufferfest 1” Cedar documented a biking-and-climbing adventure with Alex Honnold across California, and the film was a smash hit at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. In “Sufferfest 2” Honnold and Wright summited 45 desert rock towers, biked 700 miles through Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona, and climbed and rappelled more than 12,000 vertical feet of rock. In blunt terms, it would be easier to ride a bike from the Space Needle to the summit of Mount Rainer and back again, than it would be to retrace their journey in the Four Corners area.

But this was suffering with a purpose: to support a $40,000 Navajo Solar Project funded by Honnold’s foundation. Wright and Honnold are both members of The North Face Team, and both have traveled the world establishing adventurous and daring first ascents, often documenting these exploits through writing and cinematography. Best of all, they are equally brilliant at keeping calm when everything that can go wrong goes wrong. Today, Wright is one of the most recognized professional climbers in the United States and continues to push himself. When you arrive for his presentation, be prepared to laugh.

Quite frankly, be prepared to laugh at all of the National Geographic speakers in 2016. Each one is an award-winner, and Steve Winter, Vincent Musi and Cedar Wright have pushed the envelope in unexpected ways. From big cats to peculiar animal portraits to unbelievable climbing achievements, these three National Geographic presenters will take your breath away.

More info: Events.nationalgeographic.com/event-series/spokane-speaker-series. //