Mother Nature is no match for survival- expert and adventurer Bear Grylls—a man who’s not afraid to eat raw zebra fresh from the carcass or squeeze a couple of sips of water from a chunk of elephant dung to prevent dehy- dration, as long as it’ll help keep him alive. Survival knows no boundaries, and neither does Grylls. From the desert to the moun- tains, watching him as he sleeps in caves, treks through jungles, and fi ghts off beasts, America’s got a lot to learn from Bear Grylls, the star of the Discovery Channel’s smash hit Man vs. Wild. His exploits make some of the most compelling TV since the late, great Steve Irwin, “the Crocodile Hunter,” wrestled a 15-foot croc.
His résumé is replete with firsts—youngest Brit to climbit Everest (at just 23), first to navigate the UK on a Jet Ski, and first to crossthe frozen North Atlantic in an inflatable boat. But Grylls has also endured his share of tragedy. He served three years in the British Army’s special forces before a horrendous parachuting accident in southern Africa left him with a back broken in three places. Two years later the young adventurer climbed Everest, but his achievement was eclipsed by the death of four climbers in his group.
Clearly, Grylls is no stranger to survival. And he’s not afraid to put the skills and knowledge he’s gained in those situations to the test. Left stranded in remote locations around the world, he tries to survive the worst nature’s got to offer—no matter what it requires. It’s his guts and heart that ultimately keep him alive as he shocks and inspires viewers. We caught up with Grylls for an exclusive interview and details of what’s to come on Man vs. Wild.
MF: You’ve experienced some incredible situations on your show. What’s been the worst of it?
Bear Grylls: I’ve been really blessed. Aside from a few situations, I’ve avoided bad injuries. I got really sick in the Central American jungles, but that was a mix of bad luck and hasty drinking of dodgy water—but that’s life, eh? Considering I’ve drunk my own urine and elephant-dung juice and eaten raw zebra, snakes, scorpions, maggots, and sheep’s eyeballs pretty consistently for over a year, on the whole, I’d say I’ve been pretty lucky.
Is there anything you won’t do?
The magic of this show for me is that I am free to make my own decisions, trust my own judgments and instincts, and decide what is the right thing to do to survive. It isn’t always the best or prettiest thing, but it is the way I have been trained and is my way of survival—I know my limitations and capabilities. Survival requires us to leave our prejudices at home. It’s about doing whatever it takes—and ultimately those with the biggest heart will win.
What’s the more demanding part of your job: the physical challenge or the mental challenge?
Both are equally challenging but at different times. Physically, as time goes on I get weaker. Mentally, the start is harder because I’m nervous, but with time I feel mentally stronger.
How do you prepare before going out for an episode?
I spend two or three days before each show going through evacuation plans with local rangers and doing safety briefings, as well as spending time with a survival expert to go over techniques and the area’s animals and plants.
Do your actions send a dangerous message to viewers?
The extremes of jungles, mountains, and deserts are inherently dangerous places. My job is to minimize the risks but also use my skills to get myself out of there. I am very careful, and I trust my instinct about where the real dangers lie. No one at home should copy me. The show is purely about me struggling to stay alive using the skills I have.
Was there any point while filming the show when you wanted to bail out of a situation?
You bet! A few occasions. Once I was lost in the middle of the Amazon jungle with no tent or mosquito repellent, no net, and no fresh water or food during torrential rain for a solid 24 hours. I was unable—for the first time ever—to light a fire, and I had stuffed grass down my clothes to try and stop shivering. I think it’s OK to have the odd moment of “What have I got myself into here?”
How have your real-life experiences helped guide what you do on the show?
The special forces gave me the self-confidence to do some extraordinary things in my life. Climbing Everest then cemented my belief in myself. I somehow survived while four climbers I was with died. I felt a responsibility to justify that somehow and live the rest of my life with fire, love, and energy.
Why do what you do? What makes you want to be the star of Man vs. Wild?
Hey, it’s a living! [Laughs]