Bear Grylls, the world’s most recognisable face when it comes to surviving in the wild, is a born adventurer. Growing up on the Isle of Wight, he would go mountain climbing and sailing with his father, learning the tricks of the trade from an early age. Educa-ted at Eton College, Grylls helped his teachers learn a new skill set, starting the school’s first ever mountaineering club.
Reluctant to slow down, Grylls served three years with the Special Air Service, an elite unit in the British army, before becoming the host of Discovery’s Man vs Wild that gave him a global platform.
“From a young age my father taught me to climb,” says Grylls, “but also that it was okay to have big dreams. As a child my bedroom was covered in posters of Mount Everest. One day I vowed to climb the mountain somehow – an ambition my father and I nurtured together.”
Call it fluke or fate: the first season of Man vs Wild saw him climb Everest, as well as taking on scorching deserts and snake-filled swamps. Grylls has been gifted with a determination that helps him overcome some of the most difficult circumstances anywhere and he ventures into tougher territory with each new show.
He elaborates: “In my new TV series Escape from Hell I got into a sticky situation in a rapid, getting caught in a submerged tree – but in the past there have been many times where I thought ‘This is quite close to the edge’, whether it be nasty snake bites or close shaves with salt water crocodiles.
I have been dropped in deserts before where if I don’t get water in three hours it’s over and that always focuses the mind. The real challenge is making sure you get it right every time. You only get it wrong once.
“The reality of survival is that it’s terrifying. I learned from filming that we’re all more resilient than we believe. We’re like grapes – when we’re pushed and squeezed, we see what we’re made of. I have been so lucky in my life many times over: not only to survive my parachuting accident while I was in the military, but also to be able to have a job that is what I always dreamed of.”
Grylls recently started The Bear Grylls Survival Academy, with its African arm launching this year. The aim is to teach students the skills needed to survive in difficult situations.
“So many people kept writing to me suggesting we start one,” he says.
“People want to learn primal life and survival skills as they know it empowers them. The TV shows have brought out that innate sense of adventure in people and the Academy is there to enhance that.”
The course teaches everything from navigation by day and night to fire lighting and river crossings. It’s a variety that equips participants for any situation they may face and includes self-rescue survival skills that one day could save participants lives.
“My focus is to encourage young people worldwide to be able to follow their dreams. I am chief scout to 28 million scouts around the world and it is my main goal always to encourage those who might not normally get the chance, to get out there, go wild and build their own adventures,” says Grylls.
When asked about the most challenging aspect of his career, Grylls admits he hates being away from his family for long periods.
“I struggle with it. It is the hardest part of the show for me. But it means when I am home, then I am home. We say no to a lot of the superfluous stuff and try and keep family first. Otherwise it is a nightmare.”