Here we talk to Ben Fogle who is known for his passion for animals and wildlife which has taken him all over the world.
He has presented numerous programmes and writes regularly for the Sunday Telegraph and the Independent. He has also written numerous bestselling books. Ben campaigns tirelessly for conservation, the environment and animal welfare, is an ambassador for WWF, Medecins Sans Frontiere and Tusk, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the President of the Campaign for National Parks.
He has recently appeared in the series ‘Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild’, so we took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his adventures and found out about his latest book ‘Ben Fogle, Labrador, The Story of the World’s Favourite Dog’.
From your experience in filming the series, is there a common factor as to why people chose to leave civilisation behind?
They are all people who have realised their dreams. Many of us may have fantasised about cutting ourselves off from the grid but these are people who have actually done it. They are universally content. They are happy because they have done it.
You’ve been everywhere around the world, are there any stand-out locations which you could not see yourself living in?
Tristan da Cunha in the south Atlantic is a pretty extraordinary place. As is Pitcairn and Papua New Guinea. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to more than 70 countries.
Describe the most life-threatening situation you’ve been in whilst filming and would you hesitate to do it all again?
I have had plenty of life threatening experiences over the years from capsizing in the middle of the Atlantic to being attacked by wild Nile crocodiles while filming underwater in Botswana.
Having met numerous individuals during the course of the series, who are the standout people and why?
I think Galsheen from Restoration Island in Australia rates as one of the most fascinating. I loved his story and he even looked like Robinson Crusoe.
Do you think self-imposed exile is a good thing?
Absolutely. I love the idea as we are all too inextricably linked to society. Sometimes we need to take a step back to take a step forward.
Is there a common personality trait amongst all these people who shun civilisation?
They all have a confidence to walk the walk but few of us have the confidence to actually do it. By and large they all have a contentment, verging on happiness. No what ifs? They’ve realised their dreams and aspirations.
Do you think you share that trait? If not, do you admire it?
Hell yes. I’ve been marooned on a remote island for a year myself. All of my expeditions are arguably a form of self imposed exile in which I’m forced to ration my resources, just like our wildmen and women – I’d love to live as they do.
Who are your heroes?
The usual suspects. Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen and Thesiger. The old school pioneering explorers who lay the foundations for us all.
If you were trapped on a desert island (or chose to live on one), what would your necessities be?
Family. Not much else matters when you have young kids. I love to teach them how beautiful the wildness can be. Don’t be scared of it. Embrace it. Where Bear Grylls likes to emphasis the battle between man and nature, Wildmen celebrates the beautiful relationship.
What was your most challenging moment while filming the series?
We had pretty tough conditions in Alaska. But the Philippines was the most uncomfortable. I don’t think heat likes me very much. It makes for slightly uncomfortable but fascinating viewing. I am always amazed that these people are prepared to let me into their lives. They’ve often gone to get away from people.
How did filming the New Zealand episode compare to other locations? Were there any unique challenges/issues?
New Zealand was one of my favourites. Down near Milford Sound the family were very special. I loved the dynamic. The house and the lifestyle. It was all pretty idyllic.
How about people that you met on your way while working on Where the Wild Men Are – what pushed them to change their lives so drastically?
A change of life and a change of pace. They were all driven by making their lives simpler, not easier. They all wanted to cut their ties to the commercial and financial grid and ween themselves from the material world.
What’s the most difficult part when they take such a decision?
Often there is no going back. Many have sold everything to relocate in the wildest corners of the world. The reality is that once you severe your ties it’s very hard to get back on the ladder.
Have you had an influence on the choice of stories that you would go ahead in the programme?
We have a team of researchers who find our ‘wildmen’ I have been lucky enough to travel to more than seventy countries in the last ten years.
Which ones were the most shocking and difficult to understand?
None were shocking. Some were harder to understand. The unifying factor is that they are all happy. Many of them have a tough life in the wild but they still prefer it to the city.
What impact did that experienced have on you?
I spent a year living on a remote island myself. I have always dreamed of doing it again with my family. I’m often envious of their way of life.
Which part of such life would you actually appreciate and like to incorporate to yours?
Living in a wild place. I currently live in the middle of London but I want a big landscape.
Ben has written a social history of Labradors, and how they have become the world’s most beloved dogs. Many of our readers may recall his black Labrador, Inca, who famously accompanied him on numerous journeys and adventures.
Labradors are native to Newfoundland, where they worked side-by-side with fishermen, then brought to England in the 1800s by English ships. Labradors are popular as a family companion and also excel in hunting, tracking, retrieving, guiding and rescuing.
In this unique history of the Labrador, Ben investigates what makes them so special and why they are considered so trustworthy – 30% of dogs used as guide dogs in the UK by The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association are Labradors. They have an extraordinary capacity for companionship, intelligence, work ethic and loyalty.
Exploring their origin, early characteristics, their use as gun dogs, as therapy dogs, as police dogs, as search and rescue dogs and last – and absolutely not least – as family pets, Ben draws on the extraordinary experiences we have encountered with Labradors to tell the story of a dog breed which has captured our imagination and love for hundreds of years.
Labrador: The World’s Favourite Dog by Ben Fogle is available now.