Ben Fogle: The adventurer talks frostbite, flesh-eating bugs - and an Atlantic challenge


Being on an expedition is about deprivation
Whether its trekking through the jungles in Peru or hiking up
Kilimanjaro, you really value the resources you have: one pair of
pants, limited rations of food, limited battery power. My trips
also remind me what I have left behind. Once I'm back home, I'll
really value what I have, until I start to become complacent – then
I'll go off around the world again.

If I had to be an animal, I'd be a tortoise I was not a high achiever at school, I was shy and not very sporty. So when I failed my exams I had this feeling of despair – until I discovered I was good at endurance. Give me a short race and I'm terrible. But as soon as it's something that takes more than a few days I can keep on going.

I've been on trips where even vegetarians start craving meat One guy who had been a vegetarian for years started longing for a bacon burger and chips. Protein, salt and starch are all things we crave and the body has a clever visual system to tell us what we need.

I don't regret my trip to Borneo for the Sarawak Tourist Board [where Fogle made a series of wildlife films promoting rainforest tourism for the Malaysian state]. I may have comes across as looking foolish since doing it [the regime has one of the world's worst records on deforestation], and it would be easy to regret it, but you could also argue that the focus it has brought to this problem [through the media reaction] was only good.

The desert is unforgiving I've recently come back from an expedition through the Empty Quarter [the Rub' al Khali desert] in Oman for a new BBC series recreating famous expeditions. It was the hardest one I've yet been on: navigating through a vast, arid climate at 47C, the heat and sand abrasion eating away at me. Thirst does the most extraordinary things to you in that sort of environment – it makes you irrational and temperamental. At times I felt like that man in the films, the one who's crawling along the desert dunes desperately searching for an oasis. Of course, this sort of deprivation is voluntary for me; for many people in the world, it isn't.

I fear facial disfigurement I wouldn't consider myself vain but we live in an aesthetically wired society. I caught Leishmaniasis, which is a flesh-eating bug, when I was in Peru a few years ago and I also got frostbite on my nose during an expedition to the South Pole. With the frostbite in particular, I remember panicking and thinking, what if I lose my nose? When those sorts of things happen, you start to think about how society accepts you on the basis of your looks.

I have a grand plan to swim the Atlantic I'm not a particularly good swimmer and I don't even like swimming, but you have to have goals in life. I'm all about proving that anything is possible with the human body, and that's what I want my legacy to be.

Having my drink spiked was bizarre It happened while I was in a pub in a remote corner of the Cotswolds. It started as a feeling of extreme wakefulness, while my eyes felt stretched wider than I'd ever felt them. Once we'd got home, I was ranting and trying to jump out of the window [Fogle was admitted to A&E following the episode]. I had five days of medical tests to prove that I wasn't out of my mind; there's still no proof it was LSD, though.

Ben Fogle, 39, is a TV presenter and adventurer who has participated in expeditions including the South Pole Race, the Atlantic Rowing Race and treks across the Omani and Sahara deserts. He is the new ambassador of Crew Clothing Co ( and patron of the charity Plastic Oceans (

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living