One memorable trip for the author of bestselling The Naked Ape took place in 1981, to northern Kenya. "We were filming The Human Race series, studying the behaviour of people in remote tribes. Temperatures were reaching 130F. Every time I stepped out of the shade to say my piece on camera, I fainted. The director kept saying 'What's the matter with you, Desmond?' He couldn't understand it - until he stepped into the blazing sun and passed out himself. Everyone was fainting all over the place."
Not one to hanker after warmed slippers and a sherry by the fire, Desmond found himself in Finland, filming again, in temperatures at the other end of the scale.
"A group of us were heading up frozen rivers on snowcats. One of them broke down and I agreed to jump on the back of the guide's machine. Everyone else left and my guide, thinking I'd climbed on the back, sped off after them. There I was, stranded in this snow-covered landscape, wolves and bears in the forest around me, and waist-deep in snow." It wasn't until the guide reached camp, two miles away, that he realised Desmond wasn't there, and came back to rescue him.
And what about those leisurely holidays, when high adventure and life- threatening pursuits can give way to gentle diversions; a pina colada under a palm tree perhaps?
"Well, there was this time when my son and I had gone to the Cayman Islands, and we came face to face with a shark ..." Desmond starts. I see a pattern emerging.
"Being a zoologist, I'm obviously not afraid of animals, but sharks are my one fear. In my book Animal Watching I advise people who come up against a shark to stay perfectly still and calm. If you thrash about, it thinks you're some sort of potential meal. So what did I do in my panic, but start trying to kick it on the nose with my flippers. Then I remembered my own advice and froze. After sniffing around us a bit, the shark swam off."
8 Desmond Morris's new book 'The Human Sexes' is published by Network Books, pounds 17.99.Reuse content