`I went to conserve wildlife and ended up eating most of it'

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The Independent Travel
The first entries in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's current passport are dated 1988. Having just left Oxford, Hugh spent six months driving round southern Africa with a friend. The idea of the trip was to carry out research for a paper on conservation, which gave Hugh and his friend the perfect excuse to spend six months on safari.

They started in Johannesburg where they bought a four wheel drive truck and went on to visit some 20 game reserves in Botswana, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia. They spent their nights under canvas and cooked meals on an open fire. The pair discovered bread-making, and made cheese and onion, garlic, herb and even fruit bread in an old cast iron pot. The campers had trouble with hyenas, who chewed their cooking pans, and they had to defend themselves against baboons raiding their supplies. A homemade catapult made from a forked stick and the inner tube of a bicycle wheel soon saw them off.

According to Hugh, one of the ironies of the trip was at the same time that they were making their study of conservation, they were slowly eating their way through Africa's wildlife. Hugh tried ostrich biltong and roasted impala liver, and has to say both were delicious.

In 1989 Hugh gave up cooking at the River Cafe and turned his hand to journalism. He began to go on press trips abroad. His passport shows that in 1991 he visited Nairobi, to write about marlin fishing. He didn't catch a marlin, but a huge and hideous hammerhead shark weighing 120lb.

A year later he went on to press trip to the wine country of Chile. At the end of the trip he headed down south to do some trout fishing in Patagonia. The weather was dreadful, but the fishing sensational, and Hugh happily recalls the one afternoon when the sun came out and he made a little fire and cooked trout by the side of the river.

Along with fishing, diving is another of Hugh's passions. He learned to dive in London and then made two trips to Egypt in 1990 and 1991. Hugh says that after Swiss Cottage swimming pool - where the most exciting thing you saw was somebody's corn plaster - the Red Sea was massively exciting. In 1994 he went diving in the Seychelles where he saw three huge stingrays in a coral cave. Apparently if each one had been a table top you could have sat six for dinner round them. While Hugh was in the Seychelles he made a fruitless search for a local delicacy - curried bat. In a couple of weeks he's going back to the Seychelles for more diving, and he's determined to track down that bat.