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Simon Reeve: ‘I needed a reminder of how much beauty and wonder there is in the world’

In his new travel show ‘Wilderness’ Reeve ventures into some of the wildest and most remote places on Earth. As well as magnificent vast landscapes, he meets poachers and other difficult characters along the way – but as spoilt Westerners, who are we to judge? Interview by Bill Borrows

Saturday 20 January 2024 12:54 GMT
<p>Reeve in Patagonia for his latest BBC travel series, which airs on Sunday 21 January </p>

Reeve in Patagonia for his latest BBC travel series, which airs on Sunday 21 January

We saw aardwolves!” exclaims Simon Reeve with his trademark boyish enthusiasm. “Who the hell has ever seen an aardwolf? What a privilege that was. Our guide in the Kalahari had only seen them twice in 20 years, and we saw a pair. We felt like we were on a lucky shoot after that happened.”

I don’t have the heart to admit to him that I have no idea what an aardwolf is (a quick google later tells me it’s part of the hyena family). But his joy is infectious. And I can see why he enjoys it all so much. After a troubled adolescence that included carrying a knife at the age of 13, vandalism, setting off explosive devices, inevitable run-ins with the authorities and even suicidal thoughts, getting paid to spot aardwolves in an African desert wasn’t where he thought he’d end up as 51-year-old.

As a “hopeless, unemployable, lost teenager” he got his break in the post room of The Sunday Times and was “very, very lucky”. That word again. In all fairness, he made his own opportunities, and by showing relentless curiosity he was eventually allowed to try his hand as a reporter. After making a name for himself, he started his own investigations into a little-known group called al-Qaeda. He went on to write a New York Times bestseller on the terror organisation and Osama bin Laden which was published three years before the attack on the twin towers and perfectly positioned him as a world expert when it was most needed. A significant part of his huge popularity as a presenter can be put down to the very obvious delight and disbelief that he is being paid to travel the world and report on things which simply fascinate him.

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