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Tough Conditions, Tough Places: Bear Grylls On Some of His Most Challenging Filming Experiences

Bear Grylls has filmed his TV shows all over the world and he has said that when he was filming Man vs Wild, they filmed in some very tough locations, and he found the swamplands of Sumatra and the Northern Territory of Australia particularly difficult.

He says he found the swampland of the Northern Territory of Australia one of the most challenging, particularly for the mosquitoes, where he had a tough learning experience, which he wrote about in his autobiography Never Give Up.

Air Thick with Mosquitos

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Image by Ali Majdfar

He says he and the crew were filming in the outback all day, “slogging through deep mud and thorny bush.” After 12 hours of working in high temperatures and 100% humidity, Bear set up camp with a colleague Dave, while the local guides and support team left to drive back to town.

“We set up camp and stripped down to our underpants to wash in the dirty creek water, trying to cool off as much as get clean,” says Bear in Never Give Up. “Then suddenly, in a matter of minutes, it was like every mosquito that was buzzing around our heads multiplied a hundred fold.”

Bear says that the noise of the mosquitos buzzing was so loud, he and Dave had to shout to hear each other. “The air literally became thick with clouds of them. It was an insane sight,” he says. “Those brutes can systematically reduce the toughest of men and women to gibbering wrecks – and fast.”

Bear says that by the next morning, their bodies looked like they had been rolling across drawing pins. “We were swollen, bleeding, scratching messes – and that was even with a tent to crawl into.”

Humans vs. Animals

Bear says he realized then that without tech and tools, humans are just as vulnerable as our ancestors were thousands of years ago and that, in the wild, humans are never the strongest, toughest, or most resilient. 

“That prize goes to the animals. Hardened, honed, and refined in their ability to endure, adapt and survive. Animals are always in a constant fight to stay alive. As a result, they’re pretty damn good at it,” he writes in Never Give Up.

Swamps of Sumatra

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He also wrote that the black swamps of Sumatra were a tough location. 

“The black swamp in Sumatra was memorable for lots of reasons – not least because we were going to a part of the world that some years earlier had been brutally hit by a tsunami that had claimed almost a quarter of a million lives,” he says.

“The tidal wave had destroyed huge swathes of once thriving coastal communities, and turned forest into swampland that in turn had become a place of total desolation. The mangrove swamps of Sumatra were now inhabited by all sorts of diseases and nasties – not to mention the crocs,” Bear wrote in Never Give Up.

He says that moments after landing the swamp by helicopter, he caught a glimpse of a huge monitor lizard in the muddy water beside him and switched into self-defense mode, managing to grab it by the tail and swing it violently against a tree. 

Close Call Underwater

He also had a close call filming a rapid sequence in a river. He ended up pinned under a shelf and was hauled out by one of the crew. He had seen the wall of rock when it was too late — he had already jumped into the water and was being pulled towards the rock, and realized there may be a dangerous shelf under it.

“I saw the situation in a heartbeat. I have learnt that big, life-endangering moments are like that. 

“The skill to survive them, though, is the ability to keep calm, act fast, and see clearly when it counts,” he says. “Such moments can sometimes last a fraction of a second. And in that time you have to get it right.”

Thankfully, as the raft passed with the crew in it, one of them was able to grab Bear’s hand and haul him to safety. 

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