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Taking World Leaders into the Wild ‘Terrified’ Bear Grylls

From Julia Roberts and Benedict Cumberbatch to Roger Federer and Rita Ora, Bear Grylls has taken some of the world’s best-known stars on incredible survival adventures in the wild. Bear has also had the chance to take some world leaders on his survival adventures over the years, including former U.S. president Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

High Pressure

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Image by Andy Morgenstern

Although Bear seemed calm and in control in each episode, he said afterward that he was too terrified during both shows to really enjoy them.

“The fact that both Obama and Modi were sitting global leaders of two of the most powerful nations on Earth meant that the security, logistics, and protocols on those journeys were highly restrictive,” he wrote in his autobiography Never Give Up.

Bear also said that the schedules for both leaders were tight, so filming had to be fast, which made everyone on edge. Despite the fact that this, as Bear said, “made it hard to relax and enjoy the experience,” they both made for memorable episodes.

President Obama

Bear filmed in the Alaska wilderness with then-U.S. President Barack Obama for a special episode in Season 2 of Running Wild, broadcast in 2015.

Bear says that when the White House reached out to the production team to say President Obama was a fan of Running Wild, he could not believe it. Obama was heading to Alaska and wanted to be shown some of the effects of climate change and glacial erosion.

They went to the Alaskan wilderness, and during the episode, they discussed the climate crisis and the glaciers, while eating some salmon that had been caught by a bear on the river bank and making tea with melted glacier water.

Secret Service Agents

Bear said later that while it all looked pretty relaxed, behind the scenes there were choppers, roadblocks, a motorcade of 20 Secret Service cars, and 50-60 agents hiking and lining the route.

His favorite moments were when he was huddled in the bushes with the president, waiting for teams ahead to move.

“It’s what the wild does: it levels people and removes airs and graces; it brushes aside the normal formalities of life. In those moments, the wild connects us,” wrote Bear in Never Give Up.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Bear went to India in 2019 to film an episode of Running Wild with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. The episode went on to get 3.6 billion impressions when it aired.

Not everything went according to plan. They had carefully planned a route in advance, but delays with the PM’s arrival (he had to take a boat up the river in bad weather), meant that Bear and the team had to ditch the plan at the last minute and come up with a new one.

Weapons at the Ready

“From the moment he stepped out of the jeep smiling, I knew we would be OK,” wrote Bear in Never Give Up. “We shook hands, I gave him the briefest of briefings on the new plan, and before anyone could say a word against it I led the PM off into the forest, with his close protection team bustling along behind with their weapons at the ready.”

As they were in tiger country and there was a threat of an attack, Bear showed PM Modi how to make a simple spear, but the PM told Bear that he would never kill a tiger. However, he did walk along holding the spear, and Bear said he was game for all the adventures throughout the filming.Read more about Bear’s adventures in India and how they inspired him to want to climb Everest.

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