When he’s not versus wild, he likes it mild
ADVENTURER Bear Grylls, 36, was educated at Eton and London University, then joined the British army, serving in the special forces. In 1998, he became the youngest Briton to climb Everest; he was appointed Chief Scout in 2009. The latest series of his television show, Born Survivor, is on the Discovery Channel. He lives on a houseboat on the Thames with his wife, Shara, and their sons Jesse, 7, Marmaduke, 5, and Huckleberry, 2. FILMING Born Survivor takes me to places where humans have never set foot before, which is a great privilege. At first, I get so enthusiastic, I think I must take the family back and cruise around but then it’s full-on for days on end and I can’t wait to get home.
My favourite holiday is to go to North Wales where we own a small island with a lighthouse that has no mains electricity or running water. I try to take a five-week break there in summer. Nowhere beats the coastline on a still summer evening – you’re not in 50C heat, or in minus 40C cold, and you can run around in bare feet. We bought it 10 years ago, when I was leaving the army. We almost got a one-bedroom flat in London for £200,000 ($A229,000), but ended up buying the island and a houseboat for less.
We have picnics most days and jump in the boat to find little beaches. The Lleyn Peninsula has lots of Cornwall-esque villages and when we want ice creams, newspapers and company, we bomb in on a fast RIB (rigid inflatable boat), which the boys love. We sail and canoe, explore caves and have friends to stay.
I’ve always loved islands, probably because I was brought up on the Isle of Wight. I used to climb the cliffs with my dad, and we’d sail and make rafts – things I teach my boys now.
At the other end of the island scale, we recently had an incredible holiday on the Malaysian island of Pangkor Laut, where we spent four days being waited on in a chalet suite, with beautiful, discreet beaches – and a squash court, which was great. If I don’t exercise on holiday, the relaxation goes out of it. I spent most of the day in the water with the boys, teaching them to dive down deep. We’d chill and read a bit before Shara and I had supper together – the chef cooked amazing seafood on the beach. That’s our time.
As a young guy, I went around India with friends, travelling on the roofs of trains and sneaking into closed areas to climb. I had my first glimpse of Everest at dawn one day and I was captivated by the idea of climbing it.
I’ve had endless hairy experiences travelling. I’ve been caught in rock falls, bitten by snakes and once landed on top of a 5mtiger shark when diving off my raft. People think I must be a nightmare to go away with, but I like mellow holidays now.
Our honeymoon was interesting. I only organised it the day before our wedding, thinking it would be a great way to get a lastminute deal, but we ended up on a one-star holiday near Cancun, in Mexico.
Our room was next to the sewers and really stank, and lunch wasn’t included, so we ended up stuffing Shara’s handbag full of bread rolls from breakfast.
We played a lot of table tennis and ate a lot of peanuts because we couldn’t afford anything else.
After we were married, we rented a tiny flat in Argentiere, in the French Alps, for a whole ski season. We loaded up the Land Rover with dumb-bells, skis and DVDs, and piled out there. We climbed, skied and ate in little mountain huts. Holidays with Shara are always great. I took her on her first skydive in New Zealand and we went wadi-climbing in Oman, up 60m sheer rock walls, camping in the solitude of the desert.
Shara particularly likes city breaks. We’ve done Rome, Venice, Copenhagen and Paris. We find a backwater hotel, have nice lunches and see the sights. The boys love planning everything and we make it fun. Shara loves a nice bathroom, too, but one we had in Milan had ants all over it. I thought ‘‘ Oh, we’ll just sweep them off’’, but she wanted me to speak to the manager – I hate making a fuss. He said: ‘‘ But I watch you on the TV and you eat the ants.’’ He did find us a better room, though.
As for future travels, I have a clear goal. We’re going to take a year out when my television contract ends in 2014 and sail the Coconut Milk Run, south through the Pacific Islands.
My oldest boy will be full crew by then.