Back from New Guinea – briefly... Well, the great return to PNG with Frank Gardner went beautifully – up to a point. Naturally, our hotel almost burnt down on the first night - and off we went into the forest on our adventure, only to find our trip cut short due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control. More news on this when the eventual programme comes out.. The long and short is that we are both returning to PNG to finish filming: and if all goes well the broadcast will be at Christmas. Hope it's worth the wait (that is, if you HAVE been waiting...)
Beyond: Steppes Travel Festival
Sunday 18th September, RGS: As part of a wonderful assemblage of naturalists, adventurers and explorers, the BEYOND festival organised by Steppes Travel. See my tweets but other speakers include Ran Fiennes, Monty Halls, Steve Leonard...
Close Encounters (all around the globe)
Wednesday 2nd November, 7pm RGS: Save The Rhino are joining Real Africa for this event: A speech (by me, that is!) entitled "Close Encounters (all around the globe)", as part of an evening of entertainment and insight – we trust – for the long-suffering rhino. As well as me there ll be a notable panel of experts and enthusiasts. Please come!
Adventures in Paradise
Monday 5th December, RGS: Adventures in Paradise by Frank Gardner and B. Allen Esq. Our long-awaited – if only because it's been cancelled and delayed – lecture to Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society about our search for the elusive Birds of Paradise.
Off exploring again!! Sir Runulph Fiennes orders – and I obey
You might have noticed: I've been a recluse for a decade or more. But for a couple of years now, friends and fellow explorers have been telling me to stir my stumps and get out there again. Even my wife has been telling me to go and get lost somewhere! At the same time, there's been a welcome – if not exactly universal – swing back towards authentic adventure on the telly.
So, off to the jungle it is!
But which jungle exactly? Not the Amazon, actually, Sir Ranulph. Years ago, the BBC's Security Correspondent Frank Gardner told me that, having been shot in Saudi Arabia, one of his great regrets was that he'd never now see New Guinea's elusive Birds of Paradise. My mission, then: to help wheelchair-bound Frank through the swamps, thickets and formidable misty mountains to allow him to fulfil his goal.
But it's not as easy as it sounds!
I haven't been there for three decades. So the plan is that we track down the Niowra, the people on the Sepik who generously allowed me to go through their brutal "crocodile" initiation ceremony. My hope is that on my return the Niowra will help us through the lowlands and up to the Central Range, where – all those years ago – I made "first contact" with the Yaifo. At that time, the Yaifo were a small band of very agitated people – by way of a warning, they greeted me with a spectacularly colourful and scary dance. Actually, they turned out to be quite friendly – and really very kind to me, when you consider that their world was falling apart. At the time, there was a gold-rush in the region, and their lives – like so many lives of indigenous people – were falling apart. Thirty years on, I won't be a lone young "whiteman" but I'm hoping the Yaifo will help us find one or two of that most spectacular of creatures known as "Birds of Paradise"...
A frank Yaifo in his garden, 30 years ago
A Frank Gardner, today
We depart on 4th June – and the results will be shown in the Autumn on BBC Two.