All at Sea with Ben Fogle – Me & My (Adventure) Travels
You could say that this broadcaster/writer/adventurer is rather well travelled… During his service in the Royal Naval Reserve he served in Norway, Spain, Gibraltar and France and his thirst for adventure has since seen him undertaking thrill-seeking and dangerous expeditions worldwide. He’s survived extreme climes, racing across the punishing Antarctic to the South Pole and running gruelling marathons in the harsh Sahara desert…not to mention rowing across the Atlantic Ocean with James Cracknell (setting the British pairs record). The daredevil explorer’s European achievements include climbing volcanoes in the Azores, paragliding over the Italian Dolomites, skating across Sweden and flying a fighter jet in the Czech Republic. Who’d have thought this adrenaline junkie had a fear of heights?!! Ben Fogle talks to Angela Sara West about his relentless, and often highly-precarious, travels and his new role as Destination Expert for Celebrity Cruises. BBC’s Castaway 2000 saw you marooned on an uninhabited Scottish island for a year and marked the birth of your broadcasting career. You’ve since hosted numerous TV shows including Extreme Dreams, Countryfile and Harbour Lives and your highly-acclaimed series Through Hell and High Water won a prestigious RTS award. How often are you on the road? I travel weekly for work and most of my filming commitments are currently overseas. A typical year for travel, this year I’ve been on a trawler in the North Sea, to Sochi in Russia to cover the Olympics, to Sweden, Norway, Finland, Austria, Ireland, Amsterdam, Portugal and I’m just back from Oz! I also spend a great deal of time in the USA for NBC. Having travelled extensively, to far-flung and exotic destinations, the whole world is your playground. What do you love about Europe? I’m a huge fan of Europe. It offers a rich and diverse mix of landscapes, history, food and cultures, from classic Southern Europe with its beautiful ports and gastronomy to the smorgasbord of architecture in Northern Europe, which is hugely underestimated. I’m outdoorsy and it’s fantastic. The fjords, seen from a height showing a different perspective, were a highlight for me. Where would you recommend for the best food/nightlife? Italy for food, Iceland for night life. Your appetite for adventure has seen you undertake numerous epic challenges. What motivates you to attempt such feats? Learning and discovering. I like to push my own boundaries, both mental and physical. You have tackled some of the most hostile environments on earth, swum with crocodiles and even survived tropical diseases (requiring two months of chemotherapy) and being bitten by a rabid dog! How do you keep fit and healthy and on top of your game? I try to run whenever I can. I find it a great way to discover new places, to get lost in a city. I have run in just about everywhere in the world. Your top travel tip? To avoid jet lag, switch your clock to the time at your destination as soon as you board the plane and stay awake until it’s night time. What are your favourite things to do when off you’re off duty and able to take a holiday? Relax, read and catch up on sleep. Travel guide or play it by ear? Playing it by ear can be fun, but research helps enhance an experience. Hotel or villa? Villas, with friends, are fun! Favourite hotels? I love the Malmaison in Oxford and Hotel Farol in Caiscais, Portugal. Where do you head for pure escapism? Cornwall, the Outer Hebrides or Austria. As a keen scuba-diver, where’s your favourite place to dive? I have scuba-dived all over the world but the highpoint remains diving between the tectonic plates in Iceland. Do you own a property abroad? I don’t, but I would love to buy a property overseas, preferably in Portugal where my wife and I got married. Somewhere on the Costa Do Sol… You’re a bit of a linguist – which languages do you speak? Fluent Spanish, French and I’d love to learn Portuguese. You took part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant (in your Atlantic rowing boat The Spirit) and you’re good pals with Prince William and Prince Harry, even walking on the wild side with them, tracking lions in Africa… I was very lucky to spend time in Botswana with Princes William and Harry and was enormously lucky to go to the Royal wedding! You’ve recently been exploring Europe by both land and sea, developing a series of unique and exclusive shore excursions for Celebrity Cruises... I share Celebrity Cruises’ passion for destinations and my ‘Great Adventures’ will offer an eclectic mix of culture, history, famous sights and wildlife, often off the beaten track. Adventure is anything out of the ordinary, a little bit different. I like alternative travel, tipping it on its head. I enjoy revisiting places and seeing them from a different perspective. I have a passion for taking the road less travelled. What can cruisers expect from these experiences? My suggested excursions show opportunities for enhancing ports of call visits, whether discovering a destination through food, nature, architecture or cultural heritage. I hope they will help people explore, from getting out of your comfort zone to seeing a destination through the eyes of a local, making for an immersive, possibly once-in-a-lifetime, magical experience. The Adventures include triathlon-themed trails in Croatia (biking, swimming and sea kayaking in the Adriatic), a wildlife encounter snorkelling with salmon in Norway, a Sicilian gastronomic tour and a speedy RIB boat ride through the Stockholm archipelago. You admit that as an adventurer, cruising seemed a strange choice for you… How was your first experience? I went to Malta, Sicily and Naples, then across land to Positano on the stunning Amalfi Coast. I didn’t think cruising was for me as I stereotyped it. I thought it was for a much older demographic and was all about the ship, but I was really surprised…by its diversity, the fact that I could find escapism on board, little corners to escape to…I thought I wouldn’t enjoy being on a ship as rather than be up high, I like to be close to or IN the water, touching it, tasting it… But I loved seeing the majestic coastlines, immersing yourself in different cultures from one day to the next and not to be at the mercy of the ship. With cruising, you end up in cities you wouldn’t usually visit. You can just take the ship as a mode of transport, a moving hotel. In a time-poor age you can maximise your time by sailing through the night, then maximise shore time, getting a real taste for a place and some fantastic photography. Are you a keen photographer yourself? Yes, photos are evocative and a great way for me to remember places, especially as I travel so much. I usually use the camera on my iPhone. I’m also inspired by literature on my travels. You’ve since taken your family on a Scandinavian cruise, taking in Helsinki and Stockholm... It’s important for me to share the world with my family. Cruising from Southampton’s great if you have kids. It’s a joy to bypass airports – I know all the tricks for fast-tracking at airports but it’s a different story when you take kids! Boarding at Southampton is a joy, with your rooms right there, nannies and kids’ clubs, pools, lots for kids to do… Celebrity Cruises cater well for kids (mine are four and five), while my wife and I enjoyed the spa! There’s a good balance on board. A cruise makes for a great family holiday. Finally, with all this travelling, do you worry about your carbon footprint? I do and I try to offset it as often as I can! Ben Fogel is an ambassador for WWF, Médecins Sans Frontières and Tusk, which protects wildlife, supports communities and promotes education in Africa. He’s also a keen supporter of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the President of the Campaign for National Parks. Further details at: www.benfogle.com For information about Ben Fogel ‘s ‘Great Adventures’, see Celebrity Cruises’ website: www.celebritycruises.