Bear Grylls is no stranger to adventure. During his career, the adventurer and survivalist has traveled to some of the toughest, most remote places around the world. That’s why Grylls was the perfect person to host the new National Geographic series Hostile Planet.
Coming from producers of Blue Planet and Planet Earth II, Hostile Planet is centered on the animals and wildlife making home in some of the most extreme environments around the world. Shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth) the series takes viewers in-depth to see just how these incredible animals adapt to these extreme locations and survive—and sometimes thrive.
Each episode of the series spotlights one of those treacherous environments, like mountains, oceans, jungles, and deserts. In Episode 3, Grylls will turn the focus to the “Grasslands”, which you can watch when it airs at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on National Geographic. You can also catch up on past episodes of Hostile Planet at NationalGeographic.com.
Grylls spoke with Men’s Journal about some of the incredible animals and moments he saw while working on the Hostile Planet series, the best advice he ever received, climbing Mount Everest, and what places he wants to explore next.
Men’s Journal: What was your experience like working on the Hostile Planet series?
So much of my life has always been about adventure, nature and wild animals, so I’m so proud to be a part of bringing this new series to such a big global audience: the message matters. Hostile Planet really is a dynamic reboot of the natural history genre, introducing wildlife at its best to a younger, newer audience. It’s about showing just how brutal and unforgiving the natural world can be, and at the same time, being inspired by the mind-blowing resilience of these animals.
we like to say: come back alive, come back as friends, come back successful…in that order!
What do you hope that people take away from watching the series?
While the series definitely doesn’t hit viewers over the head with climate-change messaging, I do hope people will consider just how real and personal it is after seeing how these animals have become life-threateningly affected by climate change. For years, I’ve seen its devastating effects firsthand, and this series takes an unflinching look at the reality of what’s happening in the natural world. It’s sometimes difficult to watch, because the scenes are so heartbreaking as well as at times simply terrifying, but the goal was to view the animals from their own perspective and show how they’ve become victims of this rapidly changing planet.
What was it like being able to see these incredible animals and situations up close?
As a survivalist, it was so humbling, especially some of the stuff from the behind-the-scenes filming of Hostile Planet. These animals face constant challenges to their existence and that of their young. They must adapt to the cruelest of nature’s curveballs in order just to eat, find shelter and breed the next generations. Their total resilience is a reminder of the beauty and fragility of life—from the smallest creatures to the largest. I mean, can you imagine seeing polar bears hunting whales!?
What moments stand out to you from filming the series?
I think the most incredible moments of the series come from those rarely filmed animals who aren’t always in the spotlight, but whose behaviors will totally blow you away. For example, in the Oceans episode, you get to see fur seals work together to fight off a shark, taking on mob behavior and overcoming the giant. And in our Jungles episode, viewers meet one particular jaguar that has not eaten in days. And it’s absolutely jaw-dropping to watch her attack a gigantic croc—I won’t spoil if she wins or not. Hunting behavior like this in the natural world is extremely uncommon and it’s almost unbelievable that the team caught it on camera.
What advice do you have for Men’s Journal readers about taking their own adventures?
The best expeditions and trips don’t always go to plan. Be prepared for the unexpected and go with it. The wild and open road often throws curveballs, and you have to be ready for them. But also, it’s important not to rush into a bad plan; take your time to think calmly and remember the priorities of survival: protection, rescue, water, and food. And in terms of attitude: positivity, resourcefulness, courage, and above all, determination. Our filming team often has to adapt plans; the motto we live by is improvise, adapt, overcome. Ultimately, we like to say: come back alive, come back as friends, come back successful…and in that order!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice is from my late father. He was definitely a mentor who inspired me to not be afraid to go for things and to take a few risks. Failure was never failure to him but was a stepping stone to success. He encouraged me to follow my dreams and to be a good friend to people along the way.
What’s one trip or adventure that most changed your life?
Climbing Everest—standing on that peak was a life moment for sure. The summit itself is extraordinary—small, like a coffee table, the highest point on our planet, the roof of the world. Those images of watching the sunrise over Tibet are locked in my brain forever. That expedition changed me in so many ways, and during that time, the mountain claimed four climbers’ lives. That was so hard to come to terms with, but through it all I have been given a gratitude for life that lasts to this day.
How did the use of technology during the series help you/and the series get the footage you wanted?
The technology the crew used to capture footage for Hostile Planet felt like a gigantic leap into the future. We used tiny little pin cameras, filmed underwater, incorporated some amazing time-lapse sequences and had racing drones flying overhead giving the perspective of animals on the chase—it was incredible how close we were able to get and how the tech allowed us to move with the animals and give that immersive feel to the whole experience.
Are there any places you’d like to travel or explore that you haven’t been yet?
So many places, and I have a pretty decent bucket list to tick off! I would still love to do some of the unclimbed peaks in Greenland. There are such huge expanses of genuine wilderness, totally unexplored, that brings on a sense of awe that is hard to describe. I’ve also always promised I would take my family to Everest base camp one day to show them the mountain. To share that with them would be very special.