What inspired you to become a Royal Marine Officer?
It was a fortuitous route actually. I travelled for a year in Australia after school working and learning to dive. I then made my way to Cyprus and worked as a dive instructor for a year or so, before coming back and joining the Royal Navy with a view to becoming a mine clearance diver. However, after a few days’ experience with the Royal Marines I transferred straight away and loved it. I spent the next 8 years with the Royal Marines.
What was your most challenging adventure with the Marines?
Working for Nelson Mandela on the peace process in South Africa would probably be my most challenging adventure with the Marines. We had to assist with the guerrilla army being integrated into the South African army with the whole world watching and worried about how things would shape out.
You left to pursue a career leading expeditions. What prompted this change?
I was 29 years old and having a great time with the Royal Marines but was really missing the sea and diving. I had always wanted to lead expeditions, explore and dive so I decided to take a chance and went off to study Marine Biology.
What’s the greatest expedition you’ve ever led?
It’s difficult to say really, there have been many projects over the years that are all so different. I’d say the most momentous was the discovery of a sunken city off the coast of Tamil Nadu in India. The initial feeling was one of disbelief. The sheer scale of the site was so impressive, and the fact that it was so close to shore. This gradually gave way to absolute elation.
What leadership qualities are required when heading up an expedition?
You have to be well organised and lead from the front. Everything has to be well planned out and you can’t take any shortcuts. Some people experience genuine pressure and stress when out on an expedition so you have to be sympathetic and listen. Everyone has their own style but I always make sure I’m approachable to everybody in my group.
How does it feel being able to share your experiences with millions on TV?
It’s amazing! I go to some very special places, meet incredible people and see some fascinating animals. It really is incredible to be able to showcase my experiences and share them with others. I love it and am very lucky to do what I’m doing.
Tell us about your dog Reuben.
Reuben is a big part of my life; he’s my right-hand-man and constant companion. He was abandoned twice when he was young so when I picked him up we spent six months alone together in Scotland. He’s the perfect travel companion and makes me laugh my head off. Everyone knows him now too which is great and he gets all the adulation.
What’s been your career highlight?
Being among bull sharks, tiger sharks and great whites in Aliwal Shoal, South Africa was amazing. I’ve swum with baby humpbacks in Tonga and seen seven sunfish at once in Bali. However I’d have to say that I hope the best is yet to come!