No food, no tools for 10 days

Adventurer Ed Stafford wants to show in his TV series that he can not only survive in remote places, but also thrive

Ed Stafford (above in Namibia) films all his shows himself.
Ed Stafford (above in Namibia) films all his shows himself. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

In his documentary series, British explorer Ed Stafford travels to the world's most remote places and attempts to survive - with no food or tools - for 10 days in each destination.

But for the 40-year-old, surviving alone does not cut it. He wants to prove he can thrive in the harsh conditions.

"To thrive is to make my life as good as I possibly can, so that by the end of it, I'm fairly evolved and sustainable," he tells The Straits Times in a phone interview.

"I could have drunk coconut water, eaten coconut flesh and probably survived without actually catching any animals or making a shelter. But I think these shows wouldn't be very exciting."

The second season of Marooned With Ed Stafford is airing on Discovery Channel.

This time, he finds himself marooned in some of the world's most inhospitable areas - the tropical jungles of Guatemala, the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, the Namibian bush in southern Africa, the Andes in Patagonia and the Coron Island in the Philippines.

Guatemala for him was the most challenging, although he had expected it to be easy.

"I pride myself in my ability to live in the rainforest after spending 21/2 years in the Amazon. Not only was it raining a lot, which made it difficult to light a fire, the mosquitoes and the difficulty catching food also made the whole experience very, very difficult," he says.

He made his name when he became the first man to trek the entire length of the Amazon river in 2010.

The 9,600km journey on foot took 859 days to complete.

The expedition, which was captured in the TV show Walking The Amazon, remains Stafford's biggest achievement. Above all, it was a humbling learning experience for him.

"When I was walking down the Amazon, I was so obsessed with getting to the end that what I was doing along the way became a stepping stone. Life is more about enjoying the actual experience," he says.

He had also survived 60 days alone on an uninhabited tropical island in the Pacific.

His experience was captured in Ed Stafford: Naked And Marooned, which was aired on Discovery Channel in 2013.

Growing up in the countryside, Stafford, who films all his shows himself, has always had "a deep affinity with nature".

His experience as a scout, captain of the British Army's infantry unit and expedition leader equipped him with the vital survival skills.

Mental battles, however, pose the greatest challenge. "(In isolation), what would normally be quite easy to overcome becomes far more intensified. You're constantly cross checking whether you are actually getting things right, whether you're going slightly mad," he says.

"I meditate regularly so I don't get wrapped up in my fears. It gives me more space to make proper decisions and allow things to be as they are."

With so many reality survival shows on television in recent years, Stafford points out that the authenticity of his programmes makes him stand out from the crowd.

"It frustrated me slightly that (survival shows) were scripted. There's a fire-lighting scene and then the whole crew packs up and they film the river-crossing scene. That's always been how TV is made, but I saw that there was scope to do it a little bit more authentically," he says.

"I film everything myself so there isn't a cameraman there to offer me a chocolate bar. If I couldn't light a fire, I would be shivering cold under a rock that night or eating raw food. I would, essentially, suffer the consequences of my own failures."

•Marooned With Ed Stafford 2 airs on Discovery Channel (StarHub TV Channel 422) on Tuesday at 9pm.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2016, with the headline No food, no tools for 10 days. Subscribe