Jeremy Wade has spent nearly 40 years travelling to the world’s remoter rivers. Since first setting out in 1982 (on an Ariana Afghan DC-10 bound for India) he has been arrested for spying in southeast Asia, caught cerebral malaria in the Congo, and survived a plane crash in the Amazon. But mostly he has been tracking down and documenting elusive underwater creatures — several of which had never been seen on television before. (Muddy water with near-zero visibility rules out the normal nature documentary approach.)
His list of giant freshwater predators to date includes giant devil catfish (goonch) from India, arapaima and piraiba from the Amazon, goliath tigerfish from the Congo, alligator gar and 300lb white sturgeon from the US, giant freshwater stingrays from Thailand, Argentina and Colombia, freshwater sawfish from Australia, 150lb-plus wels catfish from Spain and Italy, 150lb tarpon (on fly gear) from Nicaragua, and two 500lb male bull sharks from a river in South Africa. He has also had televised underwater encounters with Nile crocodiles in Botswana and a 20ft anaconda in Brazil.
Before travelling with a TV crew, he funded his travels through a number of short-term jobs (including science teacher, advertising copywriter, newspaper reporter, construction and farm labourer, cafe worker) and freelance journalism. He has written three books about his travels and his work has appeared in the Guardian, The Times, Sunday Telegraph, and BBC Wildlife magazine.
He grew up in south-east England, on the banks of the Suffolk Stour, where his lifelong interest in fish was awakened. He went on to gain a BSc in zoology from Bristol university and an honorary doctorate from the University of Kent, for natural history communication. When not camped beside some far-flung river, he now lives in south-west England.
"I don't really see myself as an explorer," he says. "All that hacking with machetes and dragging dugout canoes through swamps is just the journey to work. And I’m not a particularly expert angler. My background is just getting into the kinds of places where outsiders don't normally go, with enough physical and mental energy left to put a line in the water."