By the age of 11, the averagekid has learned how to climb a jungle gym. But not Richard Wiese. That was theage when the former Explorers Club president climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for thefirst time—and he’s done it 15more times since. The Emmy Award-winning journalist/adventurer/field scientisthas also cross-country skied to the North Pole, tagged jaguars in the Yucatanjungles, and was a member of the largest medical expedition ever conducted onMt. Everest. But his latest undertaking is as the host of the aptly named Bornto Explore, a new syndicated ABC travel program that highlights culturesfrom around the world, including Aboriginals in the Northern Territory of Australia, Batwa pygmies in Uganda, and Mayansin Belize.
Q: What makes Born to Explore different from otheradventure shows?
A: “The mandate of the show is “People, places, planet,” and we’re trying to taketime to learn more about the people. I’m finding that indigenous cultures, onceyou listen to them, usually have an interesting message.
Ialso find there’s magic in the world—not in pulling a rabbit out of the hat,but things I can’t explain. I remember I was in North Carolina filming redwolves, and we were in this beautiful farm field, and I look over and there’sthis bear watching the sunset. He stood there for 10 minutes. There are so manymoments like that that still occur in nature, things that happen that aren’t onthe itinerary—and that's something we’re hoping to capture more of.”
Q: In the next episode, you head to Uganda to go gorillatracking. What did you learn from that experience?
A: “The Uganda story fits so perfectly with the show’s mandate. I initially wantedto go to Uganda because everyone says that one of the most life altering experiencesis sitting near a mountain gorilla and looking it straight in the eyes. They’reso closely related to us from a DNA standpoint that you can’t help but feellike you’re looking at a cousin who’s looking right back at you.
Whatmade the experience more memorable is that the gorillas are close to a villageof a vanishing group of people, the Batwa pygmies. They’re 4 feet tall; they’reable to walk through the jungles and forests silently; and they live completelyoff the land. The people from Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp arranged a hike tothe village, where I was greeted by one of the village elders who is in his 80s.He proceeded to spring up a mountain and climb a tree that had honey on the topof it, a machete in one hand and a pot in the other. He had these chiseled abs,and I thought, ‘When I’m 80, I hope I can take my shirt off like that.’ Theyhad a great sense of humor, always smiling, bowing to each other a lot. It wasone of the most wonderful days I’ve had in my life.”
Q: What can viewers look forward to in future episodes?
A:“An episode on Iceland will be airing. We’re planning a trip to Morocco, and wefilmed in Belize in a Mayan village. Just to show you my ignorance, I didn'tknow there were holy Mayan villages until I got there; I thought they hadintegrated into other villages. We are also planning a trip Botswana, to do an episodeon orphaned elephants.”
Q: What’s itlike being referred to as the “real Indiana Jones”?
A: “There actuallywas a real Indiana Jones. His name was Roy Chapman Andrews, and he was presidentof the Explorers Club and the American Museum of Natural History. He smuggled fossildinosaur eggs out of Mongolia. I certainly couldn’t hold a candle to that guyfor sure.”
Q: Can you recommenda couple of trip ideas in the U.S. for beginner adventure travelers?
A: “I would go tothe Florida Everglades and rent a canoe. There are trails that go through theeverglades, and you can camp out. What I like about that adventure is you havereally great wildlife, but you’re only an hour from the Miami airport, and it’sreally cheap.
And even thoughpeople think it’s cliché, I think the Grand Canyon is one of the most beautifulplaces on Earth. The adventure can go from just getting out of your car andlooking at a vista to hiking its canyons.”
Born to Explore airs Saturday mornings on ABC.