Steve Backshall

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Steve Backshall

Steve with an owl.jpg
Backshall holding an owl in 2011
Stephen James Backshall

(1973-04-21) 21 April 1973 (age 49)
Bagshot, Surrey, England
Alma materUniversity of Exeter,
Open University, Canterbury Christ Church University
OccupationNaturalist, explorer, presenter, writer
Years active1996–present
TelevisionDeadly 60
Political partyGreen Party (since 2019)[1]
(m. 2016)
AwardsBAFTA Awards
2011 Children's Television Presenter
2011 Factual Series Deadly 60

SES Explorer of the Year

Stephen James Backshall MBE (born 21 April 1973) is a British naturalist, explorer, presenter and writer, best known for BBC TV's Deadly 60.

His other BBC work includes being part of the expedition teams in Lost Land of the Tiger, Lost Land of the Volcano, Deadly Dinosaurs and Lost Land of the Jaguar, as well as Expedition with Steve Backshall for the TV channel Dave. He has worked for the National Geographic Channel and the Discovery Channel. He has published a series of four novels for children called The Falcon Chronicles, three adult non-fiction works and numerous other children's non-fiction books.

Early life[edit]

Backshall's parents worked for British Airways, and he was brought up in a smallholding in Bagshot surrounded by rescue animals.[2][3]

Backshall attended Collingwood College in Camberley and Brooklands College, Surrey in the sixth form. He backpacked solo around Asia, India and Africa. After this he studied English and theatre studies at the University of Exeter. In 2020, he received his MSc in bioscience from Canterbury Christ Church University.[4][5]

He is fluent in Japanese, Indonesian and Spanish.[6]


Rough Guides[edit]

Backshall's first job after returning from Japan was as an author in the Rough Guides to Indonesia and South East Asia.


National Geographic TV[edit]

In 1997 Backshall attempted to walk solo across the western half of New Guinea, then known as Irian Jaya; he was in the rainforest for three months, but was ultimately unsuccessful. He then had an idea for a series, bought a video camera, and went to the jungles of Colombia, where he made a pilot which he sold to the National Geographic Channel, which employed him in 1998 as its 'Adventurer in Residence' and he spent five years as a producer and presenter.[citation needed]

For National Geographic International, Backshall presented the expedition series Game For It and the environmental series EarthPulse. On A Walk in The Desert he walked across Israel's Negev Desert. For Bootcamp, he completed the Israeli special forces selection course, running 60 miles overnight to gain their red beret. Cracking the Canyon was nominated for Best Adventure Film at the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

BBC TV[edit]

Backshall in 2010

In 2003 he moved to BBC's The Really Wild Show.[7][8] In his first series, he travelled up Australia's east coast from Tasmania to Cape Tribulation. In the next series, he travelled around Central America, the Galapagos, and then Southern Africa for the final series in 2006.[clarification needed] He competed with fellow naturalist Nick Baker in a series of wildlife challenges, with long-standing host Michaela Strachan.[clarification needed] After four years, The Really Wild Show was axed so he joined the BBC Natural History Unit's expedition team.

In Expedition Borneo, BBC 2005, the team went in search of new species. With other cavers he made the first exploration of the passages below the mighty 'Solo' sinkhole in the Mulu mountains of Borneo, and also made the first ascent of the north side of Mount Kuli.[9]

He co-presented Springwatch Trackers (BBC Two) with Kirsten O'Brien which was broadcast live from the Springwatch farm in Devon between 28 May and 15 June 2007. Teams of boys and girls were set a series of tracker challenges.

In 2008 Backshall's Deadly 60 was commissioned, followed by the Live n Deadly offshoot, the aim of which was to inspire children to get outside and interested in wildlife and adventure; his live wildlife question and answer appearances attracted up to 14,000 people per event.[citation needed] In the "Deadly" programmes he searched for predators that were "Not just deadly to me, but deadly in their own world". He dived outside of the cage with great white, bull, great hammerhead, mako and tiger sharks, caught king cobras, black mambas and lanceheads, had a redback spider crawl across his hand and was bitten on the leg by a caiman whilst searching for anaconda in an Argentinian swamp.[10] The programmes were transmitted on Nat Geo Wild, Animal Planet and BBC to 157 countries worldwide. The fourth season of the series, Deadly Pole to Pole was filmed in 2013–2014 from the Arctic circle to Antarctica, journeying south through the Americas. The scenarios included being hunted by a polar bear whilst kayaking in Svalbard, filming feeding sharks and eagles using timeslice technology,[clarification needed] exploring flooded caves and the insides of a glacier, and catching dozens of species of snake and crocodile. He was bitten by a shark but was saved by a chain-mail shark suit. The finale was diving underneath Antarctic icebergs alongside predatory leopard seal.[11]

In Lost Land of the Jaguar, BBC One 2008, he led the first expedition to successfully climb Mount Upuigma.[12] On the summit, they discovered an endemic species of frog and mouse, and also footprints of an unidentified mammal. Lead climber John Arran named the route "Spiders in the Mist" and gave it a British grade of E7.

He filmed Ultimate Caving, BBC One 2008, with Kate Humble, Secret Wilderness Japan, BBC Two 2008, and also presented Nature Reports for the BBC's The One Show.[13]

In Lost Land of the Volcano, BBC One 2009, he led the first western expedition into the crater of the extinct volcano, Mount Bosavi, in Papua New Guinea,[citation needed] where they discovered new species of cuscus;[citation needed] frogs;[citation needed] and a giant rat, the biggest on Earth.[14] They also uncovered miles of undiscovered passages in the Mageni cave system in New Britain.[citation needed]

In Lost Land of the Tiger, BBC One 2010, the expedition team travelled to Bhutan and filmed, via remote cameras, the Bengal tigers above the tree-line in the Himalayas, categorically higher than had ever been filmed before. Their presence at these altitudes has been previously reported from reports from India, Nepal and Bhutan.[15][16] They also made the first ever descent of the grade V white-water river the Drangme Chu.[citation needed]

In Supergiants, BBC One 2013, he sought to explain why species grow very large. It included diving with Nile crocodiles in Botswana, sperm whales in the Caribbean, and avoiding 2-ton elephant seals in California.[17]

In 2013 he voiced Nature's Microworlds on BBC Four.

Backshall was a contestant on the twelfth series of Strictly Come Dancing from September 2014 on BBC One. He was partnered with former champion Ola Jordan. The couple left the series in week nine after dancing a jive to "Little Bitty Pretty One" by Frankie Lymon.

In August 2015, along with Matt Baker and Liz Bonnin, Backshall co-presented Big Blue Live, a series of three programmes for BBC1, featuring marine life in Monterey Bay, California.[18] The series won a BAFTA for best live series.

In 2016 the BBC aired a series called Steve Backshall's Extreme Mountain Challenge, in which the explorer attempted another first ascent by climbing one of Venezuela's remote and forbidding tepuis - sheer-sided flat-top mountains. In episode 1 Backshall and his team tackle Amaurai Tepui in south Venezuela's Canaima National Park.[19] The expedition nearly ended in tragedy when a storm hit the mountain, and rockfall nearly hit his climbing partner Aldo Kane.

In 2017 the BBC premiered another two-part documentary following Backshall's expedition to New Guinea called Down the Mighty River with Steve Backshall. The team of whitewater kayakers attempted to make the first ever descent of the 500 mile long Baliem River in Papua; an expedition Backshall had been planning since 1997.[20] Over the course of six weeks, they battled against some of the hardest whitewater on earth, capsizes, illness and local politics. Eventually they made it from source to sea, although were open that they had not kayaked the entire length of the journey. A two-part series Japan's Northern Wilderness was presented by Backshall and his wife Helen Glover and three-part series Wild Alaska Live, co-presented by Liz Bonnin and Matt Baker, that aired in July 2017.

In January 2018 Backshall participated in And They're Off! in aid of Sport Relief.[citation needed] Later in the year, he appeared in the first five episodes of Springwatch for 2018 and also presented an hour-long documentary Steve Backshall Vs The Monster Mountain on CBBC. In summer 2018, he presented a ten-part series entitled Deadly Dinosaurs, also for CBBC.

In March 2019 Backshall, along with Liz Bonnin and Chris Packham, presented a four-part series Blue Planet Live on BBC One. Backshall was seen diving live with great hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks, bull sharks and reef sharks from the shark sanctuary of Bimini.

In 2018-2019 Backshall launched the project Expedition, which was televised by BBC2, UKTV, SBS, PBS and Discovery Asia. This involved ten expeditions to parts of the globe that had never been explored before. The team uncovered many miles of sunken cave passages in the cenotes of the Yucatan. They made the first descents of rivers in Suriname and discovered a waterfall that had no record of ever being seen before. At over 100 m high, it was the second highest in the nation. In Bhutan on the first descent of the Chamkhar Chhu river, Backshall was caught in a rapid for five minutes and nearly drowned. His life was saved by rescue kayaker Sal Montgomery.[21] They also made an ascent of Jebel Samnhan in Oman, and the first exploration of a desert canyon with a local explorer.

Discovery TV[edit]

In Venom Hunter, Discovery Channel TV, 2008, he travelled South America aiming to find out as much as possible about venom, including taking part in the bullet ant ritual where he was stung hundreds of times by the world's most painful stinging insect.[22]

In Swimming with Monsters, Discovery TV 2013, he swam with large animals, including anaconda, hippopotamus, Humboldt squid, and great white sharks without the safety of a cage.[23]

Sky TV[edit]

In 2006 he filmed Inside the King Cobra for Sky One.

Channel 5[edit]

In 2017, Channel 5 aired one-hour documentary called Meet the Hedgehogs presented by Backshall and Brian May.[24]


Backshall began working as a writer for publisher Rough Guides, and is an author on their Indonesia guide.[25] He continues to contribute to British newspapers.

Wildlife writing[edit]

  • Venom: Poisonous Creatures in the Natural World, 2007, is a scientific analysis of venoms and poisons with an in-depth look at animals that use natural toxins.[26]
  • Deadly 60 is the book of series one, and is a diary style breakdown of each animal and how they were found and filmed.[27]
  • Wildlife Adventurer's Guide was published in 2009. It is aimed at young naturalists, and provides a guide to having adventures in the UK.[28]
  • Looking for Adventure, 2011, describes his expeditions in New Guinea; his childhood and how he got into television.
  • Predators is an illustrated guide to predatory animals.[29]
  • Deadly Diaries is a diary-style book of Series 3 of Deadly 60, released in 2012.
  • Deadly Detectives is a 'how to' book, teaching the skills of tracking animals by their signs, scat and prints.[30]


Backshall stated "I was a big reader when I was a kid ... Fiction was a massive, massive part of my formative years, far more so than television ever was, and I always hoped that my future would lie with writing. When I was given the opportunity I absolutely leapt at it. It's an idea that I've had in mind for a long time, of these two youngsters on the run who become almost wildlife vigilantes, and it's one that I've had tremendous fun writing."[31]

In May 2012 he published the first of a series of fiction novels entitled The Falcon Chronicles.

  • Tiger Wars, 2012, is about the adventures of a young boy and girl on the run from a shadowy gang of assassins, set against the background of the war on tiger poaching. In 2013 it reached the selection longlist for the Branford Boase Award for debut novels for children.[32]
  • Ghosts of the Forest, 2013, is set in the forests of Borneo and Indochina, with the same main characters battling illegal loggers.
  • The Wilds of the Wolf, 2014,[33] features the same main characters travelling to the Yamal peninsula in Siberia, tracking wolves in the snow, and battling against the big oil and gas companies that are destroying the fragile Arctic environment.[31]
  • Shark Seas, 2016

Backshall stated, "First and foremost I hope that the reader will be entertained," but added "I hope that some of the readers – and if it's a very small percentage that's fine – will come away and want to learn more and will want to go out and find out for themselves what they can do."[citation needed]

Rock climbing and other sports[edit]

Backshall is a rock climber and mountaineer, and does adventure races, fell runs and endurance sports.

In 2014, he summitted the highly technical granite Mount Asgard in Arctic Baffin Island, in one single 27-hour summit push. Ice and alpine climbing are described as being among his great passions, and he has climbed such peaks as Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain in the world at 8201 m, and Cholatse in the Himalayan Khumbu. He qualified as an advanced Himalayan Expedition leader from India's Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. He partnered John Arran and Ivan Calderon up the first ascent of Upuigma-tepui in Venezuela, and led the first ascent of the North face of Mount Kuli in Borneo.

In 2005, he ran the Marathon des Sables 243 km across the Sahara desert[34] to raise money for the Wolftrust.[35]

Backshall has a black belt in judo, attained after a year living in Japan studying the martial art.[36]

He is an experienced BCU four star sea and whitewater and has three times completed the 125-mile, 24-hour, canoe race from Devizes to Westminster on the river Thames.[37] He has competed in numerous triathlons, adventure races and fell running events. His best finishes include winning the 'Extreme' and 'Last Man Standing' events at UK Tough Guy, finishing 9th overall at Tough Guy and 4th in the Welsh 1000m peak marathon.[38]

In July 2008, while attempting to climb a wet cliff face in the Wye Valley in the Forest of Dean, he fell 10 metres (33 ft) onto rocks. The impact sent his heel bone through the bottom of his foot, dislocated his ankle, and fractured two vertebrae in his back. He required twelve operations and several years of rehab to get back to fitness.[39]

Honours and awards[edit]

In 2011, Backshall won two BAFTAs; best Children's Television Presenter, and Best Factual series.[40]

In 2009 and 2013, he was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Children's Television Presenter. Deadly 60 was nominated for Best Children's series. Lost Land of the Jaguar was nominated for Best Factual series.[41]

Expedition Borneo was nominated for an Emmy in the US.

Lost Land of the Volcano won the 2012 Wildscreen award for best popular broadcast.[42]

In 2012, Blue Peter awarded him a Gold Badge, their highest honour.[43]

In 2012, he was awarded an honorary PhD from the University of Exeter.[44]

In 2012, he was awarded the Animal Carer Badge in the Scout Birthday Badge Awards.[45]

In 2017, Backshall and Glover were awarded Charity fundraisers of the year, after raising £360,000 for the World Land Trust. They also won the mixed category of the celebrated Devizes to Westminster kayak race.[46]

Backshall was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to charity and wildlife conservation.[47]

In 2020, he was awarded the Scientific Exploration Society Explorer of the Year Award.[48]



1998 - 2003

  • Earthpulse - National Geographic Channel
  • Game For It - National Geographic Channel
  • The Toughest Race - National Geographic Channel
  • Tracking the Canyon - National Geographic Channel
  • Boot Camp - National Geographic Channel
  • SOS: Save Our Seas - National Geographic Channel
  • The Holiday Programme - National Geographic Channel
  • Dive the World - National Geographic Channel
  • Primary Geography - National Geographic Channel
  • Adventure Diaries India - National Geographic Channel
  • Adventure Diaries - National Geographic Channel
  • The Train to Nowhere - National Geographic Channel
  • A Walk in the Desert - National Geographic Channel



  • Expedition Borneo, BBC


  • Springwatch Trackers, BBC Two
  • Inside Out
  • Nature of Britain
  • Expedition Borneo
  • The Really Wild Show
  • Inside - King Cobra


  • Lost Land of the Jaguar
  • The One Show - Natural
  • Britain’s Lost World
  • Outdoor Britain Extreme Caving
  • Spring Watch Trackers
  • Secret Wilderness Japan
  • Expedition Alaska
  • Venom Hunter
  • Inside Out


  • Deadly 60
  • Lost Land of the Volcano


  • Deadly 60 II
  • Natural Born Hunters
  • Lost Land of the Tiger
  • Live And Deadly


  • Deadly 360
  • Live And Deadly


  • Deadly 60 III


  • Deadly Pole to Pole
  • Super Giant Animals
  • Swimming with Monsters


  • Deadly on a Mission: Pole to Pole
  • Personal Expedition: Mount Asgard
  • Strictly Come Dancing


  • Big Blue Live
  • Backshall's Deadly Adventures


  • Fierce
  • Steve Backshall's Extreme Mountain Challenge


  • Down the Mighty River with Steve Backshall
  • Japan's Northern Wilderness
  • Meet the Hedgehogs
  • Wild Alaska Live
  • Shark Bites


  • Steve Backshall Vs The Monster Mountain
  • Springwatch
  • Deadly Dinosaurs



  • Deadly 60 IV
  • Blue Planet Revisited
  • Springwatch
  • DIY Deadly



  • Our Changing Planet[54]
  • Deadly Predators[55]

Personal life[edit]

In 2015, Backshall and Olympic champion rower Helen Glover announced their engagement.[56] The couple married at Prussia Cove, Cornwall, on 10 September 2016.[57]

In March 2018, it was announced that Backshall and Glover were expecting twins.[58] In April, Glover stated that one of the twins had died, but that she and Backshall were "hopeful for the remaining baby to arrive this summer".[59] On 24 July 2018, Backshall and Glover announced the birth of their baby boy.[60]

On 20 January 2020, Backshall and Glover announced the birth of their twins. All their children's names had Cornish connections as Glover was born in Cornwall.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ @cm_bartley (6 October 2019). "After a lifetime supporting Labour, Steve Backshall tells conference why he has now joined the Greens! - for a poli…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  2. ^ Corner, Lena (7 September 2014). "TV wildlife presenter Steve Backshall is about to face his biggest fear ... Strictly Come Dancing". Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  3. ^ McGrath, Nick (26 May 2012). "Steve Backshall: The wild man from Surrey". Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  4. ^ "Steve Backshall's story".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ "Steve Backshall - Christ Church Alumni Hub".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "INTERVIEW: TV adventurer Steve Backshall on travel, danger and why he loves Dorset". 15 August 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Swimming With Monsters Steve Backshall Biography".
  8. ^ Steve Personal profile Archived 29 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "BBC expedition stories".
  10. ^ Davies, Ella (11 November 2010). "BBC – Earth News – Caiman attacks wildlife presenter filming in Argentina". BBC News. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  11. ^ "Deadly Pole to Pole". BBC.
  12. ^ "Conquering a virgin", The Times, 11 November 2007
  13. ^ Jo Sarsby Management: Steve Backshall Archived 20 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Walker, Matt (6 September 2009). "Giant rat found in 'lost volcano'".
  15. ^ Walker, Matt (20 September 2010). "BBC – Earth News – Lost tiger population discovered in Bhutan mountains". BBC News. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  16. ^ Karl Vernes (23 August 2012). "Tall tales misrepresent the real story behind Bhutan's high altitude tigers". The Conversation.
  17. ^ "Supergiant Animals". BBC.
  18. ^ Usborne, Simon (20 August 2015). "Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay". Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  19. ^ "Steve Backshall's Extreme Mountain Challenge". BBC. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  20. ^ Backshall, Steve (2007). Looking for Adventure. ISBN 978-0753828724.
  21. ^ Harding, Nick (15 July 2019). "Steve Backshall: I had 'horrible guilt' over leaving my pregnant wife to travel the world". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  22. ^ "Bullet ant ritual - awesome!". YouTube. Archived from the original on 19 December 2021.
  23. ^ Jacques, Adam (23 February 2014). "Steve Backshall: The adventurer on swimming with great whites, holding a gorilla by the hand, and his failed relationships". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022.
  24. ^ "Meet The Hedgehogs". Channel 5. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  25. ^ Backshall, Stephen (2003). The Rough Guide to Indonesia, Second Edition: Rough Guides: 9781858289915: Books. ISBN 1858289912.
  26. ^ New Holland Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84537-734-2
  27. ^ Backshall's Deadly 60 Archived 29 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ New Holland Publishers Wildlife Adventure's Guide Archived 18 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "Orion Children's Books to publish action-packed Steve Backshall books". Orion Books. 15 February 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  30. ^ "ISBN Unavailable". Orion Publishing Group.
  31. ^ a b Stapley, Jon (17 July 2013). "Steve Backshall: 'The big predators would run down Usain Bolt without even thinking about it. Your only chance is to stand your ground'".
  32. ^ Allen, Katie (16 January 2013). "Mayo and Backshall on Branford Boase longlist".
  33. ^ "ISBN Unavailable". Orion Publishing Group.
  34. ^ "Marathon des Sables Introduction". 16 April 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  35. ^ "NeuroCite".[permanent dead link]
  36. ^ "steve backshall". Myspace.
  37. ^ Electricwebsites – Essex, UK – 0203 0159099. "Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Marathon". Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  38. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 May 2018. Retrieved 17 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  39. ^ "Really Wild Show host breaks back". 19 July 2008. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  40. ^ "2011 British Academy Children's Awards Winners – Children's – Awards – The BAFTA site". 24 November 2011. Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  41. ^ BAFTA Nominations Archived 11 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  42. ^ "Calendar - Watershed".
  43. ^[permanent dead link]
  44. ^ Debbie Robinson. "Steve Backshall - Honorary Graduates - University of Exeter".
  45. ^ "Scouts".
  46. ^ "Steve and Helen Backshall win Celebrity Charity Champion award". 22 September 2017.
  47. ^ "No. 62866". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 2019. p. N15.
  48. ^ "Ses Honorary Awards Winners 2020".
  49. ^ "About Us / The Trust's Presidents". Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  50. ^ "Steve Backshall becomes Bite-Back patron". Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  51. ^ "Celebrity Mastermind". Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  52. ^ "Our Wild Adventures". Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  53. ^ "Shark with Steve Backshall". Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  54. ^ "Our Changing Planet". Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  55. ^ "BC Studios Natural History Unit announces filming has started on Deadly Predators". Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  56. ^ @SteveBackshall (16 September 2015). "Sunset in the Namib desert, I asked the most beautiful girl in the world to marry me & she said yes! @Helenglovergb" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  57. ^ "Helen Glover and Steve Backshall marry in spectacular coastal ceremony". The Telegraph.
  58. ^ "Team GB rowing star Helen Glover pregnant with twins". BBC News. 13 March 2018. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  59. ^ "Olympic rower Helen Glover loses unborn twin". BBC. 9 April 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  60. ^ "Rower Helen Glover gives birth to boy". 24 July 2018. Retrieved 12 November 2019.

External links[edit]