Klaserie River Sands

Charley Boorman makes South Africa his Extreme Frontier

Actor and travel adventurer Charley Boorman is currently in South Africa filming the new season of his television show ‘Extreme Frontiers’…

You might recognise Charley from when he and long-time pal Ewan McGregor motorcycled from Scotland to Cape Town in the television series Long Way Down. Or perhaps from Race to Dakar, when Charley had much of the British public glued to their screens as he ploughed through sand dunes in Senegal and broke both his hands in Morocco. Now, Charley and director Russ Malkin are about three-weeks-in to a six-week, country-wide adrenalin-pumped adventure.

[quote]Extreme Frontiers is all about getting under the skin of South Africa and finding out how it ticks – Charley Boorman[/quote]

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So far they’ve abseiled off the mighty Table Mountain, dived amongst great white sharks, taken to the seas for the annual Sardine Run, met the lions of the Born Free Foundation near Shamwari Game Reserve, drunk ‘healing waters’ from a sulphur-rising hot spring, tackled the rough Indian Ocean surf and gobbled down legendary Bunny Chow in Durban.

There’s still a lot more to go…like going on a walking safari through the Kruger – the land of the big five, tunneling deep into a Gauteng gold-mine shaft and hiking the Drakensberg Mountains to the second highest waterfall in the world.

You can follow the Extreme Frontiers South African adventures, and find out more about the team’s progress here

Just before Charley checked out of of Cape Town I caught up with him to chat about his new show Extreme Frontiers and reflect on his past adventures in Africa:

Why did you take Extreme Frontiers to South Africa?

I’m a big fan of Africa….but in all of my previous adventures, like the Dakar Rally and the Long Way Down, I was travelling through countries relatively quickly. The idea of my new show Extreme Frontiers is to choose one country and get to know it really well…we’ve done one season in Canada where we did crazy things like riding across the wilderness on bulls. When I got the chance to do a second season I knew I wanted to come back to Africa and South Africa specifically, to show that it offers more than just big game and safari holidays, there’s tons of other stuff to do here.

Most anticipated Extreme Frontiers activity?

We’re going to tunnel down into this gold mine outside of Johannesberg, where you travel a mile and a half underground and it takes about 25 minutes to get down the mineshaft. It sounds bizarre!

What else are you currently doing aside from Extreme Frontiers?

Every year I do a motorcycle tour from Cape Town to Victoria Falls, through Namibia, it’s a similar route to the one Ewan and I did in Long Way Down. Over the years so many people have asked to ride with me so I thought why not invite people to go with me, introduce them to Africa

Let’s reflect on the Race to Dakar: what was your favourite country to ride through?

To be honest I spent most of my time in a dust bag, following other motorbikes and trying not to kill myself. Mauritania was the toughest place to ride through – really treacherous terrain, vast open desert, big sand dunes and very unforgiving. We were doing something between 6-800 kilometres every day for 16 days – it’s relentless. The year I did it, out of the 260 bikes that started only 64 bikes finished. Senegal was an incredible place to finish the race, there were thousands of people waiting to welcome us in Dakar, the most westerly point in Africa.

Dakar Rally 2006 Charley Boorman

Race to Dakar © www.charleyboorman.com

 Would you do the Dakar Rally again?

Absolutely! I’ve been offered to do it in a truck – you know they race cars, bikes and trucks in the rally so I reckon that would be epic.

If you could go back to one spot on the African Dakar Rally route where would it be?

Morocco, we rode around the back of the Atlas Mountains in the Dakar Rally, that’s actually where I broke my hands – god I had a disastrous time in that race. But the mountains are beautiful and then you’ve got this rich North African/Arabic culture with the food and bazaars. I loved Marrakech, we stayed in a riad in the old town and you can barely wheelbarrow your suitcase down the alleys they’re so narrow!

During Long Way Down, what was your most memorable moment?

What I love about Africa is that you can start at the top and ride your bike down through the continent and everything changes. There were parts of Sudan that were incredible, following the Nile in the baking hot desert and camping on its banks, a river steeped in so much history, it was such a privilege. Rwanda was amazing, we met the president and he invited us for a cup of tea at his house and spoke with so much enthusiasm about how the country is growing as a tourism attraction with activities such as gorilla trekking.

Long Way Down © www.charleyboorman.com

Advice to anyone doing an overland Africa trip?

Plan your journey well, get good camping gear – comfy roll mat and sleeping bag – a good night’s sleep is vital because if you’re in a difficult situation you’ll deal with it much better if you’re not overtired. And always carry babywipes, there’s nothing worse then a rashy bum.

Best sunset in Africa?

Tanzania. During Long Way Down we were looking for a campsite to sleep the night and we rode over the crest of a hill, as we looked down into the valley below the sun was setting and thirty or forty elephants came out of the bush to cross the road against this massive blood-red African sun. It was magical.

Best meal in Africa?

Cape Town, definitely. It’s the best place to eat line fish, I had a fantastic meal at a restaurant in Camps Bay, the view out across the ocean with the palm trees and the wide sandy beach is one-in-a-million.

Future plans?

I’d love to do another Extreme Frontiers and maybe go to Mexico or somewhere in South America. If I could take the show to another country in Africa it would be Ethiopia, it’s a pretty amazing place – the people are so lovely and friendly and the landscape is spectacular, especially the highlands.

**Find out more about where Charley stayed during his Extreme Frontiers South African adventure –  Lawhill in Cape Town, Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve in Port Alfred, and Shamwari Townhouse in Port Elizabeth – all courtesy of The Mantis Collection**

I’m Holly - born and raised in the rural British Counties, my mother began life on a sugar farm in Zululand. After reading Anthropology at university in London, working for a political activist filmmaker in India, and doing a short stint under the bright lights of Bollywood – I decided it was time to return to the motherland. To earn a crust in the name of wanderlust, I finished up a post grad in media and hotfooted around South Africa as a freelance travel journalist.

AG Kruger photo safari
Climbing Mount Nyiragongo
Africa Geographic