He’s been hailed as the real Indiana Jones and the next Bear Grylls, but to Levison Wood’s army of female fans, he’s quite simply Britain’s best bachelor.
At 41, the army officer may still be single – but that’s not because he’s been short of offers since he started doing his shows for Channel 4 in 2015.
During his adventures, most recently traveling to Namibia in southern Africa to film desert lions, Levison even gets advice, however unconventional, on how to find a wife.
He said: “The chief woman of the Himba tribe introduced me to the tribe by putting clay dreadlocks in my hair, which she said would make me look much more stylish.”
“They have this test for men too, sort of a coming-of-age ceremony at age 12, where they knock out their bottom two front teeth with a brick.
“I obviously still have my teeth, and they pissed me off and said, ‘You’re never going to find a woman and get married if you have these teeth.'”
Thankfully, handsome Levison turned down her offer of temporary dental work while filming new C4 series Levison Wood: Walking With. . .
The three-part series, which begins tomorrow with orangutans in Borneo, also sees encounters with polar bears in Greenland while focusing on the world’s most endangered species.
The project is the latest in a television career in which Levison combined adventure with natural history – and garnered a large following.
Men want to be him and women want to be with him. Though he admits he’s in no rush to settle down, despite being in his 40s now.
He said: “I’d love to start a family one day, but I don’t think it’s even necessary to follow convention and settle down.
“Shit, I’m more willing to continue the adventures no matter what. But I’m trying to avoid talking about finding and loving someone because last time I was dealing with a stalker.”
In 2020, said stalker was sentenced to three months in prison after the woman faced harassment for more than eight months, during which she contacted Levison’s parents and showed up outside his home in south-west London.
Levison, who grew up in Staffs, was so afraid of leaving his home that he sold it and moved.
He gained the unwanted attention after breaking through with his 2020 Channel 4 series Walking With Elephants, establishing himself among the all-time greats of TV natural history as he followed the animals’ 650-mile migration in Botswana.
Levison – who served in the army in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2010 and came under fire in the process – had launched his television career in 2013 when a Channel 4 camera crew accompanied him to travel the nearly 4,000 miles from southern Rwanda to the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt for his Walking The Nile series shown in 2015.
“Walking The Himalayas” soon followed, a 1,500-mile trek along the mountain range, then into Arabia. In 2017, he explored Iraq, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Jordan on foot with Levison Wood – and encountered Iraqi troops fighting IS there.
Levison then traveled across America for one more show, from Mexico to Colombia before traveling from Russia to Iran in Crossing Wild Frontiers in a four-part documentary.
Although his new series is animal-focused, Levison promises it will be as gritty as ever and distances himself from Sir David Attenborough’s ‘shiny’ TV series.
He said: “I’ve been in conservation for 15 years. I was an expedition and safari guy before I got into TV, so that kind of TV is my livelihood.
“This is not your typical Sir David Attenborough-style wildlife show. It’s not the glossed over version, it’s quite brutal in places and I think audiences will be quite shocked. It’s not for the faint of heart.
“There are many difficult truths, as I don’t want to shy away from some more disturbing facts. I wanted to do some kind of program that inspires people to care about conservation and do something about it.
“I wanted to illuminate this area. The world faces the greatest and most significant challenges of global warming and climate change, and conservation is very close to my heart.
“To demonstrate it, I went to three very different environments – the desert lions of Namibia, the orangutans of Borneo, and the polar bears of the Arctic.
“I wanted to make it clear that we may be losing some of these species. If people can’t visit these places and see it on TV, why bother trying to save the animals, whatever they are?”
It promises to be a difficult film, which Levison says is probably because the show is just as difficult — and at times even fatal — to film.
He said: “The times I was closest to death were not in the army but on expeditions.
“With this series there was a real risk in Greenland that our boat could be crushed by the ice as the water changes direction with the wind and in the desert you are dealing with wild animals.
“Our crew was chased by a lion in Namibia. I had to jump in the back of the car because one was running towards me. That was a bit scary.
“There are risks everywhere and you have to be very, very vigilant.
“You can imagine how long it takes to fill out the security form. But everyone accepts that there are plenty of risks. If you’re going to show people these stories, someone has to be out there on the front lines.
“At least I’m not getting shot right now.”
With such a sense of adventure at the heart of his show, Levison doesn’t want to step on his friend and fellow soldier Bear Grylls, who currently hosts “Running Wild: The Challenge” on Disney+.
In order to clearly separate their ventures, Levison has no plans to work with any celebrities.
He said, “Bear has that market covered and I’m very happy just doing what I do, which is going to these incredible places and telling these stories.”
Instead, he’s hoping to work with a female explorer for his next series – as he admits his gender makes it difficult for him to get a glimpse of some aspects of tribal life. He said: “Unfortunately, when I meet these communities with more traditional patriarchal societies, I’m mostly presented with males to talk to.”
“I’d like to show more of the feminine side of life, but as a man I don’t usually have access to that.
“There are a lot of really inspiring female explorers doing great work and I would really like to see more of that, with more female explorers on TV with their own programs.
“I would love to work with an explorer on a TV show – applications are open!”
He won’t be short of women tossing their hats in the ring.
- Levison Wood: Walking With Orangutans airs tomorrow at 8pm on Channel 4.
LIFELONG STRENGTH OF DISCOVERY
LEVISON is an Army Major who gave up his career to become a full-time explorer, writer, and television host.
Born to parents Levison Sr., a geologist, and Janice, a teacher, Levison is the fifth generation of his family to serve in the armed forces.
After secondary school, he graduated with a history degree from the University of Nottingham with a lifelong hope of becoming an explorer.
Instead, he joined the Paratrooper Regiment in 2006 after officer training at Sandhurst and served four years in Afghanistan, where he was promoted to captain in 2008.
Levison, who has a younger brother, Peter, left the armed forces in 2010 to pursue writing and photography full-time before rejoining the army in 2012 as a reservist major.
He received four military awards for his services, including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
In 2017 he received an honorary doctorate from Staffordshire University for his work as a researcher.
Levison rose to fame with the release of his book Walking The Nile in 2015, followed shortly thereafter by the television miniseries of the same name. He has now written 13 books.
Levison, who is single and lives in London between travels, has been appointed a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club, which promotes scientific research, and is a Unicef Ambassador.
His writing career has seen him interview and photograph a variety of famous faces, from actor George Clooney to the spiritual leader Dalai Lama.