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Nov
25

Bear Grylls Survival Academy: Roasted rat anyone?

BearGrylls

BearGrylls

Here’s a great Christmas present for your hubby to get him out of the house and take him mind off the boring stuff. A new Bear Grylls-backed academy will equip you with vital survival skills and de-stress you.

The Bear Grylls Survival Academy, founded by the mountaineer, adventurer and former SAS soldier who is perhaps best known for eating live frogs, raw goat’s testicles and reindeer droppings, washed down with water squeezed from fresh elephant dung, for our viewing pleasure. Here you won’t get that lucky, here you get rat.

rat anyone?

rat anyone?

There’s more to survival, of course, than holding down disgusting food. This was day four of the six-day course and those paying guests who had been on it from the start could already boast animal trapping, unarmed combat, shelter building and – of course – clove-hitch knot tying, among their new-found skills.

Alladale, a 23,000-acre estate in Sutherland.

Alladale, a 23,000-acre estate in Sutherland.

Most of the course takes place in Alladale, a 23,000-acre estate in Sutherland. It’s owned by Paul Lister, who has spent much of the past decade trying to put into motion his controversial plans to reintroduce animals that once flourished here, including wolves and bears.

The location was chosen, according to Bear, because it is “Britain’s last remaining wilderness” – and with its glens, covered with bog and heather, it lived up to the billing.

wolf

wolf

The course is anything but cheap: Roughly $5,000 per person for the six days, or $2,000 for a three-day option – not including flights – so you’d expect middle-aged bankers and businessmen. But strangely, the oldest was 33, and they were not hedge fund guys if you know what I mean. Some were kids looking for a little adventure, another was about to join the peace corps in a war-torn country, and he was hoping to learn skills that might prove useful and some I suspect were middle-age crisers. If you catch my drift.

the man of the hour

the man of the hour

What they all had in common was a love for Bear Grylls. His best-known television show, Born Survivor ( or Man v Wild for the international market), enjoyed remarkable success, reaching a global audience of more than 1.2 billion. Along with the likes of Ray Mears, another survival guru, Bear has transformed what was once a geeky pursuit into a thriving industry. The prospect of learning ancient skills and self-sufficiency, in a world where people appear increasingly reliant on technology and pre-packaged food, clearly appeals to many of us.

survive this

survive this

Bear’s academy promises to teach “positivity, resourcefulness… and the skills that really keep people alive”.

They include everything from improvised first aid, fire-lighting and foraging to river crossing and night navigation. Learning to find Polaris from the position of Cassiopeia or the Big Dipper, and learning that should you ever be forced to cross a river, you should face upstream to spot potential collisions with rocks or debris – how most get clobbered and knocked unconscious.

all the kit

all the kit

Three instructors, Scott, Stani and Dave, led the course. All are trained soldiers and have been key members of Bear’s team during the filming of his television shows. Their lessons were reassuringly simple, and they had dozens of entertaining anecdotes to share about Bear and their adventures. But, while they clearly have a similar level of knowledge to offer, it is Bear who’s the big draw. The team all wore Bear Grylls-branded clothing, a Bear Grylls-branded knife was issued to all participants and we were constantly reminded that we were learning techniques he taught on his program.

the-bear-grylls-survival-academy

the-bear-grylls-survival-academy

The culmination of the course comes about as close to appearing in an episode of Born Survivor as you can get. Having learnt the skills, the team was taken by boat to an uninhabited island and tasked with putting it all into practice: building an overnight shelter, finding food, keeping safe and working out a way back to the mainland. Support was available, but participants were encouraged to use their initiative – and those failing to pass muster were told they would not graduate.

When asked most called it a “surreal” experience, especially when Bear himself arrived on the scene for a few hard core lessons and found that going back home and returning to their old boring days at the office, was even more of a struggle.

One aspect that no one ever wanted to repeat: Eating the rat. They taste nothing like chicken. The maggots were fine, they agreed. Earthy. Just make sure you kill them with the first bite, or they’ll wriggle on the way down. Gross.

roasted rat anyone?

roasted rat anyone?

Essentials

The Bear Grylls Survival Academy is a great Christmas present! Sign up your significant other for a little de-stressing. We’ve got all kinds of cheap flights to Scotland too, at www.bt-store.com, come on over and check us out.

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