Steve Backshall

Thursday 8 August 2019

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking to Machu Picchu and rafting the Grand Canyon voted top adrenaline-fuelled adventures

New study unearths the findings of the 'Explorer Gene' - evidence that suggests we are born with a taste for adventure

  • Research commissioned to mark the launch of new series 'Expedition with Steve Backshall' on TV channel Dave, airing Sunday nights at 8pm
  • Over eight in ten (84%) British adults under 40 choose experiences and adventures over traditional 'fly-and-flop' holidays and almost nine in ten (88%) now identify themselves as 'adven-tourists'
  • Half of Brits surveyed (50%) seek out adventure holidays which come with a 'sense of danger'
  • A new statistical scientific study of 50 of Britain's greatest ever explorers unearths the findings of the 'Explorer Gene' - revealing our taste for 'adventure' could be predetermined
  • Research also reveals the top 10 greatest adventures in Britain, with conquering Ben Nevis in Scotland, swimming with seals in Devon and potholing in Yorkshire topping the poll

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking to Machu Picchu and rafting the Grand Canyon have been named as the greatest adventures in the world, according to new a study released today that also uncovers the 'Explorer Gene', which suggests some of us are predetermined to be more adventurous than others.

Descending into the depths of Iceland's Thrihnukagigur volcano, potholing in Vietnam's Son Doong caves and reaching Base Camp Everest in Nepal also featured highly on the world's greatest death-defying adventure list.

The new research was specially commissioned by TV channel Dave to mark the launch of their new series 'Expedition with Steve Backshall' airing Sunday nights at 8pm. A panel of travel experts, teamed with celebrity explorer Steve Backshall and his Expedition team, created a shortlist of the greatest adventures around the world and across the UK, which was then put to a public vote of 2,000 British adults aged 40 and under.

Top 20 Greatest Adventures in the World Today

  • Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania 37%
  • Trekking along the Inca trail, Machu Picchu, Peru 35%
  • Rafting the Grand Canyon, Arizona 31%
  • Descending into Thrihnukagigur Volcano, Iceland 29%
  • Exploring the Son Doong Caves, Vietnam 24%
  • Dog sledding to witness the Aurora Borealis, Norway 23%
  • Kayaking arctic fjords, Greenland 22%
  • Reaching Base Camp Everest, Nepal 20%
  • Cruising the Antarctic, Antarctica 19%
  • Cage diving with sharks, Cape Town, South Africa 18%
  • Swimming with Humpback Whales, Mozambique 17%
  • Cave diving, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico 16%
  • Diving the Great Barrier Reef, Australia 13%
  • Trekking the Great Wall, China 12%
  • Paragliding in the Alps, Switzerland 11%
  • Riding the Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia 10%
  • Volcano night trekking, Indonesia 9%
  • Hiking Mount Fuji, Japan 9%
  • Diving into Belize's great Blue Hole, Belize 8%
  • Finding the Lost City of Teyuna, Colombia 7%

The research also revealed that over half (58%) of Brits say they prefer to seek out adventurous experiences rather than the traditional "fly and flop" pool or beach holiday. Over eight in 10 (84%) of those surveyed said that their holiday tastes have evolved over the years and now choose activity filled adventurous holidays instead of lounging around on the beach or by the pool.

Almost nine in ten (88%) now identify themselves as 'adven-tourists', seeking experience and adventures when abroad, with 91% believing that they will go on more adventures in their lifetime than their parent's generation.

The poll also shows that we are a nation of thrill seekers as half (50%) of Brits said the 'sense of danger' attracted them most to adventure holidays with 42% seeking activities that get their pulses racing.

Eight in ten (80%) Brits said they has dreamed of becoming an explorer after hearing tales of historical explorers like Captain Cook and Sir Francis Drake, and watching film icons like Indiana Jones and Lara Croft.

The research also reveals Britain's greatest adventures with conquering the highest mountain in the British Isles Ben Nevis, swimming with seals in Devon's Lundy Island and potholing in Gaping Hill, Yorkshire, topping the poll.

Top 10 Greatest British Adventures

  • Conquering Ben Nevis, Scotland 71%
  • Potholing in Gaping Gill, Yorkshire 40%
  • Swimming with Seals, Lundy Island, Devon 33%
  • Open water river swimming in Oxfordshire 32%
  • Rock Climbing in Snowdonia, Wales 31%
  • Caving in the Peak District, Derbyshire 30%
  • Diving in Scapa Flow, Orkney 29%
  • Surfing off the coast of Mistral Beach, Cornwall 24%
  • Taking on the world's fastest zip line, Wales 23%
  • Cycling the Giant's Causeway, Ireland 20%

BAFTA-winning naturalist, explorer and TV presenter Steve Backshall said:

From an early age I knew I wanted to explore the world and that's never stopped. I have spent my life travelling to some of the most remote, dangerous and testing places on the planet. I'm always on the hunt for a new challenge to discover the unexplored - my new show on Dave sees me document a number of world-adventure 'firsts', including the first descent of a white-water river in the Himalayas.

Dave Channel Director Luke Hales said:

Our new research reveals we are a nation of explores who enjoy a sense of adventure and danger. Brits are opting for a more adrenaline pumping activity-based trips rather than the traditional fly-and-flop beach holiday. It appears that the passion for adventure runs in our DNA with our research pointing to the discovery of the 'explorer gene' - evidence that we could be born with a desire for exploration.

The new study by TV channel Dave also reveals that our appetite for adventure, risk and exploring is influenced by genetic and social factors. Statistical research carried out by Dr Geoff Ellis of 50 of Britain's greatest ever explorers, including Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, Ellen MacArthur and Mark Kingsley, examined shared characteristics and traits of adventurers through history.

Key findings of the 'Explorer Gene':

  • Written in the stars! Explorers are most likely to be Aquarius, with Aries as the least common birth sign. Air signs (Aquarius, Libra and Gemini) were found to be the most likely to be adventurous. Famous Aquarian explorers include Sir Walter Raleigh, Freya Starke, Ernest Shackleton and Henry Morton Stanley, whilst famous Librans include John Blashford-Snell, Isabella Bird and Mary Kingsley and Geminis include George Mallory and Robert Falcon Scott

  • People born in the countryside have been found to be more daring - 56% of famous British explorers hail from rural locations with 14% born in the county of Devon alone. Examples of explorers born in rural locations include; Alexander McKenzie (born in Stornaway, Scotland), Captain James Cook (born in Marton-in-Cleveland, North East England), Robert Falcon Scott, Percy Harrison Fawcett (both born in Devon), Gertrude Bell (born in Washington Co Durham) and Ellen McArthur (born in Whatstandwell, Derbyshire).

  • 30+ years has been found to be the best time to find fame as an adventurer as 80% of the British explorers undertook their most infamous expedition before the age of 40 with 46% completing their most well-known voyage between the ages of 30 and 39

  • Middle children are the least likely to become explorers or be adventures. Firstborns or youngest children were found to be three times more likely to undertake adventurous paths in later life. Examples of eldest children who grew up to become voyagers include Sir Francis Drake (eldest of 12 children), Marry Moffat Liningstone (eldest of 10), Getrdue Bell (eldest of 5) and Charles Stuart (eldest of 13 children), and youngest children include Sir Walter Raleigh (youngest of five) and George Vancouver (youngest of six)

  • Explorers often have an interrupted education with 30% leaving University or school choosing instead to seek adventure in the wide world

  • Adventures are most likely to have dark hair and the average height of male explorers is over 3.5" inches higher than that of the population in general. Ranulph Fiennes and Benedict Allen are both 6ft 4", and historically Sir Walter Raleigh and Admiral Sir John Hawkins were 6ft, at a time when this would have been considered an exceptional height. Hipsters will be pleased to note that over half (57%) of the explorers studied sported some form of facial hair

Nine in ten (90%) Brits surveyed said that they think people are naturally born with an 'Explorer Gene'.

Expedition with Steve Backshall documents a number of world-firsts in adventure travel including trekking through previously unexplored jungle in South American, climbing deserts in the Middle East and the first descent of a white-water river in the Himalayas.

Expedition with Steve Backshall airs Sunday nights at 8pm on UKTV channel Dave



For more information contact, please contact:

Leah Moir on or 0208 206 5151

Notes to Editors

The survey of 2,000 British adults under the age of 40 was conducted by 3Gem in July 2019 on behalf of UKTV Dave.

The shortlist of greatest adventures was supplied and created by a series of travel experts before being put out to public vote - including, Siobhan Warwicker (Travel Editor, Rough Guides), Ted Thornhill (Travel Editor, Mail Online), Lisa Minot (Travel Editor, The Sun), and Laura Millar (Travel Editor, Metro)

The study into the "explorer gene" was conducted by Dr Geoff Ellis in July 2019. 50 historical British explorers were evaluated to identify statistically significant trends and traits.

The sample group of 50 of Britain's greatest ever explorers includes;

  • Admiral Sir John Hawkins
  • Albert Hastings Markham
  • Alexander Mackenzie
  • Alfred Russell Wallace
  • Arthur Henry Neumann
  • Benedict Allen
  • Captain James Cook
  • Charles Darwen
  • Charles John Anderson
  • Charles Sturt
  • David Livingstone
  • David Thompson
  • Ed Stafford
  • Edward 'Bear' Grylls
  • Edward Sabine
  • Ellen McArthur
  • Ernest Shackleton
  • Fletcher Christian
  • Francis Drake
  • Francis Younghusband
  • Frederick Selous
  • Freya Starke
  • George Everest
  • George Mallory
  • George Vancouver
  • Gertrude Bell
  • Henry Morton Stanley
  • Humprey Gilbert
  • Isabella Bird
  • John Blashford-Snell
  • John McDouall Stuart
  • Joseph Banks
  • Mary Kingsley
  • Mary Moffat Livingstone
  • Mungo Park
  • Percy Fawcett
  • Ranulph Fiennes
  • Richard Francis Burton
  • Robert Burke
  • Robert Falcon Scott
  • Robert McClure
  • Samuel Baker
  • Samuel Hearne
  • St George Littledale
  • St Vincent Erskine
  • Tom Avery
  • Walter Raleigh
  • William Baffin
  • William Smith
  • William Spiers Bruce

About Dave
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Ever since it was knee high to a TV remote, Dave had an idea. It wanted to be the first place viewers would come for brand-new, award-winning entertainment from the biggest and brightest stars and production companies in the UK. And in the years since, it has launched some of the most exciting and best-loved titles on TV. There are names like BAFTA and Emmy-nominated Taskmaster - now in its ninth series -, Judge Romesh, Hypothetical, Jon Richardson: Ultimate Worrier and Comedians Giving Lectures. And of course there's Dave Gorman, whose inquisitive mind is returning to the channel for Terms and Conditions Apply. It's not just in front of the camera where the comic genius lies either, with a wealth of scripted treasure such as Sliced, Porters and the globally popular Red Dwarf.

Dave's not content just to make you laugh and share gags with your mates though. Expedition with Steve Backshall and Hurricane Man are showing you regions and aspects of the earth never before seen on TV. Red Bull Soapbox continues to delight with its boundless capacity for invention. And stepping away from the TV entirely, Dave's partnered with CALM to launch the "Be The Mate You'd Want" campaign and the "Conversations Against Living Miserably" podcast.

Reaching 20million viewers a month, Dave's come a long way, but it's only just getting warmed up. / @davechannel