Levison Wood, Explorer

walk this way

This generation’s answer to T.E. Lawrence, Levison Wood has undertaken epic walking expeditions in Africa, Asia and Central America. A writer, photographer, and explorer, Wood’s nine-month, 6,830km expedition along the length of the River Nile was featured on British television and documented in his bestselling book, Walking the Nile. An elected Fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club, Wood’s latest book, Eastern Horizons (published by Hodder & Stoughton) is currently available through Amazon. His most recent adventure has seen him circumnavigating the Arabian peninsula for an upcoming documentary series.

On the secret of a great photograph
A huge amount of it is timing, and I’ve been caught out in the past: perfect light, the ideal composition and then ending up fumbling around with low batteries or the wrong lenses. You’ve always got to have your camera ready – which for an iPhone is pretty easy, but it’s harder with my Leica SL, so I make sure it’s on my hip as much as possible when I’m on expedition. But I’ve also been really lucky. One of my favourite photos that I’ve taken whilst travelling is of a Mundari cattle camp in South Sudan. The sun broke through the dense cloud cover at just the right time and sent heavenly shafts of light down onto the little settlement.

On building up a collection
I’m an avid collector of first edition books, and I’ve got some beautiful first edition signed copies by Rudyard Kipling, as well as an early edition of T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. I’ve also collected antiques from around the world, including a Bedouin broadsword from the Battle of Omdurman, a Megalodon tooth from the Darien Gap and a silver dagger from the wilds of Dagestan.

On his perfect timepiece
I need a watch that’s going to withstand the rigours of different environments. IWC Schaffhausen’s Big Pilot has survived some of the harshest terrain on earth, including the humidity of the Darien Gap’s jungle in Central America, the freezing slopes of the Himalayas, and the searing 55-degree heat of the Empty Quarter desert. On top of that, it looks good too.

On his poison of choice
I’m a fan of decent single malt whiskies, and I’m partial to a gin and tonic. Ophir Oriental Spiced Gin is a current favourite.

On his next dream ride
If money was of no object, I’d go for an Aston Martin DB5, although I’m currently thinking about doing some motorcycling and would love to own a Triumph.

On becoming the first-ever ambassador of the Endeavour Fund
As a former soldier in the Parachute regiment, I’m a keen advocate of veteran welfare, and the Endeavour Fund does great work in supporting veterans in overcoming injury through outdoor activities, adventure, and expeditions.

On his Arabian Journey
Circumnavigating the Arabian peninsula was challenging in a new way. Rather than the physical endurance of walking, in regions such as Iraq or Syria, the challenges were more political: crossing borders, gaining visas and permits, navigating complex bureaucracy, and getting safely through war zones. I met the people who live in these places and our aim is to tell their stories, which are often so different to the prevailing media narrative shown across the world.

On luxing it up
At the end of a long expedition, if I get the chance, I like to put my feet up and enjoy a jacuzzi at a nice five star resort. On our recent Arabian adventure, our travelling team were lucky enough to occasionally break up the nights in the wilderness with stays at Rotana’s hotels. Their hotels in Oman, Iraq, Abu Dhabi, Beirut and Amman, amongst other places, provided the perfect oases to unwind in a busy five-month journey and get on with planning the next leg.

Levison Wood

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