Simon Reeve has trekked to the far corners of the world, intent on showing us the places other TV travellers don’t reach.
Here, Simon tells TV Times about discovering the real Caribbean for his new BBC2 series (premieres Sunday, March 22).
What is it like to live in these nations fringing the Caribbean?
“In all my travels I’d struggle to think of another region that has got quite the same levels of extremes, in terms of people living lives at the edge. Take Honduras as an example – one day I’m diving at one of the most incredible coral reefs on Earth, and the next I’m in a Honduran prison meeting the most terrifying gangsters I’ve ever encountered.”
You suffer from vertigo, but in the Dominican Republic you took to the air in a flying boat piloted by ‘a crazy French bloke’. How did you feel?
“It was just a dinghy with a wing and a propeller attached that whizzed around in a way that had me clinging on by my fingernails, but it was an amazing way to get a bird’s eye view of the place.”
Tell us about The Citadel…
“It’s a fortress welded into the top of the mountain using goats’ blood as a bonding agent – as strong and sturdy as the mountain itself. It’s truly breathtaking, but we were gutted that it was shrouded in clouds on the day we filmed it.”
You met the Kogi tribe in Venezuela. Were they welcoming?
“Loads of TV crews have been refused entry before, but the Kogi wanted to share a warning with us about how they see other humans destroying the world – insect numbers are changing, the rains aren’t coming and the glaciers are melting. Their spirituality and connection with nature are really inspiring.”
On St Vincent, you visited a marijuana farm. What was that like?
“We climbed up the side of a volcano to find these enormous plantations where some of best weed in the world is grown. It’s illegal, but there is a debate about decriminalising production and use, and farmers in the Caribbean want a piece of the action, so it’s a big issue.”
San Pedro in Honduras is on the main drug smuggling route to the US and known to be the world’s most violent city outside of war zones, so you must have been terrified when you reached there?
“We had to wear flak jackets and have spotters to watch out for gangs as we went into one of the most violent neighbourhoods, which the military are trying to take back from the gangs. While we were there two policemen were executed on their way home from work and it wasn’t even local news.”
Even more terrifying, you met gang leaders in the local prison. Did you have protection?
“The overpopulated jail was clearly run by the prisoners. Two crew members and I went with a bishop who was meant to provide us with protection, but when you’re in a place with people who had skinned other people alive, I’m not sure religious protection is totally adequate!”