BBC Earth

Q&A with Simon Reeve

Caribbean with Simon Reeve

Why the Caribbean?

Well who wouldn’t want to travel around the Caribbean? Obviously it’s stuffed with beauty and beaches but it’s also a vast area of more than one million square miles, with an incredible history, extraordinary characters and also some of the most extreme and dangerous places on the planet.

The idea behind the journey was for me to travel around the edge of the Caribbean Sea, so I went clockwise around from the Dominican Republic and Haiti, through some of the islands and along the Caribbean coast of South and Central America through Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua and Honduras, and I finished on the stunning Negril Beach in Jamaica.

We always try to include the light and the shade on my journeys, so we don’t shy away from the problems of the Caribbean region, and that took me into some pretty bizarre and terrifying situations on the journey.

What was your favourite experience?

It’s a tough call, because in truth I find even the upsetting experiences fascinating and strangely life-enhancing because they remind me just how lucky I am and we are on our little island off the coast of north-west Europe. But if you twist my arm I’d probably say for sheer wonder it has to be when we get up in the air and see the planet from above.

Right at the start of the series in the Dominican Republic I hopped into what I’d been told was a flying boat, but turned out to be a flying dinghy, and we raced across the water and then soared into the sky, circling a beautiful beach and the stunning Caribbean Sea. That was an experience to treasure.

What was your most shocking experience on the trip?

We were at the scene of the murder of two policemen in Honduras. That was pretty shocking. We were in San Pedro Sula, the most violent city in the world outside of a war zone. Two local cops were driving home from work when they were sprayed with bullets. It was pretty horrific. There were just a few other people with cameras there, but it wasn’t really national news in Honduras because it’s something that’s happening regularly.

We were trying to understand why much of the country is being ravaged by violence, so we also went into a prison and met some of the most terrifying-looking men I’ve ever encountered. Inside the prison it’s the inmates who run the show, so we had to go onto the gang wings with the Bishop of the city, who helped to guarantee our safety. The gang leaders were all polite and welcoming, but of course not all of them wanted to be filmed.

The place was teeming with inmates, many more than the prison was designed for and it felt like an other-worldly place. There were tiny cafes inside, barbers, tailors, little factories making anything from candles to shoes. It was a mind-blowing place in a part of the world that is suffering so much strife and unrest and endless violence.

Are you still learning new things about travelling?

Absolutely! I’m learning and discovering new things every single day we’re on the road. That’s one of the many things I love about travelling and about my job.