Extreme Travel | Adventure Sports

Life in adventure: the expedition leader

Tom Bodkin is co-partner of the cutting-edge expedition service Secret Compass, taking exclusive teams to the planet’s most remote regions
Life in adventure: the expedition leader

Tom Bodkin co-partners the cutting-edge expedition service, Secret Compass – http://www.secretcompass.com/. They run unique, exploratory expeditions for exclusive teams to remote and interesting parts of the world. This year they are following in the footsteps of a 19th century explorer to the source of the river Oxus in Afghanistan, cave diving in Mexico looking at the ancient Mayan civilisation and pioneering an expedition into the worlds newest country, South Sudan, to see a huge game migration that was believed to be extinct. Before Secret Compass, Tom worked leading projects and expeditions across southern and eastern Africa and has conducted research and charity work in schools in South Africa. He has travelled independently though bush, mountain, desert and jungle, developing a real passion for the continent. He has recently left the Parachute Regiment (British Army), where he saw active service in Afghanistan and qualified as Jungle Warfare Instructor.

What kind of adventures do you love?

For me I like to have a purpose to adventure, rather than wandering aimlessly. This gives you something to focus on and a sense of achievement.  We reflect this with Secret Compass expeditions; attempting to get to the source of the Oxus is a great example.  The other aspects add colour on the way – the interaction with other cultures, stunning vistas and the relationships with other people you are travelling with. At Secret Compass we also think it is also important to engage with the history and politics of the place, to put the people and place in its proper context.

What’s your perfect destination?

It is hard to beat the stunning, open landscapes of southern Africa, the huge sense of scale, wilderness and the complete lack of permanent human footprint on the landscape in so many areas. South Sudan reflects this completely, being so remote. Combine this with extreme wildlife, great people and you start to understand why the continent gets under so many people’s skin.

What sports do you love?

I do a lot of snowboarding and worked in the industry. There is no other feeling like riding backcountry powder. I am also passionate about wakeboarding, surfing and mountain biking and of course Scuba – I can’t wait to cave dive in Cenotes on our Mexico trip!

Who’s your adventure hero?

The pioneers of the 19th century inspire me. The Brits on the Northwest frontier in India did some amazing stuff, check out Peter Hopkirk’s “The Great Game” for some crazy stories. They were definitely a major inspiration for our trip to the source of the Oxus, Afghanistan.

What’s your favourite book by an adventure athlete, explorer or traveller?

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know by Ranulph Fiennes.  His two-year epic circumnavigation of the globe via the poles is unrivalled.

What’s the best piece of travel advice you’ve been given?

Go and see. You never find the truth about a place until you get there.  Everywhere is accessible. We want to prove this to people with Secret Compass, by taking them to places everyone thinks are inaccessible.

What’s the most extreme adventure you’ve had?

Most of the extreme stuff I have done has been with the Army, however I did one trip in NZ into the wilderness, alone in winter, where I had to get dropped off and picked up days later by boat. It was so isolated I have never felt so completely alone and cut off from humanity – there was no one for over 20 miles. I had no communication, so if anything happened it would have been a long wait for someone to realise and come find me.

What’s the best piece of kit you’ve invested in?

Thermarest inflatable bed roll!

What adventure sports are you going to try next?

I want to get back into paragliding.

What’s the one thing that would make your travels better?

An ability to pick up language!