HE has broken his back in a parachuting accident and nearly died on Everest, but Bear Grylls says his latest challenge was the most terrifying of them all.
The TV adventurer came face to face with a boa constrictor snake in East Africa that coiled around his neck and dragged him underwater.
In an exclusive interview, Bear, 46, said: “We were in this deep, dark, flooded ravine. We knew we had this big, maybe eight-foot, boa constrictor in there. They’re incredibly dangerous and unpredictable.
“Once they wrap, you can’t breathe or move, and if it takes you down you’re in big trouble.
“I had two safety guys nearby, but they were on edge about doing it. They said, ‘If this thing gets you underwater you’ll be in trouble, fast’.
“I got in, couldn’t touch the bottom, and suddenly I felt that thing grab me and start pulling me down. Then it got a grip around my neck.
“It caught me out. I hadn’t anticipated how fast, powerful and heavy it would be.
“Every time I surfaced I saw the guys giving me the thumbs-down rescue signal, but I said no.
“And then, just as it was squeezing me tighter, I thought, ‘Oh no, actually I’m running out of breath here’. It was terrifying and very intense.
“I’ve never been so scared in my life. But like all these things, they happen fast and they don’t last very long. I managed to break free.
“I look back on the many times in my life when I really should have died. I feel incredibly lucky to have survived.”
The terrifying experience was filmed for Animals On The Loose, a new interactive Netflix movie in which Bear races across a wild game reserve in East Africa saving animals, while viewers decide what he does next by selecting options on the screen.
They see him saving elephants from poachers, eating disgusting grubs and being swiped at by a ferocious lion.
It is the follow-up to his series Man vs Wild and Running Wild, which attracted millions of viewers as well as celebrities, who flocked to join Bear in his adventures – including Barack Obama, Kate Winslet, Julia Roberts, Roger Federer, Jonathan Ross and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Bear told The Sun on Sunday: “Afterwards there’s always this light in their eyes, a great sense of pride.
“You can’t buy that, you have to earn it through blood, mud, sweat and tears.
“They don’t need the fame or the money, they do it for the empowering experience. They can’t believe it’s just us, a coil of rope and two camera guys, they love that.
“It’s about learning to walk towards your fears and not running away.”
Bear admits he is happiest when he is away from it all.
He said: “It was scarier meeting President Obama in the White House than filming with him in the mountains. I went with my family and we had tea and hung out in the Oval Office.
“Then all these Marines stormed in and said, ‘Sir, we’ve got to go now’.
“He got whisked off one way and we got taken off in another then we were shut in a room and nobody knew what was happening.
“Someone had been shot on Capitol Hill. It was all pretty dramatic and definitely a memorable time.
“Afterwards he apologised. My sons thought it was amazing being rushed around the White House by the Marines.”
Bear, who is Chief Scout, and his wife Shara, 46, an author, live with their sons Jesse, 17, Marmaduke, 14, and Huckleberry, 12, on their own island off the Welsh coast.
Bought when they got married in 2000, it measures just 2,000ft by 650ft and is three miles from the nearest village on the mainland.
The island came complete with a lighthouse and a cottage that sits on top of a hill.
While they were renovating their home, they lived on an old Dutch barge on the Thames.
Bear says Shara supports him in everything he does — even letting their eldest son join in with his daredevil adventures.
He said: “It’s fun doing adventures with Jesse now on YouTube.
“I tell him what he sees on TV is meticulously planned and prepared, you can’t just go and do it on your own and expect it to be OK.
“He jokes that I’m so overly cautious and safety-minded with him, but I’m the voice of experience, and my experience is the sum of all my near misses.
“You only get it wrong once in the wild and if it goes wrong, that’s it — it’s the end.
“Shara knows I always put safety first. We use the best equipment, the best people and the best training. We’ve been in this together from the start.”
Bear added: “We try to live in a way that I go and I work and I film and we give all that empowerment that the wild provides to the Scouts or Hollywood stars and viewers.
“Then we get home and say no to all the other stuff, and just have a really tight little family unit and a few great friends around us. That’s the important stuff.”
Even so, Bear will always be passionate about his work.
And next on his schedule is an ITV special filmed in Dartmoor, Devon, with 41-year-old retired England rugby union legend Jonny Wilkinson.
Asked to be Bond
BEAR would “never say never” to stepping in as James Bond after being approached to play 007.
The adventurer told The Sun on Sunday: “I have been approached to play Bond by a few people I can’t name.
“It’s flattering. I’m privileged to be considered. But I don’t want to appear too greedy. I’ve had so much more than I ever imagined and I’m grateful with that.”
Just like Bond creator Ian Fleming – who was a naval intelligence officer before writing the series of spy nov- els – Bear went to Eton.
Plus, he served in the SAS and speaks multiple languages.
Close pal and telly host Jonathan Ross, 60, believes Bear is the best man to play the spy. Bear said: “Jonathan is always saying, ‘Bear, you should be Bond’.
“I grew up loving Bond films. It was such a landmark moment when a Bond film came out and you’d go to the cinema.”
It brings back the Wild Weekends format first launched ten years ago., and will be screened on March 16.
Bear insists we can all find adventure — even if we don’t try survival in the wild.
He said: “I am not a hero. Adventure is a state of mind, we can all have it.
“You don’t have to go to the ends of the Earth to find it, you just need a bold heart.”
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