Steve Backshall once said that Strictly Come Dancing was his “wildest challenge yet”, and that performing in front of millions was “way, way more scary” than meeting dangerous critters.
But in the year since he’s been on the show, the TV naturalist and adventurer has slightly changed his tune.
With the new series just getting underway, the 2014 celebrity dancer says that his time on Strictly was nothing compared to his day job.
“I didn’t find Strictly scary at all,” Backshall said at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. “It’s only dancing, isn’t it? Honestly, if you got it wrong, you looked a bit silly. I’m a naturalist, nobody expects me to be able to dance!”
Backshall and his pro partner Ola Jordan were the eighth couple voted off Strictly Come Dancing in 2014, but he believes this year’s celebs shouldn’t really be worried if they’re not expected to dance well.
“I didn’t find that scary at all,” the Deadly 60 presenter said. “A lot of people said, ‘Oh all those cutting comments, it must be awful’. If they’d been talking about my wildlife knowledge then I’d have been thoroughly upset, but they were talking about my cha cha cha so I couldn’t care less.”
To be honest, the perspective of a year is only fair from a man who spends his life tracking rarely-seen animals and hanging off sheer rock faces. In his latest book, Mountain: A Life on the Rocks, he documents how he once broke his back in two places after falling 30ft in a climbing accident.
It took six years and 12 operations to fully recover, but he’s just thankful he’s still alive. “I got off really, really lightly from that fall. It could have been so much worse.”
There is one thing, however, that genuinely does scare – and excite – him more than his adrenaline expeditions: marriage.
He recently proposed to his girlfriend, Olympic rower and London 2012 gold medallist Helen Glover, and he’s still getting used to life with his fiancé.
“My now fiancé, which is probably the scariest word I’ve ever spoken in my entire life, and I went to holiday to Namibia, and in the desert sand dunes at sunset I bent down on one knee,” Backshall said. “She looked at me as if I was absolutely insane but thankfully said yes.”
Maybe the couple can find time to watch this year’s Strictly from the safety of their sofa?