Shane O talks about the ‘Untamed’ travel show that almost killed him

06.24.11 6 years ago

NGT/Mike Libecki

If you want to see what happens when a travel show hits truly rough terrain, tune in to NatGeo Wild at 7 p.m. or 10 p.m. Sat. June 25 to catch ‘Shane Untamed” (a new episode of the show also airs at 9 p.m.). In an interview with HitFix, host Shane “Shane O” Reynolds reveals why this trip to Guyana stands out as “pound for pound, the worst thing that”s ever happened to me” and how he lost 15 pounds in just ten days after being stranded in the jungle without food, water or, at a certain point, much hope of rescue. Not exactly what you”d see on “No Reservations.”

Why oh why do you go by the name Shane O? Initially it made me think you were a second string player on “Jackass.”
You know, I’m not selling out because I think I’ve had this name longer than [Steve-O]. My mom called me Shane O growing up, and my friends made fun of me for years and called me Shane O with the Vein-o in the Brain-o because I get a little vein in my forehead when I laugh really hard. For a while I went by that, then went back to Shane O. It was more of a jingle than a name, really.
You”ve finished the entire season of “Shane Untamed.” It looks pretty fun, but any nightmare travel experiences?
Guyana [“The Lost Jungle”] is the disaster episode. It was basically a perfect storm. We had bad dealings with our bush guide and he ran our money out way too soon on the hike. We had to call for backup helicopter support to take us the rest of the way because we didn’t have the money to pay a porter, and they’re telling us a helicopter’s on the way and so, because we were so over our bush guide, we sent him away. Then they tell us the helicopter’s not coming. And there was never a helicopter. It was the perfect mix of bad things that could occur that left us stranded out there. So we ended up turning a four day hike into a ten day hike. With two days’ worth of food. It was our survival show, really.
So, you run out of food and no help is coming. Did you think you might not make it home alive?
It definitely crossed our minds. We had moments of laughing about it and moments of wanting to cry about it.
Did you have any inkling it was going to go south?
Actually, we knew going in it was a disaster. It seemed shady from the beginning. But we were too far invested into it. And we had too many comments handed to us that it was going to happen, so we kind of had to do that leap of faith. And it ended as I kind of suspected it might. So I was a little prepared in that sense. But that’s definitely not the show I intended to make.
I”m guessing this was not a favorite travel experience.
I would say pound for pound that it was probably the worst thing I’ve ever had happen to me. And we got to film it.
Were you tempted to just ditch the show altogether and get home?
We set up the show so that that it would tell the story of us achieving a particular goal, but it turned into a big disaster. It actually was dealing with NatGeo on the [satellite] phone while it was happening, and them saying if you don”t get to that place we don’t have a show. And I finally said, it is what it is and I think we do have a show. And it’s pretty much their favorite show.
So I”m guessing Guyana is one of a handful of places you never want to visit or revisit.
There aren”t many. There really aren’t. I’d even go back to Guyana if the right plan came together. That’s one of the only trips that I had a bad feeling about going into it. Unfortunately, I didn’t know at the time if I was just being scared or intuitive. I lost about fifteen pounds in Guyana. We were there for a total of 14, 15 days. We spent the first two days dealing with government red tape and only ten to 12 days in the jungle.
That”s more than a pound a day. Were you sick?
Surprisingly, no. No one sprained an ankle, no one got sick. The only time I got sick was in Madagascar, and with antibiotics it was over in a couple days. But generally, if you’re only there for ten days, spending two days really sick is not good at all.
Do you have a rule about making disasters and illnesses part of the plot? Or do you mostly try to leave it out?
Nine times out of ten we incorporate it. Anything that goes wrong is brought into the story. It didn’t play into the story well enough in Madagascar, so we left it out. But normally we would. My extra cameraman in Madagascar got a stick impaled in his leg and we had a whole scene of me pulling the stick out of his leg.
A stick in the leg?
Luckily the people that work with me will tough it out. It wasn’t a giant impalement. Just a couple inches of a twig that had been shot up into his leg. When we pulled it out, we were like, if this starts spurting blood we’re in trouble but we don’t want to leave it in here. The doctor we had with us said we can drive ten hours to get you to the nearest hospital, or we can pull it and hope it doesn’t snag and start gushing. So, it was just a leap of faith.
This all sounds exhausting. Now that the season is over, do you intend to flop on the couch and not move? Or do you go skydiving or something?
I have a little two bedroom house; me and my wife live here with two dogs and a cat, and when I’m at home I’ll surf and play Ultimate Frisbee once a week. Other than that I’m very low key. We go so hard when we travel, we’re gone for two weeks and then we need two weeks to get over it. Of course, Guyana took more like two months to get over.
What does a travel show host do for vacation?
We’re leaving for the Virgin Islands for ten days and we’re leaving the cameras at home. We’re going to dive. It’s still going to be an adventure. You won’t see us lying out on the beach and going into gift shops.

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