When he’s not cutting through the jungles of South America, or filming for his television series, Niall McCann can be found in the labs of Cardiff University working towards a PhD in Zoology.
And despite residing in Cardiff for the past four years, the explorer’s origins actually lie in Canada and rural Shropshire, after moving to the English countryside with his family before his first birthday.
It was here that Niall discovered his love of animals thanks to his father Seamus, and his mother who is also a biologist.
His first encounter with a reptile came when he was handed a snake at the age of 15 while walking in the Australian rainforest. “We came across an 8ft Python,” explains Niall, “and my dad just said ‘You pick that up son’, and so I did.
“I had always been interested in snakes up until then, but that experience completely captivated me,” recalls the 31-year-old.
And considering his work over the years, Niall has only been bitten once during a jungle expedition.
“Thankfully it wasn’t a venomous one and there was only a bit of blood,” he says smiling, remaining as nonchalant as ever.
And luckily for Niall, his first snakebite experience was far better than his father’s, who ended up collapsing in A&E after being bitten by an Adder near their home in Shropshire.
Biggest and Baddest
He has just returned from filming the second series of the programme in Florida and Louisiana, and will fly out to Uganda in January to film the remaining episodes.
Fans can expect to see crocodiles, tegus and even alligator gars, which for any wildlife novices is a bony fish that can reach over eight-foot in length.
For Niall, a trip to Guyana in South America in 2011, which he describes as his “favourite expedition”, was the career springboard not only for his television series, but also his PhD.
It was here that he discovered an 18ft-long Anaconda on the bank of a river.
Admitting this had been a lifelong ambition of his, Niall said, “I’d always dreamed of seeing an anaconda and I knew that our work in Guyana would give us a real possibility of seeing one.”
So Many Expeditions
And with such a huge number of achievements under his belt, from skiing across Greenland to militarising a National Park in Central America, what does the biologist consider to be his greatest?
“Rowing across the Atlantic of course,” he beams.
“I’d never even used a rowing machine and then eight months later my friend James and I broke the world record,” says Niall, who admits his current appearance is more clean-shaven than on expeditions, where he resorts to a more caveman-inspired look.
And so with the new series due to air next year, and hopes set on completing his PhD by Christmas, the adventurer has plenty of plans lined up for the future, with a book in the pipeline, as well as an expedition to the Eastern Alps of Greenland.