Jade: Expedition Leader Interview

Charismatic, professional, and experienced leaders are crucial for any overseas group adventure. We are proud of our leadership team here at Gapforce, with many of our leaders having worked for us for many years and in all four corners of the globe!

We are therefore excited to release another interview with one of our Expedition Leaders and Senior Instructor: Jade. One of our longest serving leaders, senior instructor and chief medic on our Expedition Leader Training course, Jade has dedicated half her life to exploring the world, leading countless trips to more places than she can remember. Nature lover and conservation enthusiast, she’s a keen cyclist and is always up for an adventure whether it be in the Welsh mountains or the remotest jungles. If you’re lucky enough to be led by her you can be sure to come away with a deeper consciousness of the environment and an empowering boost in confidence.

Why did you want to become an expedition leader?

From a very young age I was obsessed by the idea of going to Africa to see wild animals. Achieving that on my gap year triggered a life-long fascination with travel, wilderness environments and wildlife in its natural habitat. Being an expedition leader opened the door to more and more adventures and the ability to share that experience with a huge range of people…hopefully spreading a little enthusiasm to them about the wild world along the way.

What is your favourite destination from the Gapforce portfolio and why?

I would be torn between Costa Rica and Borneo.  Both have spectacular jungle, abundant in wildlife and vast enough to make you feel truly immersed. When you are tucked away at night in a jungle camp, with a river running by and a chorus of frogs and insects you really do feel like the rest of the world doesn’t exist for a while. Costa Rica would probably win as it has the most incredible undisturbed beaches… and it has no leeches!

What is your favourite volunteer project you’ve worked on?

Many years ago in Belize I worked on a project that was monitoring howler monkeys. We spent so much time looking for the monkeys, listening out for them and observing them. By the end we could recognise the different types of calls, work out where they were and how far away and strangely even find them by the sound and smell of their poop hitting the jungle floor!

Describe a typical day during one of our award-winning expeditions

A typical day on the Expedition Leader Training programme starts early with getting the fire lit ready for breakfast and coffee. We will then spend the day training on various skills. I run the medical course so in that we will send someone out into the jungle and get them to act as the casualty in a training scenario – lots of fake blood and strange positions stuck in trees. The team then need to locate them and resolve the incident, often involving a stretcher evacuation or muddy carry through the jungle. At the end of a hard day’s training we go for a refreshing dunk in the river, and cook a group meal over the fire. We each take some chill time before bed to either play games, relax around camp or enjoy the night sounds from the comfort of your hammock.

What one piece of advice would you give to future participants?

Choose to take a trip for as long as you can afford, go as remote as you can and accept being a little uncomfortable. You won’t learn anything about yourself in a hotel room or on a beach lounger! Even if it’s just for this once push yourself a bit to see what you can achieve and who you can be when you take yourself away from the comfort and familiarity of normal life.

What aspect of the job do you find most rewarding or inspiring?

I love watching the reactions of people in my teams as they experience the jungle or a really remote environment for the first time. There is often a real range of emotions as people learn to adapt to the new way of life – whether its jungle hammock living, Nepalese tea houses or camping in Peru – it takes time to adjust. At a certain point you then see people really get into it, and start to love the simplicity of life with just one bag of stuff and only something as simple as trekking to focus on for the whole day.

In my role as Instructor on the ELT course I love to see how over the duration of the course people realise just how much they are capable of. The nerves and insecurities melt away as they face each challenge and succeed. I think it really catches some people by surprise that they can do it, and do it well. I feel really proud watching them stand up and give briefings and lead the team at the end of the course looking every bit a professional leader and knowing that this is opening a door to endless adventure for them.

What would be your dream expedition to lead?

It would have to be something like the Congo jungle! I would love to take a team on an epic challenge to get through the jungle and out to where the forest meets the ocean and the animals come down onto the beach – it looks like something from a fairytale!

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