July 24, 2014

Living for Extreme Adventure Ian Craddock’s “Bushmasters”

Seeking shelter. The team rests in the root of this gigantic tree in the jungle.

In the dark, dense, deep, and watery jungles of Guyana, many adventures await — both breathtaking and dangerous — and what the adventure group ‘Bushmasters’ lives for.

The team consists of staff from the UK and guides from Amerindian communities in the Guyanese jungle. Director of the group, Ian Craddock, was a British Army officer who served in the Infantry and Special Forces for 10 years. He first moved to Guyana in 2002 organising jungle expeditions for a British conservation charity. Ian has completed a variety of specialist courses, from combat survival instructor to military mountaineering and climbing instructor. In an interview with Guyana Times International Sunday Magazine, he revealed that he had recently concluded a two-month video shoot of the jungle for British television channel BBC, during which he captured an eleven-foot caiman.

The extreme adventurer has taken part in exercises and operations in a host of countries around the world, from the Gulf to the Falkland Islands, North America to the Indian Himalayas, where he jointly led an Anglo-Indian team on the first successful ascent of Mount Tingchen Khan.

Ian spent a couple of years trying to do the city life in London, but got dragged back to the outdoors quite easily, as it was an innate enthusiasm of his. Each year, Ian spends the majority of his time in the jungle, and the remainder of his time is spent planning how to get back in the jungle.

Not for the faint of heart

“The idea behind Bushmasters was many years in the planning, most of which were spent in the jungles of Central and South America. “The rainforest environment is so amazing, and yet so few people really get the chance to see the jungle up close outside the normal tourist traps. Very few people also get the opportunity to take part in challenging and exciting trips to places that few, if any, Westerners have ever been before. No matter how amazing, you are not really going to get that sense of exploration with the other thousand or so people there. Bushmasters provide that extreme adventure persons are seeking. It is dangerous, but what you get to see will be etched on your mind for a lifetime,” he said.

Over the years, Ian said, his team has expanded the trips to include the savannahs either by 4×4 vehicles or on horseback, including trips to the ranches working as true vaqueros or cowboys, as they have for hundreds of years.

“Bushmasters was formed to give a more exciting, extreme, and remote experience. Be warned, it is not intended for people who want to waltz into the jungle with a host of porters carrying all their gear, lighting all their fires, cooking all their food. Unlike most companies, we do not take you on jungle trails that have been cut so wide that you could almost drive a car along them; nor do we take you to luxury jungle lodges with high speed Internet connections and luxury spa treatments. Our trips are completely different, deliberately so. They are designed for people who want fun, adventure, and are willing to push themselves.”

The idea behind Bushmasters is to bring back the true adventurous spirit for those who are game for the challenge. This includes unique experiences : a story to dine out on for life; tough, remote and true adventures, return to age old explorer spirit, the client does the work, not some hired hand, as well as conservation of the environment.

Training the young ones

Additionally, Ian said, his team aims to provide a rewarding future for young Guyanese people in the guiding industry. Many young people go off to the mines or to work in Brazil as there is little to offer them at home. Bushmasters aims to run training courses for these young people every year, and also to finance young guides on our trips.

“On a trip, you may see the two senior guides, but also, an additional younger guide who is being mentored by the others and funded by Bushmasters to take part in these trips and learn all the weird, strange things that we, foreigners, bring to the party. It is very much a fair partnership between the local people and Bushmasters.”

Promoting sustainable eco-tourism

‘Bushmasters’ is also keen to support conservation and community development within Guyana. The team is interested in one aspect — the benefits from sound eco-tourism.

“Without the jungle there will be no tourism of this kind; so we have to keep it intact and help the local people develop in the manner they want to. Too many areas have far too many tourists, where local ways of life have been destroyed and an amazing array of social ills imported; and often, the wildlife has been scared into hiding, or worse. We are very keen to protect the environment where we work, whilst at the same time assisting the local communities. We adhere to best practices in this area,” he pointed out.

Tourism activities like Bushmasters are a way to allow the local people to gain an additional income from their lands without destroying those lands. “Bushmasters” uses local guides and the resources of the local communities: from their eco lodges, to boats to the mosquito nets that are made by women from the Amerindian villages. In all, Bushmasters works with local communities; adheres to, and believes in, sound environmental and sustainable tourism practices.

The Bushmasters team is very professional in their approach to scoping, conceptualising, producing and conducting explorations and expeditions through the amazing rainforests, savannahs, mountains and rivers of Guyana. Their knowledge, respect and passion for the country and people of Guyana are humbling.

Always out for adventure, Ian, who was getting ready to leave for the Central American country of Belize, said: “My team and I are off to Belize for desert island survival, which will be both rigorous and relaxing, I hope. This is what we live for; it is in our blood, and we want to share it with the world.

(Taken from Guyana Times Sunday Magazine)