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Spirit of adventure from Namibia to Norfolk Broads

Kathy Gill, strategy director of Biosphere Expeditions,; Photo: Bill Smith

Kathy Gill, strategy director of Biosphere Expeditions,; Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2011

It may not be big cat tracking in Namibia or spotting sperm whales in the Azores, but armed with a compass, GPS and a map, it is possible to get a taste of what it could be like during a day in the Broads.

Twice this year an intrepid group has used the Norfolk waterways as a setting to learn basic expedition skills and safety. And, most importantly, to ignite a spirit of adventure.

Norwich-based Biosphere Expeditions, which usually sends its clients further afield, runs taster days both in the Broads and in other parts of the UK and Germany.

Its main, not for profit, business is teaming up willing, hardy holiday makers and scientists needing funding for serious environmental research projects around the world.

Rather than signing up and setting off into the unknown, the company’s taster days are a chance for potential recruits to see if it is something they would like to do.

The days are a chance to brush up on rusty (or non-existent) map reading skills – surprisingly easy when explained – which could be vital out in the wilds of eastern Europe, Asia or the sub-continent, or find out just how clever global positioning systems are.

Aboard a boat they might track otters, or use a photo trap to capture the Norfolk wildlife. They might use similar skills in more remote locations.

“People feel they need to see your face and get a level of confidence,” said Kathy Gill, director and one of the founders of Biosphere Expeditions. “They like to meet us and see what we are like culturally as an organisation. It is important that they feel confident in you.” And the organisation and culture is an interesting one. It was inspired by the German Cambridge University graduate Matthias Hammer, who set up the company in 1999.

He wanted to be paid to take people on expeditions, and looking at other volunteering organisations, he realised there was a market for it.

“He had lots of friends who liked the idea of going out into the field,” said Ms Gill.

“There were scientists who needed help out in the field. He put the two together.”

Dr Hammer came across Ms Gill when she was working as Economic Development Officer at Waveney District Council and the pair became friends.

Ms Gill has the business background, and although she grew up sailing in the Broads, she was by no means a trained expedition leader.

“I have developed my outdoor skills. Mountain leader, off-road stuff. It has been a huge and interesting learning curve,” she said.

As well as being a business brain, she is hands-on and often takes part in the expeditions.

“It works well as a concept as long as there are people wanting to do activities,” she said.

More details at www.biosphere-expeditions.org

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