Meet Paul ‘Mungo’ Mungeam: Adventure Cameraman and Host of Expedition Mungo

Animal Planet
Animal Planet

Paul “Mungo” Mungeam has never met a corner of the world he didn’t want to explore. Over the past two decades, the renowned adventure cameraman—who has logged many hours working alongside Bear Grylls—has traveled to more than 90 countries to capture the most wonderful (and wild) places on Earth. Now, after years behind the camera, Mungo is stepping in front of it with his own Animal Planet series, Expedition Mungo, which sees the London-based adventurer reveal the truth behind the mythical creatures and legends that have been passed down from generation to generation. We caught up with Mungo to learn more about his work, and to get his take on Bigfoot.

How did you arrive at your current position as an adventure cameraman?

Through a friend, I met Simon Niblett (a renowned documentary cameraman). We got on famously. He offered me a job as his camera assistant; TV suited me and I suited it. The rest is history.

Were you aware that such an occupation existed before?

Yes, but I never dreamed that I would one day do it—I didn’t think it would ever be within my reach.

What are the key qualifications for the job?

To know your craft. There’s no substitute for experience, earned through hard work. Some go to film school, but I learned on the job, more like an apprenticeship. Humility and the right attitude will serve you better in this job than academic qualifications.

What's the biggest misconception people have about what your job entails?

They often think my job is glamorous. I guess, occasionally it can be—granted, I get paid to go to some incredible places around the world—but I work very hard. My job is creative, yet also incredibly physical and all-consuming. The locations are often not glamorous at all, but rather, extreme and regularly very uncomfortable. You have to remember, we are not there on holiday. We are there to achieve what our clients are paying us (pretty well) to deliver.

What is the most rewarding part of the job for you?

I love leading a team. I have risen up through the ranks. I started out making numerous cups of tea and cleaning kits and cars. When I was proven faithful in the small things, I was allowed to move on to greater responsibilities. That’s the way I like my team to work. You earn your stripes and you’re as strong as your weakest team member. I now enjoy giving others the opportunity once given to me (by Simon).

What's the part you dread most?

B-roll and GVs—the shots that fill in the gaps of more interesting storytelling footage. General views are just that: vistas of your location, etc. They are very important, but I now find them so dull to film.

Animal Planet

You’ve traveled to more than 90 countries in your work as a cameraman; what’s the most dangerous predicament you’ve ever found yourself in?

There have been too many scrapes to pick one. But if you forced me, which I guess you are, I would pick a night camping with a presenter in a small, two-man tent on the saddle of a mountain pass in the Canadian Rockies. Our tent was pitched in a precarious area, very exposed, with sharp drops on either side. Our guides were useless … They had forgotten an extra tent, so slept in a mocked-up shelter. And they had not charged the satellite phone—our only communication with the outside world, in case of an emergency. We were already very vulnerable to the elements, but that night all hell let loose. The wind was like nothing I had heard before. Our ropes and tent pegs were being ripped out of the ground, so I had to keep getting up and out of the tent (in the craziest conditions) to re-secure them. We didn’t sleep a wink. I lay there thinking, ‘What can I do to make us safer?,’ but couldn’t think of one thing. We were totally at the mercy of Mother Nature.

It was a very long night. Thankfully we lived to see another day. The [pilot] that ended up risking all to rescue us said he had been out all night, helping people, as three tornadoes had blown through that mountain range in one night. That’s three tornadoes! We got lucky.

What’s the one place you’ve traveled to that surprised you the most—for good reasons or otherwise?

Due to watching movies, I always thought deserts would be somewhat romantic and just searingly hot. Having now been to a number of the world’s biggest deserts, I can say that there is very little romance about them—apart from the odd, stunning sunset/sunrise. During the day it can be how I imagine the surface of the sun being: hot! Yet, at night, it can also be incredibly cold. A change which, if you are not prepared, can easily cost you your life.

With Expedition Mungo, you’ve moved from behind the camera to in front of it. What has been the biggest challenge in doing that?

Stepping in front of the camera hasn’t been as difficult as some would think. I have spent 20-plus years working with presenters/hosts and helping them come across well, so it’s familiar territory. The secret is to be 100 percent yourself. If you try to be someone who you are not, the viewer will very quickly smell a rat. So, what you see of me on Expedition Mungo is 100 percent me; like me, or switch the channel.

Animal Planet

Your new series seeks to uncover the truth behind the many legends and mythical creatures we’ve all heard about. When planning the show, what’s the one legend you knew you had to tackle—the one that’s always been of interest to you?

There has always been so much talk of the Bigfoot/Yeti legends. To actually meet, face-to-face, a number of eyewitnesses who claim they have seen one was amazing. I was shocked by my reaction, from “cynic” to pretty much “believer.” You’ll need to watch the series Expedition Mungo to hear the stories and see the people, but they are very compelling accounts. One guy lost his power of speech for over two weeks, from fear of what he saw. He lost his job and was ousted by his community for “losing his mind.” My question is, if he was lying, why wouldn’t he just hold his hands up and say “Hey guys, I was only kidding,” and get his job and community back? Rather, he stayed true to what he saw as he swears it was real, the truth. I have to give him the benefit of the doubt. (Look out for the Argentina episode, coming soon!)

What advice would you give to someone looking to follow your career path?

Be willing to start from scratch. Put in years of hard work and learn your craft (if you try to take a short cut, beware: you will get found out). Check out the closing credits of shows that you are inspired by and note the production company who makes it; contact them to see who supplied their technical equipment. Contact the facilities company and see if there are any vacancies to work/learn there.

You need to learn about all the equipment before you’ll ever be let loose to shoot a TV show. Plus, it’s not all about equipment or filming, but also learning the etiquette of being on a filming set (where to stand and where not to stand, when to talk and when not to talk, etc.).

If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?

I would either have made a career as an artist of some kind or I would have joined the Royal Marines Commandos.

I so wish I had five lives, as there’s far more I would love to have done. Having said that, I never take for granted how fortunate I am to have a job that I love. I wish the same for you.

Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it!” Why not?

Expedition Mungo airs on Animal Planet on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Watch the video below for a sneak peek of tonight’s episode, in which Mungo travels to Namibia to learn about the dog-headed pig monster.

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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Lost Your Wedding Ring? A Global Network of Metal Detectorists Can Help You Find It

 Kseniia Ilinykh, Unsplash
Kseniia Ilinykh, Unsplash

On Friday, October 9, actor Jon Cryer found himself in a scenario many married people dread: He dropped his wedding band outside at night and couldn't find it. Instead of giving up, the Two and a Half Men star reached out to professional jewelry hunter Chris Turner. The pair met up at the spot where Cryer lost the ring that Sunday, and within minutes, Turner had located the missing item using nothing but a metal detector.

"He leans down and grips a wad of grass from the ground. As he pulls a few stray blades from the clump he asks: 'Is this what your ring looks like?'" Cryer recalled in a Twitter thread, "I stammer out 'Are you serious?!?'"

As CTV News reports, Turner belongs to a group of metal detectorists known as The Ring Finders. He developed an interest in hunting for lost jewelry as a teenager, when a neighbor asked for his help finding a wedding ring that had been missing for a decade. Using his new metal detector, he was able to find it for her. In the 50 years since, Turner has used his skills to recover hundreds of items.

Turner's contributions to metal detecting aren't limited to his personal missions. Twenty-five years ago, he founded The Ring Finders, a network of metal detectorists spanning 22 countries. If you've misplaced your ring or other metal valuable, you can use the organization's online directory to locate a Ring Finder near you. For a fee—often it's pay-what-you-can, but each member is different—The Ring Finder specialist will meet you with a metal detector in hand to search for your item.

Cryer is just the latest client the group has helped. To date, The Ring Finders have completed more than 7300 successful recoveries. Most customers are ordinary people turning to the service as a last resort. "People like you are what makes the world go round. I was a complete wreck because I thought I had next to no chance of finding my beloved ring," one client wrote in an online testimonial. "From the bottom of my heart THANK YOU SO MUCH for saving the day."

[h/t CTV News]