Secret Compass is a company that “leads pioneering and exploratory expeditions to the world’s last undiscovered places.” Their expeditions are team-centric, and require a robust and spirited attitude as their journeys favor traveling light and becoming immersed in local food sources and environments that take people out of their comfort zones. Team members are expected to contribute actively along the journey by fetching water, carrying equipment, preparing food, and creating a supportive and motivational environment. There are professional team leaders with military backgrounds in the British Army who help plan and guide the trips, but unpredictability is a key of exploration and Secret Compass does not function as a tour group with plans often changing and adapting to local challenges and opportunities.
Their website affirms “Nowhere is off limits and no idea is too crazy,” and their most recent expeditions white water rafting in the South Sudan, walking across Madagascar, mountain biking in Afghanistan, and mountaineering in Iraq were all ground-breaking world firsts in adventuring, and keep the spirit of exploration alive in the 21st century.
Several individuals and groups also use the trips as opportunities for fundraising by raising awareness for charities, global challenges, and people around the world. The cultural connections, as well as the natural connections, are a crucial part of travel and the people that adventurers encounter along the way shape their outlook and mission in terms of fostering economic growth and environmental sustainability for communities around the world. The locally-oriented travel approach makes sure to support local communities and Secret Compass makes sure to respect the culture, traditions, and natural boundaries, guidelines, and protections that are present in each place they visit by working with NGOs and government agencies.
We reached out to Secret Compass for further information and Managing Director Tom Bodkin was kind enough to provide is with the following insights into what he sees as the future of exploratory adventure travel and how the company got started:
“Whilst the big questions have been answered, and mankind has completed the major exploratory journeys, there are still plenty of places which we really do know very little about. Take Mount Mabu in Mozambique – the largest area of tropical forest in Southern Africa which was only recently “discovered” by scientists on Google Earth. Other places include the Boma plateau in South Sudan, half of the Congo basin and the central Tibetan Plateau. All these places have had very little exploration by man and are waiting to be explored.
I started Secret Compass after being forced to have a career change on leaving the Army. I was looking for a career that would allow me to do the things I enjoy, so thought lets run expeditions to places I want to go to! I had no idea if people would want to join us, but they did and it went from there. Whilst we are involved in other adventures, such as TV and charity projects, our focus is still finding the worlds undiscovered places to explore! Current research is focusing on Gabon, Colombia, Mongolia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Information on some of the new upcoming sites can be found below!
In efforts to introduce a new style of adventure travel to the market, we’ve launched a minimalist crossing of Egypt’s southern Sinai desert. Totally eschewing the trappings, the kit and the distractions of modern technology, team members will carry the bare essentials, sleep beneath a Bedouin blanket under the vast desert skies and drink from authentic goat-skin water bladders. Staying in luxury hotels with meals brought to your table is easy for anyone with access to a credit card yet such experiences can blend into one. Truly getting beneath the skin of a country – living with the locals, bartering with desert nomads and swapping camels with tribesfolk en route – makes for an unforgettable and authentic experience, which is increasingly what people come to us for.
For an increasingly demanding and experienced breed of adventure traveller, Secret Compass seeks to offer unique experiences, with ambitious itineraries that people would find it very difficult to pull off alone. Next spring, we are privileged to be joining Siberia’s nomadic Nenets reindeer herders, as they migrate their precious herds across the frozen Gulf of Ob in the Arctic Circle. With a focus on total immersion in the Nenets’ way of life – eating what they eat, wearing what they wear and living as they live for the entirety of the expedition – our team members will then be among the only ‘outsiders’ joining the celebrations at the annual Reindeer Festival on the Yamal Peninsula.
Exotic Ultramarathons, Ironmans and tick-box summit trips proliferate, but at Secret Compass we like to serve up unique challenges to anyone prepared to achieve the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. For 2016 we launch an epic Madagascar Peak to Sea, in which our group will first climb this incredible African island’s second highest peak, before trekking, jungle bashing and rafting their way down to the eastern shore. This hasn’t been done before and it will be expeditionary, exploratory and recce-styled in nature, meaning that our itinerary really is just a guide – anything could happen once we’re on the ground! In a world where everything can be seen on Google Maps or YouTube, the true sense of adventure and intrigue that accompanies expeditions like this is what keeps us going – and what keeps our team mates coming back for more! The more epic, the better.
Geography is about pushing the boundaries of how we understand our planet and the multitude of environments, people, and beauties that populate its surface. Adventure exploration keeps the spirit of discovery and curiosity alive and Secret Compass’s daring trips bring together young professionals, doctors, consultants, engineers, and teachers with an active sense of adventure to celebrate our world’s geography.
Written by: Christopher Ewell, AGS Intern on June 15, 2015