ASK Gordon Buchanan about his most memorable wildlife encounters and he is spoiled for choice – perhaps no surprise after three decades of adventures that have taken the presenter and filmmaker to almost every corner of the globe.

There was his time spent observing cheetahs in the Kalahari and reindeer in Finnish Lapland. Snow wolves in the Canadian Arctic and gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Not to forget that now infamous brush with a starving polar bear in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.

Ahead of his tour, Gordon Buchanan – 30 Years in the Wild, coming to the Perth Festival of the Arts later this month, I caught up with the man himself to reminisce about some of the strangest, funniest and life-changing moments of his prolific career.

When we speak on a May morning, Buchanan is at home in Glasgow. "I have been gallivanting earlier in the year and now have had about three weeks at home," he says. "I am enjoying it. Normally springtime is when I am away working, but this year everything was a bit earlier which is nice."

Between doing the anniversary tour and turning 50 last month, Buchanan admits to being in reflective mood. He's certainly got no shortage of spellbinding anecdotes. And without further ado, let's dive in.

Early adventures and a childhood on Mull

"As a kid I spent all of my time outside," says Buchanan. "The recollections I do have about being at home are of me being completely bored. That boredom of being inside and this desperate need to be outdoors. It is not a desire – it is a need.

"I find that even now I need to be outside. I would probably be happier living in a cave than a house. When we first moved to Mull – I was seven – we lived in a caravan for a couple of years. My mum with four kids in not-the-biggest of caravans and being outside allowed us more space.

HeraldScotland: Wildlife filmmaker and presenter Gordon Buchanan Wildlife filmmaker and presenter Gordon Buchanan

"That was quite instrumental in this desire to be outside. It was probably my mum kicking us out the caravan because she needed to put our bed away.

"I was 17 when I went off to Sierra Leone [to document animals in the Gola Rainforest]. It is only now I realise how young I was. My daughter is 18 and my son is 16 – I can't imagine either of them disappearing off to a foreign country for a year-and-a-half.

"I was working as an assistant to a wildlife cameraman called Nick Gordon, who sadly passed away in 2004. He lived on Mull too. Back then, I was aware of him, but I didn't really know what his job was. I knew it was something fairly exotic because he would always come back with a tan.

"It was a massive leap going from Tobermory, a place I had grown up in and spent most of my time, to being in such a strange and foreign land. But it did satisfy my desire to be outside because for the whole year-and-a-half I was living in a tent in the forest."

Landmark moments exploring Scotland

"I always think that the seasons in Scotland are a bit of a blessing," he muses. "You can go to places that might be warmer and have less rain, but Scotland's weather and seasons make it such a dynamic country.

"Some of my fondest memories of being outside have been in Scotland. It doesn't have to be up in the Himalayas or the depths of the Amazon, I love the west coast of Scotland. I also love the Cairngorms and any of the mountainous parts.

"I recently walked from Aviemore to Royal Deeside. I had never explored over that way along the Dee. It is such a stunning part of the country.

"I know the Cairngorms and the Aviemore side, but it was amazing to start from the source of the Dee and then walk for a couple of days through my ideal habitat which is water and rivers and forests. Pretty wild landscapes.

"I don't like the barren Scottish landscapes. It always makes me feel a little bit frustrated and depressed that it is so bereft of the creatures that once roamed there."

HeraldScotland: Wildlife filmmaker and presenter Gordon Buchanan Wildlife filmmaker and presenter Gordon Buchanan

Favourite spots in Scotland

"Abernethy Forest is somewhere I have a real fondness for," says Buchanan. "Walking through that old Caledonian pine forest, you can get a bit lost in there and not bump into anyone. You can see the Cairngorms peeking through the trees in the background.

"In fact, one of my favourite wildlife encounters ever was up in Abernethy. It was snowing, these huge snowflakes. It was the end of winter/start of spring. The whole forest looked magical. I had been filming a capercaillie and that disappeared off. It was quite dream-like.

"Then off to my left, I heard this noise and there were about 12 red deer galloping through the snow, leaping over the juniper. It was almost thigh-deep snow, and they were having to leap really high. It was like watching it in slow motion.

"I hunkered down as all 12 deer bounded past me. If I could repeat any moment in nature – or life – it would be that. There was something dream-like about it. Being in that sort of environment and the type of weather I love and seeing a cool creature at close proximity was incredible."

Places still on the wish list

"I have had various trips planned to Madagascar," he laments. "Last year I was supposed to be going but Covid put an end to that. Madagascar is one of those biodiversity hot spots that I would love to experience.

"I've never been to Greenland and would love to go there too. I love the frozen north. I have spent a lot of time in Alaska, Canada and Svalbard in Norway. I love that environment. I think it is so otherworldly.

HeraldScotland: Gordon Buchanan filming the documentary series The Bear Family And Me. Picture: BBCGordon Buchanan filming the documentary series The Bear Family And Me. Picture: BBC

"There are a lot of landscapes around the world that, if it is mountainous and you squint your eyes, the Himalayas can look a lot like Scotland – or Scotland can look like the Himalayas.

"Whereas if you go to the Arctic, there is just something about the way that the climate transforms the land; it looks very different. When you are in the Arctic, you know you are there, from the geology and how the land has been formed over the millennia."

Most surprising moments

"It is always the thing you are not expecting that blows me away," admits Buchanan. "I was in Washington State, up near the border with Canada, and we were staying in this tiny, idyllic, chocolate-box log cabin in snowy woods.

"There is something about snowy environments and forests that give me this almost out-of-body experience. I was admiring the view when, right in front of me, this lynx weaved its way through the trees. I froze, staying very quiet and still, as the lynx pottered around.

"This cabin was in the middle of nowhere and we were there in the winter, so the animals aren't used to seeing people at that time of year. I am sure it was part of this lynx's beat and he had never bumped into anyone.

"I stood there as it meandered past. To see a lynx in the wild is extraordinarily difficult. There are people who live in countries that have good lynx populations and they have never seen one. I was very lucky.

"Then, a couple of years ago, I was filming ospreys at Lake of Menteith and we had this run of good weather. That was a magical week or two because ospreys are super cool. They are always exciting to watch.

"They spend spring and summer in Scotland, then head off down to West Africa for the winter. Every time you look at an osprey, you think about the miles it has clocked up and the journey it has been on through its life. I always find that inspiring."

Career lows, near misses and elusive subjects

"I have been in some amazing places where I haven't managed to see or film what we wanted to get," he says. "I suppose that comes with the territory, but I have generally been pretty lucky in that I haven't had too many series or sequences that I have messed up.

"The one thing that can mess up any trip is people. If you are with the wrong people or with the wrong person that can be far more frustrating than not seeing the animal. Most people who work in my field know how to get along with people in remote and taxing environments.

HeraldScotland:  Gordon Buchanan takes a selfie with a young elephant. Picture: Gordon Buchanan Gordon Buchanan takes a selfie with a young elephant. Picture: Gordon Buchanan

"But there are some people who seem to wind everyone up. I suppose that goes for every occupation, there is always somebody that you don't really want to be with. I don't mind putting up with hardship and adversity, but I don't like spending time with somebody who is not a team player."

Biggest misconceptions about the job

"Patience. That is the one thing that everybody seems to think you need to have in this line of work," says Buchanan. "But, for me, it is about optimism, positive thinking and experience.

"You are relying on a little bit of luck, but you are relying more on your experience, as well as the experience of the scientists or the local people that you are working with.

"Patience can run out but if you are an optimistic person, optimism has a longer shelf life than patience. I can be patient, but I can also be impatient.

"So, when it comes to wildlife, I never view it as a patience game. Knowing that you are in the right place at the right time – or knowing you are in the right place and then waiting it out – I don't find that difficult.

"I could wait for weeks and weeks if I have a gut feeling that I am in the right place, but I find it difficult to spend an hour if I have the feeling that it is not the place to be.

"I once spent a week trying to film golden eagles near Cowal. The weather was atrocious, and eagles don't fly when the weather is bad – they will find somewhere to hunker down. I knew that nothing was going to show up and it was excruciatingly uncomfortable and frustrating.

"I spent a week in this hide, freezing cold and completely soaked, knowing that nothing was going to show up. I was only doing it as a face-saving exercise. The producer said: 'Oh, give it a go anyway.' This was a few years ago and if it was now, I would have said: 'There's no point. I am not doing it.'

"I did it for a week and it felt like a waste. I don't like wasting time and I never think that waiting for wildlife is wasting time, but if you are waiting for wildlife that you know is not going to show up, there are better things to be doing. I could be doing my washing."

HeraldScotland: Gordon Buchanan with a Ngala crocodile hunter in Papua New Guinea. Picture: Gordon BuchananGordon Buchanan with a Ngala crocodile hunter in Papua New Guinea. Picture: Gordon Buchanan

Remarkable views

"There are parts of the Scottish landscape that blow me away. The west side of Mull I love. You've got the Gribun Rocks, Ulva and Gometra. You can look out at the Treshnish Islands. That as a view is world-beating.

"It made a big impact on me when I was a kid. Even now, that is a view I could stare at for hours, with the added dimension of the changing weather and seasons."

If he could be any animal

"I would love to be a peregrine because I think smacking pigeons out of the sky at 200mph sounds like a lot of fun," laughs Buchanan. "You can make your home in a city or the wildest parts of the countryside. They are pretty adaptable birds. That would be cool."

On assignment: weirdest and wackiest digs

"I slept in a bat cave. We were on a big expedition walking through the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. We started off in a village and I thought: 'This is a bit uncomfortable'. Then we left the village and got to this little farmer's hut and camped there.

"I thought: 'This is even worse than the village'. The accommodation got progressively worse until I was in this bat cave. You had to climb into your hammock covered in mud. It was cold, wet and the ground was basically made up of thousands of years of bat excrement.

"On the return leg, we worked our way back. By the time we got to the farmer's hut again, I was thinking: 'This is pretty nice'. The village where we started felt like Vegas compared to the cave."

HeraldScotland: Gordon Buchanan with polar bear. Picture: Gordon BuchananGordon Buchanan with polar bear. Picture: Gordon Buchanan

Food for thought

"Wherever I go, I eat the local food. What happens a lot of the time, especially if you are with tribal groups, is they offer you some food and it is only polite to accept.

"A tribal group in Ecuador had hunted a monkey. That was our lunch and dinner. It was quite alarming to see. When they cook it, they put a whole monkey limb on the fire and once the hair is all gone it looks like a human hand.

"You are handed this arm with fingers and fingernails and all the hair burnt off, then invited to gnaw away on that. It is a little bit freaky.

"The most unpleasant thing I have probably ever had was a wild boar that had been shot. Wild pig meat is incredible, but in this case, they emptied its intestines, colon and everything that was in the animal's stomach from the entry to exit and put it all on the fire.

"I thought: 'That's strange …' But then they put the meat on top of all this, basically, pig s***. This lovely, delicious meat was cooking but infused with an aroma of pig excrement, which is very, very similar to human s***. That was my least favourite meal."

Changing landscapes

"Climate change is something you see all around the world," he says. "There is not a habitat or living species on earth that is not affected by climate change. You see it in Scotland. You see it in the rainforests of the Amazon.

"To have had a career that has lasted 30 years and to have witnessed a huge amount of change around the world is alarming. But I think we are seeing a change in people's attitudes towards the environment and the planet.

"I do have hope we can turn things round. There is going to be further loss, but I think future generations will do a better job of looking after the planet."

Gordon Buchanan – 30 Years in the Wild is at Perth Theatre, 7.30pm, on May 25. Visit