ONCE Hamza Yassin has his kilt on, there is no stopping him. “Genuinely, I don’t want to take it off,” he says, enthusiastically. “I love it. It is such a beautiful thing to wear. I love the way people smile when they see you in it, too. I’d like to wear it on Strictly, if I can.”

The 32-year-old wildlife cameraman and this year’s official dark horse of the Saturday night dance show, defers to his professional partner, Jowita Przystal.

“Perhaps,” she accepts, with a smile. “That could be manageable.”

Before he took to the Strictly dancefloor, Yassin was probably best known to pre-schoolers and their families as Ranger Hamza in the CBeebies show Let’s Go for a Walk, and to grown-ups for his Channel 4 shows Scotland: My Life in the Wild and Scotland: Escape to the Wilderness. He is also a published wildlife photographer and tour guide, and a skilled ornithologist.

A career in natural history may seem like the obvious choice for a boy who grew up in Sudan fishing in the Nile, spotting lions and giraffes from afar and encountering the odd hyena outside his house. However, zoology and conservation were not his first choice.

“I planned to follow my family, who are all medics, into the profession,” he explains. Yassin’s parents were invited to the UK by the Royal College of Medicine and settled in Northampton.

“I felt pressure to do it, so I decided to be a dentist like my brother. But when I saw his textbooks, and what he had to do, I realised it was going to be super-hard for me. I am dyslexic and it was definitely a factor in my decision – but I also had another dream to follow, which had always been in my head growing up.

“So, I told my family I wanted to do wildlife film-making, switched to zoology and they were 100 per cent behind me.”

Yassin has a degree in zoology with conservation which he gained from Bangor University in 2011, and a Master’s degree in biological photography and imaging.

He was “surrounded by wildlife” in Sudan, he explains.

“When I came to the UK, when I was around eight years old, I realised wildlife is everywhere here too – perhaps in not such an obvious way, not at first glance, but it is there,” he says.

“Gradually, I learned more about the badgers and foxes and birds – so many amazing birds, some of which are also found in Sudan. That was a reminder of being at home, for me.”

He adds: “My heroes growing up were David Attenborough, I admired his gravitas, his vast knowledge of the natural world; and Steve Irwin, who always seemed to do the impossible, and I wanted to emulate them.

“Attenborough especially – one of the greatest things I have ever seen is the clip of him sitting on the forest floor as the gorillas climb over him and groom his hair. I wanted to become a wildlife cameraman.

“I never in a million years imagined I’d work in front of the camera, only behind it. But to have the opportunity to inspire the younger generation as I was inspired, if I can do that, then I will be a happy man.”

Yassin was diagnosed with dyslexia in high school.

“My mum knew something wasn’t quite right – she knew I was clever enough, but that I was struggling with exams,” he says. “It was one of my old teachers, Mrs Strange, who told me that she thought I had dyslexia.

“I started to cry – I thought it meant I was going to be disabled. She explained it wasn’t going to be a problem, that there were plenty of things that could be done to help.”

Yassin is a visual learner, he explains. “Text messages are hard for me, so I use voice notes, and WhatsApp recordings,” he says. “Modern technology helps a great deal. In the old days, you would do the exam, pass or fail, and that would determine your future.

“Now, there is much more support and understanding. Once I realised Whoopi Goldberg, one of the world’s greatest actors, had dyslexia, and Isaac Newton, a genius, and Richard Branson, one of the world’s richest men – then I thought, well, they have created so much, why can’t I?”

He pauses. “ I see my dyslexia as a gift, a way of being able to see the world differently,” he says.

“There are times when it makes life difficult – in the airport for example, I struggle to understand gate numbers – but I just ask someone, who can point me in the right direction. I would love to be an advocate for dyslexia, to help people.”

Yassin moved to a remote Scottish village on the west coast peninsula of Ardnamurchan when he was 21.

“I went on holiday to the west coast and fell in love with it,” he recalls. “Two weeks later, I told my parents I had found where I was going to stay, came back and never left. I slept in my car for nine months looking for work and for a place to live – I remember saying to my mum: ‘There is no signal here, don’t call me – I will call you.’ And that was that.”

He introduced his Strictly partner to his home village during filming for the early episodes of the series.

“On the drive, I was thinking – where on earth am I going?” admits Przystal, with a laugh. “It was absolutely beautiful. I have never taken so many pictures on the road somewhere as I did that day. The views were incredible, and the people in Hamza’s village are so lovely.”

Yassin adds: “There are only around 150 of us and they’ve all known me since long before Strictly, so they’re not going to let me get big-headed about it all. They are very down to earth and they keep my feet on the ground.”

He spends time regularly in Glasgow, where some of the filming and production work is done on his CBeebies show.

“I love Glasgow, it’s a great city,” he says. “Down by the river, there is so much wildlife and birdlife to spot, from foxes to cormorants – it’s really pretty.

“I feel like Scotland is my home. I embraced Scottish culture when I moved here, and Scotland embraced me.”

Yassin has also embraced Strictly, an experience he still “cannot quite believe” is happening. For Przystal, too, the last few months have been a whirlwind. She is a former Polish Open Latin Champion and in 2020, she won TV talent show The Greatest Dancer. Part of the prize was a spot on Strictly, and this year, she was given her first celebrity partner.

“I adore Hamza, I could not have asked for a better partner,” she sighs.

“These last two years have been so crazy for me, to have been on the Greatest Dancer, and now on the biggest and best show in the world – I am still pinching myself.

“What is amazing, is his trust in me, that he will let me guide him and teach him. I’m so happy.” She breaks off with a laugh. “And I think he is too?”

No need to ask Yassin twice.

“I am over the moon. Genuinely, being taught to dance by not just any dancer, but by a champion like Jowita – the way I see it, it’s like sitting in the car learning to drive with Lewis Hamilton,” he adds, grinning.

Przystal adds, thoughtfully: “We have a lot in common – we had a connection. We both chased our dream, from when we were little. We always knew what we wanted to do.

“I grew up in a small city in Poland, Hamza came from a small place too, where you might think it would be impossible to achieve your dreams. But it shows with hard work, and by loving what you are doing, you can. You can conquer the world.”

If chasing dreams has been a recurring feature of Yassin’s life, he is not done yet, he says.

“What’s next? World domination,” he adds, with a grin. “No, of course, I want to do more to inspire people about the natural world. I want to bring mother nature into people’s living rooms, to reach those who might not be able to experience it in any other way.

“Being Ranger Hamza on CBeebies is the best because, well – there is no point in trying to inspire people my parents’ age. I want to do more natural history documentaries and also, develop more about urban wildlife, about reminding people that nature can be spotted everywhere.

“Look out your window, go for a walk around your town or city. Inclusivity is important, for me, there is no point in showing people the countryside if they are never going to see it.”

Yassin adds: “I want to say to kids who are on the Playstation for four hours a day, or adults who go to work and look at their phones for hours – take time to pay attention to the natural world every now and then, because this is the place where we live, and it needs some help.”

For now, it is the pressing matter of learning how to salsa that is taking all Yassin’s focus. “It’s very fast,” he admits, cheerily. “But I am enjoying it.”

His only previous dance experience, he says, is the odd ceilidh in Ardnamurchan. “I have rhythm, that’s from my African side, but the only dancing-with-a-partner I have done is at ceilidhs – Strip the Willow, the Gay Gordons, the Dashing White Sergeant,” he says.

He laughs. “I mean it’s knackering, so it’s got to help with the stamina. I think dancing is coming more naturally to me than I thought it would, but it’s really just a lot of hard work from Jowita to get me where I need to be on a Saturday night.”

His first-week foxtrot was a hit, topping the leaderboard, but last week’s rumba, to the Jurassic Park theme, attracted praise and criticism from the judges, with Shirley Ballas calling it “a very nice performance” but Craig Revel Horwood suggesting it needed “more flow”.

Yassin and Przystal were left to the last three before learning they had avoided the dance-off, which eventually saw BBC Radio 2 travel reporter Richie Anderson leave the show.

“I really liked the rumba, but I’m not sure the rumba liked me,” Yassin told It Takes Two host Rylan on the Strictly sister show earlier this week.

“As we waited at the end, yes, I thought I was going home – I leaned over to Jowita and said, well, thanks for everything … I was panicking.

“I know that when it was first announced that I was doing Strictly lots of people said – who?

“But I really love all the support I’ve had from people voting to keep us in – we couldn’t appreciate it more.”

Przystal agrees. “This is early, these are hard dances with lots of techniques to learn and Hamza is doing really well, he is amazing. And we always leave the training room with a smile on our faces.”

Yassin adds: “I’d like to do some of the waltzes, I think, if I get through. It’s easier for Jowita to keep me on track when we are in hold, it’s when we separate that I hit the panic button. But I am having a whale of a time.”