JUNGLE FEVER: Survival skills tested by Northampton ex-marine

As the new series of I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! reaches its climax, Ruth Supple finds out how one Northampton man is taking ordinary people into the jungle to see how well they can survive

Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 5:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 12:43 pm

You’re not a celebrity and you’re not getting out of here!”

So says former ex-Marine turned explorer/discover/survivor, John Sullivan, who is running guided tours into the jungle for anyone wanting to challenge themselves to the limits, experience a totally different way of life and live without Western creature comforts for a while.

You won’t have a camera crew watching your every move or be forced to take part in Bushtucker trials eating strange food, but you will be taught essential survival skills like fire-starting, discover local wildlife and become incredibly fit as you trek miles every day.

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“I’ve recently returned from a trip to Borneo and we nicknamed the expedition, Three Blondes, One Jungle,” says 41-year-old John, known as Sully to his friends.

“My fiancée, Veronika, came on the trip as well as two women, Julie Driver and Veronica Falvey. They all wanted to experience something new and take themselves out of their comfort zone, for whatever reason.

“Anyone can join a jungle trip, as long as you are of reasonable fitness and have the motivation to want to challenge yourself. It was a fantastic trip and we trekked into parts no Westerners have been before.”

Extreme survivalist Sully, who is also a motivational speaker, has explored in some of the world’s most challenging and inhospitable environments, often alone.

He’s worked for the BBC, Channel 5 and the National Geographic Channel.

Most recently, he was a consultant for the National Geographic Channel’s documentary, Eating with Cannibals, in Papua New Guinea and the Norwegian version of popular TV show, The Island.

The Spirit of Borneo Expedition is a professionally-led 12-day adventure, involving trekking around what is the world’s third largest island. As well as being taught how to make fires and forage for food, you’ll experience living with the indigenous Penan tribe in the heart of the world’s oldest rainforest.

“The Penan are incredible people who have an incredible knowledge of the jungle, what plants can do medicinally, and how to survive in it,” says Sully. “What’s more, they are willing to share their knowledge with us as we explore one of the most remote corners of Borneo, into South East Sarawak.

“It’s not a holiday, but it is an experience like no other and you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime in the heart of a fast-disappearing tropical culture.

“Yes, it will be tough at times, but we’ll make sure it’s both exciting and memorable, while always being safe, too. You’ll make new friends and by sharing the lives of the Penan, you’ll be helping directly to support their community, as well as contributing to the understanding and preservation of an ancient civilisation and the magnificent environment that sustains them.”

What’s more, there’s no Ant and Dec in sight!”

Elite Survival runs adventure tours across the world and also provides adventure presentations for schools and private groups. For more information, visit Elite Survival’s Facebook page, or www.elitesurvivaltraining.com or call

Sully on 07804 915407.


Self-confessed ‘girlie girl’ Veronika Bostrova joined her fiancé Sully on his recent jungle expedition to Borneo and says her fake eyelashes and nails survived pretty well.

“I was fully prepared,” she jokes. “I even had a pink hat, though that looks a bit worse for wear now.

“I was nicknamed Jungle Princess out there; we’d been in a Ceroc dancing championship a few days before leaving, which is why I had the eyelashes and nails done.

“Only one nail broke, while I was unpacking, and John is now an expert at repairing broken nails too!”

Estonian-born Veronika, 32, who is a health care assistant in Northampton, says she’d always wanted to explore, even before she met John, and loved the whole experience.

“It was brilliant and the group energy was fantastic; absolutely amazing. To have John next to me was wonderful.”

Veronika says home comforts like a proper bed and toilet were the things she missed most, along with dry clothes.

“It felt like we were always in wet clothes and that was the hardest part, because there were no showers and it was so humid all the time.”

There were times when things got on top of her.

“We’d been trekking for about 10 hours through the jungle one day, it had been raining – which is like a power shower – and I’d fallen over,” she recalls. “I felt so tired and when we got back to the camp, I found a leech in my neck, which was awful. I started crying.”

The jungle trip saw Veronika facing – and conquering – some of her worst fears.

“I’m afraid of heights; I have a phobia of them,” she explains. “I couldn’t allow my fear to get the better of me at certain points and being told to concentrate on where I was putting my hands and feet, really helped me.”

I’m A Celebrity focuses on lack of food in the jungle, but Veronika said they never went hungry at all.

“Yes, we did eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I can’t face it all now, but we had lots of fresh fruit and vegetables; we were never hungry. The only thing I wouldn’t eat was snake for breakfast – John said it tasted like chicken – but the best was when we went fishing and it was the best fish I have ever tasted in my life.”

The positives of the trip far outweighed the negatives and Veronika says she’s proud of what she achieved in the jungle.

“I came out of my comfort zone. I’ve never been in the jungle before. It wasn’t a holiday, it was an expedition and one I’d love to do again, but in the dry season when there are no leeches.”