BAMbassador – Mary-Ann Ochota


Mary-Ann is a TV presenter and writer, specialising in Anthropology, Archaeology, Social History and Adventure, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

There’s nothing Mary-Ann likes more than a spot of adventuring – on foot, at sea, on a horse – wherever whith her handy Bamboo Baselayer. From wild weekends in the UK (check out her series of short films for the British Mountaineering Council on Great Walks in the Lake District), to longer research trips that push her into unfamiliar territory (she spent this summer with a team of researchers and 17 pack camels walking 500km through the remote Simpson Desert in western Queensland, Australia, looking for archaeological remains and surveying desert species), Mary-Ann is always on the lookout for ways to learn more about the world and its people.

Mary-Ann’s presented shows for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Animal Planet and Discovery, including cult show Time Team, a series about real-life cases of feral children (Raised Wild), what life is like in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster Exclusion Zone (coming in 2016), and two films for Channel 4’s award-winning Unreported World, from the slums of Delhi and the child boxing training camps of rural Thailand.

She’s passionate about getting more people into the countryside and enjoying the outdoors. She’s also proud to be a ‘loo-minary’ for Toilet Twinning – an organization that helps the 2.5 billion people in the world who don’t have access to a toilet, by twinning your loo at home with a long-drop somewhere in the developing world.

We interviewed Mary-Ann to find out more:

What is your secret skill or talent?

I can make my eyebrows dance. Individually.

Your loves?

My man, my dog, people generally, kindness.

What are you known for?

That tall girl with the unpronounceable surname.. (It’s O-HOT-AH)

The big dream?

To get to the end of my life with no regrets.

What life lessons do you wish to share with others?

Adventure isn’t only about ‘firsts’ or improbably long endurance events, or taking physical risks. It’s mostly about your frame of mind.

If you were Prime Minister what things would you change?

I’d prioritise our renewable energy industry and start taxing the addictive high-fat, high-sugar foods that are killing our kids. And sanitation in the developing world – a toilet (and hygiene education) is one of the most effective interventions for lifting people out of extreme poverty. Toilets save lives and build futures.

Your most embarrassing moment?

Weeing in the garden at a friend’s party under the cover of darkness, then the floodlights came on. Full moon!

BAMbassador Mary Ann Ochota at the Kendal Mountain Festival

Mary Ann Ochota, TV Presenter and anthropologist gave a free talk, about her expedition into Australia’s Simpson Desert with 17 pack camels, looking for aboriginal archaeology and surveying some of the flora and fauna.

Mary-Ann Ochota’s first desert adventure was into the Algerian Sahara, joining an archaeological survey team trying to map prehistoric rock art before looters came and hacked it out to smuggle across the Libyan border.  The art was phenomenal, but the walking was minimal – from the 4WD and back again, always on the lookout for armed bandits with a sideline in kidnap.

She went back to the desert – this time, to the Simpson Desert in central Australia, looking for evidence of aboriginal desert tribes.

The Simpson is the largest parallel sand dune desert in the world and was described as the ‘entrance to hell’ by early European explorers. The tribes called it home for thousands of years, before finally leaving in 1899. The desert is largely inaccessible by vehicle – so the expedition team were on foot, with 17 feisty pack camels carrying 4 tonnes of equipment, food and water, covering 380 miles in 40 days.