TV adventurer Megan Hine has stared into the terrified eyes of Kate Winslet and shared secrets around a camp fire with Julia Roberts.
The encounters were all in a day’s work for the survival expert who is Bear Grylls’ righthand woman.
But the slightly-built 33-year-old – who has been stalked by lions and fled a gun fight through crocodile-infested waters – reveals her love of the wild was born in Scotland.
Megan said: “Most of my family’s holidays were in a caravan we towed behind the car.
“My parents were both really into the outdoors – my dad was a geologist – so we’d go off to the Highlands exploring the wilderness and looking for rocks in the mountains.
“Then I got really heavily involved with the military cadets and did a lot of adventure and winter training in the Cairngorms between the ages of 14 and 17.
“Scotland is a special place for me. I genuinely believe the Scottish mountains are one of the most extreme environments in the world and its mountaineers are some of the toughest.”
According to fellow adventurer Grylls, Megan is up there with the best. He describes her as “the most incredible bush craft, climbing and mountain guide you’ll ever meet – stronger than 99% men I know.”
But working with him on TV is a path she had never dreamed she would follow.
“When I started out I had no idea I would one day be working on TV. I actually don’t own a television. In fact, when I was first asked to work with Bear Grylls I had no idea who he was,” she said.
Megan, whose first book Mind of a Survivor is published in May, thought she was destined for a military career. But her experience of a year working at an outdoor centre in New Zealand was to change her life.
She came home to the UK to study outdoor education and went to work with a bushcraft firm, eventually joining the consultancy company that served Bear’s Man v Wild shows 11 years ago.
In Bear’s Mission Survive and Running Wild she got up close with countless movie stars and celebrities – though she is never starstruck.
She said: “Celebrities are just humans underneath and need the same TLC and duty of care that anyone else does.
“Kate Winslet made me realise how we develop our coping mechanisms and how strong these actors are. She had been picked up by helicopter and dropped on to the top of a Welsh mountain and was straight into having to do a rappel (abseil) down this steep face.
“She was absolutely terrified. I was standing very close to her and could see the panic in her eyes – but then she kind of took a breath and her eyes changed.
“It was like she’d stepped into character and for the rest of the show she stayed in this character. That was an amazing coping mechanism.”
But the job is not without its inherent risks.
“At the end of last year I was filming out in Kenya with my partner Stani and another guy. We had just been building a rope bridge across a gorge. I was one side and the guys were on the other with a river at the bottom. A few days before a couple of locals were fishing there and had been eaten by crocodiles.
“I had just pulled out my camera to take photos of the rigging when suddenly this volley of gun fire went off overhead and the sand next to me exploded; the rounds had hit right next to me. The gun fire moved slightly away from me so I ran, slid down these almost vertical cliff walls and into the river thinking ‘please don’t eat me’.”
She made it to her colleagues who were taking cover in a cave. They later learned they were in the midst of a tribal fire fight over stolen goats.
The incident followed another brush with death while filming in Namibia where she and another adventurer had been dropped off in the desert for three weeks with only a machete, a knife and a radio.
She said: “One night we’d collected our fuel for the fire and gone to sleep, but I woke up like somebody had jumped out on me, it was like a hit of adrenalin.
“I turned my head to one side and saw a huge male lion parading backwards and forwards just outside the glow of the firelight. He was joined then by two lionesses.
“I woke up the guy that I was with and we spent the night keeping the fire going and standing with our knives ready to defend ourselves. I was thinking there is absolutely no way we stand a chance here.”
Being prepared – with plenty of fuel to keep the fire going – and remaining calm is what kept the pair alive. Megan says: “It was a very practical thing, maybe like an out of body experience. I remember seeing male lion’s muscles rippling as he was walking and thinking ‘wow, that’s beautiful’. It sounds crazy but it’s what your mind does to kind of protect itself.”
Megan, who also leads private expeditions, has seen a rise in the number of clients who suffer from stress and anxiety. And she says she has witnessed their symptoms disappear in wilderness situations.
“It got me thinking ‘what is it about modern life that creates stress and anxieties’?” she said.
“Maybe going back into the wilderness, which is really our natural habitat, makes us feel better.
“And in a survival situation, why is it some people walk out alive and others don’t? These are the things I explore in the book.
“It’s not a psychology manuscript. It’s designed for the everyday reader.”
She is hoping her first foray into the world of publishing will be a success. But does she have any other dreams?
“I’d love to come up and explore the Hebrides,” she said. “It’s somewhere I have never been.”