CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Monty’s living life to the full

PUBLISHED: 09:00 24 June 2014

Monty Halls: 'They’ll have to carry me out of Dartmouth in a box'

Monty Halls: 'They’ll have to carry me out of Dartmouth in a box'


A life on the ocean wave turned into a life under it for the TV adventurer, as ALEXIS BOWATER discovers when she visits him at home in Dartmouth

Photography by Matt Austin

"As we walk over a rocky shore in Devon we don’t realise that we are walking over the gladiators of the animal kingdom "

Skipping showers, the sun streams through the front door of Monty Halls’ Dartmouth shop as the postman knocks, twice.

He’s popped in with letters to deliver and a friendly, cheeky request for one of this famous town’s most famous newish residents: can he help with a charity row over the weekend?

“Of course”, is the response, “if I’m around.”

For Monty’s a world traveller, a flipperty flipper-footed marine biologist with his feet in the world’s oceans but his heart in this town.

Ten things you didn’t know about Monty

1. I play the guitar very, very badly indeed.

2. I still play rugby, or a version of it.

3. My ancestry has a Governor of Jamaica in it somewhere.

4. My sister was one of the first female air traffic controllers in the UAE (very proud of that one).

5. When I grow a beard it goes ginger.

6. I’ve got a dolphin tattoo.

7. I owned a house pig called Phoebe once.

8. My hero is Blondie Haslar (look him up, it’s worth it).

9. I’ve got a scar on my bum where Reubs bit me by accident (or so he says).

10. I’m a Yorkshireman, having been born there at the insistence of my grandad so I could play cricket for them. Rubbish at cricket unfortunately.

“They’ll have to carry me out of Dartmouth in a box,” he says, emphatically, as we walk the streets to Café Alf Resco for a coffee and a chat.

Passers-by greet him warmly and you can see why. He’s somewhere over six foot of ex-Royal Marines Officer, turned marine biologist, friendly, humorous, energetic and organised: with an air of “it’ll all be all right” and “let’s do it!” about him. If you were on some crazy adventure on land, sea or mountain, you’d want Monty with you, just in case.

He’s best known to BBC viewers as the dashing, dash-about rugged scientist, bringing us his Great Escapes series in which he lived and worked in remote parks of the UK and Ireland with his dog and best friend Reuben.

But his true passion lies on, in and under the water. His Damascene moment, the one which made him leave the Royal Marines, was aqueous.

“I remember leaning on the rail of a Royal Naval boat in the Caribbean and looking over the edge and looking at a coral reef and thinking that I should be over there and not over here,” he recalls.

And so, with the memory of bobble-hatted, Gauloises-smoking diving heroes such as Jacques Cousteau pushing him on, there soon followed a Marine Biology degree at Plymouth University and the resulting TV career.

It took him to wild places, deep oceans, extreme climates and made him a globetrotting superstar. But love, and family, root him in Dartmouth now: “I have been round the world millions of times and there is nowhere like South Devon.

“Dartmouth comes through the soles of your deck shoes – it is a strong local community and layered on that it is also very cosmopolitan.”

There is clearly nothing pedestrian about his obvious terrestrial skills, undeniable leadership qualities, his shoreside blessings.

Yet it is when we step onto the shingle in a cove below the town’s famous castle that his landlocked world goes BOOM, blown out of the water and the marine biologist explodes from him.

The passion is palpable and he won’t – can’t - shut up.

He’s painting such pictures with words to colour and compliment the salty, slimy, briny world around us that I’m left standing in an imaginary oceanic Old Master.

It’s part Latin, mostly science, all vibrant, verdant and fecund. Spoken in perfect headlines and soundbites: “A great universal thing with us as an island race is our temperate shore: the environment you are looking at here is the toughest environment for any animal.

“As we walk over a rocky shore in Devon we don’t realise that we are walking over the gladiators of the animal kingdom.

“These are some of the richest waters in the world: everything in there is trying to eat, kill, tear each other apart and so if you are an organism that decides to live down that end of the beach then everything is going to try to eat you, going to try to kill you, trying to compete for space.”

It’s the best outdoor lesson I’ve ever had. It’s easy to see with absolute clarity why from the very first days of his career TV producers just said `yes’ to him, as did bank managers. He’s not so much driven as a driving force himself.

And for that reason he wears all sorts of hats now – an enormous skillset available to us all through his company Monty Halls Great Escapes.

What would you do if money didn’t matter? I ask.

“That’s a really good question,” he ponders. “I would still run diving expeditions. Pushing into a sapphire world, every time I roll over the side of a boat anywhere in the world I am that ten-year-old old boy again.”

But wherever he trips to now, life will always bring him back to Dartmouth: to his partner Tam “a serene and understanding character”, his little girl Isla and newbie baby Molly.

“Ground zero for me is the kids and it is all about them: we talk about great adventures - and they are the greatest adventure that I have ever had.”

Writer, inspirational speaker, expedition leader, corporate trainer, TV presenter, marine biologist. He’s all of those but none of them - for now, most of all, Monty Halls is a devoted dad.

For more information visit

More from People

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Devon’s Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, also known as The Black Farmer, tells KATE WILLIAMS about his new book, Jeopardy, encouraging the embracing of risk to enrich life

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As five members of Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton celebrate 125 years of collective volunteering, we look back on their time with the organisation

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

CAROLYN SEAGER reveals how long after her mother’s death she discovered her amazing career in the service of her country

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

An author known for her novels depicting life on the Channel Islands is nonetheless happiest writing from home here in Devon

Read more
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fig Tree Court is a development of 14 apartments in Tiverton for retired and semi- retired over-55s with gorgeous views over the Grand Western Canal

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Alex Green goes behind the scenes on the Dartington Hall Estate to find a community of artists, makers, farmers, and social entrepreneurs living out the legacy of its founders

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Many people know of award-winning Roly’s Fudge, but do they know how much hard work and business insight goes into making it?

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Topsham businessmen Steve Williams and Pete Woodham-Kay take an ethical stance on eating meat | Photos: Nick Hook

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

As llama love grips the nation, we meet a Dartmoor couple who have spent the last 11 years making them their livelihood | Words: Lydia Tewkesbury

Read more
Friday, August 24, 2018

Aimee Pagliari is the Teignmouth Life Coach and she can help you achieve your personal, career or business success through a variety of holistic methods

Read more
Friday, August 24, 2018

Although doulas are relatively unknown in the Western world, they have been supporting mothers around the world since biblical times. We’ve met Aimee Pagliari, the Teignmouth Doula, to find out more

Read more
Friday, August 24, 2018

Aimee Pagliari of Teignmouth Counselling has been working as a counsellor for 10 years and we’ve spoken to her to find out who can benefit from such therapy

Read more
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Gill Heavens salutes a long-standing North Devon club whose members love to explore the depths of our offshore waters

Read more
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Cantering up the gently sloping, springy turf of a Dartmoor tor is a million miles away from the noise, pollution and hubbub of Sara Cox’s life in London – and that’s exactly why the 43-year-old radio and TV presenter keeps coming back to ride there.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search