Q&A with Derek Watts

We get to know more about Derek Watts and the "seasons of his life".

We joke that the one person you never want showing up at your door is Derek Watts… Have you ever knocked on someone’s door just for the funny reaction, or are practical jokes not your thing?

Not sure about knocking on doors, but lots of requests to prank someone’s mate or colleague!

Seriously though, many of your stories have a “good news” angle, so people have a whole lot to gain when you appear! Can you recall a time when meeting someone made you feel like a million bucks – who was it and why was it so great?

Probably meeting Jane Fonda on her ranch outside Albuquerque. Just so un-Hollywood. She made us tea then we drove with her around the ranch on quad bikes looking for places to film. We did a sequence by a stream to pretend we were fishing and miraculously caught a huge salmon on the first cast. Jane laughed so much she almost fell in!

Who that you’ve interviewed made you most angry, and who have you felt the most pity for?

Derek Watts has been presenting M-Net's Carte Blanche for 30 years this year! After all that time telling other people’s stories we ask him about the seasons of his life and his love of travelling.

Well many a South African government official… but the award for rudest fellow and copyright owner of the fakest smile (apart from mine) is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Most pity? It must be little “Lerato” who was raped, sodomised and partially disembowelled by a family friend at the age of six. She was left for dead on the banks of the Jukskei River. She survived thanks to a series of operations and now 21, she helps young victims of abuse!  

Tell us about the “winter” (lowest point) and “summer” (highest point) of your life.

The winter was moving animals from the Luanda Zoo when a tiger escaped and killed my producer and close friend Rick Lomba.

The summer was ironically standing on the ice of base camp Mount Everest with Cathy O’Dowd after her epic and controversial ascent. The climbing season was closed and there was not a tent or person in sight. Just that majestic mountain. Yes, we did get there by helicopter… Kilimanjaro is my only claim to dubious fame. 

With it looking like South Africa’s political affairs are turning a corner, are you hopeful that South Africa has a “spring” in our future?


If not here, where else in the world would you choose to live and why?

Anse Lazio beach on Praslin Island in the Seychelles. Because I’m a beach bum and diving and snorkelling addict. What do you mean that’s not really practical?

What are the plans for your journey ahead? Will you be sticking to the route you’re on, or are there detours in sight?

Even the road I’ve been on for 30 years has had many potholes! So I take it day by day. 

Clearly, you must enjoy travelling as it’s a big part of what you do, and on your blog you say, “I TRULY BELIEVE that I could be one of the world’s greatest adventurers...”

I think I did qualify that by saying, Well… if it was a nine-to-five escapade with regular cappuccino breaks and an electric blanket and feather pillow along with DStv in the evenings. But I do enjoy bonding with the great outdoors and right now am planning a Botswana wilderness motorbike tour with Tuli Adventures in May. On a KTM 1 290 Super Adventure R, of course! My other highlight is the Computershare Change A Life charity cycle tour – last year we tackled the breathtaking climbs of Majorca which was the best riding I’ve had in my brief pedalling career. They call me “The Stork”. Search me why.

Please fill in the blanks:

My most unique travel experience is… navigating with the demon Terrence Marsh from Redline Motorsport in the Toyota 1 000 Desert Race in Botswana. Felt (and probably looked) like a frog in a blender.

My biggest travel/holiday disaster was… being pushed onto a rat-infested dhow at Bagamoyo in Tanzania at midnight by the ebullient longbeard Kingsley Holgate and drifting into Zanzibar at first light with a massive headache and empty wallet.

I never travel without… Yes… that feather pillow!

My fantasy travel companion for a long road trip would be… South African-born Falcon rocket man and Tesla legend Elon Musk who can tell me all about his modest plans to get to Mars!  

My favourite local travel destination is… In town… The Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga. Out of town…Tshukudu Bush Lodge in Pilanesberg National Park. Both have feather pillows!

One day I plan to… live on Anse Lazio beach on Praslin…

Twitter - @DerekWatts

Carte Blanche is South Africa's longest running investigative journalism programme. Catch Derek and the team at 7pm on Sundays on M-Net.