Kiwi presenter Phil Keoghan has already been to 130 countries but he's not ready to stop exploring, he tells Stephanie Holmes.

Q Where in the world would you like to explore that you haven't been to yet?

I definitely want to get to Antarctica. I've yet to get to Nepal. I've had about three trips cancelled there. I've been all around it. I've been to China about 20 times, and India at least two dozen times, Thailand, goodness knows how many times, and the Golden Triangle, Laos and Myanmar and Bangladesh, and up by the Pakistani border and Kazakhstan, Mongolia.

I want to go there for many reasons — as a New Zealander, because it's where Sir Edmund Hillary managed to get to the top of the world's tallest mountain in 1953.

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The other places that I haven't been to, a majority of them are in Africa or are small islands. I guess I have to work through the list. I'm at about 130 countries I think, so far.

Q Which explorer has most influenced you?

There are a number of explorers I really admire. I love modern explorers; someone like [marine biologist] Sylvia Earle, who has done so much deep sea exploration. I also love that she's a woman, because a lot of the old-time explorers that I admire, there wasn't really the opportunity for a woman to be an explorer, it just wasn't done. But Sylvia Earle has really been quite a pioneer in terms of women exploring.

I love photographers Beverly and Dereck Jouberts, who I see as explorers. They have shot footage of lions over the years, much of it for National Geographic in Africa, down in the Namibia and Botswana area.

Then of the old-time explorers, people like Ernest Shackleton. His is probably the greatest adventure story in recorded history — where he saved all his men after his ship was crushed in the ice. Plus people like Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen who trekked across the ice to go to the South Pole. And then of course Edmund Hillary.

Q What are some of the most valuable lessons you've learned through travel?

Be an optimist when you travel, be open, curious and respectful. I think to travel you also need a good sense of humour; being able to laugh in the face of adversity. Being with people who are problem-solvers is always a bonus. I've been very lucky to travel with very good companions, including my dad. I've done a number of trips across the United States with him, as well as around France, when I made my documentary
Le Ride about the first English-speaking team to ride in the Tour De France.

So, good travelling companions, a good sense of humour, and then just to be really respectful of those people you meet. Remember you're a guest. And when you're in a guest in someone's home you don't walk around their home with your shoes on if they ask you to leave your shoes at the door. So be respectful, and I guarantee you 99.999 per cent of the time they'll be very respectful back to you.

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Q Do you have a favourite place in New Zealand to explore?

I love the South Island. I'm going on a hike with my dad down soon. I've done the Milford Track, the Heaphy Track and St. James Walkway. I love Fiordland National Park. I love anywhere in and around Te Anau. That bottom part of New Zealand is almost like a last frontier of the world. Kayaking along the coast and heading out towards the northwestern side of the island; my ancestors had come from Westport and Karamea, up that way, it's a beautiful spot as well.

Q Do you have any items that are always in your luggage?

A camera, Moleskine diary, sunscreen, toothbrush, eye mask, reading material, earplugs.

Q You're travelling in Economy on the world's longest flight and you're in the middle seat. If you could choose two people (not family or friends) to sit either side of you, who would they be?

I think Richard Branson and Anthony Hopkins.

I was lucky enough to have a dinner with Anthony Hopkins once. It was at somebody else's dinner and I felt like we were just starting to tap into all his amazing stories, so I have a few more questions, and he's incredibly entertaining. I love him as an actor.

And with Richard Branson there's something about his energy that I just really love. He just exudes being an optimist, and I love being around people who have faced amazing adversities and still succeeded. He's someone I'd love to interview for my podcast, Buckit.
He would be a top priority, somebody I'd really just love to hang with and talk with and get inside the head of.

FACT FILE

Best known for The Amazing Race, US-based Kiwi Phil Keoghan is the new host of National Geographic's Explorer, the long-running documentary series about people around the world involved in groundbreaking science, technological and historic discoveries.

This season, Keoghan says, covers a diverse group of people.

"I go everywhere from the India/Pakistan border, to diving with whale sharks, going into a bear den, tracking down lions in Zambia, looking for wolves in Yellowstone National Park, going to Spain and doing the human towers, going to Catalina and meeting up with biologists who are helping to save the bald eagle.

"My goal is that we make people feel excited about what's out there in the world and they feel comforted knowing that there are some really incredible people trying to help protect this beautiful place that we call home."

Explorer premieres on Monday, February 11, at 9.30pm on National Geographic.