WORDS: Greg Pride PHOTOGRAPHY Tyson Mayr & Brian Usher

Tyson’s unique experiences are inspiring travel for everyone with a sense of adventure and a commitment to wildlife, the planet and communities

Tyson Mayr has travelled far since walking out on his job as an up-and-coming Gold Coast commercial property agent – both literally and figuratively.

Mayr looked bound for big things in the real estate industry when, in 2009, he told his boss he was taking a three-week overseas holiday – only to book a one-way ticket. He hasn’t stopped globetrotting since, journeying thousands of kilometres across more than 100 countries in what has become not just his passion but an exciting and lucrative career.

The 36-year-old former model, Cleo Bachelor of the Year finalist and one-time I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here star is now firmly established as one of Australia’s top travel writers, TV presenters, photographers and wildlife conservation ambassadors.

And he’s about to add entrepreneur to his CV, as he prepares to launch a new adventure travel platform that promises “bucket list” experiences such as snorkeling in Antarctica, volunteering to help save endangered gorillas in Uganda, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro or biking across Vietnam.

Ocean Road caught up with Mayr recently during one of his all-too-rare stints at home on the Gold Coast between travel assignments for the likes of National Geographic, Foxtel, Amazon Prime (alongside survivalist Bear Grylls), Disney Plus and Escape Magazine.

While he’s lived on the Coast for most of his life, he’s actually a country kid from the Darling Downs.

“I grew up on a cattle and hay farm near Warwick,” he says.

“All of our cousins and extended family lived on the Gold Coast, so every school holidays and long weekend, the Coast was our second home. We moved here when I was roughly 13 and it’s been home ever since.

“I’ve lived in a few other places – Los Angeles, Bogota in Colombia, Barcelona and Sydney for a few years – but the second I no longer needed to be based somewhere for work, I came straight back to the Gold Coast.

“I love it here with a passion. I travel full-time for work and get to go to some amazing places in my job, but the Coast is one of the best places on earth. I don’t know if the locals know how good they have it here. It’s a true paradise.”

Mayr went to school at Palm Beach-Currumbin High on the southern Gold Coast before finishing his secondary education on the Darling Downs.

“I went to PBC and then moved back out with dad (on the farm) for some of my later teenage years and  I guess to keep me out of trouble,” he says with a chuckle.

“I was being a little ratbag and finished school back there.”

After finishing school, Mayr got a job with pioneering Coast surf shop chain Brothers Neilsen before joining Ray White Broadbeach as a rookie commercial property agent.

“I was finishing a property degree at the same time and things were going amazingly,” he recalls.

“I was offered an incredible opportunity in a position that most people thought I was foolish to walk away from. But I just remember looking around the office and imagining how my life would be ten years from now if I said yes. I remember feeling like there was so much more for me to see and experience.

“It was just this lingering feeling and at the time I had barely left home, so I booked a one-way ticket for my very first trip overseas, and those three weeks which I asked off from work turned into four years of full-time travel, hitching and couchsurfing my way around 6 continents in the first 12 months.”

Mayr visited 28 countries in his first year on a budget of $30 a day. He admits the first few months were the obligatory “party trip”, with destinations including Thailand, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, LA and Amsterdam.

“I think that’s how most people at that age begin travelling,” he says.

“You’re looking for that. And then, because I was travelling trying to stretch my small amount of money to continue traveling for as long as I could, I began hitchhiking and couchsurfing, which opened me up to even more unexpected experiences. Those were some of my best travel experiences, because its where I saw the biggest change on how I view the world, what my place is within it”

“I’m very fortunate that I do this as full time career now, but it all started with me simply wanting to share the life-changing experiences I encountered.  My photos were horrible to begin with, so the art of story telling was something I developed a passion for early on.

During his initial four-year travel odyssey, which saw him end up living in Malibu, California, he scored his next big break: winning a worldwide competition to become “chief world explorer” for American travel company Jauntaroo.  He beat 4,000 fellow contestants from 99 countries for the plum role which earned him $100,000 to travel the world writing about his experiences on social media as
“The Naked Traveller”.

He first became involved with clean water non-profit, RainCatcher, after learning about how much of the worlds population don’t have access to clean water. Initially he would travel with clean water filters in his backpack where he was able to pass them on to communities or local schools who may benefit from them, but his work with the organisation continued when he began assisting the local Uganda team with rainwater harvesting solutions across the country (where he once did a fundraiser of 10,000 push-ups in 10 days to raise $10,000, which had the likes of Hugh Jackman personally become involved).

He also became a wildlife warrior, working as an ambassador for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to help save endangered creatures across the globe.

“I’ve been working with IFAW since the 2019/2020 (Black Summer) bushfires,” Mayr says.“I was out on the farm when the bushfires swept through the Darling Downs. I remember seeing animals like dingoes that could rush to safety down by the creek, but there were countless koalas up in the trees just waiting for the fire to hit. They didn’t really have anywhere to go, and there was this very helpless feeling.

“Shortly after, I connected with Bear the Koala Dog and the Detection Dogs for Conservation, an amazing team who came out to the farm to begin searching for injured Koalas on our property.  I shared a video of this experience across Instagram which had Leonardo DiCaprio reshare it and shortly after I was travelling around Australia with Bear and his team, rescuing counteless Koalas after the fires swept through, supported by IFAW, which we shared as a feature documentary on Foxtel.

One of Mayr’s most memorable and moving travel experiences was working with IFAW on an elephant translocation expedition across Zimbabwe in June last year. The epic trip, which Mayr documented, saw him join a team of more than 50 experts to move seven elephants 1,100km to a 34,000ha protected habitat as part of IFAW’s “Room to Roam” initiative.

“It was a full range of emotions … devastating, heartbreaking, moving and exciting. It’ll make you tear up with both sadness and joy” he says of the experience.

“Room to Roam is interesting because, even though it’s elephant- focused, it’s an initiative that can apply to all wildlife everywhere. that’s what intrigued us; approaching conservation at a community level is the only way you’ll find sustainable solutions.

“That’s why IFAW’s Room to Roam initiative is so important, it provides solutions, which we can apply with our wildlife here in Australia, that allows for both humans and animals to thrive together”

I ask Mayr how the Zimbabwe trip rates in his itinerary of adventures, and if he has a favourite destination in the world?

“Look, the elephant translocation was right up there, simply because of the impact it was generating,” he responds.

“It’s not just the translocation of a few individual elephants, but rather entire generations that will continue now across the African landscape.  I found it incredibly inspiring to watch this coordinated effort of multiple groups of individuals and organisations all come together to fight for one cause. So compared to other adventures that might be profound in their own way, this had a longer-lasting effect on me.”


But as far as his favourite country, Mayr says Brazil will always be his number one.  “There is a palpable energy there that is hard to describe, it is one of the few places I’ve been that I instantly felt at home.  East Africa and Kyrgyzstan also hold a very special place in my heart for certain experiences I’ve had there”.

“I’m very fortunate that I get to have a lot of adventures, but anytime I can participate in something that has a deep level of impact, it just means much more.

Mayr says he’s a big fan of Brazil, “and Uganda holds a very special place in my heart for the experiences I’ve had”.

“I’ve been hosting snorkel expeditions down to Antarctica recently, a moving landscape in itself that is not comparable to anything else on this planet,” he says.

“But it was Kilimanjaro where I had my first emotional experience. This will be a focus region for upcoming locally guided trips I will share”

“As far as recent adventures, Kyrgyzstan is probably my favourite region to explore. I spent three months on a motorbike through the “‘stans” and it’s one of the last true places that feels like it hasn’t been watered down from tourism.

“The country is breathtaking, made up of 85% mountains, but it is the local experience that stays with you. The country is still very nomadic and on multiple occasions I became lost and I was always taken in from a nomadic family, no matter where I was.  It wasn’t a tourist experience, but rather another human seeing a human who needed a hand and wanting to help.

Whether social media is ruining adventure travel is a vexed question for Mayr.

“I mean, it depends on what perspective you look at it from. While I think it is a shame that many travel now with certain images in mind that they would like to capture, rather than the experience itself, it also does have the ability to open up the world to new locations that deserve attention too.

I saw this first hand recently in Peru.

Everyone has heard of Machu Pichu, but Choquequirao is another ancient city that’s twice as big and just as
awe-inspiring. The only difference is, it is far more isolated and hidden. You can only access it by this arduous four-day trek.

“I spent time with the local communities there and they were desperate for people to know about it. Every tourist

who visits Peru will rush to Machu Picchu, but many don’t explore anywhere else, so sometimes social media can open travellers up to new destinations, which in effect will help support the local communities in that region.

When you see an isolated place like Choquequirao, its easy for us as a traveller to say, ‘Why would you want to send more people to this beautiful, serene place?’.  But is that a self-serving view? Keeping a destination isolated for our own experience, while the local communities, guides and businesses all crave more tourism for their livelihood.

“I don’t enjoy watching everyone travel to the same place at the same time. But I think anyone who has travelled will quickly realise the memories that stay with you and impact you the most, are never the Instagram shots you put up.

“It’s the local experiences and unexpected moments along the way that create the biggest memories. So I always say, no matter the trip you are embarking on, always keep a little room for mistakes to happen in your itinerary, as they will often create your best memories and life-long lessons.

Mayr is about to launch an exciting new project he says will hopefully have him spending more time on his beloved Gold Coast than living out of suitcases.


It’s a new adventure travel booking platform called Real Wild Adventure, which aims to connect hungry-adventurers with the worlds most life-changing experiences.

“I’ve seen first hand how powerful travel can be when its done right, with local guides and operators, who care about the planet and it’s people. Our mission is to support these businesses by shining a light on adventures that most people have never heard of before, the kind of experiences that keep me up at night with excitement”

“From snorkeling in Antarctica, to volunteering with gorillas and chimpanzees in Uganda to Stand Up Paddleboarding down the Amazon River or biking across Vietnam, this is going to be a collection of the world’s best adventures where customers can feel good about the impact their travel is having at the same time.

“We’re like the Airbnb for the world’s most life-changing multi-day adventures.  Where people know they can visit Real Wild Adventure and find experiences they hadn’t heard of before, at the very best price, and trust that the local operator which we have partnered with will be looking after their local community and environment also.