SPENDING time among shamans, medicine men and witchdoctors of remote tribes may not be to everyone's liking, but for explorer Benedict Allen it's a way of life.

The author of several books, including Into The Crocodile Nest, Through Jaguar Eyes, Hunting the Guru and Mad White Giant, Benedict Allen is perhaps better known for his TV programmes, such as Last Of The Medicine Men, which is currently showing on BBC2.

Last Of The Medicine Men shares the unique style of his earlier series', The Skeleton Coast and Edge of Blue Heaven, which he made not with a film crew, but while alone on his expeditions.

And later this month he will be coming to Malvern in person to talk about his experiences.

"I've been travelling for 20 years visiting remote peoples and finding out their whole way of looking at things," he said.

"I frequently found that there were individuals in the middle of these communities - call them shamans, medicine men, whatever - and these characters would be rather mysterious and secretive, so I wanted to find out more about them."

Benedict's quest took him to some remote and rugged places, few more remote than the island of Siberut, off Sumatra.

He said; "Their medicine man or herbalist looked like a hippie; he was fully adorned with flowers, feathers beads and so on.

"They believe that everything has a soul: plants, rocks, streams, everything, and you have to be careful to respect all these souls. If you don't respect the soul of your bow and arrow, the arrow is likely to fly off in the wrong direction."

Benedict carries on his body a permanent souvenir of his time on Siberut.

He said: "They gave me this huge tattoo which goes down my thigh like a big barcode. It took three-and-a-half hours and it was done by this old guy with incredibly shaky hands. He used an old blunt safety pin on the end of a stick and spat into black soot to make the ink."

Another destination for Benedict was Haiti, home of the sinister voodoo cult. "Everyone has seen voodoo in that James Bond film Live And Let Die," he said. "I was expecting it to be very much an exaggeration, but it was actually rather like that.

"I met a professional bad guy called Altesse Paul; he told me to show up for a ceremony with a black goat and a bottle of Johnny Walker.

"Unfortunately, he drank rather too much of the whisky and when he was supposed to disappear into a dark cellar and conjure up the voice of Hell, he spent a long time in there and then came out, having completely forgotten why he was there."

Another journey took him to the Huichols people of Mexico, with whom he took the hallucinogenic cactus drug peyote as part of their religious ceremonies.

"The Huichols are quite unusual in that the understanding of the spiritual world is not restricted to the shaman. The people all take part in the peyote ceremony, during which they meet God.

"I didn't meet God, but it was a very powerful experience. The stones were vibrating with energy and making strange noises. I felt extreme euphoria and a kind of completeness."

Benedict sees his mission as very different to that of the classic explorers of Victorian times.

"The way to understand people in these remote areas is not to study them as anthropological specimens but to get to know them as people and learn their beliefs and values," he said.

Benedict Allen will give his lecture, Last Of The Medicine Men, at Malvern Theatres on Monday, September 20 at 8pm. Tickets are £6 (£3 to students and Royal Geographical Society members).