But that dream died in 2004 when Frank was shot by terrorists, and he has been using a wheelchair ever since. A chance meeting with explorer Benedict Allen changed everything.
Thirty years ago Benedict lived in Papua New Guinea with the Niowra, a remote people. They thought he would live among them forever but he left the community. Intent on returning three decades later, Benedict pledges to take Frank with him. Together they set out on an incredible journey through some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet.
Benedict is determined to get Frank there despite the wheelchair. But as they approach Benedict’s old village, brutal secrets come back to haunt him.
“The great return to PNG with Frank Gardner went beautifully – up to a point,” says adventurer Allen.
“Naturally, our hotel almost burnt down on the first night – and off we went into the forest on our adventure, only to find our trip cut short due to circumstances beyond our control. But it all came right in the end.”
Birds Of Paradise: The Ultimate Quest, BBC2, Friday, 9pm