Planet Earth II

Simon Jeavons

19 Dec 2016

Our Weekly Update On The Brand New BBC Series

Here at Natural World Safaris, we love anything and everything wildlife related, so we were excitedly anticipating the return of David Attenborough’s ground-breaking series, Planet Earth, here in the UK after a 10 year hiatus.

Wildlife is what we specialise in and in most cases we can put you in a ring-side seat for many of the incredible natural world moments that the series bring to your screen.

Episode 1 - Islands

The series opener, focused on Islands, did not disappoint. Filmed in visually stunning high definition, Attenborough takes us closer to the wildlife than ever before; from following a pygmy three-toed sloth in his search for love, to an exhilarating (and, quite frankly, terrifying) chase scene involving a newly hatched marine iguana and the, aptly-named, racer snakes.

Planet Earth serves as a reminder of how diverse and fascinating the natural world can be, and, as Attenborough himself points out, how much it has changed even in the last 10 years.  It also showed just how tough life in the wild can be, whether you’re a baby sifaka lemur in the spiny forests of Madagascar, or a chinstrap penguin trying to raise a family on an active volcano. 

Swim with Marine Iguanas

Swim alongside marine iguanas on Fernandina Island as they graze delicately on undersea algae, while also admiring the Galapagos green sea turtle and other marine species who call the Galapagos Islands home. Don’t worry, we’ll do this away from the snakes! 

See Baby Sifakas in the Spiny Forest

Gaze up and spot lemurs nibbling the fresh green shoots sprouting amongst the thorns. Join us on one of our small group safaris or take a specialist tailor-made trip to Madagascar, home to over 250,000 species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world, including charismatic lemurs and elusive chameleons.

Watch Chinstrap Penguins leap into crashing seas

On our safaris to the Antarctic Peninsula, you can see chinstrap, gentoo and adélie penguins in their natural environment, both on land and at sea, and can often spot albatrosses soaring high above. An expedition to Antarctica will let you see the breathtaking natural beauty of the continent and its distinctive wildlife in a whole new light. 

Join three-toed sloths in their search for romance

Despite its relatively small size, Costa Rica is home to 6% of the world’s biodiversity (including 5 species of sloth!), and is known for its beautiful coastlines, smouldering volcanoes and unique cloud forest ecosystems. On our tailor-made Costa Rican safaris, you can choose how to spend your time, whether it be horseback riding through dense jungle, rafting over raging rapids, or simply relaxing on pristine beaches. Costa Rica is also the perfect honeymoon destination, combining idyllic surroundings with fascinating wildlife and a healthy dose of adventure.

Episode 2 – Mountains

Once again, Attenborough is back to take us to some of planet Earth’s most extreme and hostile environments – this week, the theme is Mountains. Opening with a cinematic shot of a snow leopard roaring over the Himalayas, we then proceed to travel to the Arabian peninsula, where Nubian ibexes raise their young on sheer cliff faces (away from hungry foxes), to soaring with golden eagles above the snow-capped Alps, to the Rocky mountains of North America where grizzly bears are waking up from hibernation.

While this episode didn’t feature any scenes as ‘edge-of-your-seat’ exciting as the infamous iguana/racer snake chase scene, there were several moments that got our heart rates up, such as a female snow leopard defending her cub from two potential suitors. There was also some light relief, in the form of satisfied grizzly bears finally scratching that itch after a long winter, and Andean flamingos waking up frozen in ice (does this happen every morning?) before performing an elaborate mating ritual. We were also treated to some stunning landscapes, from awe-inspiring panoramas of the Himalayan mountains, to time-lapses of lush alpine forests emerging from the snow.

Track the elusive snow leopard in the Himalayas

With only an estimated 4,000-6,590 individuals left in the wild, the majestic and mysterious snow leopard is classified as endangered by the IUCN. On our exclusive safari, you can join the experts on their search for this rarely-seen feline, while camping in the beautiful surroundings of the Himalayan mountains. You could also combine this with a trip to see more of Asia’s big cat species; from the mountains to the jungles of India, home of the Bengal tiger, and to Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, home to the world’s highest concentration of leopards.

Come face-to-face with dancing grizzly bears

From May – September, you can travel to Canada to experience first-hand the lives of the fascinating grizzly bear, as they fish for salmon along the Nakina River to fatten up for the cold winter months. This is a great opportunity to get up close with bears in their natural environment, while also marvelling at the landscape of British Colombia, including a helicopter flight over Atlin, described as ‘the most beautiful place on Earth’. We also offer tailor-made journeys to the ‘Great Bear Rainforest’, home to grizzlies and black bears, and the only place in the world to see the mystical white-coated Kermode (spirit) bear.

Join flamingos on parade in the Andes

Visit the home of the Andean flamingo, one of few species of animal that is adapted to survive in the harsh climate of the Atacama Desert. On this Chilean safari, you can explore the almost Martian-looking environment of the Atacama Salt Flats and the Valle de Luna (Moon Valley), before travelling to the equally eccentric Easter Island, where you can see the legendary moai statues and learn about the islands’ unique history and culture.

Episode 3 – Jungles

Another week, another hour of stunning wildlife cinematography brought to us by the legendary David Attenborough, from some of the world’s most remote and beautiful places. This time we’re off to the jungles of the Amazon, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea to explore the most biodiverse regions on the planet; while they cover less than 6% of the Earth’s surface, rainforests are home to more than half of all plants and animals on land. While featuring some of the most adorable (baby spider monkeys trying, and failing, to climb trees) and exquisite (Wilson’s bird of paradise carefully cleaning the forest floor to properly show off its impressive plumage) scenes of the series so far, this episode again made me glad to be writing this from the safety of the NWS office.  

From a translucent glass frog the size of a fingernail protecting its eggs from hungry wasps - using some impressive kick-boxing techniques - to a 300lb jaguar going head-to-head with an equally-hefty caiman, life in the jungle is far from easy, and just surviving the day can be a struggle. This episode also demonstrated how much of the world is still left unexplored; one study estimates that 86% of all species on land are yet to be discovered.

Track jaguars in the jungles of Brazil

The Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland, is home to caimans, giant river otters, tapirs and capybaras, and is the best place to track jaguars in the wild. On our one-of-a-kind Brazilian wildlife safaris you can tailor your trip to fit in as many experiences as you like, from swimming with pink river dolphins in the Amazon to horseback riding through the Pantanal, or visiting the cultural and characterful city of Rio de Janeiro.

Hear the elusive Indri singing in Madagascar

While episode 1 brought us to the sifakas of the spiny forests, Madagascar boasts over 100 species of lemur, each one unique and distinctive. The indri is the largest lemur species and is prominent in many Malagasy myths and legends. It is also critically endangered, and can only be found in the montane forests on the East coast of Madagascar. On our Madagascar safaris, you can explore the unique wildlife of the so-called ‘8th continent’ away from the tourist crowds, visiting remote rainforest parks where you can often hear the song of the indri first thing in the morning.

Watch hummingbirds flit through the rainforests of Ecuador

Despite being considerably smaller than Brazil, Ecuador can be described as a microcosm of Latin America; from lush tropical rainforests, to the picturesque Andes mountains and historical colonial cities, such as the capital of Quito, the first city to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The jungles of Ecuador are incredibly diverse, containing 18% of the world’s bird species, including hummingbirds, toucans and scarlet macaws. A safari to Ecuador can also be combined with a trip to the Galapagos islands, famous for their enigmatic endemic species.

Episode 4 - Deserts

The fourth episode of Planet Earth, now officially one of the most-watched programmes of 2016, was brought to us from the arid deserts of Africa and North America; a stark contrast to the green, verdant jungles of last week. While deserts typically conjure up images of vast expanses of sand and… not much else, Attenborough proves that even these habitats, which can reach temperatures of up to 120ºF and offer almost no food or water, are home to some weird and wonderful wildlife. 

These include some voracious and formidable predators, and this episode was definitely not for the faint-hearted! While we were conflicted watching the lion-giraffe chase scene - we want the giraffe to escape but also don't want the lionesses to starve?! - the grisly and aptly-named Butcherbird and the Harris Hawks, which were reminiscent of the Velociraptors of Jurassic Park, had us shuddering. Even the cuddly-looking golden mole is introduced as the 'shark of the dunes', as it suddenly pounces out of the desert sands onto some unsuspecting grasshopper. Aside from the animals themselves, this episode once again delivered some spectacular scenery, from time lapses of plants emerging from barren landscapes after the long-awaited rains, to rock formations that looked like something from the surface of Mars. 

While deserts may seem like an unusual destination for a wildlife holiday, we recently wrote a blog post on why you should consider a desert safari, and we hope that this episode gave you a preview into some of the amazing wildlife that can be found within them.

Track lions amongst the dunes of Namibia  

Namibia literally translates as ‘big emptiness’, and is home to some of the world’s most dramatic landscapes, from the vast plains of the Namib desert, the oldest on Earth, to giant red sand dunes and the 30-metre deep Sesriem canyon. The unique and challenging habitats of Namibia also contain many endemic and specially-adapted species, including rare desert Elephants and the black-maned lions of the Kalahari, which can survive up to two weeks without water. These stunning natural landscapes are best viewed by hot air balloon, or on one of our self-drive safaris, which let you explore at your own pace and are perfect for family trips.

Camp in luxury at the heart of the Kalahari 

The Kalahari desert is famous for its red sands and derives its name from the Tswana word Kgala, meaning ‘the great thirst’. As well as lions, the Kalahari is home to a number of predators, including cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and African hunting dogs, and also offers visitors the opportunity to witness the great zebra migration and experience the traditional lifestyles of the Kalahari Bushmen. Despite its remote location, the Kalahari also boasts some exclusive and distinctive accommodations, such as Jack’s Camp in Botswana, located on the edge of the Makgadikgadi saltpans, the largest in the world, and sumptuously decorated with Persian rugs and local artefacts. In South Africa, Tswalu Kalahari lodge is situated within the country’s largest private game reserve, home to the elusive black desert rhino and meerkats which are so relaxed around humans, they have been known to use them as lookout posts!

Episode 5 - Grasslands

If anyone could make watching grass grow an exciting way to spend a Sunday evening, it’s David Attenborough - and, of course, the animals that depend upon it. The penultimate episode of Planet Earth 2 took us all over the world, exploring the grasslands of India’s Kaziranga National Park, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the Eurasian Steppe and… Norfolk. While grass doesn’t seem like anything to write home about, it covers a quarter of all land on Earth and can grow up to 2 feet in a single day, providing an important habitat for a variety of fascinating wildlife. 


Highlights from this episode included: Jackson’s widowbirds jumping to impress; carmine bee-eaters catching a ride on an unsuspecting elephant; the bizarre-but-adorable Saiga antelope; a tense stand-off between a 900kg buffalo and a pride of lions; and Caribou calves, who at one day old can outrun an Olympic sprinter (or at least a hungry Arctic wolf). This episode also brought us closer to the nature on our own doorsteps here in the UK, proving that a harvest mouse in the meadows of Norfolk faces just as many challenges as some of its more exotic counterparts.

Track tigers and rhinos in the grasslands of India 

The World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park, in the Assam region of India, is home to the largest population of the rare Indian one-horned rhinoceros - once numbering just 12 individuals, but as of 2015 estimated to be at 2,401, making it an astonishing conservation success story. The park is also home to Asiatic elephants and the highest density of tigers of any protected area. On our Rhinos, Temples and Tigers of India safari, you have the opportunity to stay on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra river, home to river otters and dolphins, while going on daily game drives or elephant-back safaris into the national park.

Explore the untouched wilderness of the Okavango 

Located at the heart of the arid Kalahari basin, the Okavango Delta is a natural wonder, often referred to as the ‘jewel of the Kalahari’ and offering some inspiring wildlife encounters and scenes of natural beauty. Home to all of the ‘big five’, the Okavango is one of the best places to see lions, elephants, buffalo, leopard and rhino, as well as an impressive variety of bird species, which are drawn to its rich savannah plains. Here, you will have the opportunity to view wildlife by jeep, boat or even on foot, each giving you a different and unique perspective.

Witness the great migrations of the Serengeti 

The Serengeti is perhaps the most well-known grassland in the world, one that is synonymous with African wildlife safaris. Getting its name from the Maasai for ‘endless plains’, the Serengeti is the oldest and most complex ecosystem in the world and plays host to some captivating wildlife, including the big five, cheetah, giraffe and zebra. A trip to the Tanzanian mainland can also be combined with the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar, which offer some well-earned relaxation after your wildlife safari. Make sure you talk to one of our Destination Specialists about the best time to go to see the famous wildebeest migration!

Episode 6 - Cities

With the end of the year in sight, we have also come to the end of this fantastic series of Planet Earth and our last blog update! The finale focused on the newest habitat on Earth – cities - and the animals that have learned to thrive alongside their human cohabitants in these concrete jungles. From the peregrine falcons soaring above the New York city skyline, to the leopards who stalk the streets of Mumbai by night, this episode showed that wildlife is often capable of adapting in unique and unusual ways to face its changing environments.

On the other hand, this episode took a more thought-provoking look at how the development of the human world has negatively affected the wildlife around us, including a heartbreaking scene involving Hawksbill turtle hatchlings who are disoriented by the bright city lights. Looking more optimistically towards the future, however, Attenborough ends the series by looking at ways in which we are learning to build cities that are more in harmony with nature; taking an example from Singapore, which has planted two million trees over the past 45 years.

Follow langurs across the rooftops of Jodhpur

A highlight of this episode was the cheeky langur monkeys of Jodhpur, India, who leap and bound effortlessly over the rooftops of their urban home. The monkeys here are well cared for; being associated with the Hindu god Hanuman, they are revered by the local city residents and given all the food they could eat. This, as Attenborough points out, has led to a baby boom, and the langurs here give birth to twice as many young as their more rural counterparts, creating much larger troupes. The city of Jodhpur itself, known as ‘blue city’ because of the indigo-washed houses in the old town, is a fascinating destination to explore. Our tailor-made 'Rajasthan, Culture and Wildlife' safari allows you to combine both the cultural and natural highlights of India; tracking tigers and leopards in the forests of Ranthambore and visiting the historic cities of Jodhpur, Jaipur and Delhi.

Witness sea turtles nesting in Tortuguero

Tortuguero National Park, in the northeast of Costa Rica, protects a 22-mile stretch of beach along the Caribbean coastline and provides an important nesting site for endangered green sea turtles, as well as leatherbacks, hawksbill and loggerheads. Tortuguero, meaning ‘land of the turtles’, was formed specifically to protect these endangered animals, and is one of the best places in the world to see them emerging from the sea to lay their eggs on the beach. Between July and October is the best time to go for this, making a great addition to any Costa Rica safari.

We hope that you have enjoyed watching Planet Earth II as much as we have, and we look forward to helping you create your own Planet Earth-style experience!

Get in touch

To find out more about us, start designing your journey or get some expert travel advice, get in touch with us.

Contact us

Comments

Arabella @ Natural World Safaris

29/11/2016 4:49 PM

Hi Emma, great to hear you've enjoyed reading the blog! We focus on getting you in the right place at the right time for amazing wildlife encounters so can definitely give you some Planet Earth-style experiences :-) Let us know where you want to travel and we can help make you some plans!

Emma

26/11/2016 7:21 PM

I absolutely love the series planet earth but never thought there was a chance that I could see these beautiful creatures in real life! Reading this makes me want to go out and see it all for myself!

Add your comment

You are being redirected. Click here if this takes longer than a few seconds.