Ten years ago, Planet Earth captivated the world by setting a new standard for wildlife documentaries. In 2016, Sir David Attenborough returned with Planet Earth II, proving once again why he is one of history’s greatest naturalists. The first episode aired last night and followed the theme of ‘Islands’ with cameras focusing on some of the remotest places in the world.
The first stop was a vista of tropical Escudo off the coast of Panama. It showed the journey of a three-toed pygmy sloth swimming through a river in search of a mate. The scene transitioned into the island of Komodo, the home of the infamous Komodo Dragons. Watching the giant beasts battle and claw at each other for mating rights was one of the most vivid sights I’ve seen on TV all year.
A stand out scene involved baby iguanas emerging from the sands on the Galapogos island of Fernadina. The hatchlings had to run a gauntlet of racer snakes slithering after them. The snakes hid among crevices and rocks, waiting to ambush the iguanas as they made their dash for freedom. One iguana came dangerously close to being captured a number of times, yet continued to slip through the coils. I’ll admit the chase had my heart racing and I felt as relieved as the iguana when it climbed to safety.
More wonders followed, including the sweet pairing of a lonely albatross who was waiting for his mate to arrive so they could breed for the season. A heartbreaking sight was a young noddy struggling to escape the seeds of the ‘bird-catcher’ tree called Seychelles. It was an example of how one species survives and another was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The best was saved for last, with a stunning visual of the chinstrap penguin colony on Zavadoski Island. The island is one of the most isolated places on the planet, surrounded by stormy seas and unpredictable weather. The penguins faced the elements for the sake of food, diving into the surf that could easily smash them against the rocks. Seeing the penguins come back with broken legs and blood coating their feathers was a reminder of the sacrifices animals make for their family.
The ‘diary’ extract that followed showed the lengths the camera crew went to film the Zavadoski footage. It was a demonstration of true passion from the Natural History Unit, and how they put themselves in the skin of the animals they film. I look forward to seeing the other extracts in coming weeks.
Planet Earth II is already shaping up to be an incredible series, with next week’s focus being Mountains. I’ll be reviewing a new episode every week so be sure to check back.
What did you think of Islands?