The broadcaster and natural historian has had a profound impact on our culture, and undoubtedly given people around the world a newfound interest and appreciation of the planet’s wildlife. So as you start to plan your 2020 holidays, perhaps it’s time to make what you’ve seen on television a reality. For a trip you’ll never forget, take inspiration from the best David Attenborough shows, and pick a destination that’s home to some of Earth’s most phenomenal animals.
Episode One – Wildebeest in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Our Planet kicked off with a thrilling chase, as a herd of wildebeest narrowly escaped being hunted by a speedy pack of wild dogs. The scene unfolded in the Serengeti National Park, one of the most spectacular safari sites in the world. Travellers from far and wide visit the park to see the remarkable wildebeest migration, as they move in search of fresh grazing sites. A Serengeti safari also gives you a chance to catch a glimpse of the famous Big Five—the buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.
If you’re travelling all the way to East Africa, there’s no reason to limit yourself to the Serengeti alone. A Tanzania safari could also encompass the Tarangire National Park, home to elephants and wonderful wild birds like parrots and eagles, and also offering night vision trips unveiling fascinating nocturnal animals in all their glory. And if you’re planning a long trip, it’s well worth travelling to the south of the country to explore Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park, two stunning areas boasting a great variety of wildlife and exciting activities like walking safaris, boat trips and fly-camping.
Episode Two – Bears in the Rocky Mountains, Canada
The Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada are the perfect place to see bears in their natural habitat, with the best chances of spotting them being between April and October, before hibernating season begins. Though they’re considered quite fearsome animals, the dancing grizzly bears actually brought some unexpected light relief to episode two of Planet Earth II, rubbing themselves up against tree trunks to soothe their itchy fur in the heat.
Marta Kulesza, photographer and owner of the In A Faraway Land blog, also recommends looking for Alberta bears at the Lake Louise Gondola, and around the Bow Valley Parkway, Kananaskis Country and Maligne Lake Road in Jasper. She suggests setting off early in the morning to avoid both busy traffic and an excessive amount of tourists that could scare bears away from the road.
Episode Two – Orangutans in the Gunung Palung National Park, Indonesia
The mother and baby orangutan you saw climbing the trees in the second episode of Seven Worlds, One Planet were filmed in the Gunung Palung National Park in Indonesia, located on the southwestern coast of Borneo. The moving footage depicted the parent teaching her infant how to ascend the dizzy heights of the jungle, as Attenborough revealed that at seven years, orangutans have the longest childhood after humans.
The park is the site of the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program, which has been active since 1992, and is one of the longest-running studies of the animal in existence. Much of the park is off-limits to tourists, but you can visit the Lubuk Baji site independently, or as part of an organised tour. If you decide to go solo, you’ll need to purchase a permit from a dedicated office in either Melano, Ketapang or Sukadana.
Episode Six – Turtles in the Ostional Wildlife Reserve, Costa Rica
Blue Planet II is perhaps Attenborough’s most impactful show, due to its huge role in raising the global awareness of plastic pollution. The series’ sixth episode opened in breathtaking fashion, with the camera panning over hundreds of thousands of olive ridley sea turtles on the coast of Costa Rica. Pulling their way through the sand, the turtles had travelled hundreds of miles across the sea to lay their eggs on land.
This awe-inspiring sensation was captured at the Ostional Wildlife Reserve. Access to the beach is controlled while turtles are nesting, though these rules have previously been ignored. Back in 2015, wildlife experts were furious when masses of tourists flocked to the beach to take selfies and disturb the turtles’ breeding efforts. Nesting season takes place between August and November, but you must be accompanied by a guide, who will ensure the turtles won’t be disrupted during your trip. Or if you’d like a more meaningful experience, you could enquire about volunteering at Ostional Wildlife Reserve by directly contacting their main office.
Episode Five – Tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park, India
The final episode of Dynasties followed Bengal tigress Raj Bhera as she fought to protect her four cubs, while simultaneously battling her rivals plotting to steal her territory—one of which was her eldest daughter, Solo. However, one of the biggest threats to her life actually came from humans, as Raj Bhera accidentally left the reserve, ending up in a nearby village. Luckily, a park official managed to save her before any of the villagers took matters into their own hands.
If you want to see a tiger in the wild, the Bandhavgarh National Park, where the episode was filmed, is one of the best places to do it. The park has the highest known tiger population in India, and can be explored either in a safari jeep or on the back of an elephant—organisers recommend the latter option if tigers are your main priority as this is safer, and you can get closer to them. However, there are plenty of other animals to see, including leopards, wild jackals, mongoose, and a variety of birds and snakes.