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Where to see…Planet Earth II

| 07 Dec 2016

If like us, you’re hooked on Planet Earth II, you are probably wondering how you can see these incredible animals for yourself. Unlike the film crew, you might not have days – or months ­– to spare, sitting in a hide waiting for the perfect capture, but we can suggest the best times of year to go and with the help of a guide, give you the best opportunities for seeing the wildlife. OK, maybe not the snakes. We might just skip the snakes.

lions in Namibia

Katie Cosstick looks at some of our favourites so far:

Episode One – Islands

Komodo Dragons, Indonesia

Growing up to 3m in length, komodo dragons are the largest living species of lizard and can be seen on some Indonesian islands. As they are at risk of becoming endangered, the Komodo national park was founded to protect the populations.

Komodo dragons

Mating season for komodos is July and August, which is also peak season for tourists. For good sightings of these creatures, with fewer tourists around, we recommend the best time to visit as May / June and September / October. Take an Indonesian wildlife adventure to see them >

Marine Iguanas, Galapagos

In perhaps the most terrifying piece of wildlife footage filmed, viewers saw a pack of deadly racer snakes attack young marine iguanas hatching from the sand. There are several islands in the Galapagos where you can see the iguanas but fortunately fewer where there are snakes. We recommend taking a cruise around the islands to see as much variety of wildlife as possible. The iguanas nest in February and March and begin hatching in May.

marine iguana

Chinstrap penguins, Antarctica

If the seven-day journey to Zavodovski sounded just a bit too arduous, we have some slightly easier suggestions for seeing penguins. Chinstrap penguins breed in Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. You can see chinstrap penguin breeding sites, along with many other varieties, from land in the Falklands, or from an Antarctic or South Georgia cruise. Cruises only operate during the southern hemisphere summer months with December and January being the best time to see penguins hatching.

chinstrap penguins

Episode Two – Mountains

Snow leopards, Himalaya

One of few animals left to still elude David Attenborough, the solitary snow leopard is one of the stars of the series. The increasingly rare animal spends all year on its own except for one occasion when the males fight for a female’s attention. It took the film crew three years to get the footage so we can’t promise it will be easy to see them, but if you do, it will be worth the trek to the Himalayas.

The Himalayas

Grizzly bears, Canada

The only thing missing from the scenes of the grizzly bears scratching their backs on trees was The Jungle Book’s soundtrack. In what can otherwise be quite tense viewing, the bears provided some light relief to the episode. Grizzly bears can be found throughout the western provinces of Canada but it’s vital to go with a guide who knows the best places to see them congregating:  early morning and late afternoon are the optimum times.

Grizzly bear

Episode Three – Jungles

Jaguars, Brazil

Capybara, rare dolphins, caiman and the elusive jaguar were all shown in their fight for survival in the extraordinary Brazilian Pantanal. Given how brutal some of the scenes have been so far this series, we probably expected to see caiman eating capybara, and maybe even a dolphin, but to see a huge male jaguar leap into the water and come out with a caiman in its jaw was a definite surprise. From July to October, the flooded jungle floor dries out and is the best time to spot mammals. We recommend the protected park near Porto Jofre for the best chance of jaguar sightings >

Jaguar, Pantanal

Indri lemurs, Madagascar

Like much of Madagascar’s flora and fauna, the indri is endemic. It is the largest living species of lemur and is found in the island’s east. Their haunting whooping song can be heard as they defend their patch of forest and watching them bounce through the trees made for fascinating viewing. Sadly the indri is becoming increasingly rare but chances for sightings in Analamazaotra Reserve are high. We recommend visiting between May and November.

indri lemur

Episode Four – Deserts

Desert lion, Namibia

A pack of starving lion charging a lone giraffe wasn’t easy viewing. Who did we want to see win the chase? It was a definite reminder of the struggle for survival in such harsh conditions. Whilst you may not witness such spectacles on every safari drives, it’s not uncommon. Namibia can be visited all year round, but the driest conditions – when animals will be congregating at what little water sources they can find – are between September and October. See how you can visit > 

Desert lion

Namaqua sandgrouse, Namibia

Nesting far away from water for safety, male sandgrouse risk their life by flying over 100 miles to the nearest waterhole. Special feathers soak up water, which they can then feed to their chicks. Absorbing more than a 1/4 of their body weight in water they must then fly back again. They are best seen after the rainy season, when waterholes are plentiful. Search for sandgrouse in Namibia >

Namaqua sandgrouse

Locusts

I’d never quite understood what a ‘plague of locusts’ might entail. I do now. Thankfully it happens once in a decade and hard to predict exactly where it will be. I’ll be staying away.

Episode Five – Grasslands

Swamp lion, Botswana

Lions are not the most natural of swimmers, so lions in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, have had to adapt their hunting techniques. Buffalo kill more lion than any other animal – and weigh more than six lionesses combined – but the lion still try to take them on, working together as a pack. The Okavango Delta is flooded from May to October and attracts animals from the scorched Kalahari desert. This results in wildlife viewing unrivalled across the rest of Africa. See how to explore the Okavango >

Swamp lion

Carmine bee-eaters, Zambia

Potential contenders for the laziest but most ingenious animal, these bee-eater birds catch a lift on the back of larger animals – white storks, bustards and similar – and then follow elephants to secure an easy snack: the trampling elephants force bees out of the grass right into the paths of the hitchhiking birds that dart and weave around the elephants’ legs. Although Planet Earth filmed the birds in Botswana’s Savute region, the birds migrate to southern Africa to breed between September and November. Cox & Kings also recommend visiting South Luangwa national park in Zambia for excellent sightings.

Carmine bee eaters

Episode Six – Cities

Hanuman langurs, Jodhpur

It’s not uncommon to see monkeys in a Rajasthani city, but their daily commute to the markets made for entertaining footage. Tempted by all the fresh food on display, they make the sellers’ life hard work. Hanuman langurs in Jodhpur are revered, as Hanuman is a Hindu monkey god. The monkeys living among the temple gardens are given a constant supply of food by worshippers but has resulted in a population boom: the high-energy diet means the mothers’ rich milk can support twins, unheard of in their natural habitat. Visit Jodhpur >

hanuman monkey

Leopards, India

A city of over 20 million people is not where you’d expect the world’s highest concentration of leopard. The leopards are thriving on the city’s periphery as they use the cover of city noise to hunt pigs, chickens and other domesticated animals. Though we don’t suggest going looking for leopards in Mumbai – they’ve attacked almost 200 people in the last 25 years – we do recommend going to the Jawai Hills in Rajasthan.

leopard

Starlings, Rome

In the winter skies above Rome, on a particular day you can see one million starlings coming in to roost. The filming of their murmurations was spectacular, although no one knows why they perform such incredible aerial displays. The best time to see the displays is at dusk, though do be careful – the downside is piles of excrement that coat the city, so be sure to bring an umbrella!

Colosseum, Rome

The series has been the most-watched wildlife programme on television and the topic of conversation in our office every Monday for the last six weeks. We’re sad to see it end, but in awe of the cinematography and incredible wildlife footage that Sir David and his team have treated us to. Let’s hope that Planet Earth III isn’t another 10 years away.

Enter the competition to win the Planet Earth II hardcover book >



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