Author: Colleen Malloy
As long as you haven’t been living under a rock for the past decade or so, you’ve probably heard of the now famous BBC documentary Planet Earth and its much anticipated sequel Planet Earth II. Narrated by naturalist Sir David Attenborough (or Sigourney Weaver if you didn’t have BBC access), Planet Earth brought the nature documentary not just to classrooms, but to family television sets around the world with an average audience of over 11 million viewers at its outset. Surely it can be said the Planet Earth is king of the jungle when it comes to nature documentaries along with other well known names such as Blue Planet, Life, and March of the Penguins. What if you’re looking for something a little bit different? A nature documentary that takes you places you’ve never been before. Something a little lesser known, something a little more unique. Below are 4 documentaries currently available on Netflix than can inspire the inner naturalist in all of us.
- South Pacific (2009: 6 Episodes)
South Pacific is another stellar creation courtesy of the BBC’s Natural History Unit and narrated by none other than Benedict Cumberbatch, aka Sherlock Holmes himself, The high-definition, six-part series covers everything south of the equator, with the main focus being on the formation and ecosystem of various tropical and subtropical islands. The series covers the seismic activity that continues to create new islands to this day, how the islands became populated both above and below the shoreline, and the history and culture of some of the peoples that live there. There’s a special focus on both the uniqueness and the fragility of these ecosystems as well as what we can do to protect our tropical paradises going forward.
- Wild China (2008: 6 Episodes)
In the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government gave The BBC permission to do something that no one had done before, create a comprehensive series on Chinese natural history. In a truly unique piece, Wild China takes viewers across the breadth of the country including politically sensitive areas such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Qinghai, and Inner Mongolia that have traditionally been difficult to film. Beautifully done in HD, the six-part series gives a good overview of the animals and the people in these areas offering the best glimpse into a country that does not usually allow for such broad footage of its countryside.
- Wild France with Ray Mears (2015: 4 Episodes)
Generally, when one thinks Europe, one thinks cities, or at the very least quaint villages. Rarely does one stop to consider that there may still be some wild places left on the continent So overtaken are we with the idea of the entire area being entirely farmed, paved, and otherwise bulldozed over with the hallmarks of human civilization. But that’s where we’re wrong. Travelling around France, Ray Mears shirks the bright lights of Paris to instead bring us the wilder side of the country. The Alpine meadows to the west, the craggy coasts and Mediterranean shores of France’s coasts, and the still wild areas where wolves are being bred. During this time, Ray showcases how the native wildlife and people in the area interact with one another. Overall, the series offers a refreshing and interesting glimpse into a continent often ignored from a naturalist’s perspective.
- David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities (2013-17: 27 Episodes)
Maybe by now you’re missing Attenborough a bit. His voice, after all, has a legendary charm to it. Well fear not as Netflix also has his 27 episode, 4-season-series Natural Curiosities on offer. In this series, Sir David chooses theme for each episode. The episodes all feature two animals outlining the curiosity the David is focused on, with the both the science and the history behind the discoveries described in delightful detail for the viewer. Offerings include such oddities as asexual reproduction, regeneration of body parts, and even animals, like the platypus, that the scientific community once thought to be hoaxes.