Our Planet brilliantly encapsulates the idea that our wild places are worth protecting. Detailed within each episode are accounts of spectacular natural phenomena, such as the super blooms that occur once every decade in California’s deserts after a cloudburst. Equally thrilling is that which is yet to be discovered in the natural world—less than 5 percent of the ocean has been explored, and new species are being found in rain forests every day. Our ecosystems are home to a host of unique wildlife that displays fascinating behaviors. You can see many of the series’ featured animals on trips with Natural Habitat Adventures, the partner of World Wildlife Fund.
From Deserts to Grasslands
Desert Lions and Elephants
This episode opens with a group of elephants that are following their matriarch, the reigning female whose knowledge is passed down over generations. A pair of lions look on, their golden coats blending into the sands. We see the elephants reach the distant trees in their search for water, only to find a dry riverbed. To make matters worse, seedpods from the ana trees have failed this year, a food source for the hungry pachyderms. But a bull elephant helps the herd—he stands on his hindquarters to reach the leafy branches of the canopy, pulling them down for others to eat. This depiction of survival in the harshest of conditions, of nature’s ability to flourish against all odds, is inspiring. On a Great Namibia Wildlife Safari, spectacular scenery is complemented by desert-adapted wildlife, including oryx, which can maintain a body heat of up to 113 °F, black rhinos, elephants and lions.
The Serengeti plains in East Africa sustain more than 1 million wildebeest as they follow the seasonal rains. Females give birth to their calves within a three-week period, and the young wildebeest frolic and play with abandon, strengthening their legs for the immense journey ahead. The herd protects the calves as they travel, grazing on newly sprouted grass as predators follow in their wake. Our Planet features African wild dogs pursuing a singled-out calf, but mother comes to the rescue, shielding her young from the attack. The hunting dogs must try again another day. This great migration is one of the most spectacular on earth and can be seen on the Great Tanzania Migration Safari and on an Ultimate Kenya & Tanzania Safari.
The stage is set as a tigress emerges from the shadows, her stripes blending with the tall grasses. She stalks a deer, but its barking cry alerts others to the imminent danger. Her prey having evaded her this time around, the powerful predator returns to her two cubs. Our Planet states, “In the last hundred years, the number of wild tigers has declined by over 95 percent,” but tiger numbers in India are now growing thanks to increased conservation efforts. Ecotourism has aided in these efforts by supporting the local economy and providing an incentive to protect wild grasslands. Search for tigers, greater one-horned rhinos and Asian elephants on a Grand India Wildlife Safari.
Cheetahs—the fastest land animal on earth. Their spotted pelts are nothing more than streaks as they sprint agilely through the high grass, working as a team to take down their prey. The crew of Our Planet was able to film a coalition of five males, one of the largest ever observed, as they took down a wildebeest together in a dramatic display. A cheetah’s stealth and speed is nothing short of breathtaking, which you may have the opportunity to behold on a Great Kenya Migration Safari or an Ultimate Kenya & Tanzania Safari.
A baby orangutan and her mother—named by researchers Eden and Ellie, respectively—navigate the branches in a tropical rain forest. Ellie has a mental map of her surroundings and shows Eden different foraging techniques, including how to gather ants and how to locate fruiting trees. These intriguing scenes are a window into jungle survival, featuring the extraordinary primates with whom we share a common ancestor. Orangutan babies stay with their mothers for seven to eight years, and their long developmental period makes them particularly vulnerable to environmental change. In Our Planet, David Attenborough gravely estimates, “We lose 100 orangutans every week from human activity…[and] in the last four decades the pristine lowland jungle that orangutans depend on has declined by a staggering 75 percent.” Sixty-six million acres of pristine rain forest have been replaced with tracks of palm oil trees. If we do not act, these lush sanctuaries for animal life may become, quite literally, a paradise lost.
We can ensure Eden’s generation is not the last of the wild orangutans. WWF has been endeavoring to protect the orangutan by aiding in the creation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), promoting sustainable forestry, monitoring orangutan populations, and supporting local community conservation efforts and ecotourism. Nat Hab’s commitment to preserving wildlife habitats and leadership in sustainable practices allows you to experience the Wilds of Borneo in an environmentally sound way.
A mother sneaks up on a seal, her young cub following in her shadow. They hunt in overcast conditions, blending into their surroundings, as they slowly approach their target. The white bears have made this frozen landscape their home, but changes in the ice are making hunting increasingly difficult. Human activities now shape the planet, and northern species are some of the first to face the consequences of a warming world. By increasing our scientific understanding of polar bear behavior and the effects of diminishing sea ice on the entire ecosystem, WWF and Nat Hab are making strides to protect polar bears and their natural habitat. See how conservation travel is helping protect Arctic wildlife on our Classic Polar Bear Adventure.
In the Antarctic, vast colonies of penguins dot the frozen landscape. Our Planet features gentoos, the fastest of all penguins in the water, as they dive for krill in the icy sea. Orcas follow the gentoos, and they dart through the water in a daring chase. Onshore, the film crew captures the heartwarming moment of a king penguin feeding its fuzzy chick. Set out on the adventure of a lifetime and encounter penguins along with whales, seals and albatrosses while Sailing Antarctica.
In the world’s largest tropical wetland, the jaguar rules. The head of a large male bobs in the water. It paddles with giant paws before climbing onto the riverbank, its coat slick and gleaming. Unsuccessful in its pursuit of capybara, the large cat turns to more formidable prey—a caiman. It takes a death-defying leap from the trees above and into the river with a great splash, landing on the fierce reptiles back. As the caiman rolls, attempting to drown the jaguar, the cat clamps down on its neck with powerful jaws. It’s a fight between top predators, and the jaguar is victorious. Experiencing the Jaguars & Wildlife of Brazil’s Pantanal will undoubtedly leave you in awe.
There are few spectacles more compelling than watching massive, glossy-coated grizzlies spar over prime fishing spots, showers of droplets sparkling in the sun as the bears charge through the river. The salmon they feed upon make an incredible journey, traveling against the current from the Pacific Ocean to their natal stream to lay their eggs. Brown bears snatch the leaping salmon from cascading waterfalls, eating the fatty fish to sustain themselves for their winter hibernation. However, Pacific salmon number less than 1 percent of past populations, as dams block the fish from traveling downstream. This poses a threat to the giant grizzly, but WWF is working to preserve free-flowing rivers by reconnecting them through dam removal, promoting laws that protect these waterways and encouraging leaders at the local level to make better decisions about water management. Come face to face with these glorious bears on the Great Alaskan Grizzly Encounter.
African wild dogs
Painted pups are a sight to behold. The excitable litter greets their parents enthusiastically, jumping, grabbing one another’s tails, rolling and emitting shrill squeaks. Playing establishes the social bonds they need to hunt as a team. Wild dogs inhabit the woodlands of Southern Africa. Browsing elephants open up the forest, which attracts the animals these dogs prey upon, such as impala and springbok. Preserving forests, which are a hunting ground and refuge, is essential to this endangered canine’s survival. You’ll have the chance to spot a pack of these rare painted dogs on our Secluded Botswana Safari or on an adventure to experience the Hidden Jewels of Zimbabwe & Zambia.
The island of Madagascar has been isolated for more than 80 million years, resulting in a host of endemic wildlife that has evolved unique traits and abilities. In Our Planet, baobabs tower overhead as a fossa, Madagascar’s top predator, slinks along the forest floor and a lemur feeds on magenta blossoms in a tree. At least 40 kinds of lemurs live here, from the small mouse lemur to the large sifaka. Yet these primitive primates are under threat, as their homes shrink at an alarming rate—only 3 percent of Madagascar’s dry forests remain. Ecotourism helps preserve these biodiverse forests that brim with colorful wildlife, which you can discover on a Madagascar Wildlife Adventure.
Traveling with Nat Hab and WWF helps conserve these species and wild places, as we make it our mission to raise the bar on conservation in the destinations we visit. Sustainable tourism brings revenue to local communities and conservation projects, providing an initiative to protect animals and become proper caretakers for our planet. Join us on one of our adventures that span the globe to witness for yourself great migrations, incredible chases, newborn babies and other remarkable wildlife encounters.