Steve Backshall leads a team of elite explorers - including world leading underwater cave explorer Robbie Schmittner, former Royal Marine Aldo Kane and diving camera operator Katy Fraser - into the wilds of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Under the vast jungle here is the largest unexplored network of caves in the world, comprising thousands of kilometres of passageways. They are stunningly beautiful but incredibly dangerous - much of the system is under water. First the team must trek through tough, scorpion-infested jungle to camp alongside a giant sinkhole in the jungle floor - a dark gateway to an underworld full of nightmarish creatures.
2019 • Nature
Going down into these narrow flooded passageways is not for the faint-hearted but, with only an estimated one percent of the caves explored, it is an opportunity for the team to write themselves into cave diving history, by pushing further in than anyone has before. This is a challenge that tests even the most accomplished cave divers. Steve must face the terrors of being lost in an underwater silt cloud in a cave. But there is a bigger issue at stake. All life in the Yucatan depends on the fresh water in this network of caves, but it's being contaminated by human development. With every metre the team maps, it adds to the knowledge of the system, which, in turns, helps protect it for future generations.
2019 • Nature
African penguins were once the most numerous sea bird on the continent--until their population was decimated by human activity. Visit a rare colony at South Africa's Boulders Beach and see how these master divers and ocean hunters are staging a remarkable revival.
In many of the earth's natural wonders there is an abundance of animals. These can be a devastating threat to the people who live there, or they can provide a means of survival, but often at a high price. In the coastal salt marshes of northern Australia's Arnhem Land, Indigenous Australians still go hunting for the eggs of one of the world's most aggressive predators - the saltwater crocodile. Vanuatu is an island paradise in the south Pacific, but life here isn't perhaps as idyllic as it appears. Overfishing has reduced fish stocks, making food harder to come by for the indigenous islanders like 45-year-old Nigasau.
What makes plants grow is a simple enough question, but the answer turns out to be one of the most complicated and fascinating stories in science and took over 300 years to unravel. Timothy Walker, director of the Oxford University Botanic Garden, reveals how the breakthroughs of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, Chelsea gardener Phillip Miller and English naturalist John Ray created the science of botany. Between them these quirky, temperamental characters unlocked the mysteries of the plant kingdom and they began to glimpse a world where bigger, better and stronger plants could be created. Nurseryman Thomas Fairchild created the world's first artificial hybrid flower - an entirely new plant that didn't exist in nature. Today, botanists continue the search for new flowers, better crops and improved medicines to treat life-threatening diseases.
In the vast South Atlantic, huge pods of dolphins, massive penguin colonies and the largest gathering of marine mammals on earth pack chains of extraordinary islands, created by powerful volcanic forces far below them. Nutrient-rich upwellings create profusions of life in some areas, whilst extreme isolation and abyssal depths host a world of bizarre creatures in others.