Northern Thailand is dominated by mountains and cloaked in forest. It hides ancient creatures and surprising partnerships. To survive here, both the wildlife and people rely on maintaining the natural harmony of the mysterious north.
Southern Thailand is the Thailand we think we all know. It is a place of both spectacular natural beauty and of wild parties, but behind this well-known image is also a place of unexpected surprise, where spirituality pervades every bit of life. For the animals that live here, this is natural wonderland.
2017 • Travel
In central Thailand's forests, fertile plains and even city streets, nature finds a way of living alongside people. Spirituality can be found in human and animal relationships, both likely and unlikely. This bustling region is known as the nation's rice bowl - but even here, there are magical places to be found.
2017 • Travel
The seasoned traveller explores the South American country, beginning in the north-east - where Europeans first landed and grew rich on the profits from sugar and tobacco plantations run with slave labour. In Sao Luis, Michael finds out about a ceremony based on a 200-year-old tale before heading to the coastal lagoons of the Lencois Maranhenses National Park. Journeying inland, he gets a glimpse of the fast-disappearing world of old-style cowboys known as vaqueiros, has his fortune read by a Candomble priest and learns to drum with the Olodum cultural collective.
He begins in Libya - a country well off the tourist trail and torn apart by revolution, insurgents from the so-called Islamic State and western air strikes. Simon visits the Mediterranean city of Sirte, which has been the scene of heavy fighting. Here Simon witnesses some of the worst destruction he has ever seen, with entire neighbourhoods of the city completely flattened. He also visits the remains of Leptis Magna - one of the world's best-preserved Roman cities which many feared could fall into the hands of IS - and meets the young volunteers who risked their lives to protect it. Travelling west along north Africa's Mediterranean coast, Simon arrives in Tunisia, a country that - unlike its neighbour - has long been a tourist destination. He travels to the spectacular fortress village of Chenini, where houses were carved into the mountain by the Amazigh - better known as the Berbers. Today Berbers are a small minority in Tunisia, but Simon finds one man who is keeping the traditions alive by harnessing camel power to make olive oil and excavating rock by hand to build new Berber homes. From Tunisia, Simon boards the overnight ferry to the island famous as home to the mafia, Sicily. In recent years, a government crackdown and public rebellion has substantially weakened the mafia's grip on the island, but in the countryside there are worrying signs of a comeback. The mafia is trying to take advantage of rural Sicily's population decline, but Simon soon discovers that migrants and refugees who have traveled across the Mediterranean to Europe are finding new homes in Italy's emptying villages. Simon meets three inspiring sisters who - despite constant intimidation, including the skinning of their much-loved dog - are making a defiant stand against the mafia.
Ade Adepitan embarks on the first leg of his epic journey around Africa. Starting in west Africa, this episode sees Ade traveling from Cape Verde to Senegal and the Ivory Coast, before finishing in Nigeria - the country of his birth. In Cape Verde - a group of tiny volcanic islands in the Atlantic - Ade visits a community living in the shadow of an active volcano. He also witnesses how solar power is transforming lives by bringing electricity to isolated communities. Ade's next stop is Senegal. Here he visits Goree Island - a former staging post in the transatlantic slave trade. He then travels down the coast to a fishing village, where he hears that much of Senegal's catch is being taken by foreign companies and turned into fishmeal to feed western livestock. Making a last stop on his journey through Senegal, Ade visits Lake Retba where he joins the workers who wade through the lake gathering salt which they sell for less than half a penny a kilogram. Ade's host has tried to escape poverty by migrating to Europe, but - like so many others - he never got further than the horrors of the camps in Libya. In the Ivory Coast, Ade meets more people who share the dream of getting to Europe. This time, however, they are footballers training to become professionals in Europe's big leagues. But it does not always work out, as many are scammed into giving their cash to dodgy football agents. The final stop is Nigeria, the country Ade was born in. In Lagos he meets some old friends who play para soccer, and he also visits the largest church building on the planet. Traveling out of Lagos, he discovers a country in chaos. Under armed escort, he hears about a conflict that has created hundreds of thousands refugees, but barely been reported on in the west. He finishes his journey at Nigeria's equivalent to Silicon Valley – a company that believes tech can transform the continent.
As Ray travels across land and by canoe, he tells the story of one of the greatest companies the world has ever known - the Hudson's Bay Company that opened up Canada. Ray discovers how those early traders were pioneers who laid the foundations of the modern Canadian state. He also demonstrates local crafts and bushcraft skills that bring the landscape to life.
Adventurer and journalist Simon Reeve heads to Vietnam to uncover the stories behind the nation's morning pick-me-up. While we drink millions of cups of the stuff each week, how many of us know where our coffee actually comes from? The surprising answer is that it is not Brazil, Columbia or Jamaica, but Vietnam. Eighty per cent of the coffee we drink in Britain isn't posh cappuccinos or lattes but instant coffee and Vietnam is the biggest supplier. From Hanoi in the north, Simon follows the coffee trail into the remote central highlands where he meets the people who grow, pick and pack our coffee. Millions of small scale famers, each working two or three acres, produce most of the coffee beans that go into well known instant coffee brands. Thirty years ago Vietnam only produced a tiny proportion of the world's coffee, but after the end of the Vietnam war there was a widescale plan to become a coffee growing nation and Vietnam is now the second biggest in the world. It has provided employment for millions, making some very rich indeed, and Simon meets Vietnam's biggest coffee billionaire. But Simon learns that their rapid success has come at a cost to both the local people and the environment.
2014 • Travel
Japan's central island of Honshu is home to over 100 million people, and its biggest city, Tokyo, is one of the largest urban metropolises on earth. But it has a wild heart - most of Honshu is mountainous. This wilderness is home to an astonishing range of wildlife - black bears, monkeys, exquisite fireflies and even cow demons. But all across this island, from the mountains to the edge of the sea, people and nature are drawn together in the most unexpected ways.