The Mediterranean is abundant in so many ways – ethnically, religiously, culturally. Three major religions were born here. It’s also the world’s most densely populated region and the scene of countless battles in its wartorn history.
This aerial journey directs its focus on the role the natural world plays in this paradise for curious explorers. The Mediterranean is home to mountain ranges that tower over plains and estuaries, as well as deserts and the sea. Warning: you may want to book your next holiday after viewing this two-part series.
2020 • Travel
In part 2 under the protection of armed guards, Michael discusses the country's nuclear weapons programme with an army lieutenant, visits a massive tourist resort being constructed on the beach, and embarks on a hike through the stunning landscape.
This leg takes Ade across central Africa, from the coast of Gabon, through the giant Democratic Republic of Congo, and on to Uganda. He starts off the coast of Gabon looking for humpback whales. It is one of Africa's best spots for seeing them, thanks to Gabon's vast marine sanctuaries. The country is an eco-paradise, not just in the water, but on land as well where 80% of it is forested. But the country has recently introduced one of the most destructive agri-businesses in the tropics - palm oil farming. Ade discovers how Gabon hopes to do it sustainably. The country has impressive environmental credentials, but on a tour of its divided capital Ade hears that some people are skeptical. One critic suggests it is a way for the country's autocratic ruler Ali Bongo Ondimba to curry favour with the international community. Next up is perhaps the most chaotic and corrupt country in Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ade discovers first-hand how everyone from the traffic police to the country's top politicians are on the take. He also spends time with some of Kinshasa's musicians and ‘sapeurs' – people who get kitted out in the finest haute couture in one of the poorest countries on the planet. In DRC's far east, he finds out what lies at the heart of the country's problems: a never-ending conflict amongst local militia, fuelled by foreign countries who want to get their hands on the DRC's vast resources. After going on a tank patrol with the UN, he meets Kibomango, a champion boxer who is helping to rehabilitate some of the country's 30,000 child soldiers. Travelling into one of the most famous national parks in the world, Virunga, Ade discovers that few areas of the country have been left unscarred by the violence. And the impact on the wildlife has been extreme, as Ade encounters some of the world's few remaining mountain gorillas. His final stop on this trip is Uganda where he meets Bobi Wine, one of Africa's most outspoken political campaigners. Bobi was recently arrested and beaten, and his driver killed, after his protests drew the attention of long-serving autocratic ruler Yoweri Museveni. Ade meets a defiant man who will not give up, no matter what threats are made on his life. He is part of a new generation of Africans who are fighting to take back control from the post-colonial leaders who have done so much to wreck the continent.
Joanna begins a 2,000-mile journey across Japan in Hokkaido, where she meets one of the most important animals in Japanese culture, the red-crowned crane. She arrives in Sapporo during the middle of the annual Snow Festival and meets members of the local indigenous community, before travelling into the Fukushima exclusion zone and taking a bullet train from Nagano to Tokyo.
Simon travels the length of California. He climbs to the top of one of the world's tallest trees, and meets the fire crews tasked with tackling the ever-present danger of wildfires, a growing threat given the state's changing climate and chronic shortage of water. He also meets street doctors providing much-needed medical support to people living in extreme poverty and visits a city on the desert for Americans who have dropped out of the rat race entirely.
Taking a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar, Simon's first stop is Ceuta, a Spanish exclave surrounded by Morocco. This is one of the few land borders between Africa and the European Union. Simon joins the Spanish border police who check engines and even dashboards for stowaways trying to reach Europe. Migrant and refugees attempting to cross Ceuta's fortress border have quadrupled in the last year. Undaunted by Morocco's failure to issue a filming permit, Simon crosses the border as a tourist, tracking down a group of young migrants hiding out in a forest close to Ceuta. They have travelled thousands of miles, crossing the Sahara to get this far, and now they are just a 20-foot, razor wire fence away from their European dream. Crossing the Med to Spain, one the busiest shipping lanes in the world, Simon discovers huge numbers of dolphins and even giant whales surviving by dodging the ferries, container ships and oil tankers. Travelling along the arid southern Spanish coast, Simon takes to air to witness the sea of plastic that form over a hundred square miles of greenhouses. It is where much of our supermarket fruit and veg are grown, but as Simon discovers it is a massive industry built on the back of a low paid, migrant workforce. Following in the footsteps of four million Brits who make the journey every year, Simon travels to the Costa Blanca and its most famous resort, Benidorm. Derided by many, Simon is surprised to learn that high-rise Benidorm is now being hailed by experts as a model of sustainable tourism. The Mediterranean region attracts a third of world tourism and visitor numbers are predicted to rise to half a billion a year by the end of the next decade. Simon travels to a western corner of Corsica, a nature reserve that must be one of the most heavily protected bits of sea on earth, and one of the few places where tourists are actively discouraged from visiting. Lying on the beach, hiking in the mountains and watersport activities are all banned. The park's manager shows Simon the results, taking him for a dive in the fishiest place in the Med. In a sea where over ninety percent of fish stocks are over exploited, it is a beacon of hope in what is otherwise an uncertain future for the Mediterranean.
Episode 3 takes us to Northern Romania and the Maramures - one of the most picturesque regions in Romania. Here we experience festivals and weddings and learn about the evolution of traditional folk music with renowned singer Grigore Lese and pop idol Loredana Groza. We visit historic wooden churches and villages, which have been preserved, despite the march to modernise. Charlie Ottley explores the wilderness by steam train and on foot through Caliman National Park and the mysterious Twelve Apostles. Further east we drop in on a scheme to rewild Buffalo and visit the incredible painted monasteries of Bucovina before heading south to see what's being done to protect the ancient forests of Transylvania. En route Charlie meets a number of local and internationally acclaimed characters and looks at ways tourism is helping to preserve natural habitats. Wild Carpathia 3 finishes with some enlightened words from HRH The Prince of Wales who once again describes his passion for Romania and the urgent need to protect its rural heritage.