In the far south west of Japan, there is a chain of islands stretching towards the tropics - a place where all life is influenced by the power of the sea, and where volcanoes and typhoons are forces to be reckoned with. The journey begins at an island at the top of the chain and travels south, revealing unexpected stories of isolation, unique wildlife and unsolved mysteries.
Join us for a cultural odyssey through little known parts of the southern Carpathians starting at the majestic Iron Gates and the ancient Roman Spa town of Baile Herculane. Charlie Ottley explores the remote Cerna Mountains finding historic working mills, and legendary rock formations. On our journey east we stop at a boutique winery and the stunning Cosia National Park with its grottos and picturesque monasteries. Crossing Saxon Transylvania Charlie visits the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler and meets a Romanian Princess at her ancestral home, majestic Peles Castle. In the second part we leave the mountains behind and meander down to the Danube where it branches to form the largest wetland in Europe. Here Charlie explores tiny fishing communities, fragile forests and labyrinthine waterways teeming with rare birdlife. We also see why this vital ecosystem is under threat and look at what is being done to preserve it.
The cherry blossoms are out, and James hits the streets of Tokyo with his new guide Yujiro. As James discovers, this unique city is home to some of Japan’s greatest eccentrics and ideas. From obsessive trainspotters, musicians and baffling hi-tech gadgetry to cat superfans, penis festivals and mind-blowing computerised art shows, James tries to understand what makes Japan tick.
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.
Giles Coren and Monica Galetti head to the Andean Cloud Forest of Ecuador to work at Mashpi Lodge, a $10-million modernist hotel featuring an extraordinary gondola cable car that 'flies' guests one mile through the jungle canopy at a dizzying height.