This week we are exploring Romania's largest and most iconic region,mistaken by many Americans and others as a country in its own right. In fact Transylvania is a name that most of the western world still associates with Dracula, werewolves and folk legend. But this land beyond the forest defies all preconceptions and remains one of the most culturally important and beautiful parts of Eastern Europe.
2018 • Travel
The adventurer reaches Sri Lanka, whose strategic location and tropical spices made it a target for invaders and colonisers for centuries. In the north he visits the scenes of vicious battles between the Tamil minority and the Sri Lankan army, traumatic events from which the population is still recovering. On his way to Bangladesh, he hitches a ride on a trawler, highlighting one of the Indian Ocean's fastest-growing industries - providing prawns for the West. But as he reveals, it comes at a price for the environment.
Giles and Monica arrive at Royal Mansour, one of the world's most discreet hotels, hidden deep in the heart of Marrakech's ancient Medina. In stark contrast to the developing country it inhabits, the 'jewel of the city' was built with a limitless budget by royal decree to showcase the kingdom to world leaders and to billionaire and celebrity guests.
The third leg takes him from the illegally annexed peninsula of Crimea to the historic Baltic city of St Petersburg. Crimea is part of neighbouring Ukraine but was annexed by Russia in 2014. President Putin's government is investing heavily in the illegally occupied territory - building a huge bridge linking Crimea to Russia. Simon meets the eccentric and fearless owner of a safari park who likes to get up close and personal with his pride of lions. The owner is struggling to get water to his park after a canal that supplied much of Crimea's water was shut off by the Ukraine. And it is not just the lions that are affected - the diminishing water supplies are now beginning to threaten a humanitarian crisis.
Simon travels from Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory or 'Top End', across to the remote Cape York Peninsula, and on to the Great Barrier Reef. Simon sets off from Kakadu, the largest national park in the world, where the wildlife is under threat from the march of millions of poisonous cane toads. He joins a team of toad-busters catching the amphibian invaders - originally introduced to the country to kill pests. In Robertson barracks Simon meets Australia's best - and only - tank regiment. They will soon host 6,000 American Marines - evidence of Australia's strategic importance in the Asia Pacific region. On the Cape York Peninsula Simon joins scientists catching deadly box jellyfish, whose venom could prove to have great medicinal value. And on the Great Barrier Reef he dives in search of the starfish destroying coral, before flying 100 miles out into the ocean to watch as a huge tanker is expertly guided through the fragile reef.
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.