Where to See the Animals of Planet Earth II

Plan with peace of mind

The BBC’s long-anticipated Planet Earth II finally airs in the States this month. Narrated by the legendary Sir David Attenborough, the series delivers some nerve-shattering, tear-jerking and heart-melting scenes of Mother Nature at her fiercest. Though the film crews spent days, months or even years waiting to capture these incredible moments, it’s possible to spot many of the series’ featured animals in the wild –here’s where.

Marine iguanas are skilled swimmers. Large males can dive to around 30 metres and hold their breath for more than half an hour while they graze on algae on the seabed. Image copyright BBC 2016.

Episode 1 – ISLANDS

Iguanas in the Galápagos Islands

Hatchling marine iguanas – just a few minutes old – huddle together on a rock near the sea shore where they will spend their lives. Their early moments are perilous as they avoid predators like Galápagos racer snakes. Image copyright BBC 2016.

Planet Earth II kicks off with some decidedly creepy scenes in the Galápagos Islands, in which we see some adorable baby iguanas spend their first moments alive sprinting down the beach away from the clutches of dozens of snakes.

The wildlife scenes you’re most likely to see in the Galápagos will be decidedly less traumatic. The dragon-like marine iguanas – the ones who made it to safety, at least – spend a large part of their day lazing on the rocks by the sea, warming their bodies in the sunshine.

A hatchling marine iguana stands perilously close to a hunting Galápagos racer snake. Snake eyesight is poor, but they can detect movement. If the hatchling stays still, the snake has to rely on other senses – like smell – in order to detect its prey. Image copyright BBC 2016.

Penguins in Antarctica

Chinstrap penguins and their chicks cover the slope of Zavodovski Island, an active volcano in the Southern Ocean. The island is just nine square miles in size, but it hosts the largest penguin colony on earth – some 1.5 million penguins come here to breed in the Antarctic summer. Image copyright Elizabeth White.

On the Antarctic island of Zavodovski, 1,300 miles east of the Falklands, 1.5 million penguins nest. This is the largest colony in the world. The island rises up into a smouldering volcano and waves smash the coastline. It’s these waves that the penguin must brave every time they leave or return to the island, a dangerous and sometimes fatal part of their journey.

To see penguins in less gory surroundings, a cruise around the Antarctic peninsula or South Georgia allows you to watch these animals pottering around the ice or plunging into the frigid waters to fish.

Penguins courting at sunset, Zavodovksi island, South Sandwich islands, Antarctica. Zavodovski hosts the world’s biggest penguin colony – more than 1.5 million breeding adults. Image copyright BBC 2016.

Episode 2 – MOUNTAINS

Snow leopards in the Himalaya

There are may be as few as 3,500 snow leopards left in the wild. They are famously elusive and difficult to film and have become increasingly threatened by climate change and human disturbance. Image copyright David Willis.

Capturing snow leopards on film was an incredible coup for the Planet Earth II team. These rare animals are so difficult to photograph that the crew had to use camera traps to piece together a sequence. Remarkably, they managed to record the first ever footage of snow leopards mating in the wild, of four of the animals together, and of snow leopards marking rocks with their urine, alerting other leopards as to their whereabouts or to signal they’re looking to mate.

To trek where snow leopards live – even if you’re not lucky enough to see them – head to the Nepalese or Indian Himalaya.

In Ladakh, India, high in the Himalaya, the local team set up and check on a camera-trap, positioned on a route frequently used by snow leopards crossing these mountains. The camera traps are left out for many months to capture close-up shots of these elusive animals. Image copyright Justin Anderson.

Golden eagles in the Alps

Golden eagles are one of the few birds tough enough to survive the mountain winter. Image copyright BBC 2016.

To capture the flight of a golden eagle from the vantage point of the bird itself, the Planet Earth II team had to get creative. With the help of a world-champion paraglider and a camera fixed to a trained eagle, they managed to film what bombing down a sheer mountainside from 5,000 metres would look like to one of the golden eagles that live in the Alps.

Journey to this dramatic landscape with a trip to the Italian Dolomites.

Langkofel rocks at the evening from Canazei ski slopes
Langkofel rocks from Canazei ski slopes, Italy.

Episode 3 – JUNGLES

Jaguars in the Brazilian Pantanal

A jaguar on the banks of the Cuiaba River in the Brazilian Pantanal.

One of the most striking scenes in Planet Earth II is that of a jaguar hunting a three-metre-long, 136-kilogram caiman in the Brazilian Pantanal. The scene was shot in August when the river hums with tourist boats, the noise of which no longer scare the jaguars. Producers were sat on the riverbanks, patiently waiting to capture a cat on the hunt, when a huge male lunged out of the forest and into the river, leading to this now-famous story.

For visitors to the Pantanal wetlands, spotting a wild jaguar will only be possible with time and patience, but less elusive animals include capybaras, giant otters and more fortunate caiman.

The Pantanal wetlands, Brazil.

Episode 4 – DESERTS

Desert lions in the Namib Desert, Namibia

lion-and-cubs-dr_flip_standerdlc_namibia_hoanib_skeleton coast
Lions in the desert along the Skeleton Coast, Namibia. Image copyright Dr. Flip Stander, Hoanib Skeleton Coast.

It’s rare that lions will be driven to tackle something the size of a giraffe, but the pride captured in the series’ desert episode were starving. The team witnessed the lions give chase to a giraffe, trying to force it into a trap. The long-legged mammal was too big for the predators, however, and it managed to escape, delivering a punishing kick to the lead lioness’ head as it did so.

The desperation of this hunt is easy to understand when you see the starkness of the landscape. The Namib Desert is the world’s oldest, and a real wilderness in which to get lost.

The sand dunes of Namibia in southwest Africa’s Namib Desert are strikingly beautiful and are some of the oldest in the world. They are also some of the largest and can reach a staggering 1,000 feet tall. Image copyright Ed Charles.

Episode 5 – GRASSLANDS

Buffalo-hunting lions in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Lions watching buffalo in Duba Plains, Botswana. Image copyright Duba Plains.

Lions were back again in the grasslands episode of Planet Earth II, this time in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. These lions are famous for their buffalo hunting, a dangerous task that sees them take on some of the most aggressive and powerful animals in Africa.

This epic battle between the lions and a 900-kilogram bull was filmed at Chief’s Island in the Okavango Delta, but you can also witness bloody encounters like it at Duba Plains (due to reopen after a refurb in March 2017), where the Duba pride have made a name for themselves in their buffalo hunting antics.

Two lion cubs approximately 10 weeks old in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, about to follow their mother into the water. They are the newest members of a pride know as ‘Swamp Cats’ that specialise in hunting in the flooded Okavango wetlands. Image copyright Tom Hugh-Jones.

Episode 6 – CITIES

Langur monkeys in Jodhpur, India

Macaques living in Jaipur will take any food or drink they can get their hands on. Image copyright BBC 2016.

The final episode of Planet Earth II was a fresh take on the series’ usual approach to wildlife, focusing instead on how animals have adapted to living in the cities. In Jodhpur, known as the ‘blue city’, langur monkeys are associated with the Hindu god Hanuman and treated with great respect. Locals treat them to snacks such as chickpeas and fruit, a diet which keeps the monkeys in superb condition, with females giving birth twice as often as monkeys in the wild.

Visitors to the beautiful city of Jodhpur can see the monkeys swinging around the city at Hindu temples or from well-positioned rooftops.

These Hanuman langurs have free rein in the blue city of Jodhpur, India. It is their home and their playground. Treated as religious deities they are fed and well looked after by the city’s inhabitants. Image copyright Fredi Devas.

Planet Earth II airs in the US on 18th February 2017 on 9/8c BBC America.

Watch the trailer: