Nature has soothed our souls during the pandemic, even as some of the world’s greatest wildlife areas were temporarily off limits.
BBC One’s new Dynasties II is a reminder of what we’ve all been missing, inspiring to get out and explore again.
Over the course of the four-part series, David Attenborough unravels the complex lives of several animal families, showcasing their ups and downs and giving us intimate insight into the challenges they face.
But if you want to meet the stars in the flesh, here’s where to go…
Cougars: Torres del Paine, Chile
High winds and bone-chilling temperatures can be tough on humans, but South America’s charismatic mountain lions have found a comfortable home in the frigid wilderness of Patagonia. Although the region is rugged and isolated, it is surprisingly easy to spot animals at one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions – Torres del Paine.
Rupestre, the puma featured in the opening episode of Dynasties II, is well known to guides and trackers in the Chilean National Park, and can often be seen along the hunter’s footpath.
“Being on foot, you live the day like a puma; you feel the same temperatures, the wind in your face,” says producer Felicity Lanchester, who admits she was amazed by the amount of drama the team managed to capture during an 18-month filming window.
“We predicted we would have some cute cubs and a few predation attempts, but the big surprise for us was his fights with other mountain lions,” she says. “The range of challenges in this environment is astonishing.”
While it’s possible to encounter cougars along the park’s trails, one of the best—and most ethical—ways to see the cats is to sign up for a day safari with Fundación Cerro Guido Conservación, which operates in an estancia near the park.
How? ‘Or’ What: Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.co.uk) is offering a seven-night stay in Chile from £5,399 pp, including a five-night all-inclusive stay at Tierra Patagonia, transfers and flights. The Puma experience costs more.
Cheetahs and spotted hyenas: Liuwa Plain National Park, Zambia
A remote corner of western Zambia sets the stage for two stars of the series – each in a remarkably different environment.
Vast open expanses provided a backdrop for the Kali cheetah and her cubs, forcing the film crew to travel up to 50km in one morning to catch up with them.
“One of the biggest challenges cheetahs face is that they need a huge amount of space to roam,” says series producer Simon Blakeney, explaining why the species is at an alarming decline.
But in addition to capturing the struggles faced by these vulnerable cats, the team was eager to celebrate their athletic skills and feature more tender moments – including a fun encounter with a mole rat, who eventually grows attached to the one of the cheetah’s toes.
Likewise, intimate moments were also captured while filming spotted hyenas in the muddy floodplains.
“We have this beautiful scene where a mother is taking a bath,” says Blakeney, who hopes the footage will dispel stereotypes about a species often portrayed as mean. “She’s so exhausted that she gets into the water and literally falls asleep, then wakes up blowing bubbles.”
How? ‘Or’ What: Wildlife Worldwide (wildlifeworldwide.com) offers an 11-day group trip to the Zambian Wild West: Kafue and Liuwa Plain from £6,595 pp (two sharing), including flights.
Elephants: Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Some of the last great tusks are found in Kenya on the border with Tanzania, gathering in the grasslands in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. Although elephants have been threatened across Africa, their numbers are rebounding in this part of East Africa.
“We were very lucky,” says Blakeney. “Our main character, Angelina, had twins during filming which is incredibly rare and has only been recorded five times before in Kenya.”
But the reasons for celebration are tempered by the continual struggles the family faces: the dangers of drought, the threat of predators and the trauma of moving small calves through a thick, muddy swamp.
How? ‘Or’ What: Coral Tree Travel (coraltreetravel.com) offers a six-night family holiday in Kenya, including a 5-night full-board stay at Elewana Tortilis Camp in Amboseli National Park from £2,300 pp ( based on two adults and two children), including flights.
Watch Dynasties II on Sundays at 8 p.m. on BBC One
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