A ten-part series, Wildest Islands explores the fascinating wildlife, remarkable people, and epic landscapes of ten of the world’s most remote islands and delves into what makes them special, exploring the history and extremes of life in these dramatic landscapes. Discover the natural beauty of the Galapagos and Sri Lanka, get lost in the countless islands of Japan and the Philippines, trek across the mountainous Vancouver Island, shelter in the windswept Falklands and journey through the isolated jungle islands of Brazil’s Rio Negro. Experience the extraordinary array of flora and fauna that these islands offer; from the wolves, bears, and orcas of Vancouver Island to the serows and snow monkeys in Japan.
Gain an in-depth understanding of these astonishing environments and experience the awe-inspiring sceneries, stunning details, and unique cultures that exist throughout the world’s Wildest Islands in the following episodes.
Some of the most extreme wildlife can be found on these dramatic landscapes.
Zanzibar : Lying 40 kilometers off the East Coast of Tanzania in Africa, Zanzibar is home to the Coconut Crab. Weighing over four kilograms with a leg span of up to a meter, the coconut crab is the world???s largest land living invertebrate. Unlike most of its relatives, the coconut crab can???t survive in water, it would drown if submerged. Also known as the robber crab or palm thief, coconut crabs are great climbers.
Caribbean : Found in Trinidad, the southernmost island in the Caribbean Leatherbacks are the largest sea turtles on Earth, growing up to two meters long and weighing up to a thousand kilos. The temperature of the nest will determine the sex of the hatchlings. If it’s higher than 30 degrees Celsius, the hatchlings will be females, cooler nests produce males.
Galapagos : Situated 600 miles west of Ecuador in South America are The Galapagos Islands, which were named after their giant tortoises. The Galapagos tortoise is the largest in the world. Some reach five feet in length and can weigh a quarter of a ton.
Over 250,000 of swimming dragons, called Iguana inhabit the Galapagos. They are the world’s only species of marine lizard.
Japan: Islands Of Extremes
Explore the unique array of Asian and Arctic species that inhabit Japan, an expansive chain of 6,852 islands stretching over 2,400 kilometers and covering a range of wildly diverse climatic zones including snow-covered mountains and steamy mangroves. This is home to wildlife not found anywhere else on Earth, including some of the planet’s hardiest species. Winter in Japan’s central and northern islands can be savage.
In bleak, inhospitable conditions in Honshu, snow monkeys or Japanese macaques endure the bitter cold of Hell’s Valley by basking in warm volcanic pools. Further north of Hokkaido, the world’s third largest population of sea eagles have arrived to feed on huge shoals of fish in the frozen seas while the red-crowned cranes perform dramatic mating dances against the backdrop of a snow-covered forest. The secretive Japanese serow, one of the most distinctive animals celebrated in ancient stories, comes out of hiding to forage. This peaceful and mythical creature is said to have the legs of a goat, body of a deer and fur of a wolf. As spring arrives, a pink and white tide sweeps across the islands as the cherry blossom or sakura blooms. The warm weather heralds a busy time of the year for Japanese Usho fisherman and their unlikely feathered partners, the highly-trained sea cormorants that catch fish for them. Witness Japanese honeybees use a grisly self-defense tactic against hornets that involves them diving on the invader in huge numbers to create enough body heat to roast it alive. Watch as a creature that has lived for 30 million years – the giant salamander – patrols the rivers to find food and defend its home.
Amazon River Islands: The Floating Forests
Learn about the amazing creatures that inhabit the thousands of isolated jungle islands spread along the Rio Negro and the Amazon River, the world’s largest freshwater archipelago. Stranded on the mighty Rio Negro, these islands are engulfed by seasonal floods changing their landscapes completely, so everything here is forced to adapt or die. At the heart lie the Anavilhanas and Mariua archipelagos surrounded by flooded forests and hidden dangers.
Under water for six months of the year, the islands are a mass of submerged trees and wandering vines. This is a world like no other; the forest floor becomes the river bed. Fish feed from the treetops and canopy dwellers like the three-toed sloth are stalked by creatures that lurk beneath. Only two primates live here – red howler monkeys and squirrel monkeys. They live among hunters like black caimans, piranhas and green anacondas. Over 200 species of birds live on the islands of Anavilhanas archipelago; some are busy in search of food, others in search of love. One bird that goes to great extremes to find a mate is the wire-tailed Manakin. The males participate in an incredible dance-off in an attempt to win the female’s affections.
As trees adapt to life in water, fish adapt to life among the trees creating a symbiotic relationship: the Amazonian flooded forests are the only place in the world where fish act as the major seed dispensers. Here, otter packs corral fish and pick them off as jaguars stalk capybaras; Arowanas and giant pike-like pirarucus lurk in the waterways. Meet the resourceful villagers from Mariua who have found an excellent source of income – they travel deep in the forest to collect cardinal tetras, a tropical fish for export. In this ever-changing environment, it is sink or swim.
Vancouver Island: Rivers Of Life
Over in British Columbia, Canada, lies Vancouver Island, a vast and wild island with a backbone of jagged mountains running its length. The largest island off the west coast of North America, its glaciers fuel the flow of some of Canada’s tallest waterfalls and an endless network of rivers and creeks make it the ideal habitat for the Pacific salmon. Witness the remarkable journey of millions of salmon migrating up its rivers. The swarming fish attract not just black bears, but Steller sea lions, bald eagles and killer whales. Turkey vultures gather for the migration south as they head for warmer weather in winter.
Philippines: Islands Of Mystery
The Philippine archipelago is made up of over 7,000 tropical islands and is a breeding ground for many rare animals. On the stunning island of Palawan, where craggy limestone cliffs poke out from the dense jungle, giant bugs roam the land. Predators line the edge of the forests, while rivers help carve one of the world’s most extensive cave systems, a subterranean cavernous world crowded with bats, whip scorpions, tarantulas, and other insects. This is the home of the mysterious bearcat, an animal that looks like a cross between a bear and a cat though related to neither and is as agile in the trees as a monkey.
Palawan’s prehistoric coastline is the hunting ground of marauding giant lizards which will indiscriminately devour anything they can catch. On the island of Bohol, gangs of macaques with a taste for the unusual ghost crabs raid the swamp-like mangroves. Behold an awe-inspiring phenomenon found rarely in nature: an incredible lightshow of green bioluminescence created as hundreds of thousands of synchronous fireflies gather at dusk to light up the forest. As darkness descends, the tarsier, one of the Philippines most enigmatic creatures, comes out to hunt.
Falkland Islands: Penguin Paradise
Its bleak, battered, and windswept archipelago lies 460 kilometres from the South American mainland. Rugged mountains and an expansive pristine coastline make The Falklands an unspoiled destination for wildlife, notably for one of the world’s most iconic flightless birds, the beloved penguin. The Falklands’ sandy beaches and rolling meadows combine to make it one of the world’s premiere penguin sanctuaries. Over a million breed on the islands each summer, sharing fields with grazing sheep up to a kilometre inland, and taking freshwater showers along its rocky coves. But this retreat is not all fun and games. Although no land mammals pose a threat to the penguins, predatory seals, birds of prey and killer whales circle these islands in search of a meal. Pandemonium breaks out in a rockhopper penguin colony, sea lions ambush gentoo penguins in the surf, Skuar scavenge carcasses of Megellanic penguins that have washed ashore, and black-browed albatrosses perform their romantic courtship rituals.