My Visual Classroom – Wildlife Docos

There are so many good documentaries out there. Some so good, it captures our heart and remains in our memory for a very long time. Things I see and remember from these documentaries often come up during discussions with family and friends, or when I need a particular fact about a particular animal to share my enthusiasm for wildlife.

Personally, I love watching documentaries; they act as my visual classroom. My mind gets the chance to travel to amazing destinations to see even more amazing creatures and places. I watched my first documentary when I was about 14 years old. I can never forget it. It was the ‘Echo of the Elephants’ narrated by Sir David Attenborough. This is also the documentary which started my obsession for watching anything and everything which has been done by this incredible man.

Over the years, I have most likely watched hundreds and hundreds of documentaries apart from avidly reading up on animals which has been instrumental in planting that seed of wonder and love for the natural world. I wanted to share a small part of my learning journey with you by putting together this list of a few documentaries which had made a deep impression on me in one way or the other. Please share in the comments if you have a favourite documentary which is not on this list.

(1) ECHO OF THE ELEPHANTS (1992 – 1993)

This BBC documentary follows the life of a gentle matriarch, Echo, and her family in Amboseli National Park in Kenya watched over by research zoologist Cynthia Moss (founder of Amboseli Elephant Research Project). The four segments follow the triumphs and tribulations of Echo and her herd’s life over 18 intense months. Lots of tissues were sacrificed when Ely (Echo’s baby) was born with both his front legs bent. He could not stand up or walk. Yet, he fought on while his mum kept a close watch, even withholding her visit to the water hole for a much needed drink under the brutal heat. When Ely could finally straighten his legs and walk, it felt like I just won this battle.

(2) IN THE WILD (1976 – 1981)

When you think about Australian wildlife, very few people will fail to mention the words “dangerous” or “Steve Irwin”. One fine day a few years ago, I chanced upon this documentary by Harry Butler (Australian naturalist and environmental consultant). I love the ominous starting music and the casual delivery style of Harry Butler while he introduces us to the fascinating Australian wildlife. It always felt like he was leading me on this mega easy going wildlife tour. This documentary became so special to me that I even have a tattoo stating a quote from one of the episodes. It took me 4 years to get permission from my mum to get this tattoo!


This BBC Two wildlife documentary features the journey of Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry revisiting the animals on the edge of extinction from an earlier radio series (also called Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine) twenty years on. Please look out for the scene when a male Kakapo (large flightless parrot from New Zealand) attempts to mate on Mark Carwardine’s head with Stephen Fry laughing his head off in the background. Priceless! This series has six episodes.

(4) WILD ARABIA (2013)

If you are after a visual treat, this is it. I was watching it with my eyes wide open and jaws hanging with lots of ‘WOW’ thrown about. It was also the fascination of learning about the wildlife in Arabia which never crossed my path before. When I think about wildlife, my mind may think Africa, Australia, South America and so on, but Arabia? Another great thing about this documentary was that it also gave a great insight into the people and landscapes of Arabia. It recently aired in Australia on Nat Geo Wild. It is a three part series.


I am scared of spiders and a lot of other insects. When I encountered one, I behaved like my life was coming to an end. All I can say is close encounters often involved some screaming. This documentary changed that tremendously for me. It beautifully narrates the importance and role of invertebrates in our world. I could never look at an ant or a spider the same way after I watched this documentary. Invertebrates are so misunderstood and overlooked. I love how the five episodes in this series work to bring us into their world and perhaps understand them a little better.

I do have many more on my list which I hope to share with you in the near future. Until then, I hope you will explore some of these documentaries on my list.

Photo/Video Credits:
Header - Mara 1 / / CC BY
Echo of the Elephants - Animal Battles Channel
In the Wild - UbeefHooked Channel
Last Chance to See - BBC Channel
Wild Arabia - BBC Earth 
Life in the Undergrowth - BBC Earth

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