Perhaps the most ambitious project ever from National Geographic is about to hit your television this Sunday, as Great Migrations makes its debut in 166 countries and 34 languages on the Nat Geo Channel. The show will spotlight some of the longest and biggest animal migrations on the planet, covering everything from the massive traverse of the Serengeti by vast herds of wildebeests and zebras, to the complete circumnavigations of the planet by giant sperm whales. I’ve been fortunate enough to see the show already, and I can tell you that wildlife fans are going to love the show, although it can be a bit too real in its depictions for some.
Everything about the show is epic. The production crew that created it, spent two and a half years in the field filming some of the most spectacular scenes involving wildlife that you’ll ever see. In their ongoing quest to capture things that we’ve never seen before, they covered more than 420,000 miles, through 20 countries, on all seven continents. The results are evident from the opening scenes, which transport you to Africa and drops you right into the midst of the Great Migration, the annual march across the Serengeti that quite literally involves millions of animals.
That is just the tip of the proverbial ice berg however, as we’re soon off on a globe trotting adventure that has us following a number of unique, but amazing animal migrations in every corner of the planet. For instance, the show takes us to Christmas Island, located in the Indian Ocean, where 45 million red crabs journey out of the forest and into the sea to lay their eggs. From there it’s on to Antarctica where the penguins make their much ballyhooed march, before we return to Africa to follow desert elephants as they wander in search of water in Mali.
Those descriptions don’t do the show much justice however, as you truly have to see some of the footage to believe it. I was captivated by scenes of a female zebra who chases angrily after a young cheetah who wanders to close to her foal and it’s hard not to be moved when you watch the elephants mourn the death of a young calf even a week after it has succumb to the heat of the desert. Perhaps most spectacular of all are the shots of the monarch butterflies who make a yearly flight from Mexico to Canada, covering more than 2000 miles in the process. Watching them set out, en masse, is nothing short of breathtaking.
All told, Great Migrations consists of four core episodes that tell the tales of these fantastic journeys undertaken by all manner of creatures. Beyond those four hours however there are three more episodes that add to the experience. One of those additional hours is a scientific look at why animals migrate, while a second hour is dedicated to the technology and challenges that effected the making of the show. A seventh, and final, episode is an hour-long visual concert that skillfully mixes great original music with some of the best video from the series.
Watching the show I couldn’t help but be reminded of Planet Earth, 10-hour long BBC documentary that amazed us all a couple of years back. Those comparisons seem inevitable, and it is true that both shows cover a lot of ground, and some of the footage from Great Migrations will remind you of things that you saw on Planet Earth. But where as the former show focuses only on animals and their amazing travels, the BBC program had a much larger, grander scope to it. The two make great companion pieces to one another however, and each deserves a spot in your DVD, or better yet, BluRay collection.
Speaking of DVD’s and BluRay’s Great Migrations is already available on both, even before it airs. But my review copy was the Book and DVD combo, which includes an amazing, very high quality, companion coffee table book that helps to bring the stories of these migrations home in more detail. If you’re a fan of the show, love great wildlife photography, or are simply a fan of National Geographic’s work, you’ll want to own this book as well. It is a fantastic addition to your library too. You may also want to pick up this month’s issue of National Geographic Magazine as well, as it’s cover story is focused on Great Migrations, clearly demonstrating the strength of the global marketing arm of Nat Geo.
Great Migrations debuts here in the U.S. at 8PM Eastern time this Sunday. If you live in one of those other 165 nations that will begin airing the program, you’ll want to check your local listings. You’ll definitely be happy that you did, as it a fantastic show, and not to be missed. A quick word of warning however, there are a number of scenes that depict animals dying, either from predators or other conditions. While those scenes are all treated very delicately, they may be a bit harsh for younger viewers or for animal lovers who don’t like to see what happens in the wild. Other than that, the show is fantastic, and will definitely keep you interested and engaged.
For an example of what you’ll see check out the video below.