Where to have your own Blue Planet Live experience

19th Mar 19 | Lifestyle

An ambitious new BBC series aims to pick up where Attenborough left off, examining the health of our oceans. Sarah Marshall discovers the locations...

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One of the most influential nature programmes ever to air, Blue Planet II plunged into hidden depths in an attempt to fathom one of the most mysterious places on our planet.

Our oceans are a lifeline – producing almost 80% of the oxygen we breathe – and they are also home to an array of wonderful creatures and organisms.

From Sunday, March 24, Blue Planet Live will showcase a week of programmes, studying the health of these vast marine habitats.

Chris Packham, Liz Bonnin and Steve Backshall will be reporting live from three diverse aquatic locations. If you’re inspired by their efforts, here’s how to replicate the experiences yourself.

Baja California, Mexico

What to see: Whales – grey, humpback, sperm and blue – and dolphins.
When to go: February to April is the prime viewing period.

A grey whale in Baja California, Mexico (Renato Granieri/PA)
A grey whale in Baja California, Mexico (Renato Granieri/PA)

Swirling with cetaceans and marine creatures of all shapes and sizes, the Sea of Cortez is an underwater metropolis, famously described by French explorer Jacques Cousteau as “the world’s aquarium”.

It’s a destination that’s been widely documented by naturalists and authors, yet still so little is known about what goes on deep down below.

During the course of the Blue Planet Live filming, Chris Packham will be based around Mexico’s wildlife-rich 1,200km peninsula, making his way along the Pacific coast and into the Sea of Cortez.

Using drones fitted with petri dishes, he will be collecting samples of whale blows to determine the health of the behemoths who migrate from other parts of the globe, to train their young in these aquatic nurseries.

Using new technology, he also hopes to film the deep dives of sperm whales, revealing how calves are having to switch their feeding habits to cope in an increasingly challenging environment.

How: A good friend of Chris Packham’s and a pioneer of whale-watching tours in Baja, Mark Carwardine leads 12-day cruises from £5,395pp (excluding flights). Departures for 2020 are February 8-20, February 23-March 6, March 10-22 and April 9-21. Visit markcarwardine.com.

Heron Island, Australia

What to see: Coral reefs
When to go: Coral can be seen year-round. In winter (July, August), humpbacks can be seen, too.

Snorkelling on Heron Island (Sarah Marshall/PA)
Snorkelling on Heron Island (Sarah Marshall/PA)

In the past two years, reportedly 50% of the world’s largest reef system has disappeared, largely due to warming water temperatures, industrial run-off, invasive species and cyclones. But the southern sector of the Great Barrier Reef remains largely intact, making it an ideal place to enjoy this underwater marvel at its pristine best.

David Attenborough has Heron Island as a base for filming nature programmes, and now Liz Bonnin is following in his footsteps.

The island has its own research station, open to the public for tours, where pioneering studies are being conducted by The University of Queensland.

Professor Peter Harrison is one of the many scientists who has used the centre’s facilities, and his work on regenerating coral – dubbed as ‘coral IVF’ – is one of the stories explored on Blue Planet Live. Bonnin plans to dive and see whether his latest project is a success.

How: Rooms at Heron Island start from  $347 AUD per night, including breakfast. Visit heronisland.com. Fly to Gladstone from Brisbane and take a two-hour boat journey from $64 AUD one way.

The Bahamas

What to see: Sharks
When to go: Different shark species migrate to the waters between October and June.

A victim of commercial fishing, sharks are one of the most endangered species in our oceans, with an estimated 100 million killed each year. But in the protected waters around the Bahamas, which extend for almost two million hectares, they can find sanctuary.

Steve Backshall hopes to encounter many different species during filming, and will even make an ambitious attempt to dive live with hammerheads – which he believes will be a ‘first’ for TV.

The Bahamas is a playground for scuba divers; along with marine wildlife, there are Spanish galleons, blue holes and underwater caves to explore.

How: Dive Worldwide offer a tailor-made nine-day Visit The Bahamas holiday from £1,875pp, including 12 dives and international flights. Available between November and June. Visit diveworldwide.com.

Blue Planet Live starts on BBC One on Sunday, March 24.

© Press Association 2019

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