Planet Earth II: Deserts Review

This week Planet Earth II takes us to the world’s least hospitable environment yet. A gigantic wall of sand sweeps across the cracked desert floor, setting the tone for the episode – vast open spaces and harsh conditions are the order of the day. Life is not easy in the desert, as Sir David reminds us, and we prepare to be dazzled by the extraordinary measures life has to take here to ensure its survival.

Lion Lion


But there’s no time for contemplation. The action begins straight away with desert lions in Namibia, chasing their prey across a wide expanse of sand; the camera tracks the pride effortlessly as they relentlessly pursue a giraffe into an ambush. The scene reaches a dramatic climax as the lead lioness leaps at the charging giraffe. The collision is violent. This kind of pulse-pounding drama is what keeps us coming back to the show week after week.

Zion Canyon Zion Canyon


We next get a reminder that the show is not all about animals – sometimes there’s wonder to be found in the land itself. The camera travels through a slot canyon, capturing the dance of dust in the sunbeams, before pulling back reveal the staggering scale and bizarre beauty of America’s ancient Canyonlands.

Locust Locust


One of the week’s most memorable and shocking sequences comes to us from Madagascar. A plague of locusts – the collective noun seems appropriately apocalyptic. Billions of the creatures swarm over the land, stripping it bare. There are so many that when they take to the skies, they appear to be a vapour rather than a group of animals. This is one of the largest swarms ever to be put to film, and it inspires equal parts awe and terror.

Sand Grouse Sand Grouse


As ever, the range of fauna on display is staggering. We follow the multitudinous creatures on their long journey to water, watching in awe as a menagerie forms around an oasis in Etosha. Giraffes, elephants, ostriches, wildebeest and zebra stand side-by-side, in a scene more reminiscent of the Lion King than real life. We are moved by the plight of the sand grouse, who risk life and limb on a daily basis in order to bring water 60 miles across the scorched land to their young, all the while being preyed on by goshawks. We watch mustang in Nevada engage in furious combat for rights to territory, water and females. After a brief and amusing encounter with a golden mole, snuffling around beneath the sand, we come to the bizarre and horrifying centrepiece of the episode.

Long eared bat Long eared bat


Never caught on film before, long-eared bats hunt Deathstalker scorpions on the ground. The bat advances, looming over the scorpion like a giant movie monster, before a fierce and deadly battle begins. Neither side comes out unscathed, but the bat eventually emerges victorious, crunching through the scorpion’s shell and sporting numerous stinger scars. As the episode culminates in Sir David informing us about the rapid expansion of the world’s deserts, Planet Earth II drops increasing hints towards its real message: this world is precious and fragile, and must be protected. Human interference makes each day more challenging than the last for the animals of the world, and unless we take action soon, it might be too late to fix the damage we’ve done.

Discover Attenborough's Planet Earth with Exodus:

Western Explorer | National Parks Walk | Highlights of Madagascar | Botswana Holidays | Namibia Holidays

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