Australian Wilderness with Ray Mears encapsulates everything you would expect from an Australian wilderness documentary: beautiful scenery, intriguing wildlife, good commentary - and a really hot sun. But, of course, the lingering feeling once the first episode of the documentary series has concluded is a sense of longing to be there, to experience what Ray Mears has experienced.
In this opening episode, Ray travels along Ningaloo Coast, a stretch of coral reef on Australia's west coat thriving beneath unbelievably clear waters so shallow it can be seen from space! Given the short 30-minute run time, we don't see as wide a variety of wildlife as we could, but that's in the end to the documentary's credit as it allows the episode to zero in on its main target: the whale shark.
The whale shark is an endangered species of shark known to enjoy the abundance of food and safety that the shallow waters of the Ningaloo Coast provide. It is extremely difficult to find one, so the documentary-like manner in which we await its discovery, plied with other beautiful sights in the meantime, leads to a wonderful payoff when one is finally spotted; audience satisfaction only grows when it allows Ray to swim alongside it. It's this that truly repositions swimming with sharks on my bucket list - but it's the whole documentary that really showcases the best of Australia.
While the best of Australia is good, we needed to connect with the Ningaloo Coast through a little background and history of it and its wildlife; fortunately, Ray's research pays off as his commentary both on-screen and in voiceovers helps to bring us deeper into the wonders of Australia's longest fringing coral reef.
Be it about the euros that relaxed under shrubbery in the afternoon's hot sun, or the great six-metre whale sharks, we're taught so much about this area of Australia during our journey.
If this is the standard the docuseries is setting, then I'll be back next week. If Australia or animals piques your interest, then this is for you.
I've just two final thoughts.
- Does the dot pattern on the whale shark's back remind anyone of ladybugs (albeit on a grander scale) or is it just me?
- Is it masochistic to be frightened of spiders, but be super interested in seeing spiders at some point in future episodes?
- Aired on ITV1, October 13 2017 at 20:00.