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‘Surviving Paradise’: How the Search for Isolation Taught Us the True Power of Wildlife


When I worked on a BBC series, ‘Africa’ with Sir David Attenborough, my favourite filming location was the Okavango Delta, the so-called jewel of the Kalahari. Pristine waters studded with tiny islands, surrounded vast open savannahs supporting herds and their predators, all under the African skies. This emerald oasis is surrounded by a great desert, cut off from the real world. It seemed to me to be a self-sustaining Eden, thriving in isolation, dependent only on an influx of water and sunlight from beyond its borders.

So when the pandemic began, we started exploring where we could still operate in isolation - and the attractions of the Delta were all too obvious. 

But as filming progressed on Surviving Paradise, it became apparent that the Delta was experiencing great shifts in its climate – the wet season had failed and the subsequent dry season was intense. The conditions were becoming more extreme and the wildlife was struggling. Our Eden was becoming Hell on Earth, or rather it would have been, were it not for the extraordinary roles the animals played in the landscape.

Surviving Paradise: A Family Tale | Official Trailer | Netflix

At that moment, I realised this was the real story of our film. That in a fully intact, pristine ecosystem, the wildlife plays an important role in shaping and sustaining their home. That all this diversity of life — this so-called ‘biodiversity’ — has a real purpose. And there’s science to back this up — every species has a role to play in restoring the balance and maintaining the health of wilderness.

And when you think about it, that’s kinda wonderful. Because together, these wild places form a vital part of our planet’s life support system. They help keep us all healthy and without them, we could not continue to exist. 

It was our impending isolation during the pandemic that led to this film. It was the Delta’s isolation that drew us there. A thriving crucible of life surrounded by empty desert — a microcosm of our own little planet in the vast void of space.  

So perhaps what happens here, in the Okavango Delta, can speak to us all.

Surviving Paradise: A Family Tale premieres globally on Netflix

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