Islands – Zanzibar & Japan

2012 looks like it’s going to be a good year. I’ve just started to make a series for Discovery called ‘Wildest Islands’ and for the first time, having protested for 30 years that I work very hard, I can begin to understand why my friends and family think my life is one long holiday. It started last year with a brainstorming session at Off the Fence Productions in Bristol where me, the producer and the researchers thought very carefully about which islands in the world we had always wanted to visit.  We eventually distilled the long list down to 10 and in January I headed to Zanzibar. Now to be truthful, Zanzibar, lovely as it sounds, is not exactly well known for it’s wildlife. I was a little concerned about this since our mission was to make a wildlife series but as it turned out I needn’t have worried.

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  Blue Fiddler Crabs, Zanzibar. © Richard Kirby
Zanzibar’s wildlife, while not being particularly diverse is extremely entertaining and colourful; from the endemic red colobus monkeys to the outrageous metallic blue fiddler crabs. But then our fixer Peter Jones dropped into conversation one evening, a story about fishermen on the island of Raffia about 20 miles south of Zanzibar who paddle out beyond the reef in search of whale sharks. This sounded like too good a story to miss and so we dropped everything and headed for Raffia Island.   As luck would have it, whale shark season was at it’s peak and we didn’t have to travel far offshore to find them; literally just beyond the reef.  The fishermen don’t hunt the whale sharks. Their aim is to get in front of them and cast their nets as close as possible to the world’s biggest fish so they can catch the hundreds of smaller fish which shoal around it. It all happened a few feet in front of us and we were able to film the action from both above the surface and below. And the icing on the cake? I got to swim with the world’s biggest fish! Incredible! Check out the new time-lapse footage from this gorgeous tropical paradise that I brought back for the timeframe library. In February I flew to Hokkaido, the most northern island in Japan. Hokkaido could not have been more of a contrast to Zanzibar which was hot and tropical. Hokkaido, on the other hand, was under a metre of snow. It was minus 20 and the ocean was frozen!
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Paperbark Birch Wood, Hokkaido, Japan © Richard Kirby
I’m in love with Japan.   Hokkaido is a volcanic island and there are signs of geothermal activity everywhere. The steam from the many hot springs rises and turns to frost on anything it touches creating the most stunning winter wonderland. And it’s through this wonderland that the whooper swans fly and the Japanese cranes dance; totally mesmerising and totally Japanese!  Time-lapse stock footage    
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 Fulmar over pack ice, Hokkaido, Japan. © Richard Kirby   Whooper swans, Hokkaido, Japan. © Richard Kirby

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