BBC Earth

Interview with Sir David Attenborough

David Attenborough

Africa is an epic series. What can viewers expect?

I hope viewers will see new things. When we were given the task of producing this series, we all wondered what on earth we could document that was new. Africa's the most filmed continent in terms of wildlife. For example, I've filmed the shoebill before, but never to the same degree that we did here when we were able to see how it treats its young (Episode 2 – Savannah).

You say Africa's a continent of untold stories – what was your most memorable?

The thing that astonished me most is that there's a vast underground cavern beneath the Kalahari, called Dragon's Breath Cave, that's filled with fresh water that had never been plumbed before and is full of fish that you never see. I found that utterly amazing (Episode 1 – Kalahari).

And what was your favourite animal?

I was very pleased to see the picathartes again as they've so rarely been filmed. We managed to film them for the first time on a trip to Sierra Leone in 1954 and I was delighted we were able to do so again (Episode 3 – Congo). It has to be my favourite animal from the series.

Has Africa changed hugely since your last trip?

The thing is, one goes where the animals are, so to a certain degree you get a rosier view than may be justified. Unless you go specifically to make a film about the devastation you won't necessarily see those changes.

What was the team's most amazing piece of luck?

Well they had no idea the fight between the two bull giraffes was going to happen (Episode 1 – Kalahari). That was a total surprise. The team were expecting things like the rhinos meeting up at waterholes to socialise as they had done plenty of research, but a fight like that is something you can't predict.

You filmed in some incredible locations – how was that?

I flew out to do the last programme in Kenya and it was a huge privilege having helicopters to take you to all these amazing places. It's difficult to appreciate – you fly somewhere, then you're dumped on a mountain for 90 minutes to take it all in, then it's off to the next place. It was incredible.

Some of the stories are very emotional – did any stay with you?

The death of the baby elephant during the drought (Episode 2 – Savannah). That really plucked at the heartstrings.

What are your own thoughts on intervention?

There's nothing you can really do about it. Even if you could miraculously produce a bucket of water, the animal would only die the day after – in which case rather than prolonging its life you're really only prolonging its death.

The team covered a terrific amount – how would you relax after filming?

Oh we were pampered! Safari camps are a life of luxury these days. We camped out and ate round camp fires, but there was always someone to put a gin and tonic in your hand at the end of the day!