TV review: ‘Indian Ocean with Simon Reeve’ (2012)

Paradise beaches? Check. Clear blue sea? Check. War, pirates and environmental disasters? You’d better believe it. This BBC documentary series is focused on the people and places dependent on the Indian Ocean. It’s hard-hitting at times and there are an awful lot of fish. Not one of my favourite documentaries. Still, I learnt a lot from it and I like that awareness was being raised of little-publicised issues affecting the environment. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • It’s moulting season for the African penguins. That’s right, there are penguins in South Africa. They’re chilling out, waiting for their feathers to grow. However, they’re not getting enough to eat and so the chicks are being caught for feeding up.
  • Diving with sharks off the coast of Durban. Sharks are misunderstood creatures under threat. Simon’s view of sharks changes and he is more scared for sharks than of them.
  • Hitching a ride on a container ship to Maputo, capital of Mozambique. There are 600 containers filled with everything you can think of. There is razor wire around the outside to deter pirates.
  • The lush Tana Delta in Kenya is an important wildlife site and a ‘twitcher’s paradise’. However, the government are going to sell the land for sugar cane growing. Simon meets villagers forcibly evicted from the land without compensation.
  • Beach-combing on Kiwayu Island, where loads of plastic washes up from the ocean. Specifically the women are collecting flip-flops, which they recycle into ornaments to sell. It’s better than the fishermen going to the pirate-infested waters.
  • The dangerous city of Mogadishu, Somalia, is a nerve-wracking place to be in. Simon stays with AMISOM, the peacekeeping force, travelling the war-torn streets in an armoured vehicle. On the frontline, they come under fire from Al-Shabaab.
  • Somaliland doesn’t officially exist. It’s a lively and organised contrast to Somalia. Changing money at the market (the highest note being equivalent to 5p), Simon is given a huge pile of cash in a wheelbarrow.
  • There’s a party atmosphere in Mumbai as the crowds celebrate Ganesh’s birthday. There’s raving and a procession of statues through the streets during a monsoon. Simon’s attempt to move a holy cow out of the road is unsuccessful.
  • The Maldives are amazing and beautiful. However, the marine life is threatened by coral reefs dying out. Conservationist Marie has organised a coral regeneration project, using live coral grafted to frames.
  • Wading through thick clouds of choking smoke and flies at the Maldives’ rubbish dump island. Simon describes it as an ‘apocalyptic’ scene. It’s certainly one corner that isn’t a paradise.
  • On patrol with the Vice and Virtue police in Aceh, Indonesia. Sharia Law means that unmarried couples must not be in public together and Simon witnesses a courting teenage couple being taken away: ‘it all seemed odd and rather sad’.
  • Crocodile hunting at night with a group of rugged Australians. The idea is that crocs are removed from areas where they’re not wanted and rehomed in wildlife parks. Simon’s job is to hold the light while the others haul a croc on to the boat. He is then made to determine the creature’s sex in a rather manual way.
  • Cape Leeuwin is the end of the journey, a rocky part of the Australian coast ‘where two oceans meet’. Simon reflects that it’s been his most extreme journey so far and emphasises the need to protect the Indian Ocean’s wildlife.

If you have access to BBC iPlayer, this series is available for a few months.

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