Press Centre

Wild Australia with Ray Mears

  • Episode: 

    1 of 6

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Mon 25 Apr 2016
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    8.00pm - 8.30pm
  • Week: 

    Week 17 2016 : Sat 23 Apr - Fri 29 Apr
  • Channel: 

  • Status: 

The information contained herein is embargoed from press use, commercial and non-commercial reproduction and sharing into the public domain until Tuesday 19 April.
Wild Australia with Ray Mears
“I love Australia, it’s one of my favourite places. Sometimes it just feels amazing to be alive in a wild place like this.” Ray Mears
In Wild Australia, Ray Mears delves into the spectacularly diverse Australian landscape to look at some of the weird and wonderful life forms that are able to live and survive in the land Down Under.
From the expansive waters of the Great Barrier Reef and the vast wilderness of Arnhem Land, to the teeming Cooper Creek billabongs and the ancient heartland of the rainforest, each episode sees Mears explore the dramatic physical geography of the region, the extreme weather conditions that occur there and the wildlife species that have adapted to survive in those environments. 
Mears encounters rare and extraordinary creatures, such as the prehistoric cassowary bird, the weedy sea dragon, and the tree kangaroo, as well as witnessing a three-month-old humpback whale calf learning to swim in preparation for the long migration to Antarctica. Ray even ventures deep underwater himself as he gets up close with some giant manta rays and green sea turtles.
Travelling among the dense eucalyptus forests of the Bush, the scarlet sands of the Red Desert and the dramatic shoreline of the southern coast, Mears meets with local wildlife experts and guides, witnesses the ancient tradition of farming with fire, makes his way through a giant flock of magpie geese as he traverses some dried up mudflats, discovers a gallery of ancient aboriginal art and comes face-to-face with a giant saltwater crocodile.
Ray says: “I love Australia, it’s one of my favourite places. Sometimes it just feels amazing to be alive in a wild place like this.”
He adds: “For anyone interested in nature, stepping onto Australian soil is like stepping into the shoes of an 18th century naturalist. Everything here is strange and different and that’s because this continent has largely evolved in isolation. And what a vast and varied landscape it is too.”
In episode one, Ray is off on a marine adventure that promises humpback whales, giant turtles and an abundance of exotic fish and birds, as he explores the Great Barrier Reef. 
Starting on the Queensland mainland, Ray takes a boat out to Hervey Bay with whale expert Wally Franklin. 
One of the best places in the world to find humpback whales, Hervey Bay is visited by whales every year as they make an extraordinary 5000-kilometre migration from their tropical breeding area north of where Ray is, to the feeding grounds in Antarctica. 
It’s the longest migrations made by any animal, and on the arduous journey the whales make just one stop, at Hervey Bay. 
With Wally’s expert knowledge of the waters, it isn’t long before Ray has his first sighting of a humpback, and witnesses a mother humpback whale teaching her three-month-old calf the moves needed to survive the long migration to Antarctica, a journey where she could fall prey to sharks or killer whales, or even die of exhaustion. These lessons are vital to her survival.
Reflecting on what he has just seen, Ray says: “Watching such a young calf master her whale moves has been a unique experience for me. It’s like seeing a toddler take its first steps and that’s a very special moment to witness.”
Ray then flies out to Lady Elliot Island, first appearing above sea-level 3500 years ago and located at the southernmost tip of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the most complex and diverse eco-systems on the planet, with over 12,000 species of marine life.
It’s here that Ray goes scuba diving on the coral reef and discovers giant turtles and shoals of big-eyed trevally fish, but there’s one fish that Ray really wants to see, the manta ray, the gentle giants of the reef, and he isn’t left disappointed.
Back on the boat, Ray says: “That was an incredibly healthy reef in absolutely pristine condition…Brilliant, it’s an amazing way to see marine world, that was incredible.”
It’s not just the marine life that depends on the reef, the island really belongs to the birds, and isolated islands like Lady Elliot make the perfect nesting ground for sea-birds, and over 200 species of birds are found on the Great Barrier Reef.
Ray discovers that in the 19th century the island’s vegetation was virtually destroyed by miners digging for bird droppings, or guano, which was prized as a fertiliser and used in gunpowder. Over the last 10-years a team of passionate conservationists have been restoring the island’s trees. 
Helping marine biologist Maggie O’Neal plant a pisonia tree, Ray finds out how that particular species of tree can actually kill the black noddy birds that nest in them in order to use their corpses as a fertile compost, given the unforgiving ground of a coral island.
As Ray says: “Nature does have a dark side sometimes.”
With his time in this particular part of Australia at an end, Ray says: “The Great Barrier Reef is one of the largest assemblies of wildlife to be found on our planet. It truly is one of the great Natural Wonders of the world.”