Virunga

8 Best Wildlife Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Sometimes, we wonder what it feels like to go into the outer space and take a look at our gorgeous planet, trying to comprehend its beauty, diversity and vastness. There are several wildlife documentaries that make us think of the beauty of nature and its various species. These films go beyond just leopards, valleys and flowers. Most of them give us an intimate look at how stunning nature and its creations are. Netflix has an impressive collection of wildlife and natural documentaries, which also include some of the gems of National Geographic and BBC films. The streaming giant has also announced its first original nature documentary, ‘Our Planet’, narrated by David Attenborough. With that said, here’s the list of really good wildlife documentaries on Netflix that are available to stream right now:

8. Life (2009)

The British nature documentary series ‘Life’ is a stunning portrayal of the survival mechanisms of living beings. The series is written and narrated by David Attenborough and it took around four years to complete shooting. The project showcases wildlife on planet earth in 10 episodes. David Attenborough dedicates the first episode to give an overview of the struggle for existence of all the creatures to survive. The other episodes are dedicated to and titled as Reptiles and Amphibians, Mammals, Fish, Birds, Insects, Hunters and Hunted, Creatures of the Deep, Plants, and Primates. The series depicts the never-ending struggle of vertebrates and invertebrates on land, in the ocean, or in the sky. ‘Life’ is all about staying alive and the it depicts living beings going on to achieve that feat. Apart from David Attenborough, Oprah Winfrey and Doug Allan also serve as narrators.

7. Africa (2013)

BBC Natural History Unit’s ‘Africa’ is a wild journey into one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Narrator David Attenborough takes us through the deserts, savannas and jungles of Africa. The series depicts Africa’s amazing wildlife in all its wilderness and grandeur. The vast continent is divided into five regions that cover from the Atlas Mountains to the Cape of Good Hope, as well as from the dense forests of Congo to the roaring Atlantic Ocean. The documentary is full of exotic landscapes rarely touched by humans and chance encounters with awe-inspiring creatures. The narrative also reveals the inevitable drama arising from the tensions between wildlife, wilderness and civilization. The series consists of six episodes titled ‘Kalahari’, ‘Savannah’, ‘Congo’, ‘Cape’, ‘Sahara’, and ‘The Future’. Simon Blakeney and James Aldred also join David Attenborough as narrators.

6. Colombia: Wild Magic (2015)

‘Colombia: Wild Magic’ explores the extraordinary wildlife hidden in the mountain ranges of Columbia. The documentary journeys through centuries-old glaciers, untouched forests, vast grasslands, and hostile deserts. Colombia is a country blessed with gorgeous rivers and roaring oceans on both sides. The geographical position of the country in the South American continent facilitates the growth of one of the most diverse habitats on Earth. The film features jaguars, hammerhead sharks, humpback whales, an infinite number of birds, amphibians, mammals, reptiles and fish among other creatures. ‘Wild Magic’ also warns the viewers about the fragility of nature’s gems. The delicate ecosystem and the vulnerable creatures depending on it can’t bear a slight variation in their balance.

5. The Ivory Game (2016)

‘The Ivory Game’ is a shocking documentary based on the thriving ivory trade business in Africa. The documentary digs deep into the nexus of poachers and Chinese ivory merchants who handle huge deals involving ivory. Illegal elephant poaching in Africa has always been a controversial subject in international venues. The smuggling network is coordinated from China and Hong Kong. Directors Keif Davidson, Richard Ladkani and their crew risked their lives and spent around 16 months undercover to collect materials for their film. They closely follow the brutal murder of wild elephants for their tusks and the complex system of trafficking ivory to China. The film takes us for a covert journey from Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia to China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and London. ‘The Ivory Game’ is a daring whistle-blower attempt and a clarion call for authorities. The film is available for streaming on Netflix now.

4. Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

Master filmmaker Werner Herzog takes the viewers to the end of the world in ‘Encounters at the End of the World’. The film explores people, places and other life forms in Antarctica. The two-man crew of Herzog and his cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger document nature and life in the world’s farthest continent. Herzog’s dreamy and contemplative narration leads us to McMurdo Station to meet maintenance and support workers and the geologists working there. Herzog declares that he’s not “making another film about penguins.” He keeps his word till the end of the spectacular journey that reveals scientists, students, animal researchers, plumbers, penguin researchers, and underwater diver among others. The entire film was shot in Antarctica as part of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program.

3. Virunga (2014)

‘Virunga’ is a part investigative report and part documentary. Set in Congo’s Virunga National Park against the backdrop of the bloody M23 riots in 2012, the film follows four park rangers in their struggle to protect the park and its inhabitants. They have the mighty, well-connected British oil giant Soco International on the opposite side. When the company starts oil exploration in the UNESCO World Heritage site, it puts a rare community of the world’s largest mountain gorillas on the extinction map. Their numbers have already been dwindling at an alarming rate due to civil war and illegal poaching. Gorilla caretaker André Bauma, warden Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo, chief warden Emmanuel de Merode, and the French investigative journalist Mélanie Gouby take us to the mountain gorilla families.

The documentary gives viewers an intimate look at the creatures’ lives. Apart from raising a serious issue, the four men also reveal the impact of political and social unrest on the animal life in the park. Being one of the most bio-diverse parks in the world, Virunga is under constant threat of illegal poaching. While militia, poachers and corporate forces scavenge on Congo’s invaluable natural resources, these four men fight their battle in the name of nature and love. Written and directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, ‘Virunga’ has Leonardo DiCaprio as one of its executive producers.

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2. Wings of Life (2011)

‘Wings of Life’ is an intriguing documentary that depicts the stunning beauty and harrowing future of butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, bats, and flowers. Narrated by Meryl Streep, the documentary explores the complex relationship between flowers and their partners in the pollination process. It’s a passionate love story written by nature. While flowers seduce the pollinators with their vibrant colour palette and exotic scents, the insects fall head over heels in love with the flowers. The film is a celebration of life and a reminder of the fragility of the pollination system. ‘Wings of Life’ is written and directed by Louie Schwartzberg.

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1. Our Planet (2019)

Netflix’s ‘Our Planet’ follows the footsteps of the renowned documentaries of the BBC Natural History Unit. Narrated by David Attenborough, the documentary warns us that the wonders of nature are not for eternity. ‘Our Planet’ adopts an innovative way of storytelling by superimposing the cautionary voice-over over the stunning images of nature. While its visuals are engaging and beautiful, the voice-over looms over us like a dark cloud of fear. The film discusses the impact of global warming and climate change on wildlife in detail. The message put forward by the film is clear — if we don’t do it now, we never will. Season one of ‘Our Planet’ is streaming on Netflix now.

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