Birds of Paradise: The Ultimate Quest

Birds of Paradise: The Ultimate Quest

Series 1 - Episode 1



In 2004 BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner was shot repeatedly and left for dead in an al-Qaeda ambush in Saudi Arabia. Cameraman Simon Cumbers was murdered in the attack.

As Gardner, a lifelong, committed birdwatcher, lay in hospital during a gruelling recovery, he wished again and again he’d gone to Papua New Guinea to see the greatest prize of all, the bird of paradise.

But Gardner, despite using a wheelchair, and with typical determination, decides at last that it’s something he must do. With his friend, explorer Benedict Allen, he embarks on a three-week expedition into the hostile rainforest.

Gardner’s resolution, despite the enormous practical difficulties, is magnificent. He’s impeccably courteous to everyone and seizes the joy in every minute: “Oh, I’m loving this, this is brilliant!” As for Allen, he has a parallel quest, to return to the remote tribal community he left 30 years ago. Will he be welcomed, or shunned?


Part one of two. Thirty years ago explorer Benedict Allen lived in Papua New Guinea with the Niowra, a remote people. Broadcast journalist Frank Gardner has always wished to see wild birds of paradise, so Benedict resolves to take him along. The duo set out through some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet, negotiating swamps, mountains and crocodile-infested waters, heading into the cloud forest. Despite Frank requiring the use of a wheelchair following a shooting incident in 2004, Benedict determines to get him to their destination.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Frank Gardner
Presenter Benedict Allen
Director Simon Davies
Executive Producer Sarah Swingler
Executive Producer Dick Colthurst
Producer Simon Davies
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