One of the great appeals of almost any African country is its wildlife. While some of the remote and dangerous filming locations are best left to the professionals, there are plenty more that are easily accessible to tourists. The famous giraffe fight in the first episode of David Attenborough’s most recent series, the awe-inspiring Africa on BBC1, was filmed at Hoanib River in Namibia, a wilderness area that – although remote – can be accessed through specialist tour groups. Or you could follow in Sir David’s footsteps in Kenya by visiting the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, north of Nairobi, one of the most significant conservation sites for black rhinos – or the Local Ocean Trust on the coast at Watamu, famed for its turtles.
The appeal of Africa hasn’t been lost on programme-makers, who have been arriving in increasing numbers to take advantage of the low production costs, creating shows as breathtaking on screen as their locations are in reality.
South Africa is the most popular location thanks to its advanced infrastructure and the fact that it’s English-speaking. Sky1’s hit crime drama, Mad Dogs, moves there for its forthcoming third series. Phil Glenister, who stars alongside John Simm, Max Beesley and Marc Warren, says, “It was absolutely amazing. You can just point a camera in any of the locations and get a bit of dialogue going and it looks fantastic.”
The lush landscapes of Oak Valley, on the Western Cape just outside Cape Town, acted as the backdrop to Channel 4’s sumptuous The Devil’s Whore, which was set during the English Civil War and the vistas received as much praise as the drama. And the upcoming Miss Marple adventure on ITV, A Caribbean Mystery, was also filmed on the Western Cape rather than the West Indies, and cast and crew were thrilled to find they could spot migrating whales from their hotel in Hermanus. There are plenty of tour companies that will take you out on a boat to spot these magnificent creatures.
The truly adventurous might want to take their love of wildlife to another level. For his upcoming Channel 5 series, Charley Boorman’s South African Adventure, the daredevil goes cage diving with deadly great white sharks in the rough Atlantic seas. It’s an experience that’s open to anybody with who’s brave enough.
Back on dry land, fans of ITV’s Wild at Heart can visit the location where the much-loved and recently departed show was filmed. Glen Afric Country Lodge, a short drive from Johannesburg, allows rescued wildlife to roam free. Actor Stephen Tompkinson, who has been spending six months of the year filming at Glen Afric since Wild at Heart began in 2006, says, “That place is magical. It’s a sort of home for abandoned and orphaned animals, so a lot of them have been hand-reared and are used to humans.” For a more authentic experience, the famous Kruger National Park, home to lions, elephants and rhinos, lies in the north east of the country.