Where is Dynasties filmed? Discover the locations behind the Sir David Attenborough series

Travel the world and spend time with amazing animals at a crucial time in their existence, from the comfort of your own living room.

Dynasties is the latest wildlife series from Sir David Attenborough, which is as stunning for its landscapes as it is for the animals it follows.

Focusing on five types of animal at crunch points in their families’ lives and their very species’ existence, viewers will see how they adapt to cope with the challenges of their environment.

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We take a look at some of the amazing places around the world where Dynasties was filmed.

Senegal

The crew travelled to Senegal in West Africa to film a group of chimpanzees as the alpha male was beginning to be challenged for his role.

The team set up camp in Fongoli Research Project in the Kedougou Region of South East Senegal, staying for nearly a year to see how the chimps’ relationships changed.

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It’s a tough environment for survival, with temeratures soaring above 40C and the animals forced to roam a vast, dried-out landscape in search of food and water.

Producer and director Rosie Thomas said that the conditions present the group with different challenges compared with chimps living in forest habitats.

“Our group lives in a very different environment to most chimpanzees, as it is a mosaic of savannah and forest rather than just dense forest," she said.

"This means that they do things other groups don’t, which makes them very interesting to film.

“We saw them making spears out of branches to hunt galagos (‘bush babies’) up in the trees. No other group does this. In fact, it’s so unusual that for quite a few years some scientists didn’t believe the reports.

“They have to deal with a lot of fires in the dry season, but they can read these incredibly well by watching where the smoke’s going, and then working out how to travel around the fires safely. When there is a lot of water around, they lounge about in pools to help cool down from the searing heat. When there is almost no standing water left, they know where to dig in old, dry riverbeds to find it underground.”

She added that Senegal was also tough for the crew: “On a good day, we’d walk at least eight kilometres, but on a bad day we could travel up to 24. Between the three of us in the crew each day, we’d carry about 80kg of kit in temperatures that were usually about 40C.”

Antarctica

Emperor penguins offered the programme-makers a completely different environment to the heat of the other animals’ homes – as they battled some of the coldest days imaginable.

The penguins were filmed over an eight-month period which they spend breeding on an area of frozen sea, when all other species have left for the harsh winter.

Alfred Wegener Insitute's Neumayer III Base in Atka Bay, Antarctica was home to a crew of three for almost a year, and for 245 days of that there was no way on or off Antarctica.

They braved cold that plummeted to -44.3C which felt like -62.3C because of the wind chill – in fact, there were only three days of the entire shoot where the temperature rose above 0C.

If the freezing cold wasn’t enough to contend with, they experienced a storm that lasted for eight days, and at one point went 62 days straight without seeing the sun.

Director Will Lawson said that the penguins were incredibly resilient.

“I remember the first time that we actually experienced a storm after the eggs had hatched. It was brutal, with winds well over 100 kilometres an hour.

"We knew that some of the chicks wouldn’t make it, but what was really amazing is that most of them had survived. I don’t think a human would have lasted long in those conditions, whatever protective gear they were wearing. But there were all these chicks pottering about looking none the worse for their experience.”

The team’s cameraman Lindsay McCrae had one of the series’ toughest jobs, sitting on the ice for many hours at a time to film at the penguins’ height.

“Some of the days it's the most uncomfortable I'd ever felt and I don't think I'll ever feel like that again," he admitted.

"But you just remind yourself what you're looking at. You’re at the bottom of the planet and you're looking at 8,000 emperor penguins. Anything is worth that at the end of the day.”

Kenya

Lions are always a favourite with wildlife documentary fans, and the Marsh Pride of the Masai Mara in Kenya has an incredible story to tell.

They’ve been filmed by BBC crews many times before, but the current group are in a unique position because all of the adult males have left the group, leaving two lionesses to defend and feed the pride.

Producer Simon Blakeney said that there were many tough parts of the shoot, especially when it came to dealing with the realities of the savannah.

“A combination of long grass, violent thunderstorms, flooding and vehicles getting stuck in difficult terrain often meant we lost the lions and had to find them all over again,” he said.

But he added that there were just as many amazing moments, including the lions unexpectedly seeking shade from the crew’s cars in the baking heat, and an extraordinary display of protection.

“We watched Charm (a lioness) defend her family against buffalo,” he said.

“Buffalo have a rivalry with lions, and if they get a sniff of a youngster they will try to kill it. At one point Charm was faced with a herd of over a hundred buffalo. She was amazing – she became a snarling ball of fury.

"There were buffalo behind her, buffalo in front of her and if they couldn’t get at the youngsters then they would try to kill her instead.

“It was an incredible scene, and a really tense moment to watch.”

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Out of 420 camera days, the lions were only awake for the equivalent of about 90, which was one of the episode’s biggest challenges.

Sophie Darlington, on the lion camera team, said: “At times, it was very, very frustrating, because there are a lot of times when lions do nothing. When they're doing nothing in very long grass, which is full of rocks, there were months where almost nothing happened, but that gives you a very real experience to what it is to be a lion.

“You see all of them struggling. But, also, you get the joy of them. They are at times, just deeply funny and wonderfully affectionate to one another. That's what makes them interesting, because they're a social cat.”

Zimbabwe

For the painted wolves episode, we’ll be heading to Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe where an old matriarch is trying to keep her pack together on the banks of the Zambezi river.

But the wolf is being challenged by her own daughter, and the pack also needs to contend with lions, hyenas and crocodiles.

The crew were filming in Zimbabwe for 669 days, the longest of the five shoots, and over the two years, timelapse shots showed the ebb and flow of the wet and dry seasons in the Mana Pools floodplain.

Wolves range huge distances and the team had to drive many thousands of kilometres in a constant struggle to keep up with the pack.

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Producer Nick Lyon said: “A lot of that was down to the tracking skills of our guides. Nick Murray has spent so long tracking the painted wolves that he knew the exact routes they needed to travel in the wet season to get around, and he could navigate us through tough terrains and mazes of streams and rivulets, to pop out next to the pack.

“Another of our guides, Henry Bandure, was phenomenal. He would look at a paw print in the sand and could tell how long ago the pack had passed by how much sand had blown into the print or by what type of tiny insect had walked through the print after it had been made. He could even tell which pack it was by the smell of its dung – he could do that while driving along in the car!

“That particular skill allowed us to find a pack we had lost overnight, and to get into position just in time to film one of the key moments in the whole story.”

India

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in India is a paradise for tigers, with dense jungle, rich grasslands, and plenty of ponds and streams.

However, that means tough competition for the top spots, and again, viewers will see a tense rivalry between a mother and her adult daughter as they vie for the best territory.

The Bandhavgarh National Park’s reserve is such a perfect place for tigers that it now has an overcrowding problem, with around 80 big cats in a 1,540sq km area.

Film crews spent 220 days on the reserve - one of the best places in India to see tigers - and at one point were just four metres from a tiger as they filmed from an elephant’s back.

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Director Theo Webb said: “Simply finding a tiger is the biggest issue. They live in dense jungle. There’s only a few roads through the forest and you can’t drive off them, so for most of the time the tigers are going to be too far from the road for you to see.

"We spent huge amounts of time, sometimes days on end, driving those roads all day long and failing to see a tiger at all.

“For a lot of the filming we used a five-metre long scaffolding tripod, plus a camera on a remote-control head. The cameraman, John, was able to control the camera with a joystick and a screen from quite a distance away, which meant that our filming didn’t disturb the tigers. But he was wearing a blackout hood over his head to cut out the sunlight while it was 40C - he was absolutely sweltering.”

Dynasties begins on Sunday, November 11 at 8.30pm on BBC One.

Never miss an episode with BT TV – catch up via the BBC iPlayer app.

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(Photos: BBC)

 

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