12 wildlife documentaries to watch in the UAE: from 'My Octopus Teacher' to 'Surviving Joe Exotic'

The country's streaming platforms have a lot to offer nature enthusiasts

Sumatran Orangutan. Adult flanged male - part of a long term study by international scientists.
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If you've ever enjoyed a show by renowned natural historian David Attenborough, then you're more than likely to appreciate one of these.

Get a unique insight to life after dark, learn how it works on one of the world's largest chimpanzee sanctuaries or find out how you can help in the battle against the illegal shark fin industry.

Each one of these documentaries offers a fascinating insight into a world we humans have barely begun to comprehend.

'Our Planet'


Sir David Attenborough, Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz all narrated this Emmy Award-winning documentary series from 2019 that examines how climate change impacts all living creatures. All eight episodes feature stunning cinematography, as each one explores another aspect of our natural planet: from wildebeests in the Serengeti to walruses in Antarctica and bison roaming North American grasslands.

A behind-the-scenes look at the years spent making this groundbreaking series is also featured on Netflix.

'My Octopus Teacher'


This 2020 Netflix original film, which was 10 years in the making, records how filmmaker Craig Foster spent one year forging a relationship with a wild common octopus in a South African kelp forest. Directed by James Reed and Pippa Ehrlich, the multi-award-winning documentary is an intimate and emotional deep-dive into the mysteries of this creature’s underwater world, as it defends itself against prey, mates, reproduces and eventually dies.

'Dancing with the Birds'


You don’t need to be an avid bird watcher to enjoy this 2019 documentary, which is narrated by Stephen Fry. The 51-minute episode features some of the world’s most exotic birds – from the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise to the Guianan cock-of-the-rock and Lance-tailed manakin – demonstrating mating rituals. It includes plenty of dancing.

'72 Dangerous Animals'


There are two series of 72 Dangerous Animals available on Netflix. One explores the creatures of Asia, while another examines those native to Latin America. The former includes episodes on everything from Indian leopards to camel spiders and mugger crocodiles, while the latter investigates powerful cats, indestructible arachnids and flesh-melting pit vipers – to name a few. Each series features 12 fascinating episodes.

'72 Cutest Animals'


This serves as an antidote to the more gruesome 72 Dangerous Animals series. It's not just about ogling charming creatures, however, as the documentary offers insight into the nature of cuteness and adorability, and how it helps some species survive and even thrive in various environments. The 12 episodes feature a range of animals, from the loveable koala bear to the amusing quokka and the world's smallest penguins.

'Night on Earth'


Only one season of this 2020 documentary series has aired so far, but no doubt viewers will be keen for more, considering the remarkable cinematography and fascinating insights it offers into creatures of the night. Over 60 shoots in 30 countries, the production team used new technology to reveal the hidden wonders of the nocturnal world. There are six episodes, which take us through deserts, jungles, cities, seas and the world’s coldest landscapes.

'Untamed Romania'


The camerawork on this 2018 documentary is simply beautiful. It takes us on a journey through the mountains, forests and expansive wetlands of Romania, where undisturbed habitats provide a home to some of Europe’s most unique and interesting creatures. The 90-minute film focuses on the Carpathian Mountains and the Danube Delta, offering great insight into little-known corners of the Earth.

'Crikey it’s the Irwins'


Following in the footsteps of Steve, the famous patriarch, renowned Australian zookeeper, environmentalist and all-round beloved TV personality, the surviving Irwin family take up the mantle at the Australia Zoo. This series shows them dealing with the various challenges and struggles of life at the enclosures, as they take care of the animals. It's not just crocodiles, either, as this series features all sorts of creatures, from wombats to cobras and even a platypus. There are 14 episodes in season one.

'Wildest Middle East'


Ever wondered about the creatures of the Middle East? Well, this documentary series has five episodes shedding light on the flora and fauna of countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Jordan. Arabia's teeming wildlife is put under the microscope, as viewers learn more about a virtually unfilmed natural history.

'Surviving Joe Exotic'


If you were one of the millions of viewers who tuned into Netflix's Tiger King, then you'll no doubt appreciate this 2020 documentary in which notorious zoo operator Joe Exotic gives one of his last interviews before his arrest. His former employees reveal the truth about the infamous G W Zoo, while the 44-minute film also features rescue stories of some of its big cats.

'Sharkwater Extinction'

Amazon Prime

A must-watch for any self-respecting wildlife enthusiast, this award-winning 2018 documentary follows activist and filmmaker Rob Stewart as he exposes the illegal shark fin industry and the political corruption behind it. It's an underworld that threatens the survival of sharks altogether. Once you're done watching, you can head to its official website to see the ways you can get involved and help save the species.

'Meet the Chimps'

OSN Streaming

Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Lynch narrates this National Geographic show that focuses on Chimp Haven, one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The 200-acre refuge, nestled in the forests of Louisiana, is home to more than 300 chimpanzees, and this six-part series tracks their ups and downs, giving unparalleled access to the sanctuary’s goings-on, from squabbles and romances to friendships and heartbreaks.


Read more:

The 'dinosaur princess': How Aaliya Sultana Babi helps preserve India's 'Jurassic Park

Tiger Queen: How Maya became one of the world's most documented big cats

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