This week’s fifth episode of Blue Planet II focuses on ‘Green Seas’ (26.11.17), and takes viewers on a journey to vast kelp forests in the world’s blue oceans, where animals must battle it out for space and food.
Kelp is found along the coastlines of every continent bar one, Antarctica. Powered by sunlight and capable of growing 50cm every day, it’s among the fastest growing organisms on the planet.
In warm waters, such as those surrounding Western Australia, another green sea is evident – expansive prairies of seagrass. A patch of these marine flowering plants is 35 times more efficient at absorbing and storing carbon than a rainforest the same size, and meadow after meadow of seagrass are becoming the grazing ground of fish, sharks, turtles, manatees, octopus, crabs, sea urchins – the list goes on.
Over the course of four years, the Green Seas team spent 196 days filming this episode of Blue Planet II, with 170 of these days involving underwater camerawork in seas and oceans surrounding Norway, Cuba, South Africa, California and Australia - all destinations you can easily visit on a Saga holiday.
Planning to get away in 2018? Discover your dream holiday with Saga
Sea otters off the coast of California
There’s nothing better than a heart-warming tale of survival and some animal magic on a Sunday night, and Blue Planet II delivers yet again this week. Just like Disney’s The Fox and the Hound, unlikely animals – this time a sea otter and a Garibaldi damselfish - become allies in the coast off California.
In the North Pacific Ocean, lying beside California, British Colombia and Alaska, sea otters appear to be back from near extinction. Around 200 years ago, these adorable creatures were sadly hunted for their thick pelts. However, with the sea otter now protected in the US and Canada, numbers are increasing, which is good news for not only for the kelp forests, but also for brightly coloured Garibaldis.
The kelp forest along the Pacific coast stands at 60 metres high, possibly making it the largest and most diverse in the world. But it was at risk of being destroyed by thousands of marauding spiny sea urchins, much to the annoyance of the Garibaldi damselfish who also likes to graze on a seaweed garden.
Fortunately, sea otters have a high metabolism and can eat a staggering 25% of their body weight each day. With an abundance of sea urchins to scoff, the sea otter is kept happy (and full), and the Garibaldi can also eat in peace. Result!
Great friendships can also be made on escorted holidays, when like-minded individuals get to explore and experience new destinations together. Saga’s escorted Rugged Landscapes of the Pacific Northwest starts in the seductive city of San Francisco and heads north along the Oregon coast. The tour also includes a memorable ride aboard the Amtrak Cascades railway, through the glorious scenery of the Pacific Northwest and across the Washington State border to Seattle.
Solo travellers may be interested in Saga’s Singles Holidays, suitable for both independent and social types.
Want to take a bite of the Big Apple or hit Route 66? Find out about Saga holidays to the USA here
American crocodiles in salt waters near Cuba
This week’s Blue Planet II also contains footage of American crocodiles seen in Cuba, where the world’s largest population of these aquatic reptiles resides. Found in swamps and wetlands, as well as rivers, estuaries and lagoons, the American crocodile seems to thrive in salt water, making it the only species other than the saltwater crocodile to do so.
It is, however, larger than its crocodile counterparts – the male can reach a length of 20 feet. That said, despite its size, the American crocodile doesn’t attack large animals, preferring birds, reptiles and fish instead.
Comforting news to anyone considering a holiday to Cuba in 2018. Home to coffee, cigars and amazing vintage cars, Cuba is a colourful jewel in the Caribbean and as one of the region’s largest islands, there’s plenty for a visitor to see and do.
Saga’s 15-night Cuba Libre holiday [https://travel.saga.co.uk/holidays/destinations/caribbean/cuba/cuba-libre.aspx] is a wonderful way to explore unspoilt countryside, visit the Spanish colonial cities of Havana, Cienfuegos and Trinidad, and relax on the beach resort of Varadero. Excursions to the Che Guevara mausoleum and Las Terrazas Nature Reserve are also on the itinerary.
Long-lasting memories are made on a holiday in Cuba. Read more about how you can make a dream a reality here.
Common octopus in the oceans by South Africa
Where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, off Cape Agulhas on the southernmost tip of South Africa, grows the most bountiful kelp forests, the habitat of common octopus.
Belonging to the mollusc family, the octopus is among the most sophisticated of the world’s invertebrates. Living close to the seabed, and camouflaging themselves in crevices, they can easily pounce on unsuspecting prey and capture them in their long tentacles.
However, the common octopus had better watch out or it will become a meal for the pyjama shark, presumably named because it’s nocturnal and has seven horizontal dark stripes on its upper body. Every night these striped catfish go in search of food, hoping to stumble upon crustaceans, small reef fish and the tastiest dish of all – octopus.
In this week’s episode of Blue Planet II, viewers will be on the edge of their sofas watching a sequence never filmed before – the common octopus using ingenious tactics to outside its nemesis.
Cape Agulhas is just one of the destinations visited on Saga’s Where Oceans Meet holiday. South Africa’s legendary Garden Route is an area of outstanding natural beauty encompassing wine-growing regions, ancient forests and mountain peaks. On this circular tour of the Western Cape, golden beaches and rugged coastlines are waiting to be discovered, as well as the captivating city of Cape Town.
A visit to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, followed by a stop at Boulders Beach to see African penguins, is sure to be a highlight for all nature fans.
Prefer to go on safari and search for the big five? Find out more about other great holidays to South Africa.
Sea cucumbers on the shores of Norway
Blue Planet II has certainly introduced us to some weird and wonderful creatures, animals that perhaps we didn’t even know existed. In this week’s ‘Green Seas’ episode, sea cucumbers take centre stage, sausage-shaped echinoderms that have a warty and leathery skin.
Although approximately 1,250 varieties of sea cucumbers exist, it’s the red sea cucumber and its brown equivalent that are caught on camera, feeding on plankton in the waters near Norway. They can thrive deep in the ocean, but they are also known to like shallower shores, making them vulnerable to marine predators including crabs and starfish.
However, that aforementioned tough leathery skin provides excellent protection and over the years the sea cucumber has developed an adept way of distracting its hunters. Warning: don’t watch while eating your dinner!
Many holidaymakers enjoy developing new skills while taking a well-earned break, and adventurous types will be enthralled by what’s on offer in Norway. For 2018, Saga has unveiled a host of exciting experiences, such as kayaking in the fjords, helicopter trips and whale watching expeditions.
On the seven-night Norway Quest cruise, setting sail from Dover, guests don’t only discover the breath-taking and exquisitely beautiful country of Norway. Excursions also give you the chance to try wild swimming, hike to a glacier and climb the rigging of a sail boat.
Northern Lights, ice hotels, sparkling fjords, lush green landscapes – find out why Norway is a great destination whatever the season.
Giant cuttlefish in seas surrounding Australia
Every winter in Spencer Gulf, South Australia, over a hundred thousand giant cuttlefish gather to spawn along a restricted area of rocky reef. The area can get a little crowded and somewhat riotous, as these giants weight over 10kg and males outnumber females by around 11 to one.
In this week’s Blue Planet II, we see footage of the males not only using brute force to fight off their rivals, but also coming up with inventive ways to swim through the hordes and find a mate. What’s the trick? Well, a smaller cuttlefish simply mimics the female, confuses his challengers and gets the girl.
But it’s not always happy ever after in the world’s oceans. In the mangrove forests of Western Australia, it’s not uncommon for a female zebra mantis shrimp to have the same stripy mate for 20 years. However, marine bliss it’s not. In a surprising story of betrayal, we see the male abandoning his beloved and trading up for a larger model!
Everything about Australia is on a large scale, but don’t be put off by its size – you can still easily see what the vast country has to offer on a Saga holiday. The 29-night Contrast Australia’s East and West Coasts tour is ideal for those who have perhaps already visited Sydney and Melbourne, and want to explore other states. Relax and enjoy time in Perth, Albany and Fremantle, followed by a trip east to Fraser Island, Townsville and Cairns – on an escorted tour all the hard work is done for you.
Australia or New Zealand? How can you decide? Learn about all of Saga’s holidays to Australasia here