Cast your mind back to 2016 when Liz Bonnin appeared in the genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are?
During the programme, she described herself as “a mongrel” due to being born in Paris and raised in Dublin with lineage from around the world – her mother was of Indian and Portuguese descent and grew up in Trinidad, while her father hailed from Martinique.
Due to her parental roots in the Caribbean, she spent many holidays there, and remarked during an interview with The Telegraph back in 2011: “My mum was born in Trinidad, so we used go to there twice a year to see family. I have fond memories of island-hopping with my cousins and aunts and being by the beautiful Caribbean sea. Every time I go, it feels like returning home, even though I’ve never lived there.”
She must have been in her element, then, when she began filming her latest gig. It’s one of a number of new factual commissions for the production company Lion, which also include Netflix’s Alexander the Great docudrama and another BBC project, Pompeii.
The BBC describes Bonnin’s series as an “immersive natural history travelogue”.
“Bringing wildlife to a new audience is always a challenge – you have to be able to tell the story and bring the characters of individual animals to life, and to get a sense of the place,” explains Bonnin.
She reckons that filming in remote places, although exhilarating, is never easy. Thankfully, she always has a lucky charm up her sleeve.
“My notebook!” she exclaims. “I’m lucky that I have diaries on film of the things I have done, but it’s the little moments and the experiential stuff which you might forget without writing it down. It’s such a privilege that I want to remember the special moments, as well as the films we make.”
No doubt she kept it close to hand in the Caribbean because there was so much to witness. Her first port of call is the Greater Antilles, a stretch of islands containing many hidden natural treasures, from salt lates to deserts and tree-covered peaks.
On the Dominican Republic island of Hispaniola, Bonnin helps the residents of a tiny village save the life of an endangered Ridgeway’s Hawk chick who is threatened by a deadly parasitic infection. She also comes face-to-face with the solenodon, a rodent-looking creature with a nose like a trunk – it’s survived against the odds since pre-dinosaur times, and getting to see one in the wild is a rare treat.
Future episodes see her on the trail of a pig-stealing jaguar before meeting the owner of a frog haven on the Central America coast. She then visits the volcanic island of Mayreau and searches for the Guiana dolphins who live harmoniously alongside fishermen in a lake high up in the Andes.
This may be a personal journey for Bonnin, but for the rest of us, it’s a fascinating insight into extraordinary places and even more incredible creatures.