Think green and celebrate Earth Day with these brilliant environmental documentaries narrated by some very familiar voices
By Charlotte Briggs, Staff Writer
There are many reasons why nature documentaries have become so popular. As well as watching spellbinding footage of our planet and the weird and wonderful creatures that inhabit it, it’s also an opportunity to start conversations about conservation and create changes for the better.
Although many of us consider Sir David Attenborough to be the reigning king of documentaries about the natural world, more and more celebrities have been lending their vocal talents to these projects.
In fact, over the years mega stars such as Sigourney Weaver, Bill Nighy and even Oprah Winfrey have been the soothing voices accompanying the windows onto wondrous wildlife as plants grow and wild animals fight for survival on screen.
In honour of Earth Day 2023 on Saturday 22 April, we’ve rounded up the best nature series narrated by beloved personalities that you can watch on Virgin TV now. And we bet some of these names will surprise you!
Morgan Freeman in Our Universe
Find series 1 in Apps & Games > Netflix
Having played the role of God in Bruce Almighty, Freeman also oversees all of creation in this series about how the universe influences life on Earth. The Oscar winner tells the remarkable multi-billion-year story of the universe, uncovering the intricate link between space and life on our planet. From the sun’s vital role as an energy source to the natural elements that are found both in our oceans and the stars, this series is an insightful watch and all the more powerful with Freeman’s authoritative vocals.
Tom Hardy in Predators
Find series 1 in Apps & Games > Sky Showcase and Sky Nature on demand
This isn’t the first time that the Peaky Blinders star has stepped into the world of storytelling, having made some rather memorable appearances on CBeebies Bedtime Stories. And this landmark five-part series explores the lives of some of the world’s most ferocious predators. Hardy tells the stories of cheetahs in Tanzania, polar bears in Canada, lions in Botswana, pumas in Chile and wild dogs in Zimbabwe, as they fight to stay at the top of the food chain in their ever-evolving habitats.
Helena Bonham Carter in Wild Babies
Find it in Apps & Games > Netflix
It’s hard to imagine that the actress behind Harry Potter’s deranged villain Bellatrix Lestrange is also the comforting narrator of Netflix’s Wild Babies. Bonham Carter regales viewers with the adventures of 16 wild babies from around the world, including penguin chicks, lion cubs, elephant calves and infant orang-utans, as they navigate the highs and lows of life in the wild. Expect lots of involuntary cooing as the adorable babies grow, play and interact with the world around them.
Pedro Pascal in Patagonia
Find it in Apps & Games > Sky Nature on demand
The star of The Last Of Us and The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent gives an insightful account of life in South America’s Patagonia region, which lies inside both Argentina and his native Chile. One of the last untouched places in the world and spanning 260,000 miles, the region is known for its breathtaking landscapes of mountains and glaciers, as well as the unique wildlife that inhabits it. Pascal’s narration highlights not only the biodiverse area but also the scientists who study it and the people who live there.
John Boyega in Serengeti
Find series 1-3 in Apps & Games > BBC iPlayer
Boyega (Small Axe, The Woman King) lends his voice to the BBC’s stunning docuseries all about Africa’s Serengeti ecosystem. Each episode follows the interconnected life of creatures great and small as they fight for survival in the savannah. Boyega narrates the first two series, while Bridgerton star Adjoa Andoh (more of whom below) takes over the role for the third instalment. And did you know that the US version is narrated by Boyega’s Star Wars co-star Lupita Nyong’o? Epic!
Barack Obama in Our Great National Parks
Find season 1 in Apps & Games > Netflix
The former US president acting as a national park tour guide wasn’t on our 2022 bingo list. However, he doesn’t disappoint thanks to a golden combination of his distinctive voice and the series’ jaw-dropping footage. From capturing the incredible wildlife at play to the diverse landscapes of these world-famous parks, this docuseries makes for an addictive watch. And the TV industry agreed, awarding Obama an Emmy for his efforts in the Outstanding Narrator category. Bring on season 2!
Olivia Colman and Tasmin Greig in The Secret Life Of The Zoo
Find series 2-10 in Apps & Games > All 4
This wildly popular observational docuseries showcases the fascinating secret lives of animals at Chester Zoo, using the latest technology in their enclosures. Colman recounts five series of behind-the-scenes escapades of some of the zoo’s most beloved residents in that voice that’s familiar from everything from Peep Show to her recent role in Great Expectations, with Friday Night Dinner actress Greig stepping into her shoes from 2018 onwards.
Stephen Fry in A Year On Planet Earth
Find it in Apps & Games > ITVX
Having narrated both his own mythology series and the Harry Potter audiobooks, Fry is the perfect accompaniment to this awe-inspiring docuseries. Over six episodes (including a special episode about the show’s three-year production), Fry takes us on a journey across 60 countries to see how all life is affected the Earth’s annual orbit around the sun, from the harshest of winters to the droughty summers and beyond.
Adjoa Andoh in Chasing The Rains
Find it in On Demand
Andoh (The Witcher) delivers another stunning vocal performance in this nature docuseries about life in northern Kenya, one of Africa’s rarely filmed areas. Her captivating storytelling is a match made in heaven with the stunning footage that showcases the lives of three wild matriarchs, who are on the hunt for precious water during one of the region’s most dramatic droughts.
Regé-Jean Page in Surviving Paradise: A Family Tale
Find it in Apps & Games > Netflix
Much more than just Bridgerton’s dashing Duke of Hastings, Page returned to Netflix to host this nature documentary all about Africa’s many packs, herds and prides. Filmed in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, a vast oasis isolated from the rest of the world by desert, the film follows the many families that inhabit this land as they fend off predators and raise their young. But with the ever-present threat of famine, floods and droughts, survival in this changing landscape is a daily struggle.
Andrew Scott in Secret Safari: Into The Wild
Find it in Apps & Games > All 4
This heartwarming nature series is set in Kenya’s beautiful Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which is home to 13,000 wild animals. And Scott of 1917 and Fleabag fame shares the moving stories of the 600 dedicated rangers who look after some of the rarest animals in the world. Each day the rangers must protect the conservancy’s inhabitants, often making tough decisions about whether they should intervene or let nature take its course.
Zac Efron in Down To Earth With Zac Efron
Find seasons 1 + 2 in Apps & Games > Netflix
In need of an eye-opening series that will help you change your life for the better? Then keep reading… Efron (The Greatest Showman) travels the world in search of healthier and more sustainable ways to live in the 21st century. Over two seasons of this travel show he ventures to all corners of the planet, learning about everything from renewable energy to excess water consumption. Plus, he meet with local experts to discover whether there’s a better way for us all to exist.
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