tue 16/07/2019

Judi Dench's Wild Borneo Adventure, ITV review - national treasure meets natural wonders | reviews, news & interviews

Judi Dench's Wild Borneo Adventure, ITV review - national treasure meets natural wonders

Judi Dench's Wild Borneo Adventure, ITV review - national treasure meets natural wonders

Renowned thespian takes guided tour of the tropical rainforest

Dame Judi heeds the call of the wild

Ecological awareness has become de rigueur for any self-respecting celebrity, and if the chances of saving the planet were in direct proportion to the number of renowned personages criss-crossing it on well-intentioned missions, we could all stop worrying. Still, one would much prefer to have Dame Judi Dench doing it than…. others we might mention.

Having adopted a trio of orangutans in Borneo, Dame Judi ventured to the Malay Archipelago to immerse herself in the island’s astonishing array of wildlife and vegetation and see the animals in their natural habitat. But you can’t just drop an 84-year-old with failing eyesight into the middle of a tropical jungle, even if she used to be James Bond’s boss, so elaborate preparations had been made for her visit. Wherever the Dame went, a friendly scientist popped up to introduce her to some new natural phenomenon or other.

Her close friend, the conservationist David Mills, took her on a helicopter flight over a fabulous panorama of rainforest trees, some of them a thousand years old (“it’s like flying over broccoli!” she exclaimed). Zoologist Jedediah Brody pointed out a large orangutan posing obligingly in a tree, as if it had been instructed to wait there for Dame Judi or suffer the consequences. Tony Kirkham, Head of Trees at Kew Gardens, was in Borneo too, and he and the Dame were winched to the top of a 250-foot tree (pictured right) to study its luxuriant insect life, as well as flying amphibians like the Harlequin tree frog and the Draco lizard.

Somehow, wherever the thespian icon went there was an extremely well-appointed guest house in which she could kick her shoes off and get loose with a nice glass of champagne. None of that Gryllsian slogging through mud and leeches and surviving on raw snake.

Throughout, Judi was careful to remind us of the ecological benefits of orangutans, sun bears and even dung beetles, who all play a role in Nature’s grand interlocking scheme. Otherwise we might have gained the impression that she was just enjoying the adventure holiday of a lifetime.

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