Presenting Indian Ocean: From curried fruit bat to armoured underwear

Wednesday 2 May 2012, 18:00

Simon Reeve Simon Reeve Presenter

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We covered a vast area and huge distances while filming Indian Ocean.

Starting in South Africa we travelled up the east coast of the continent, then around India and back down through Indonesia to finish in south-west Australia.

Simon Reeve in a boat on the Indian Ocean surrounded by blue water and blue sky

Simon Reeve in Indian Ocean

We visited 16 countries in all and spent more than six months filming, putting in some serious miles on the road.

The immediate image that people have of the Indian Ocean is tropical islands but of course it's a much larger area than just the beautiful parts.

It's the third largest ocean on the planet and a home to the paradise islands of countries like the Seychelles but also Somalia which is one of the most difficult and dangerous places to film, as well as desperately poor countries such as Bangladesh.

It's a region with a complete mix of life and we tried to reflect that in the series.

I'm the presenter and also closely involved in all aspects of the shows from initially coming up with the idea through to helping to decide what we film, then editing, scripting and voiceovers.

We're a small team and I loved the whole process of discussion - and occasionally heated debate - as we decided what we were going to film and where we would visit during our travels.

We couldn't visit every country around the edge of the ocean and we certainly couldn't travel every mile of the coastline so we had to pick the best spots for filming based on the likelihood of us actually being able to tell a story, show an issue or see a stunning sight.

It largely comes down to probability. The question we ask is how likely are we to be able to get to a place, see what we need to film to tell a story and then get out again without vast expense?

The end result is TV with a blend of travel, current affairs, wildlife, history, culture, global issues, local concerns and of course, some weird food.

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Watch Simon eat curried fruit bat

You've got to have some strange food on a journey like this.

On the road the other team members were drawn from a small but brilliant pool.

Four of us went out from the UK and there was a slightly different team for each leg of the journey.

I also had two of the best cameramen in the business, Jonathan Young and Craig Hastings who each filmed around half of the series.

They have a remarkable talent for capturing stunning footage, spontaneous encounters and tricky situations.

And remember they do everything I do, often going backwards and carrying more than 12kg on their shoulder.

Together we were privileged to visit some of the most glorious islands in the world while filming this series and one personal highlight for me was meeting Brendon Grimshaw, an 86-year-old Brit on the island he bought in the Seychelles in the 1960s for £8,000.

He's been living the dream in paradise ever since.

But for the third programme in the series we travelled to Mogadishu in Somalia, one of the most dangerous places on the planet, where we needed flak jackets, helmets and even 'blast boxers' - armoured underwear - to protect us against IEDs and grenade attacks.

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Watch Simon on a mission with AMISOM soldiers in Mogadishu

We had Ugandan peacekeepers from the African Union Mission In Somalia (AMISOM) looking after us and they took us to the frontline several times during active combat.

Their organisation is battling to stabilise Somalia and halt piracy and it's a frightening and tragic place.

Producer-director Andrew Carter, cameraman Jonathan Young and I were the small team.

We've all had extensive experience of similar situations and completed Hostile Environment courses where you're taught the essentials of survival.

But when you're there the main thing you think about is getting the story on film.

That's the whole point of a series like this: to show viewers what life is like in these remote parts of the world.

Simon Reeve is the presenter of Indian Ocean.

Indian Ocean continues on Sunday, 13 May at 8pm on BBC Two and BBC HD (except for analogue viewers in Northern Ireland and Wales). The series will be available to watch in iPlayer until Sunday, 10 June.

For more information about analogue television and the digital switchover please visit Help Receiving TV and Radio.

For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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    Comment number 21.

    As a regular visitor to the Maldives I felt your coverage of the problems of waste management were somewhat misleading. The "waste island" is not a hidden sore and that is at least supported by your acknowledgement that the Maldivian government in no way restricted your access. As you were obviously operating outside of the normal tourist trail you may not be aware of how the island (unmissable for the journey from Male airport to any resort - via air or water) is actively pointed out by the resorts and a lot of the staff. This is to educate visitors to encourage them to take their rubbish home with them. In many resorts there are write-ups in the rooms explaining that the Maldives do not currently have the resources available for recycling and to take our rubbish (sun tan lotion bottles and the like) home to our own countries where the facilities exist. What was shown in the Maldives is no different to rubbish dumps the world over. If I drop a water bottle in my bin at work rather than take it home and recycle exactly the same will happen as if I did it in the Maldives.

    We actively choose to visit the Maldives exactly because of their awareness of environmental issues and preservation of their reefs via tourism rather than other forms of exploitation. Additionally as a regular visitor I'll bet you had to go a long way to film that portion of dead reef. That also does not reflect my own experience nor other regular visitors I talk to (I've personally experienced the massively fast regeneration of a number of reefs damaged after the tsunami). Visit often for a period of time and you might find a different world to that portrayed in your snapshot.

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    Comment number 22.

    Fascinated to find the story on Brendan Grimshaw. He was editor of the Tanganyika Standard, now the Daily News (of Tanzania) around Tanganyika's independence time, 1961. I was resident there then and only finally left a few years ago. His island looks fantastic - perhaps he could do with some company? Or am I the 500th enquirer on those lines? Anyway, best wishes to him from another ex-Dar resident.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 24.

    I watched the Maldives episode and its spurred me to look at the other episodes on i-player. It really seems as if the series should have been called Paradise Lost. More thoughts here:

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    Comment number 25.

    I too would like links to the lady Fatima? who worked with the young men in Somaliland, we would like to support her work as our charity at school next year. Help please?

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    Comment number 26.

    Re the episode about where the world's ships go to die, in Chittagong... Mark Knopfler wrote a very moving song about this subject: "So Far from the Clyde". Not a dry eye in the house!

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    Comment number 27.

    id really enjoyed the series until it went to sri lanka and went all political by stating some unconfirmed allegations about war crimes as some established facts,. please do some research before you make statements about discrimination and war crime allegations..

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    Comment number 28.

    Hello rose #7 and #10, barry #8 and rebecca #25 - thank you for your comments here. I'm sorry for the pause in responding to you - we've been following up with the production team on your request for the names of charities/support/conservation groups. For anyone interested, I'm glad to say there is info on aid organisations working in the region, and links listed on the newly-published More Information page. (Also now linked from the bottom of the Indian Ocean programme page under Find Out More.)

    Hope that helps - thanks for your patience.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 30.

    Fantastic series, really well written, Simon Reeve is a great presenter and did an incredible job of highlighting the environmental issues that surround the beautiful Indian Ocean. However was puzzled if covering the Virtue Police in Indonesia was really relevant to the series? The soundbite reference to 'Shariya Law' and covering courting teenagers was altogether negative and was irrelevant to the overall picture of environmental issues and impact of human neglect and plundering this beautiful part of the world.

    I am struggling to understand how policing a boy and girl courting on the beach had any relevance to the rest of the series. This is yet another negative, sensationalistic slant on Islam and Islamic Law and life portrayed by the BBC which serves no purpose. BBC please try to consider your moderate muslims who pay their license fee and do not wish to be subject to negative representation either in this country or abroad.

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    Comment number 31.

    I thought the last episode dealt with the issues gratuitously and left a view Simon Reeves is lightweight. The Western Australian portion was made to appear that there was a universal grab at resources - without the balances of the enormous efforts being undertaken to deal with the obvious environmental issues. It suited his desire to be dramatic but was unbalanced. This way of portraying issues as simply resolvable if only we follow the good guys, rather than complex with all parties trying hard to made it work - lost the programme credibility.

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    Comment number 32.

    I have enjoyed these series. Sad to hear that Brandon Grimshaw has passed away in the Seychelles.


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