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Presenting Indian Ocean: From curried fruit bat to armoured underwear

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Simon Reeve Simon Reeve | 17:00 UK time, Wednesday, 2 May 2012

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.


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm enjoying the Indian Ocean series but have to say I was so disappointed in Simon's visit to Zanzibar. After thirty five minutes in South Africa and fifteen minutes in Mozambique, we only had a quick trip through Stonetown lasting no more than eight minutes! I waited for Zanzibar and the coverage was so short.

  • Comment number 2.

    Is it acceptable for you to point out which countries have and are invading the Somali waters? It would be interesting to tell all the history behind the reaction of these fishermen. Many European nations have used and abused what was never theirs. Your own Britain was at the forefront of these abuses during several centuries. The culprits include Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy, etc. Please be so good to print the whole truth? Thank you.

  • Comment number 3.

    Whole truth, Paddy? Fascinating. I think you should look up internation water and territorial water and specifically the laws surrounding them. You talk about several centuries, yet, for example, territorial water wasn't really defined until 1982. Hardly centuries at play there. And if you don't mean territorial water, then what do you mean? International waters? The fact that there is no government there (Somalia) and the fact that illegal acts there also comes to play. The international laws say that if a ship is involved in an illegal act (e.g., piracy), then any country can excercise jurisdiction. Otherwise, even for territorial water, you are allowed to pass through as military or civilian as innocent passage, that is to say: 'Passage is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State.'
    And since the pirates themselves some times go out of their territorial waters, and since they also don't follow the laws, who are they to complain or say anything? Convicts, if anything.

    So while its valid it would be interesting to know the whole story of everything (impossible though really, if you think about it: hence the old game with different names, one being 'telephone'), it's also equally important that that what I pointed out is too, because abuse isn't always abuse. Laws in one country may not be relevant in another, or they have different definitions, and so on (and since Somalia has no government, well, they can't really complain about laws, can they? Not rationally, anyway).

  • Comment number 4.

    I was also surprised at how little was shown of Zanzibar but even more disappointed that the Comores were not included in the series, given the unique customs and history of the islands. The wedding rituals and matriarchal society would have been worth a mention.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hello, I just watched the episode 3: Kenya and the Horn of Africa. W/ rgds to plastics left on the beach, Simon said that there isn't anybody who knows what to do with them. Pls watch the following video clip on YouTube. There is a guy in Japan who invented a machine that reverts plastics back to oil. Maybe this would be a way forward to recycle plastics?

  • Comment number 6.

    Thank you BBC for an amazing programme.
    Simon Reeve has made this very informative and at times very sad. I have traveled extensively around this ocean and have seen it change mostly for worse!
    Just spent a month in the Seychelles where the people are trying to keep the islands as natural as possible.
    My I suggest that Simon does a documentary about the over fishing by factory ships in the area. The local fisherman I talked to are alarmed at the diminishing Tuna stocks. Tinned tuna is a massive factor and also an awefull product. Lets highlight this type of fishing, the vast majority of the British public have no idea about factory fishing in the Oceans or the devastation they cause.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi there,
    I just watched episode three and I can't find any links to any of the aid organisations shown in the episode. Is there any way we can find out more about what they do, and how we could support them through donations or other aid?

  • Comment number 8.

    Hello, As with post number 7 I would be very keen to have details of the charity organisations which featured in episode three. It was the charitable work with the children taking them to the coast that was organised by Sandra(?) ,the Welsh lady, that I would like to support. Thanks!

  • Comment number 9.

    Please support the petition to protect the Tana River Delta from agricultural expansion and upset the delicate natural balance and wreak havoc on the ecosystem........

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 10.

    - I see that the helpful URL link in comment 9 has been removed... is there any way we can find out about these groups or is this just impossible?
    I am at a loss to understand why the BBC would make such great informative programming and then leave viewers with no further information about giving aid and support.

  • Comment number 11.

    I have just spent 4 years cruising the Indian ocean and have visited most of the countries. The biggest concern was the litter, In Indonesia and Thailand the plastic bottles are knee deep in places. There seems to be no understanding of how to deal with the problem. On the near pristine islands off eastern Australia I saw floating rubbish that had apparently originated in Indonesia. In the Maldives most of the atolls have rubbish dumps like the one in the program. Some of our aid to these countries should be directed at reducing the impact of plastic bags and bottles. The people need education and leadership. Many of them live hand to mouth but there is no justification in throwing rubbish into the sea.

  • Comment number 12.

    I have just watched the news clip of 'Apocalyptic' floating island of waste in the Maldives, and I am heart broken at the wanton neglect of one of the planets most beautiful but fragile ecosystems, and I now ask myself how many other places suffer the same neglect, and what sort of example and legacy are we leaving for our future generations, surely there is an international body set up to protect such habitats

  • Comment number 13.

    Suddenly the Maldives is no longer no1 on my bucket list. Shocked is an understatement!

  • Comment number 14.

    The garbage island was created during the rule of Gayoom- who is a recipient of the Global 500 environment award- and continued like that during the last 3 years when Nasheed- another man who even held an underwater cabinet meeting to prove his green credentials and about whom there is a movie called the Island President. This state of affairs will continue so long as the so-called advanced countries keep on praising leaders who are not praiseworthy.

  • Comment number 15.

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

  • Comment number 16.

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

  • Comment number 17.

    One more thing, all countries have waste dumps. The shocking pictures of the Maldives say more about our stereotypical views of so called "paradise" islands than our views of what is actually happening to our planet, especially the oceans.

  • Comment number 18.

    I congratulate Simon on bringing situations such as the rubbish dumping on the Maldives to attention, but.... shouldn't he really have been wearing protective equipment....?

    After pointing to drums leaking who knows what, he comments something like "I can stand the dust, but this... this is just toxic." Yet carries on standing there, just breathing it in, with only a loose scarf for "protection". Is that really sensible? We could still have been shown the pictures (via a telephoto lens), but why risk one's health?

    Doesn't the BBC have any Health & Safety standards? Or is the reality that some on-camera exaggeration was being employed........?

  • Comment number 19.

    I think we should watch and enjoy the programme there are few of them on television today, I think exploring every aspect of what is wrong with the program. For the record I think it gives great insightm, for someone who has not visited the Indian ocean.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm really enjoying the show,I think what Simon has brilliantly done in showing us both sides of paradise should inspire us to do whatever we can to help preserve these beautiful locations for future generations,of us westerners to enjoy and the local populations to live sustainable lives.Surely the EU should put an end to European factory ships raping the oceans.I will never buy tinned tuna again!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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: https://www.wavedreamer.co.uk/indian-ocean-paradise-lost/

  • 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?

  • 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!

  • 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..

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Comment number 32.

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


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