AFRICA :: BBC One nature documentary


If I was to choose one African wildlife documentary or segment, it would be the fourth episode of the BBC One Africa series: the episode called Cape.

It’s special to me because there’s a small section towards the end about the Bryde's whale. It’s the most spectacular footage I’ve ever seen of a Bryde's whale going through a bait ball.

It’s close to my heart because I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to get close and film these whales feeding on bait balls on the Port St. Johns’ sardine run.

Most of the footage came from two cameramen. One is Charles Maxwell, who lives in Cape Town, and the other is Barry Skinstad, who lives in Plettenberg Bay.

I was with Charles on the sardine run in 2009 and we struck out for two weeks, not filming anything. He went home and I went onto another job. He got a call back, mobilised super quickly, got up to Port St. Johns and two or three days later he was in the water with Bryde's whales, knocking him out of the way as they stampeded and rolled through the bait balls, with copper sharks and dusky sharks and gannets and dolphins.

The footage was unreal. The visibility wasn’t amazing but he had these huge barrelling giant whales coming and opening their mouths and feeding on sardines right in front of him.

So they used that footage and they cut that with Barry Skinstad’s footage of intimate moments on a bait ball super deep down. He’s also an expert spear fisherman and an incredible water man. He’s probably up the earliest every day of every sardine run, and he gets into positions that no one else can get into, also doing it mostly alone.

So in terms of a segment, that’s one that I really, really like and always remember and tell people about. If you want to think about the sardine run, or something incredibly hard to film underwater, it’s that section: it's an amazing one.


Steve Benjamin is a passionate freediver, marine explorer and underwater photographer with a Bachelor of Science honours from Rhodes University Ichthyology department. At Blue Wilderness, he was tasked with leading the underwater team as they captured spectacular footage of the Port St. John's sardine run for the BBC’s production Nature's Great Events. He  now runs his own adventure dive company, Animal Ocean, in Cape Town, South Africa. 


:: IMDB Top Rated TV #35
:: Best Limited Series, Jackson Hole, 2013
:: Best Specialist Factual, Televisual Bulldog Awards, 2014
:: Outstanding Nature Programming nominee, News & Documentary Emmys, 2014
:: Craft: Music & Sound nominee, News & Documentary Emmys, 2014
:: Best Documentary Score nominee, IFMCA, 2014
:: 9/10 rating on IMDB
:: 6.5m viewers for first episode on BBC One alone
:: Over 10m YouTube views for clips


:: Underwater cameras: Charles Maxwell, Barry Skinstad, Roger Horrocks and many more
:: Cinematographers: Richard Matthews & many more


Narrator: David Attenborough