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A walk on the wild side


It’s a wild world out there and we’re lucky to explore it every single day. Here, we speak to renowned British wildlife expert Nigel Marven (who will be sailing on select P&O Cruises next year) about his childhood dreams, the exotic species he’s yet to spot and what he has planned for his cruises with us. We’ll also tell you about five fauna-focused tours that’ll bring you closer to nature, but first our interview with Nigel...

Nigel Marven

Wildlife expert Nigel Marven

Q. You’re a television host, producer, author and conservationist. Where does your passion for wildlife come from and what keeps you going?

I’ve never been interested in anything else. When I was a little boy I didn’t have train sets or toy cars, I had pet lizards and stick insects which I would race along the washing line! I still have lots of pets now: giant tortoises, boa constrictors – things like that. I’m still very excited by travelling and seeing new animals. Some people think all you can do on a cruise is lie on the beach or see archaeological sites, but in fact, if you’re well planned, a cruise is a fantastic way to see wildlife and nature.



Q. You’ll be hosting wildlife-themed shore excursions in the destinations you visit with P&O Cruises. What kind of tours are you planning?

Because I’ve been making wildlife films for 30 years all over the world, such as Whale Adventure in Monterey Bay and Ten Deadliest Snakes: Arabia in the Arabian Gulf, I’ve got contacts in lots of different places. The tours I’ve created follow directly in the footsteps of my filming and we’ll be able to do things that wouldn’t be possible without my contacts and specialist knowledge.


In the Arabian Gulf, we’ll do excursions to see the birds that fly up from Africa, as well as kingfishers and a lovely bird called a golden-winged grosbeak. There’s a place called the Arabian Wildlife Centre in Dubai, and for something a little different we’re going out on a night safari with a black light to look for scorpions, geckos and big-eared hedgehogs. It’s magical how the scorpions glow in the dark under UV light – just like in a disco! In San Francisco, we’ll be doing a shore excursion to see sea otters and killer whales. One I’m quite excited about is in New Caledonia, which is a stop on the World Cruise. It’s home to the kagu, a truly extraordinary bird that is only found in New Caledonia.



Q. What do you hope that guests will take from the experiences?

We’re going to some very special places where you can see animals that are unique to that part of the world (that’s a naturalist’s dream; seeing creatures that are only found on one particular island). And guests will get to see some amazing wildlife spectacles, for example in Japan we’ll be visiting an astounding place called Arasaki where hundreds of beautiful cranes come to be fed. At the Australian Reptile Park in Sydney, guests can get special behind-the-scenes experiences where they can cuddle a koala, see deadly snakes being milked and find out how anti-venom is made.


Q. Can you tell us about what you’ll be doing with guests on board?

I’ll be doing Q&A sessions, talks and showing clips of films I’ve made that show exactly where we’ll be going on the shore excursions. I’m planning to do a talk about the influence of African wildlife in Oman. I’ll also give a talk about sea birds, after which people can join me up on deck for some bird watching. When I did it last year, there were 150 people up there trying to see albatrosses. It got very exciting! And many of them would never have thought that was possible from the deck of the ship.



Q. What do you like to do in your spare time on board?

I like to identify photos taken by guests – that’s always good fun. When I’m having a coffee, they often come up and say, ‘Can you tell me what this bird is?’ Or it might be dolphins or whales. I like meeting the guests and talking about their wildlife experiences. I also like reading detective novels, so I’ll take a few of those on the trip, and I always like the shows. I’m a vegetarian and I love visiting Sindhu at least once a week when I’m on board – it has unbelievable food for vegetarians.



Q. What is your most memorable wildlife encounter?

Certainly up there was seeing baby grey whales in Baja California. There’s a lagoon where they come up to the small boats. We also had some lovely encounters with dusky dolphins when I was cruising on Aurora last year – they gave an amazing performance for two and a half hours next to the ship.


Q. Is there a creature you’d like to see on your travels with P&O Cruises?

The kagu is very high up there. It’s in a unique family of its own. It’s rare and it has a shaggy crest, which makes it look totally peculiar. We’re also going to Fiji, home to the Fiji iguana, which is probably the most beautiful lizard in the world. I’m hoping there may be a chance of seeing one of those in the wild.

Nigel Marven

Meet Nigel on select P&O Cruises

Nigel will be on board Arcadia’s World Cruise from Southampton to Singapore, Oceana E908 from Dubai to Malta, and Oceana E909 round-trip from Malta back to Malta.



Five wild shore excursions

Looking to get a little closer to nature on your next cruise holiday? Explore on shore with these wildlife-themed experiences


Discover Whales and Dolphins by RIB – Madeira

Spotting whales and dolphins is thrilling no matter how you do it, but why not up the excitement and do it by high-speed RIB? The Atlantic Ocean around Madeira is an idyllic spot for marine mammals. In fact, up to 20 species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) have been spotted in these waters – handy, then, that a marine biologist will be on hand to answer your questions. Keep your eyes peeled for short-finned pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins and common dolphins. If you’re lucky, you might even spot Risso’s dolphins, beaked whales and killer whales.



Animal Rescue Centre and Botanical Gardens – Limon

Costa Rica is paradise for wildlife lovers and you can see the likes of sloths, iguanas, monkeys and deer up close at an animal rescue centre. The centre protects and rehabilitates displaced wildlife and provides a safe haven for animals that need refuge due to the pet trade or hunting, the loss of their habitat or accidents. The gardens are spread across approximately 10 acres of rainforest. Amble through and keep an eye out (or follow your nose) for plants and trees including vanilla, black pepper, cinnamon, papaya, banana, cacao and pineapple.



Puffin Watching – Reykjavik 

Puffins are cheeky and curious birds, and you can see them in their natural habitat in Reykjavik. You’ll board a charming wooden boat and head towards the small islands of Lundey and Akurey while your knowledgeable guide regales you with interesting facts about the Atlantic puffin and other birds that can be found in the area, including northern fulmars, culls, Arctic terns, and black guillemots. Your expert captain will navigate close to the islands’ rocky shores and anchor close by, giving you a chance to observe the colourful bird life up close.



Cabárceno Nature Park – Santander  

Located in the Cantabrian Mountains among the beautiful surroundings of the Peña Cabarga Nature Reserve, Cabárceno Nature Park covers an area of more than 750 hectares, making it the largest park of its kind in Europe. More than 100 species from all over the world including African elephants, Bengal tigers, ostriches, lions, jaguars and rhinos roam freely in a semi-wild environment. Enjoy a scenic drive through the park, take a cable car ride for a bird’s-eye view of the park, and enjoy some free time to explore on your own.



Island Wildlife Drive – Sir Bani Yas Island 

Discover thousands of free-roaming animals and birds on a scenic drive through Sir Bani Yas Island’s pioneering Arabian Wildlife Park. The island was established as a nature reserve in 1971 and over time, a variety of animals have been introduced to the island including cheetahs, giraffes, gazelles and hyenas. Today, the park is home to more than 13,000 animals and 200 species of bird. You’ll enjoy a 40-minute guided drive through the park on the lookout for its diverse wildlife, while your guide gives an insight into the history and vital conservation work of the reserve.