Life

TV review: Charming Dame Judi embarks on adventure into one of the oldest and most spectacular rainforests

Judi Dench in the Borneo rainforest for a new documentary. Picture by ITV

Judi Dench's Wild Borneo Adventure, ITV, Tuesday at 9pm

IT'S become a bit of a trend lately to send veteran celebrities into the wild.

Joanna Lumley travelled the length and breadth of India, while Paul O'Grady also visited Delhi to meet the heroes who look after the city's estimated 400,000 street dogs.

This time, it's award-winning actress Dame Judi Dench who takes to the road on a wild adventure to Borneo.

Not one to let age get in the way, the 84-year-old ventured to Malay Archipelago for a new documentary series for ITV, immersing herself in the island's fascinating array of wildlife and vegetation.

The episode begins with the legendary James Bond star explaining why she had decided to embark on the adventure into one of the oldest and most spectacular rainforests.

"I've always loved the natural world, I'm constantly planting trees in my garden," she said.

"Recently I adopted three orangutans in Borneo, so when the opportunity came along to combine my passions, I leapt at the chance."

The two-part series follows Dame Judi as she travels 7,000 miles to Borneo, the world's third largest island, which is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, and one of the few places in the world where the orangutans live.

Accompanied by conservationist David Mills, whom she has been dating for almost nine years, the start of the programme sees the pair sipping on champagne, as Dame Judi remarks, "it doesn't get much better than this".

It's not long before they're airborne in a helicopter for the 125 mile ride to the heart of the rainforest, where the jungle is 130 million years old - so ancient it was around when dinosaurs walked the earth.

"It's like flying over broccoli," she jokes as they soar high over the rainforest.

"It is spectacular. I never imagined that it would be quite so over powering to look at.

"It's like nothing I've ever seen before."

The champagne is soon a distant memory as the new intrepid explorer has reached the remote island where temperatures reach 42 degrees Celsius and the humidity is an unbelievable 90 per cent.

It's not long before the actress sets her eyes on her first orangutan, a funny moment when one is spotted nestled high up in the trees, as if waiting for her to pop by.

Among the most interesting facts I learned from her conversation with the scientist accompanying her is that orangutans share 97 per cent of their DNA with humans.

They are also helping to prevent global warming by spreading the seeds of the large trees that are the most efficient at hoovering up the harmful carbon in the atmosphere.

Away from the orangutans and as part of the wildlife project, Dame Judi spent the two weeks in the jungles of Borneo also meeting numerous exotic animals, learning about the conservation work being done to protect their habitats and meeting those who are trying to restore the damage to the rainforest.

From the tallest tropical trees in the world to life in the undergrowth and everything in between, Dame Judi takes it all in - with an excitement at times akin to a child in a sweet shop.

But it's a rare opportunity to see the veteran actress away from the big screen and unscripted for a change.

Her enthusiasm for what she is being shown is charming, to see her thrilled by the numerous animals she encounters, her excitement appears genuine, "it's wildly beyond your imagination", she tells viewers.

But what also is endearing is that she is using the opportunity and her celebrity status to make an impassioned plea for the preservation and protection of the impressive variety of plants and animals she encounters.

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