We live on a beautiful planet. From frozen tundras to lush rainforest, you will never run out of incredible places to see. Like me, you probably have a bucket list of natural phenomena and destinations to visit in your life.
But just because you don’t have unlimited funds or time (or you’re living through a pandemic) required to visit them in person, doesn’t mean you have to miss out. You can see all that mother nature has to offer from the comfort of your own couch through the magical medium of nature documentaries. You can climb the highest mountains or swim in the deepest oceans without lifting a finger.
I love watching nature and animal documentaries. They are such a fun way to learn about the earth. And I’m not the only one! Just look at popularity of series like BBC Earth. So to help you travel from home, I asked travel bloggers from around the world to recommend their favorite nature documentaries on Netflix.
*Some of these films and shows are not available worldwide on Netflix. You can use a VPN to access Netflix in different countries.
I think all nature documentaries should be narrated by David Attenborough. There’s something so soothing about his voice.
Our Planet is the perfect nature film on Netflix from fans of the classic BBC Earth. In six parts, it explores the far corners of the world. From the Arctic circle to the Sahara desert.
Watch and let yourself be transported to some of the most unique landscapes on earth. But the movie does more than show you pretty pictures. David Attenborough dives deep into the ecosystems and how climate change is affecting them.
Our Planet is a beautiful homage to our incredible home and a reminder why it is worth saving. If not for ourselves, then for all the adorable baby animals.
Recommended by me
Are you a traveling foodie? Check out my favorite travel & food shows on Netflix as well
Released in 2018, the film focuses on two unique habitats, the Carpathian Mountains and the Danube Delta, both of which are counted among the most biodiverse places on Earth. The creatures that dwell there – brown bears, big cats and migratory birds – are the real stars of the film, their stories brought to life in English and Romanian narrations supplied by Mark Strong and Victor Rebengiuc respectively.
The documentary condenses more than 400 hours of footage into 90 succinct minutes. It’s a wonderful window onto Romania throughout the changing seasons. It’s hard not to feel a connection to the animal protagonists as their tales of bonding, hardship and loss are humanized, often with very humorous results. The soundtrack of specially composed music combined with the high-quality, cinematic-style footage makes this documentary completely transfixing.
Co-produced by European Nature Trust, the film carries a strong message of environmentalism and has an educational component. Like all good nature docs, it inspires the viewer to take action to protect our planet’s flora and fauna in a subtle way.
Recommended by Emily from Wander-Lush
72 Cutest Animals
If you’re looking for a documentary that will make you laugh, cry, and feel happy all at once- then this is it. 72 Cutest Animals on Netflix features adorable creatures from around the world such as seal pups, kittens, and cheetahs just to name a few. The show explores how the fact that some creatures are completely adorable can actually impact their survival.
It was first released in 2016 and, whilst there’s only one original series, they have done a few contrasting titles like 72 Dangerous Animals both in Asia or Latin America. These are equally fascinating but don’t have quite the same cuteness factor.
72 Cutest Animals stars Graham Mitchell and has 16 episodes ranging from episode one ‘Fluff and Stuff’ (featuring koala and gorillas), to episode 12, ‘Origin of Cute’ (where you’ll see the curious-looking, cotton-topped tamarin and turtles from the Galápagos Islands).
Recommended by Alice from Adventures of Alice
Chasing Coral is an eye-opening Netflix documentary by Jeff Orlowski that casts a light on the changing eco-system within our oceans. The film documents a team of marine biologists for three years as they shoot the progressive coral bleaching happening in the waters of over 30 countries.
Did you know that coral reef is a living microorganism? Neither did I! This documentary will broaden your knowledge about corals and how they form, but also how they die and resemble the bleached skeletons that you see today.
The world has lost over 50% of the ocean’s coral in the last 30 years and without a healthy ocean, we don’t have a healthy planet. So, not only do you get to see the original vibrant beautiful coral reefs, but you also get to feel the true impact of climate change and how it impacts our oceans. Chasing Coral is a truly facilitating documentary that builds an emotional sense of urgency and call to action for our planet.
Recommended by Kerry Hanson – you can see examples what the coral now looks like in Kerry’s Total Guide to the Maldives
This spectacular docuseries, Magical Andes focuses on the truly magical landscape of the Andes mountain range and tells unique stories of local people who rely on these mountains as a way of life. From Argentina to Colombia this documentary, created by Luis Ara and Alexandra Hardorf has 2 seasons and 10 episodes.
I streamed it from the United Kingdom and anyone who has knowledge of the best places to visit in South America or who one day wishes to travel the Americas will have heard about the Andes and its great importance. Not only is it the longest continental mountain range in the world, but it is the home to tons of wildlife, lakes, and forests, deserts, and volcanoes.
The great thing about this documentary is that it focuses purely on Mother Earth and shows you the most beautiful images that you’d simply not see by just passing through on a bus or by car during any regular trip.
Recommended by Daniel James from Layer Culture
Sherpa, directed by Jennifer Peedom, is a documentary currently being streamed in most countries, including the U.K. and U.S.A.
The hour and a half documentary tells the riveting tale of Sherpa’s, ethnic groups local to the mountainous region of the Himalayas who support people and take up enormous risks to help hikers in their climb of Mount Everest.
Mountaineering is an adrenaline-filled activity for many however, hardly anyone talks about what goes into assisting and preparing people who take up this challenge.
The documentary focuses on Phurba Tashi Sherpa who’s climbed Mount Everest almost 22 times yet is only attempting this world record only to help his family survive for one climbing season. It then moves on to how attempting a climb has now become a money mine where people pay more than $50K and more than 500 people attempt to climb it every year yet sherpas who put in all the groundwork have to struggle to make ends meet.
Events of 2013 that resulted in tensions between sherpas and tourists helped Sherpas realise how thankless a job it is. Increased awareness about pay and access to the internet is now helping them come together. All these elements help make Sherpa a documentary that has not just fantastic imagery but also a very disheartening story that needs to be told.
Recommended by Lavina Dsouza from Continent Hop
Tales By The Light
The documentary series Tales by Light was created by Abraham Joffe in a partnership with National Geographic and Canon Australia to follow world-renowned professional photographers and filmmakers as they capture amazing content in global destinations.
There are currently three seasons available on Netflix in Canada, the United States, and other regions.
This series really highlights the wonders of the natural world, with beautiful visuals, panoramic landscapes, and a soaring soundtrack. In the first season, the professionals explore multiple destinations per episode, with visits to Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Alaska, Colorado, Vanuatu, the Himalayas, Antarctica, Ethiopia and Uganda. Season two highlights Kenya, Brazil, the Bahamas, Norway, India and Namibia, with a focus on nature and animals. Finally, season three provides more in depth coverage of fewer locations with stops in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Australia.
This series is a great way to learn more about less well-known countries and regions, and every episode is focused on a different nature-related subject such as landscapes, wildlife, the ocean or adventure. Viewers can discover something new in each episode, and the distinct approaches of the photographers clearly present powerful stories in a way that is sure to provide inspiration to adventurous travelers.
Recommended by Claire Bee from Claire Pins Travel
Need more travel inspiration? Add my favorite travel movies to your watchlist as well
My Octopus Teacher
My Octopus Teacher is an incredible documentary about underwater life in South Africa. You’ll get to see the beauty of this incredible area like never before and enjoy a unique perspective on the bond between humans and animals.
The documentary follows film-maker Craig Foster who begins free diving in a South African kelp forest. He meets a wild octopus and begins visiting it regularly. This goes on for nearly a year and a unique friendship develops between the octopus and Foster.
The nature documentary is heart-warming and educational and takes the viewer along to experience this beautiful place. If you enjoy travelling and exploring underwater this is the perfect film to watch. With many life lesions hidden along the way, this is a fantastic way to learn about the companionship between Foster and his octopus. This is unlike any other nature documentary and an absolute must-watch.
My Octopus Teacher has won an Academy Award for the best documentary feature.
Recommended by Victoria from Guide Your Travel
Expedition China is available on Netflix in the US. This is one of the best nature documentaries on Netflix because you get to go to some of the most remote places in China to see pandas, red-crowned cranes, and monkeys. All of these animals are protected by the Chinese government, so seeing them in person in their natural habitat is impossible.
What makes this documentary special is how the film crews fought some of the harshest conditions to get never-seen-before footage of these beautiful creatures. You can get an up-close view of some of China’s most famous animals in their natural environment.
Who doesn’t love seeing a baby panda? This documentary follows babies as they grow and adapt to everything that nature throws at them. You can see the rough conditions that many of these animals have to live in and how they evolve to overcome the elements. The images of these animals are rare, especially red-crowned cranes. Within a few days, they are ready to leave the nest, so the ability to get their birth on film is special. Following the growth of a baby panda, some of the roughest terrains in China give you a rare glimpse of how a baby panda grows up in the wild.
Recommended by Corritta Lewis from It’s a Family Thing
Pacificum: Return to the Ocean
The documentary Pacificum will transport you to the beautiful and fascinating shores of Peru. The film ties together many complicated relationships and ideas impacting the region. Seeing these interrelationships was inspiring and gave me a richer understanding of the Peruvian coast.
Other curious armchair travelers will also find great inspiration in the film. It highlights four scientists as they share their knowledge and excitement about different aspects of the land and waters of the Peruvian shoreline. A paleontologist uncovers the deep history and evolutionary past of the area. (We learn that the Odlucuje desert along the southern Peruvian coast is the best place in the world to study fossils that tell the evolutionary history of whales and dolphins!) Later we meet another scientist who studies modern day cetaceans in the region. We also meet a marine biologist exploring the broader relationships in the complex ecosystem.
We explore the archaeology of the area and learn about the Incans who reverently built temples looking out onto the ocean. The relationship of ancient people of the shoreline is juxtaposed with modern day humans and our dramatic impact on the area. There is an urgent and inspiring call to protect these waters and create a marine national reserve. The film interweaves stunning aerial photography, underwater photography, music, and interviews to captivate viewers and transport us to this extraordinary area.
If you are looking for a film to help you travel from home and appreciate Peru from multiple perspectives, add Pacificum to your queue!
Recommended by Erica Forrest from Trip Scholars
Wine lovers will also enjoy these wine & travel movies on Netflix
Blue Planet 2
Blue Planet 2, the Prequel, is the most fascinating documentary I have ever seen. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough and with music by composer Hans Zimmer working together with rock band Radiohead, this eagerly awaited documentary lives up to its expectations.
The view of the ocean inside rock pools, on coral reefs, inside kelp forests to the depths of Antarctica is beautifully filmed.
Using amazing new technology, lots of patience and thinking out of the box showing us unbelievable things in the ocean we have never seen. Cameras attached to sperm whales show us their world from a sperm whale’s perspective. In French Polynesian water you see the highest concentration of sharks alive today. The enormous spider crabs marching across the sea grass plains to shed their shells is unbelievable to see.
Scuba diving around Cape Town I have seen many cow sharks, dolphins, pyjama sharks, octopus and other animals whose secret lives they show unbelievable footage of. Incredible footage and filming locations such as seeing mobula rays at night in Sea of Cortez, Mexico and sea lions on the prowl in the Galapagos Islands make these some of my bucket list travel destinations.
Recommended by Campbell Louw from Stingy Nomads
Night On Earth
Night On Earth is a beautiful British nature documentary by the makers of Our Planet. So far only one season containing six episodes is available on Netflix, but hopefully, more seasons will follow soon! Each episode uncovers wildlife at night (who would have guessed?) at a different scene; Moonlit Plains, Frozen Nights, Jungle Nights, Dark Seas, Sleepless Cities, and Dusk Till Dawn.
Now, you’ve probably seen footage of night cameras before; black and white, low quality, pixelated, and unclear videos of something that may look like an animal.
Well, not this time.
Night on Earth sets a completely new standard when it comes to filming at night. With new state-of-the-art technology, you will witness nocturnal life as you have never before. Guided by the voice of Samira Wiley, each episode reveals the secrets of the night of a new part on earth.
And if you can’t enough of the beauty of earth at night, you can also check out the additional documentary Night On Earth, Shot in the Dark, which is basically the behind-the-scenes documentary of Night on Earth. It exhibits exactly how the series was filmed.
Recommended by Lara Hartog from The Best Travel Gift
This is list of nature documentaries on Netflix should help you bulk up your watch list. Travel the world and marvel at all the natural beauty of Mother Earth from the comfort of your own house. Go on safari, climb Mt. Everest, and dive into the Pacific Ocean. All without leaving the house.
A big thanks to the amazing travel bloggers who contributed to this post! Be sure to check out their blogs and follow their work as well.
Feel free to share this list with all the nature lovers and Netflix fans in your life, as well as pin and share to social media. I would really appreciate it!