Martin’s epic adventure to the Pacific Islands

Thursday:Martin Clunes: Islands of the Pacific; (ITV, 9pm)

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 5:00 pm
Martin Clunes with marquesan horseman Jeremy on the remote Marquesas Islands in the Pacific
Martin Clunes with marquesan horseman Jeremy on the remote Marquesas Islands in the Pacific

The largest ocean on the planet, the Pacific, covers 63 million square miles, and is strewn with tens of thousands of islands with coral atolls, jungle-clad mountains and lava-spewing volcanoes.

It is rich in animal life and has an astonishing kaleidoscope of humanity.

Following his successful series on the Islands of Britain, Australia and America, Martin Clunes is embarking on another epic ocean-wide adventure.

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The actor’s voyage is inspired by reading Erik Hesselberg’s book Kon-Tiki and I, given to him by his father when he was a child.

“For centuries we’ve been sold the idea that paradise on earth is here in the Pacific Islands,” Martin says.

“But in our uncertain, changing world, how much of that paradise is left, and how long can it survive?

“To find out I’m on an epic ocean-wide adventure, travelling 10,000 miles from East to West, in search of the real Pacific, and to discover its magical islands.”

Martin begins his trip in French Polynesia, flying into its biggest island, Tahiti, for a traditional welcome of a floral garland around his neck as he walks through airport arrivals.

“Ever since I was a child I’ve wanted to come to French Polynesia,” he admits.

“My dad bought me this amazing book about the Kon-Tiki expedition, just four men and a little sail, rope and balsa wood boat, sailing all the way across the Pacific Ocean.

“I was just hooked by their adventure. The unexplored desert islands and the amazing sea life. I just loved all the pictures.

“There’s one I remember of this whale shark passing underneath the raft.

“Now here I am making that same voyage, and very excited. I bet my old man would be pleased too.”

French Polynesia is a collection of 118 islands and atolls spread over a distance of 1.5 million square miles.

The French influence is everywhere – from the currency of francs, to the baguettes sold in the local bakeries.

There’s even a vineyard on the island, established by a Frenchman, and Martin visits the estate where the owner is developing a new grape suited to Tahiti’s unique growing conditions.

Martin travels onto Rangiroa, one of the largest atolls in the Pacific, with a reputation for having the best sea life anywhere in the world.

Accompanied by a guide, Martin swims in the Rangiroa Lagoon’s ‘aquarium’, before heading to ‘Shark City’ to swim with black tip reef sharks.

“I’m not comfortable swimming with sharks, but I’ll do it,” the host admits.

“They didn’t bite me which is a huge bonus”.

While life on the Pacific islands and atolls may appear idyllic, their existence is under threat from rising sea levels, and damage to the environment.

Martin moves to an atoll which is trying to improve the environment, partly thanks to the work of Hollywood star Marlon Brando.

The film actor came to Tetiaroa when he was filming Mutiny on the Bounty, and fell in love with the place and its people.

Tetiaroa now has one of the world’s most exclusive, and first eco-friendly hotels, appropriately named The Brando.

As his visit to Tetiaroa comes to an end Martin reflects: “This island is so special. Marlon Brando’s vision way back then was so revolutionary.

“I am increasingly falling in love with the Pacific.”

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