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Welcome to Nightmares of Nature.
I'm Naomi Wilkinson and I'm coming face to face with the nightmares
of the animal world.
The ones that make your spine tingle...
..your heart beat faster...
..and your blood run cold.
What's that noise?
Are they truly terrifying or is there a twist in the tale?
SCREAMS AND NERVOUS LAUGHTER
Come with me as I shine a light
on wildlife's deepest, darkest secrets...
..and see if you can guess which will be my worst nightmare?
We've travelled all around the world for this series, and I've found
myself in a multitude of terrifying situations
where I've had to overcome my fears.
ANIMALS GROWL AND ROAR
From adrenaline-fuelled challenges,
to encounters with spine chilling animals -
it's been a fear-filled few months.
But I'm not the only one who finds things frightening.
We all have things that scare us,
things that give us the heebie geebies and get our hearts racing.
And that's what this special programme is all about.
I'm going to be exploring five of our very worst fears,
all of which I've experienced over the last few months.
And what better place to start than with one of the world's
most feared creatures - yes, you've guessed it -
it's our eight-legged friends.
I've always been petrified of spiders. They really have given me
many a nightmare. I don't like the way they make me jump
when I suddenly find one, the way they move creeps me out,
I've never been able to pick one up or really get near them.
So confronting them for this series was a major challenge for me.
In Australia, naturalist Deana and I
went on a spider search in her back yard.
This is a really good place to look for spiders, because there is a lot
-of stuff lying around they like to hide behind.
And we found an absolute heart-stopper.
So was an arachnophobe like me able to confront that scuttling,
scurrying, nightmare? Well luckily, my spider training started
two months earlier in South Africa, when I met up with Donald Strydom,
who has a reputation for helping people with spider phobias.
I've got the spider here for you.
-It's in a box.
-How big is this one, then? Let's have a look.
-Let's open up here.
-Not going to jump out, is it?
-Not going to pounce out at you, no.
Right, the Golden Brown Baboon spider.
Why does it have that name?
That comes from the velvety black under its legs, there.
-Look at it carefully, you can see that black underneath.
The velvety black there, looks just like them fingers of a baboon.
I am going to take it out. I'll hold it first, then you can have a look
and see what this is all about. Very gentle spider, because it lives
in a hole in the ground where it's well protected and doesn't need
to be an aggressive animal, running around, defending itself.
Beautiful, isn't it?
Don't know if I'd describe it as beautiful.
But would you like to hold this?
Maybe in a minute. Let me watch you holding it first.
'Although I don't like them,
'I really wanted to know if I could overcome my fear.'
-It's a very gentle spider.
-So it's not going to hurt us?
No, it's not going to bite or anything.
If it did, what would it feel like?
-Two pin pricks - that's it.
The venom has no significance to humans. It's very mild.
So it hardly ever uses its venom. It's a big spider.
It uses its body to overpower its prey, so it will grab
and crush things with its strength, rather than using its venom
like the other little spiders.
-Shall I try?
-Good, you're going to try!
-Promise you're not going to flick it away!
-It's started to go quicker.
If you have any problems, I'll take it immediately. Have one hand,
-so you can move it hand-to-hand if it does move.
-I'll let the leg
-touch you and you tell me yes or no.
-You feel the leg?
-Is that yes or no?
-Ohh! It's a bit grippy!
-I was holding it,
-it's trying to move on.
-OK, no, go on!
That's coming straight on.
Cover it for a second.
It's coming straight on.
You're all right. There we go. Move it from hand-to-hand.
I can't believe I'm doing this. I can't believe it!
-They're pretty gentle.
-I'm getting braver. They are so light.
'No-one really knows exactly why people are so afraid of spiders,
'but they can be dangerous,
'so it may be an inbuilt survival response.'
-It's actually a little bit cute, that one!
-It is very cute!
I'm surprising myself saying that out loud.
I tell you what though, if I found that in my bedroom,
I would freak out.
'So was that training enough to help me
'with the Australian arachnid months later?'
-Oh, my goodness, gracious me!
-It's OK. Just a Huntsman spider.
Just a spider. I'm bigger than the spider.
Are you putting it on your hand?
NAOMI SQUEALS MUTEDLY
-Come and have a look.
-Oh, that creeps me out!
This is a male Huntsman
and he's got a very big leg span.
Huntsman spiders are relatively harmless.
Have I got to try and hold it?
-Would you like to?
-No, I wouldn't like to, but...
You going to be brave?
Oh, my goodness!
-All right. You move your hand in front of mine, so I don't...
Look at me, look at me holding a Huntsman spider. I can't believe it!
You're doing really well.
You take it, you take it, you take it! Ohhh!
-Yes, I held it.
-Well done, that's great!
'I am still nervous of spiders, but I'm really proud that I was able
'to face my fear enough to hold a big, intimidating spider like that.'
So, actually there is an important point to fear. It's basically
an emotional response to danger and gives animals the ability to
recognise a threat
and decide whether to confront it or run away,
in other words, fight or flight.
So, being afraid can be useful,
and it's perfectly normal to be afraid of something we can see
could harm us, but sometimes we're afraid of what we can't see
and something almost all of us have been afraid of at some point
in our lives, is the dark.
So, it's not actually the dark that's frightening.
It's the possible horrors that could be concealed within it.
This might seem irrational when we're safe in our houses,
but in the wild, there are reasons to be afraid.
So, of course in true Nightmares style, when I was in America,
the crew made me spend an hour, alone, in the dark.
Ohh! I just hears some twigs snap,
straight ahead of me.
ANIMALS SQUAWK IN DISTANCE
Oh my goodness. What's that?
This is horrid. I tell you what, this is horrid.
WOLVES HOWL DISTANTLY
Humans rely heavily on eyesight,
but our eyes aren't very well adapted to life in low light.
Unable to see, I felt vulnerable and exposed...
'..and had the distinct feeling that I was being watched.'
Please be crew.
'And perhaps I was.'
Plenty of predators can see in very low light, so take advantage of the
cover of darkness when they want to hunt. Hidden by the night, they use
their superb senses and incredible stealth
to creep up on their prey unseen.
So, big predators could hurt us, and so could some spiders, but there are
animals that we fear because they're dangerous in other ways.
Lots of people shy away from disgusting creatures and that's
probably because of an inbuilt fear of disease. And it doesn't get much
more grim than animals that feed on poo!
Dung beetles must have the worst diet of any animal on Earth.
On a cattle farm in Australia, I met beetle expert Dr Bernie Doube,
who thinks they're fantastic and wanted to show me why.
-Naomi, how are you?
I'm all right! Now, I'm convinced any animal that likes to eat poo
has got to be a nightmare of nature, but you don't agree.
-No, I certainly don't.
These are wonderful creatures, they are God's gift to nature.
-We got loads in there!
-Want to have a look in there?
-My goodness, eh?
-You think these are lovely?
-Yes, they're great.
Oh...let me get this straight. These beetles live in poo.
Yes, they live in poo and love living in poo and what's more, eat it!
-They're nice, clean beetles, Naomi, don't you get too disturbed
-Ohh, I don't like this feeling. Can I put them down?
Put them on top of the dung pat.
-OK. Just drop them on?
-There we are, look at that.
-Oh, straight in!
And these mucky munchers don't mess about!
-Look at them, getting straight stuck in there.
They're already tunnelling in underneath the dung.
-What are they doing?
-They feed on the juices, so they suck out
the juices in the dung, if you can imagine a dinner like that!
-So they can breathe in the poo, can they?
-If it's sloppy, they won't
crawl in, they'll just go around the edge and go underneath.
What are they actually doing in the poo?
The dig a tunnel down about that deep, about half a metre,
then they bury the entire pat and so get rid of it from the surface
and the young beetles will breed in the buried dung.
So, the beetles basically bury the poo!
See, we put about 100 beetles on there and almost all of them
-..within the first few minutes.
Without these dung beetles, would there be poo everywhere?
I don't know deep we would be,
-maybe...not shoulder deep, but you know...
We'd have a lot of it.
So by eating and burying the poo, dung beetles actually help prevent
'the spread of disease, but what about animals that feed on us?'
If you see a bug, shout.
'In the jungles of Australia,
'bug expert, Alan, regularly comes across'
an animal with a taste for human blood, and this being a series
about nightmares, I just had to go and see one.
Land leeches hang out on the leaves of bushes and plants,
waiting for warm-blooded prey to pass by.
When they detect their prey's movement, breath and body heat,
then they reach out, latch on and start sucking.
-This one is in full hunting mode, by the look of it.
-Yeah, that's right.
That's the way they sit, with their tail sucker attached to a surface
and the head up, ready and they're sensitive, looking for something
that goes past them, so if something brushed against it or came close,
-they are ready to latch on.
-They're fast, are they?
Reasonably fast, yeah. There you go, straight on.
Ohh, aren't they odd?
Screams, or lack of, in a few moments will tell the tale.
-And it's the thin end that's the head?
-The thin end, yes.
Ohh, strange, aren't they?
-Looks as if it's going to bite you.
You can see him biting there, he's pulling.
In the interest of science, I agreed to let a leech lunch on me.
Oh, he's going onto me!
-So, it's got suckers at both ends?
-Bends itself like a C shape.
And it moves like that and the head, the slender end, has the jaw parts.
You may feel the slightest itchiness,
itchy sensation when it goes to bite.
Interesting jaw, they've got three sharp parts to the jaw.
Ow! I felt that!
First time I've ever had a leech on me, I think. That I know about.
And now it's going to get all fat as it gorges on my blood.
Now we've all got leeches on us, most important question,
-how do we get them off?
-Two ways, actually - one is we wait and
they drop off and the other, I've never had a problem picking them off.
Just grab them and flick them off and generally, they come off easily.
They don't leave anything inside you so...
-Oh no. He's stuck, on both ends.
-Eugh, go away!
-Oh, I don't like the way he feels all squidgy.
Get off, get off!
Eugh! SHE SHUDDERS
'So disgust is a universal emotion
'that helps to protect us from disease.
'And although I'm not really afraid of the horrible creatures
'I've met on this series any more...'
'..I think I'll always be a bit grossed out by the slimy,
'the faeces-feeding and the blood-sucking.'
It's not just animals that scare us.
Some places are terrifying, too.
'For some people, mountains, cliffs, even bridges,
'are out of the question, because they're petrified of heights.'
I feel sick now.
-Look! Look where we're going to run.
'Most people experience some fear when they're exposed to heights.
'In fact, some scientists think it's something we're all born with.
'And as with all the fears we're exploding in this programme,
'a degree of care is probably helpful
'when we're precariously placed.
'But lots of animals are more than comfortable
'hanging out in high places and I've had to try
'and match some of them throughout this series.
'I've climbed cliffs like mountain goats,
'soared above them like condors,
'and, in the ultimate test of my head for heights,
'I jumped out of a plane
'and hurtled towards the ground like a peregrine.'
Oh, my word!
Agh! Agh! Aa-argh!
It was very nerve-wracking doing some of those crazy challenges,
but I had a lot of fun
and, whilst I wouldn't necessarily rush to do them all again,
particularly the skydive, I think it's safe to say that being up high
isn't the situation I'm most afraid of.
The environment that frightens me more than anything else in the world
is deep water.
'My emotional journey towards confronting this fear
'began in California.'
Now, my biggest nightmare is sharks. Absolutely terrified of them.
So it often stops me going in open water, like this.
So today, I'm going to go swimming in Monterey Bay. I must be mad.
-I feel really sick.
Seriously, I don't want to do this at all.
I mean, after all, this is the Pacific Ocean.
'The waters around Monterey Bay are hosts to some impressive predators.
'There are killer whales, Humboldt squid,
'sea lions and several species of shark,
'including the occasional great white.'
'I hardly ever go in deep water, out of my depth,
'even in warm, crystal clear waters,
'so the kelp forests around Monterey Bay
'were going to be a huge challenge.'
-Whenever you're ready.
Am I getting in the water now? Are we doing it?
-Are you ready, feeling brave?
One, two, three.
SHE GASPS AND SHOUTS, MUFFLED VOICES
I'm just looking everywhere, cos everything is freaking me out.
Let me just get used to this.
SEALS CALL LOUDLY, SHE SIGHS
The problem is your mind sort of runs away with you
and you start to imagine what might be beneath you,
cos I can't see beyond my flippers.
I'll just keep moving. That's what I'll do, a little swim around.
-Yeah, we should probably...
-SHE INHALES SHARPLY
Oh, it's horrible!
I literally can't see anything when I put my head under the water,
it's so murky!
It's so frightening, cos you just don't know
what might come out of the water at you.
I can tell I'm not breathing properly.
Because my heart is obviously racing
and it's making me not really be able to catch my breath,
so I'll try and calm down, slow my breathing down,
stop thinking about what might be behind me.
Like I'm in... I'm in a completely alien territory,
somewhere I don't really belong,
and that's what frightens me is that so many marine animals could...
Don't scream, don't scream, don't scream. Calm.
OK, it was just a sea lion being inquisitive.
Just quite a nice cute little animal.
'After not very long, I was ready to get out.'
Let me out.
I'm so glad that's over.
I actually had nightmares about that last night.
I'm surely not the only person with a fear of open water like this,
so I'm sure there's a lot of you
who are also quite nervous about swimming in the sea.
'I was pretty proud of myself for doing that,
'but it was only the very beginning.'
'The next step towards confronting my aquatic anxiety involved
'all my worst nightmares coming at once.
'Not just deep water, but deep water that was teeming with sharks.'
Ooh! Wow, it's very close to the boat here.
There she is.
-This is quite frightening, isn't it?
'But the fact that we were surrounded by two-metre sharks
'didn't stop ten-year-old Ella and her mum taking a dip.'
She's so brave!
What a cool kid.
There's a tiny little part of me
that's a little bit envious about what they are seeing.
I kind of want to overcome this fear,
I'm tired of being this afraid of sharks.
'Inspired by Ella's bravery,
'I decided to get into the water myself.'
If Backshall can do it, I can do it!
'When I nervously embarked on this fear-facing mission,
'I never imagined that I would end up swimming
'in shark-infested waters.'
Quite simply, the most terrifying thing I've ever done.
It was fantastic.
It was, it was brilliant!
That has been a fear all my life and, to be so close to a shark,
I can't believe I've done it!
They were just beautiful. So slowly swimming by.
That was unbelievably scary, but brilliant.
'So, had that helped me to overcome my fear of deep water?
'The final test was at the end of my journey in Australia.'
It's like a yearning in me to do it, but I'm resisting the urge.
'The world-famous Great Barrier Reef is brimming with life.
'There are dolphins...
'and over 30 species of shark.
'And I was expected to go snorkelling there.
'Despite my previous endeavours, this was still really daunting
'and, as we prepared, I became increasingly nervous.
'Then I found out that Scott the cameraman had seen some sharks.'
-So the sharks aren't going to come up?
-They are way more afraid of us.
-They're way, way down.
-A long way away?
Probably 15 minutes. But I just wanted...
-No, I want to know.
-You need to know, if you see them,
-you'll see them way down. They won't even flinch.
-But you'll be fine.
Naomi is friend, not food.
SHE LAUGHS NERVOUSLY
Let's go out to the turtle ridge
and find your turtle before anyone else scares him away.
I started out quite tentatively, but before long,
the beauty of the reef had got the better of me.
Absolutely stunning, isn't it, how much life there is, it's so busy.
It's like the most fantastic tropical fish tank ever!
I even found myself swimming on my own.
This is amazing!
It's so beautiful, I've totally forgotten about the sharks.
It's just I've got too much other amazing things to look at,
I just keep forgetting that I could possibly be scared here.
There's so much life, it's so busy, and it's anything but scary.
It's just beautiful.
I didn't want to leave.
There's so many colourful fish!
Oh, it's so sweet and they all look at you, like,
"Leave me alone, I'm just in my house."
Aw, that was really special.
'My experience with open water really made me realise
'that fears are conquerable.
'Overcoming my fears has led to some wonderful experiences,
'including snorkelling on this pristine reef.
'And if I can do it, then anybody can do it.'
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd