by Ferne Arfin 28 April 2023
Immersed in the BBC Earth Experience
At the BBC Earth Experience, we could feel the chill of these Himalayan peaks and almost smell the cold, high-altitude air.
It was only an illusion, of course, but such is the power of the visual imagery of this new London attraction that you can quickly put yourself in the picture. The experience features footage captured for Seven Worlds, One Planet, BBC One’s most watched factual programme of 2019 and includes a bespoke narration by Sir David Attenborough.
As you wander through the main gallery and two breakout areas – Water Life and Macro Life – the natural world of seven continents surrounds you. You travel seamlessly between Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America, surrounded by film projected on dozens of multi-angled screens.
The effect, in the darkened 1608-square-metre space, is almost dizzying. Although there is narration by Attenborough, along with some music and natural sound, the experience is almost entirely visual.
Experience nature from every angle
Whales glide side by side through teal blue seas, thousands of penguins gather on shore and then dive together – the footage shot from beneath them so they look like a winged school of fish. Kangaroos box and flocks of green parrots cover a tree. In speeded-up footage, watch starfish and mysterious cold water creatures walk across the sea bottom. Run with African cheetahs, spy on big apes using tools, freeze against a mountainscape with South American llamas, fish with brown bears and lope through North American tundra, lope across wildflower-strewn tundra with polar bears, arctic wolves and foxes.
My favourite views were from a balcony called the Vista Stage. There, drone footage glides over an African Savannah dotted with elephants browsing in family groups, homes in on a sandy beach dotted with sea lions, climbs into silent, snow-covered mountain peaks. The impact of the clever digital projection makes you feel that you are actually gliding over these scenes yourself. Magic.
The experience is produced by BBC Studios in partnership with Moon Eye Productions and Life Nation. Even if you’ve never been a fan of nature and wildlife films before, it’s hard to resist the amazing work of the BBC Natural History Unit.
Images above, courtesy of BBC Natural History Unit. Photos 1,3 and 4 Ferne Arfin. Photos 6 (golden snub-nosed monkey) and 8 (elephant) by Nike Green, BBC NHU Click to enlarge.
In the Earth Room, at the end of the exhibition, the earth, a jewel-like projection on a 3D screen, hangs over visitors while the voice of David Attenborough delivers an environmental plea and suggests what visitors can try to do to save the planet. Given that the entire exhibition is a demonstration of the gift of biodiversity, it’s only fitting that the BBC Earth Exhibition employs a great deal of sustainable technology and recyclable materials.
This extends to the use of 100 per cent renewable energy throughout the venue and the use of low-energy technology, the use of recyclable and reusable building materials in the structure and the exhibition (even the screens are made of reusable or recyclable cotton), a commitment to send zero waste to landfill and innovative water use. In the men’s room, for example, the urinals are waterless (we haven’t visited so don’t ask us how that’s working out).
The Nitty Gritty
- Where: The Daikin Centre, Earl’s Court, Empress Place, London SW6 1TT. Empress Place is diagonally across Lillie Road from West Brompton Station.
- When: Now taking bookings through January 2024.
- Open: Open daily from 10 a.m. (weekends and Bank Holidays from 9 a.m.) and closes at 7 p.m. (8 p.m. on Bank Holidays, 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday).
- Tickets: Through Ticketmaster, available on the BBC Earth Experience website. Admissions are timed.The exhibition lasts about an hour, but once inside, stay as long as you want. The price structure is the only negative I can report. It is, according to the sales page, apparently based on demand, and is mind-bogglingly confusing with adult tickets ranging in price from about £20 to as much as £55 each. Tickets for children younger than 16 are £15 and children under 3 are admitted free. Top tip: We don’t think the BBC Earth Experience has enough storytelling structure to sustain the attention of very young children.
- Facilities: Self-service lockers, gift shop, baby changing facilities. Quiet area for breastfeeding for those who prefer it, but breastfeeding is welcome throughout the venue. No food or drink available inside but food vendors immediately outside. Two large, popular pubs serving food, The Prince and The Lillie Langtry, are within just a few hundred feet of the entrance.
- Getting There: There is almost no public parking near the venue but West Brompton Station is just across the road and can be reached via District Line London Underground services or London Overground to Clapham Junction Rail Station or Stratford (London) Rail Station. Earl’s Court Station, just a few blocks further, has lifts to both District Line and Piccadilly Line platforms. Several bus lines also operate along Lillie Road.