Life in The Undergrowth


“This is a secret universe, teeming with life, which we never see and yet which is all around us. It is the world of invertebrates – a strange parallel universe that we are only just beginning to understand.”

In February 2005, Scubazoo had the opportunity and privilege to work with Sir David Attenborough and the BBC Natural History Unit, as they filmed in Sabah, Malaysia for their latest blockbuster, Life in the Undergrowth. Twenty two years on from the landmark series Life on Earth and nine further David Attenborough series have continued to entrance the world. In Life in the Undergrowth, we see the evolution of life on earth from the perspective of its most successful group – the invertebrates.

Throughout the series, an entire host of animals never before seen on television, and some new to science, were shown, revealed using a number of technical innovations such as low-pressure microscopy, new lenses with incredible depths of field and computerised motion control that allows the camera to move through this unique landscape.

The BBC travelled to Sabah, Malaysia to film the giant asiatic honeybee (Apis dorsata)- perfect examples of social insects. Giant bees are renowned for the huge colonies they form in Sabah’s largest tree, the Menggaris. Giant beesĀ  occur in many countries across Asia but the Agricultural Research Centre at Tenom is one of the best sites for seeing these insects and is an active research site. The sequence deals with how the bees feed, reproduce and defend themselves against predators and meant the crew, and David Attenborough, would be filming up to 40 meters high in the canopy.

Scubazoo were hired by the BBC as production managers, securing all the necessary permits, scouting locations and arranging the logistics for both the natural history filming and the sync pieces. Working with local guide Eric Thein, Matthew Oldfield and Simon Christopher spent several weeks on the project, as well as scouting for further subjects such as mealy bugs and trapdoor spiders. The shoot was a great success and culminated with a farewell dinner at Shangri-la Tanjung Aru hosted by Sabah Tourism. Watch the final sequence below: