My YouTube subscriptions list is, as I suspect it is for most people, part news, part enter/infotainment. I’ve got things that (I hope) are actually informing me, some guilty pleasures (yes, I will occasionally watch grown men play video games), and a bunch of nature and wildlife channels.
I feel confident enough to say that my nature and wildlife channel recommendations are a cut above what probably comes to most people’s minds when they think nature and wildlife offerings on YouTube.
I believe infotainment channels like Brave Wilderness and The Dodo can be great educational tools (especially for children), and they are certainly very “shareable.” But the channels I’m going to recommend below are more geared toward lifelong wildlife and nature enthusiasts and those who already make nature travel and wildlife tourism part of their lives.
In addition to the much more sensationalized nature and wildlife infotainment, YouTube is also, unfortunately, rife with much more lamentable animal content.
The first category is what I refer to as “animal clickbait.” These are wildlife channels with names like “animal world,” “amazing animal planet,” “unbelievable animal,” etc. The title of a video on one of these channels might be something along the lines of “X Most Awesome Animals You Didn’t Know Exist” and the thumbnail is a 40-foot-tall tiger fighting with a 100-foot-long crocodile.
The other category is far worse. It is a niche wherein people (typically in developing countries) falsely advertise real instances of natural history, only to bait and switch you with staged interactions (often fights or attacks). This is just animal cruelty.
The wildlife channels that I think are most worth subscribing to are an eclectic mix of individuals and organizations in various wildlife niches.
They include divers, bird experts, conservation societies, reserve trail cams, native and wildlife gardening aficionados and, of course, the BBC (because it’s the greatest documentarian of the natural world in history, in my opinion). The list could be so much longer, but below are my top recommendations:
- BBC Earth
- The Birders Show
- Wild Your Garden With Joel Ashton
- Latest Sightings
- Maasai Sightings
- Xavier HUBERT-BRIERRE
- Ocho Verde Wildlife Channel
- Guanacaste Wildlife Monitoring
- Deepsea Oddities
- Costa Rica Bird Cam
- Explore Oceans
The BBC deserves to be at the top of the wildlife channels list because they really are second to none when it comes to nature and wildlife filmmaking. The scale of their projects is unmatched (and probably unmatchable), plus their clips have that great quality of being educational without being patronizing.
While they have definitely moved towards a more “American” style since the first Planet Earth series was filmed–i.e., a bit more cinematic and dramatized–I still feel like I am getting something that is trying to be informative when I watch them.
I always love seeing new BBC clips pop up on my YouTube homepage because I know the footage is going to be original and the shooting cutting edge. Nothing more to say about the BBC. I think anyone who has seen any of their nature documentaries over the past several decades knows what to expect from the British Broadcasting Corporation.
The Birders Show is a new podcast out of Bogota, Colombia (the country with the most bird species) hosted by birder Chris Bell and celebrated Colombian biologist Diego Calderón-Franco. I don’t know Diego, but I had the good fortune to cross paths with Chris in December of 2022 when we were both at the beautiful Reserva Natural La Isla Escondida in the Colombian Amazon.
The podcast focuses on birding and bird evolution and features interviews conducted by both Chris and Diego of leading figures in the world of birding and ornithology (people like Richard Prum) as well as footage of the podcast’s many bird-focused trips throughout the Americas.
While I have always loved birds, I am fairly new to birding. I’m a big fan of the birder’s show because, in addition to being a great new podcast, Chris, as he is not a scientist (although still fantastically knowledgeable), does a good job of making the show more accessible for newcomers like myself.
Gardener and landscaper Joel Ashton has been building and installing what he refers to as “wildlife gardens” for over 17 years. While his gardens and expertise are UK-focused, the lessons and principles would be broadly applicable to a wide range of places. It’s a small channel with only about 37,000 subscribers, and it has only been around for a couple of years, but Joel puts out regular videos.
My dream has always been to have a piece of rural land somewhere (preferably tropical) that I could turn into a mini wildlife refuge with freshwater, hiding places, breeding areas for amphibians, etc. Wild Your Garden is one of those wildlife channels that lets me live vicariously through Joel and his many different projects.
Whether you are someone who has always dreamed of seeing Africa, are fortunate enough to have already been or perhaps even live there, Latest Sightings is definitely a channel worth subscribing to.
Originally called “Kruger Sightings”–from the Kruger National park in South Africa–It is now a constantly updating collection of amateur and professional footage from national parks and game reserves throughout the continent. I like it because you get to see the kind of animal interactions that are often absent from wildlife documentaries.
The footage is not edited or put through any elaborate post-production processes, and the videographers are very often just tourists, so don’t expect BBC-tier production values.
But if you are interested in uncut footage of African wildlife–from secretary birds hunting to wild dogs harassing Nile crocodiles to African rock pythons trying to fend off leopards—that you don’t usually see, Latest Sightings is one of the wildlife channels that you should add to your subs list.
Maasai Sightings is basically just more amateur (though often well-shot) African wildlife footage, but it focuses exclusively on sightings from within the Maasai Mara National Game Reserve in Kenya. I think it’s worth having both Maasai and Latest Sightings as part of your wildlife channels YouTube list because there is no such thing as too much African Wildlife footage.
As with the Latest Sightings channel, nothing is dramatized or sensationalized here. The only thing that sometimes gets in the way of enjoying the footage are the sounds of camera shutters and the occasional excited, albeit annoying gasps and talking from safari-goers.
I don’t know who Xavier Hubert-Brierre is, but his trail cam channel is 12 years old, making it probably among the first of its kind on YouTube. It says it is based out of the village of Nyonie, near Wonga-Wongue National Park in Gabon.
Gabon is a country I have always wanted to visit as it is an interesting mix of coast and tropical African forests, home to chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, forest elephants and a diverse range of central African reptiles and amphibians.
Xavier’s trail cams feature both diurnal and nocturnal animals, and I think he may have been the first to popularize the jungle mirror videos. These are where animals–chimps, elephants, gorillas, leopards–react to (and even recognize) their reflections in large panel mirrors set up along trails in the forest.
Gabon and its wildlife are not nearly as popular or well known as that of African countries, which I think, in addition to the originality of the channel and videos themselves, make Xavier Hubert-Brierre’s wildlife channel well worth subscribing to.
Moving over to the Americas, Ocho Verde is a wildlife preserve on the Golfito side of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. I opted to bypass Ocho Verde when I was in southwestern Costa Rica back in 2015 and instead crossed the gulf and went straight for the better-known attraction of Corcovado National Park.
I have been following Ocho Verde’s camera trap channel for several years and it consistently produces unique and very entertaining content. Most people who have seen professional documentary footage from the Americas probably haven’t seen a Tayra having a drink or a woolly opossum eating flowers at night.
I also really like this channel because it uploads plenty of “herping,” or “field herping videos”–people looking for reptiles and amphibians–on a regular basis and I always get a kick out of seeing what fellow herpers turn up, especially in regions I have also been to.
If you follow the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica northwards, you will eventually hit the much drier province of Guanacaste. I never made it to Guanacaste while I was traveling through Costa Rica, but I have been a huge fan of Guanacaste Wildlife Monitoring’s camera trap videos for years now.
While their videos aren’t entirely from the northwest region, they are always fascinating. Have you ever seen coati’s fighting?
They set their camera traps up along dry creekbeds and watering holes, which are two surefire ways to capture wildlife activity. You’ve probably never seen capuchin monkeys come down to the ground to have a drink or close up vides of vultures gently preening each other either?
Nyfrogman is just some guy and if he ever wonders why he and his little 1.25k-subscriber channel that gets maybe a couple of comments per video all of a sudden receives a massive influx of new subs, it will probably (hopefully) be because of this article.
There is no about section on the channel, and he rarely makes an appearance in the videos, but from what I gather, he is a retired guy who spends his time traveling the world to dive and enjoy nature. Not a bad life.
I stumbled upon his channel a few years ago and, while he’s definitely just some guy, he shoots great footage and, even better, the variety of obscure animals he has footage of is quite extraordinary.
This channel is more for the marine life aficionados out there, and particularly the macro nerds, but he really does have footage of marine life that, in many cases, I would be surprised if it wasn’t the only footage of it anywhere.
His videos from the Lembeh Strait in Sulawesi, Indonesia and the ones from Anilao in the Philippines are particularly stunning, with fantastic footage of mimic octopus, coconut octopus and hairy frogfish. He even has a video of pygmy seahorses fighting. Definitely the most obscure of the wildlife channels on this list but, if you’re a macro marine life buff, one to check out.
Some 71 percent of the earth’s surface is the ocean, but only around 20 percent of our oceans have been mapped and explored. The deep is literally an alien world, which is why NASA uses deep-sea environments to simulate life on Mars.
Deepsea Oddities is a wildlife channel I stumbled upon a few years ago and it is a collection of videos from deep-sea rovers and oil rigs set to strange ethereal sounds.
Each video is dedicated to a specific animal or phenomenon and while much of it is fascinating, I won’t deny that, despite being an animal lover, some of these creatures do evoke terror for me. Have you ever seen a magnapinna squid?
Very cool, but likely not something I would want to come face to face with (did they not live at depths of thousands of meters) while diving or snorkeling.
The channel was actually started by a group of artists, rather than biologists or conservationists, but it is the best of the deep-sea wildlife channels on YouTube bar none.
Some five percent of the world’s total bird diversity can be found in Costa Rica. That’s over 800 species.
Costa Rica Bird Cam is one of my favourite bird cam wildlife channels because the videos are so long and you can have them on in the background while you work. The owners have set up cameras in front of feeding areas where they have laid out fruit and seeds and then recorded the activity.
The result is hours of completely natural footage of brilliantly-coloured toucans, parrots, tanagers, woodpeckers, honeycreepers, thrushes, jays and kiskadees eating and interacting.
The cacophony of bird sounds is great background noise while you are working or reading, especially in the middle of winter or when you need an emotional pick-me-up during the week or are suffering post-vacation withdrawal.
The Namid Desert is a coastal desert in southern Africa that stretches for more than 2,000 km along the Atlantic coasts of South Africa, Angola and Namibia.
Namibia is less well-known and less visited than places like Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa, but it is actually home to the largest game park in Africa–the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
While the majority of fauna found in the Namib are small mammals and arthropods that have evolved to survive on barely any water, there are also desert elephants, oryx, springbok, jackals, and ostriches that cling to life there as well.
The best places to observe these animals are around the watering holes scattered throughout the desert and that is precisely where NamibiaCam has set up its camera traps. This wildlife channel has both live streams and shorter videos.
Explore Oceans is part of the Explore Network, which describes itself as “the largest live nature cam network on the planet.” I like most of their other wildlife channels as well, especially their Africa and Birds, Bats and Bees channels.
Their oceans channel features videos from throughout North America, from Hawaii to Northern Canada. Their beluga whales, manatee, orcas, and live reef footage cams are always interesting and they have great interviews with the rangers and researchers that help manage their various projects.
There Has Never Been a Better Time For Nature and Wildlife Channels
More and more people and organizations are using their social media and, in particular, their YouTube channels to broadcast natural beauty.
There is plenty of algorithm-bating nonsense to contend with on YouTube, and there are great documentaries to be found on the big streaming platforms. For my money, however, when it comes to nature and wildlife-related content for real nature and wildlife enthusiasts, YouTube is far above most of the documentary offerings on places like Netflix and Amazon Prime. If you know where to look.
With that said, I hope you add some or all of the above wildlife channels to your subscription list and feel free to recommend me yours in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for new wildlife channels.