Martin Clunes, Man to Mantas Review: Mantas Behaving Badly

MARTIN CLUNES, MAN TO MANTAS: Thursday 6th January, ITV, 9pm

Having formerly appeared as the morally skewered medic in ITV’s Doc Martin, Clunes bounces back as a supposed authority on scuba diving. In this wetsuit extravaganza, the former Man Behaving Badly seeks to fulfil his burning ambition to swim with one of the sea’s most enigmatic creatures, and feed us gems of wisdom as we go. A bit like Doc Martin, but without the snarky comebacks, and with giant mantas instead of Cornwall-folk.

Already a qualified diver – he’s all too proud to say – Martin’s fascination for the underwater world was fostered by holidays to the Maldives, but like many divers his biggest seafaring ambition is to see a giant manta ray, one of the most iconic species on the planet. So Martin begins his Odyssey by setting off to the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean, where Mantas are becoming increasingly rare.

His search also takes him to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta in the USA, which cost $300m to build and covers an area of 20 acres, giving the creatures proper space to live in. It’s an impressive enough sight on it’s own, even if Martin’s mug does take up part of the screen.

Pretty soon he’s in Ecuador meeting the world’s foremost expert on manta ray biology, Dr Andrea Marshall and British diving instructor, Mark Harding who established that there are over 300 mantas living in these waters. Interestingly, experts are trying to unravel the mystery of where the manta rays go, by attaching satellite tags.

His next port of call is Sri Lanka where mantas are being hunted by fisherman because their gills are now a valuable ingredient in Chinese medicine. Martin doesn’t quite manage to prevent the continuing ill-treatment of Mantas, but he does manage to get a glimpse before they all go extinct. Oh, and release some baby turtles into the sea for good measure.

Martin makes for a friendly, if inoffensive presenter, and while his face is no postcard, the footage of elegant and enourmous mantas opens our eyes to an area of sea life not yet monopolised by Attenborough’s eagle eyes. From the man who made his career by jumping about on a couch (Men Behaving Badly), it’s nice enough to see him talking about Nature. Then again, it may have been more a case of ITV producers packing him into a wetsuit and throwing him overboard, with researchers doing the dirty work.