PBS’ “Mexico: The Royal Tour” is a fun family adventure

Courtesy: PBS

Forget the passports.  Forget the plane tickets.  Forget the packing and currency exchange rates.  Thanks to PBS, now viewers can take a trip to Mexico from the comfort and safety of their own home.  And this tour of our neighbors to the south isn’t one of those standard guided history tours that viewers might expect.  Rather it’s a special tour through some of the most amazing and beautiful points across Mexico guided by CBS’ Peter Greenberg and now former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

The tour doesn’t begin right away.  Greenberg first sits down with Calderon and discusses Mexico’s image thanks to the ongoing drug war between the cartels in Mexico.  Thos interested in politics will find this discussion interesting.  The pair’s interview consisted of more than politics, though.  The disc’s bonus features include Greenberg’s full interview with Calderon in which he describes his upbringing and influence in getting involved in politics.  Because the full interview is saved for the bonus features, viewers are given more time to tour the country with the pair.

After the initial interview is completed, Greenberg and Calderon head out on the tour of the country.  First Calderon takes Chiapas, where the men tour the Temple of the Inscriptions.  Calderon shows Peter the tomb of an ancient Mayan ruler inside the temple.  It’s interesting in seeing this, to note how similar this burial method was tot that of the ancient Egyptians.  From the temple in Chiapas, viewers follow the pair to Chichen Itza, where they climb the famed El Castillo pyramid.  The duo has to climb it in a serpent like style.  Viewers will find it just as funny as they did.  After reaching the top, Greenberg is shown the “Jaguar Throne” at the top of the pyramid on which it is believed that a ruler would sit.  The columns in the Temple of a Thousand Warriors are absolutely amazing.  They’re proof that not only were the Mayans expert architects, but apparently just as proficient in ornithology and audiology.

The tour has barely begun after the pair visit Chichen Itza.  From Chicen Itza, viewers are whisked away to Michoacan, where the men encounter the annual migration of the Monarch butterflies.  To say that seeing this is stunning would be an understatement.  Audiences are then taken to Calderon’s home town of Morelia, where he introduces Peter to his family, including his mother.  He explains that Morelia was originally established as a colony in 1541.

The stay in Morelia is short, as the next day, the pair makes their way to the Baja Peninsula and the Laguna Ojo de Liebra.  Calderon is joined by his wife and children here.  This is perhaps the most intriguing stop on the entire tour of Mexico.  That is because as they are whale watching, Calderon explains that the grey whales that migrate there each year are drawn by the sound of children singing.  And sure enough, as soon as Calderon’s children begin to sing, the whales come over as if on command.  They are so docile, letting everybody touch them.  It’s absolutely amazing to behold.

The whale watching at Laguna Ojo de Liebra is an amazing moment in the tour across Mexico.  But there is so much more for viewers to see in the roughly hour long presentation, thanks to Calderon and PBS.  Viewers get to see what’s it’s like to go cave diving, and even scale the wall of one of the world’s deepest spots, along with even seeing the famed Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan by hot air balloon.  Add in the equally enjoyable bonus features, and viewers have what is one of the best guided tours of the world to be released in a very long time.  Rather than simply being a tour guided by a faceless narrator, audiences go right along with Greenberg and Calderon on the journey across the country.  It all has such a different feeling from other presentations out there.  It’s more adventure and less documentary.  That makes it perfect for the classroom and the home viewer.  The DVD is available in stores now and online at http://www.shoppbs.org

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Shark Divers lets viewers take a dip in the deep at home

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Sharks are amazing creatures.  They are sleek, swift, powerful, and also very dangerous.  However, there is at least one shark–the Whale Shark–that is anything but dangerous.  But thanks to the 1975 hit movie, “Jaws”, and media hype ever since then, the gap in people’s love/hate relationship with sharks has never really been minimized.  Now, thanks to the people at Mill Creek Entertainment and documentarian Danny Mauro, audiences are offered a chance to better understand one of nature’s most powerful and amazing creatures in the brand new documentary, “Shark Divers.”

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

“Shark Divers” is an important piece in the crusade to help people better understand sharks and our impact on them.  The four-part documentary takes viewers into the beautiful blue world in which these amazing creatures live.  All four segments included in the documentary echo the same sentiment.  They remind audiences that much of the fear of sharks is baseless.  In the documentary’s title segment, audiences are introduced to a gentleman who runs hiw own shark diving company and companion publication for shark diving enthusiasts.  He takes viewers along for some of his dives.  And along the way, he shares stories of some of his more harrowing encounters with the sharks.  On the other side, viewers see the lengths to which many shark diving enthusiasts will go in order to get close to sharks.  They see the dangerous and sometimes fatal result of shark divers’ hobby.  It reminds viewers that when people go diving, they are enterting the sharks’ world.  The sharks generally do not attack humans.  Rather, it’s noted that sharks actually see humans as just another predator, like them.  So for the most part, they will leave them alone.  Their only reason for approaching divers is simple curiosity.  They mean no harm.

The documentary’s second segment, “Shark Business” expands a little more on the title segment.  “Shark Business” takes a more in depth look at the bahavior of sharks in the wild and how they interact with divers.  Lemon sharks, bull sharks, and Great Whites take center stage in this segment.  From there, it proceeds to profile the gentle giants of the shark world, Whale Sharks.  Whale Sharks are incredible creatures.  But their numbers are dwindling.  This segment investigates the cause of the species’ dwindling numbers and what’s being done to protect and save it.

From the world of sharks, “Shark Divers” closes out with a look at another of the undersea world’s most incredible creatures.  Viewers will get to see what its like to swim with giant manta rays.  Divers head to the Socorro Islands off of Mexico’s Pacific coast to swim with them and research their behavior.  Not only will audiences love the underwater sequences, but they’ll marvel at the scenery around the islands, too.

“Shark Divers” is a wonderful companion piece for fans of Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week programming.  However, it should be noted that this documentary does bear a “PG” rating, and with good cause.  There are some images that younger viewers might find unsettling, or that parents might find unsettling for their children.  While the argument is being made about the impact on sharks of human fear, it shows iamges of the end result of shark hunts.  There are also images of sharks hunting other creatures.  So parents should be warned of that before letting their children watch this alone.  That aside, “Shark Divers” is still an insightful and beautigully shot documentary for anyone who has any fascination with these incredible denizens of the deep.  “Shark Divers” is availble now on blu-ray and dvd.  It can be bought in store or online at http://www.millcreekent.com

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