Refresh Yourself With NatGeo’s “Explorer: The Last Tepui” This Earth Day

The Last Tepui National Geographic and Disney+
Climber Alex Honnold climbs in search of samples for Dr. Bruce Means. [Image courtesy National Geographic and Disney+]

Earth Day is here (almost)! If you’re looking for something to engage your interest in a positive, inspiring way (no spider jump scares here), head over to Disney+ for National Geographic’s Explorer: The Last Tepui.

The Geekiary received screeners for The Last Tepui. Opinions are all my own.

For Earth Day, there aren’t a lot of better outlets to indulge in than National Geographic (which is streaming over at Disney+ these days if you hadn’t noticed). Last year we shared their mind-blowing series on whales. This year, they’ve put out Explorer: The Last Tepui which shows the work that goes into conservation- and the lengths scientists will go to help make sure every lifeform is identified and protected. 

From the official synopsis: 

The Disney+ Earth Day special “Explorer: The Last Tepui,” from National Geographic, follows elite climber Alex Honnold (“Free Solo”) and a world-class climbing team led by National Geographic Explorer and climber Mark Synnott on a grueling mission deep in the Amazon jungle as they attempt a first-ascent climb up a 1000 foot sheer cliff…. This Earth Day, learn why the tepuis – much like the Galapagos – are a treasure trove of biodiversity worth protecting.

In other words, Synnott and Honnold are going to escort Dr. Bruce Means, an 80-year-old herpetologist, through the Amazon in search of undiscovered species so they can be targeted by conservation efforts. Dr. Means is a tough guy with a lot of field experience, but the Tepui is daunting, to say the least.

I’ve done some casual rock climbing myself. Nothing wild, just enough that I needed to invest in fancy shoes and my own harness, and let me tell you that cliff face was intimidating to me. I can see why they brought Alex Honnold to do the technical work there.

First things first, though. The Last Tepui is obviously wholesome and covers a worthwhile topic. Awesome! Put it on the “teacher got ahead of lesson plans, put on a video” list. More important for all of us here is: is it something casual viewers will want to watch?

In my opinion, it is. I have a light science background, but you don’t need one to get caught up in this film.

We start off with a neat little intro where the team is planning where they’ll go, how they’ll get there, and which team members will go where. It’s kind of a geeky little thrill to hear them talking about how a new species is confirmed (a sample of DNA and a specimen to a museum, according to Dr. Means). I also enjoy listening to the team discuss the various challenges of terrain, space, and safety. They made a primary plan with backups based on what conditions they find at the cliff face itself.

The Last Tepui National Geographic Disney+
Look at this frog. They’re perfect, and they’re just one species you’re going to see in The Last Tepui. [Photo courtesy National Geographic/RYAN VALASEK]
Does everything go according to plan? It does not. But they have those backups, and watching them figure out how to adjust as they go is half the fun. (Also, there are frogs. I love frogs.)

I don’t want to give too much away here because I think this is something you’ll enjoy watching unspoiled. I will say that it refreshed my love of working science and exploration. We get so jaded sometimes, and there’s reason for that, but that’s not what The Last Tepui is about. It’s about a love of nature and how we can protect these creatures going forward.

Also, while it does compress a lot of what scientists actually do on these expeditions, the science is pretty solid otherwise. Dr. Means has a proven track record of identifying new species and a vested interest in making sure things are done right. I appreciated that. 

I also appreciate the filmmaker’s respect for making The Last Tepui watchable and engaging. We get both wide-angle and POV action shots to break up the science. There’s also commentary from Synnott and Honnold to provide a more casual insight into what we see. National Geographic is good in general at making science approachable without sliding into condescension, but this film in particular hits a fun balance between informational and entertaining. 

Like I said, it’s fun to watch. It’s just under an hour- easy enough to put on while you eat and get ready, or over lunch, or while unwinding at the end of day.

The film itself drops on Earth Day over on Disney+. Go watch it, then come back here to read our interview with Dr. Bruce Means.

Or do it the other way around if you like. I’m not your boss. Live your best life.

My point is, you should put The Last Tepui on your watch list. And happy Earth Day to everyone out there!

Author: Khai

Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.


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