Nigel lives in South Africa, close to the Garden Route near Knysna. His garden has boomslang snakes and puff adders in the grass, with Knysna louries in the trees. A caracal cat visits occasionally, and every evening a wood owl hunts for moths attracted by the verandah lamps.
The Early Days
in 1960, Nigel Marven showed early promise as a budding
naturalist. He was running a hamster colony at age eight and
racing stick insects along his mother’s clothes line by the time
he was nine. In his early teens, Nigel had graduated to larger
creatures, keeping a caiman, magpie and boa constrictors in his
parents’ house. He even saved a freshwater eel from being
jellied, housing it in the bathtub. When anyone needed a soak, the
slippery creature was put in a bucket.
holidays in the Mediterranean became zoological expeditions, as
young Nigel scampered over the countryside, pillowcase in hand,
catching snakes and lizards for study and then release.
his school studies were over, Nigel took a year-out travelling
throughout America, where he met hellbenders and amphiumas in the
wild (both are kinds of salamanders). Returning to the UK, he
moved to Bristol to read Botany and Zoology at university. This
would prove to be the ideal place for him, because firstly he
could pursue his interest in the natural world at an academic
level, and secondly, Bristol is the world capital of wildlife
Breaking into Television
he was researching for an MSc on the grazing interactions between
limpets and diatoms (microscopic algae), Nigel got his first break
in television. A BBC programme called Galactic
Garden needed someone to wrangle worms in front of the camera.
Working in BBC Bristol’s macro studio, Nigel learned the grammar
of film-making from cameraman Alan Hayward.
first full-time television job was as a Researcher on David
Attenborough’s First Eden
series about the Mediterranean region. This was a dream come true
because David had always been a BBC hero of Nigel’s. He recalls:
first time I met him, I said ‘Hello, I’m Nigel Marven the
Researcher’, he replied ‘Hello, I’m David Attenborough’ as
if I didn’t know, what a self-effacing man!”
of Nigel’s experience with Mediterranean wildlife, the BBC Drama
Department in London asked him to be an Assistant Producer on a
ten-part serialisation based on Gerald Durrell’s book My
Family and Other Animals. This was a second dream come true
for Nigel, My Family and
Other Animals was
his favourite book, and he got to meet Gerald and his wife Lee
when they visited the set. Filming took place over five months on
the Greek island of Corfu.
directed the famous fight scene between Geronimo the gecko and a
praying mantis. He also oversaw magpie and barn owl flight
sequences, plus many other animals including Madame Cyclops, the
Presenting his own Films
Nigel continued to work at the BBC for well over
a decade, in this time producing many primetime wildlife films
including Incredible Journeys
and Life of Birds. He eventually left to join
Granada Television, where he continued to produce cutting-edge
wildlife films but also found a new role in front of
the camera. Five years later, Nigel is now running his own
production company, Image Impact, and
making films that are screened all over the world. For a detailed
run-down of his work as a presenter, see the Nigel's Films section
of the site.