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Every one of us is dealing with their quarantine boredom in a different way. Some have taken on cooking or gardening, some are still finding ways to get out and exercise away from people, many are resorting to video calls to stay in touch with their friends and family, and others have picked up neglected hobbies like wood-work and knitting. But if you still feel that all of this isn't enough to fill your empty days, I've got a neat recommendation for you: nature livestreams. They're fascinating, time-consuming, full of surprises, and very easy to get sucked into.
Explore.org's site and YouTube channels
The best repository of nature livestreams that I've found is explore.org. It's a philanthropic network that showcases the work of non-profit organizations, either through nature live cams or documentary films. The site is good enough if you're watching from your desktop, but there's also an Android app and multiple YouTube channels. In the rest of the post, I'll focus on the app experience, but if you just want to go ahead and check the channels, I've listed them below:
- Explore Live Nature Cams - the main channel, with lots of livestreams, documentaries, and video highlights
- Explore Oceans - everything under or around water
- Explore Africa - elephants, rhinos, zebras, and a lot of jungle
- Explore Zen Den - sunsets, Northern Lights, landscapes
- Explore Dogs - puppies, lots of good boys and good girls
- Explore Birds Bats Bees - anything that flies
- Explore Cats Lions Tigers - purrrrrrr
- Explore Bears & Bison - scary but cute
- Explore Farm Life - sheep, horses, cattle, turkeys, and more
Explore's main YouTube channel.
Explore.org's Android app
To avoid hunting for all these channels and different livestreams, Explore offers an Android app that organizes everything in a straightforward way. The main screen presents the different collections available — they're pretty similar to the YouTube channels above — plus the current top five streams, some featured live cams, and some documentaries. There's also a search icon to quickly find a topic you're interested in and a second tab with just a list of all the available streams.
Explore's main screen.
I like digging in the collections and discovering the different facets of a topic, so that's what I recommend you do as well. For example, the "Dog Bless You" group offers 21 different streams, most from puppy nurseries, playrooms, and training areas. Each stream is accompanied by a short description that explains its context.
Delving into collections.
When you open it, you'll notice more information, like the current time and weather at the location, along with a forecast for the next five days. If the stream is blank or dark, it's likely nighttime and you can easily verify that. There are also additional details about the best times to tune in, the livestream's source partner, and a location section that always comes up blank for me, for some reason. However, tapping it takes me to Google Maps where I can see the surroundings, so it's a small workaround.
A livestream's accompanying details include weather, more information, and location.
My favorite feature, however, are the livestreams themselves. They're all embedded from YouTube, so you can easily share them or add them to your Watch Later list, but the best part is that you can scrub back to watch at least twelve hours of footage. So if nothing is happening now, you can always go back and see if something interesting was spotted earlier. Some streams also offer highlights during off hours, you can spot these by the lack of a red "Live" indicator, which is replaced by a "Livecam Highlights" banner on the bottom left.
Livestream highlights (left), live cam in the day (middle), and at night with best viewing hours (right).
I also recommend tilting your phone to landscape to get the fullscreen view instead of the small window in portrait.
Landscape offers a better view and more options.
I spent several hours delving into the different channels on offer. The puppy nurseries are easily my favorites, especially when the entire litter wakes up and they start toddling around, falling on each other, and playing with the different toys. I caught several funny moments and was able to rewind and watch them multiple times — a puppy sleeping over a slide while all the others were trying to get up on it to play, a puppy managing to climb on a small table and falling clumsily then getting up and pretending it was all done gracefully, a puppy running and tumbling into a pile of sleeping pups and waking them up, etc...
The shit stirrer, the "come at me bro!" and the peace establisher.
The panda streams are quite awesome too. Those big balls of goofiness are just hilarious to watch, regardless of what they're doing. The only time I've been to a zoo or nature reserve with pandas (Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna), they were asleep on high branches and I could barely see them. So I now get my "revenge" and can watch them wobble and roll around clumsily as much as I want.
These goofballs are never boring.
The kitten livestreams were a little less entertaining for me, but if you enjoy watching lazy cats lounging around, you'll be served — there are several streams with just that. I also spent a bit of time admiring active bird nests, which are usually always occupied, even at night. Other livestreams, especially the wild nature ones, rely on luck. You may open one and see nothing, or you may catch a tiger being fed or elephants around a watering hole. Patience is key, but in case you're not the type to sit and watch an empty landscape, you can still rewind the last half or full day to check if anything interesting happened during that time. Most cameras also offer night vision, so you can still catch some unexpected moments in the dark.
A small selection of available live streams.
If you're tired of the quarantine monotony and of watching movies and TV shows, and/or if you have bored kids at home, strap on your explorer's hat and go for a virtual field trip. Explore's hundreds of streams will easily keep you all entertained for a while because nature is fascinating, and there's always something new and unexpected every day, be it in the landscape or the behavior of animals or in how they grow up and learn new things.
For more fun experiences, I also recommend you take a virtual world tour through 360 photos and Google Street View, watch public webcams of empty streets for a bit of nostalgia and to remind yourself that everyone is in the same boat as you, or discover Google's 3D animals and other 3D objects through the magic of AR.