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BBC Top Gear in Sri Lanka - To India and back in a Tuk Tuk

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

BBC’s Top Gear is one of the channel’s flagship shows and one of the world’s most beloved motoring shows. For the second episode of the show’s 26th season, hosts Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris travel to Sri Lanka in search of the world’s most versatile vehicle. After considering some of the biggest and best known brands, Chris tries to convince Matt that the humble Tuk Tuk is indeed the world’s most versatile vehicle. The two put two Tuks Tuks through some grueling and hilarious challenges before Matt grudgingly concedes that the humble Tuk Tuk is indeed a very versatile vehicle.

Matt Leblanc and Chris Harris filming BBC Top Gear in Kandy, Sri Lanka
Top Gear filming on the streets of Kandy

The production was a large one with 36 foreign crew joined by a local crew of nearly 20 delivering production support and logistics for the demanding production. The logistics of the shoot were also complicated requiring a coordinated effort to move a crew of over 50 people, equipment and vehicles over land, air and sea to multiple locations and some of the harshest and unmotorable terrain in the country. We used almost every possible mode of transport from helicopters to motorhomes to military gunboats to of course tuk-tuks to make this grueling 5-day shoot a reality.

Car-mounted remote camera rig mounted on a Land Rover Discovery 4. Top Gear filming in Sri Lanka.
Car mounted filming rig
Three Sony F55 cameras and equipment on steps. BBC Top Gear Crew sitting.
Crew gets some downtime between shots

There were many challenges for the Tuk Tuks. From hauling heavy loads to surviving a fall down the infamous “Devil’s staircase”. But in true Top gear style, the final challenge was the most epic one and something the likes of which had never been attempted before in Sri Lanka. To sail the two Tuk Tuks over the sea near Adam’s bridge to India! After an overnight build, the two Tuk Tuks were converted into amphibious craft with outboard motors and over a grueling 16 hours at sea managed to sail to Indian territorial waters and return to Sri Lanka.

Two Tuk Tuk motorboats being sailed on the sea. Matt Leblanc, Chris Harris.
Sailing a Tuk Tuk
Boats casting off from a beach. Sri Lanka Navy. BBC Top Gear.
A dawn cast off - Destination: India!
Two Tuk Tuks being positioned in front of a video camera. Filming Tuk Tuk Polo
Let's play Polo!
Film crew sets up to film on Devil's staircase in Sri Lanka. Matt Leblanc
Somewhere along the Devil's staircase

Filmed in Sri Lanka over 5 days and covering a distance of nearly 1000 kilometers, this show was a mammoth effort of logistics, permissions and cross-border diplomacy. Obtaining the required permits for this show required bringing together a whole lot of people and resources including the Sri Lankan and Indian Governments, the Sri Lanka Navy, the Indian coast guard, the Department of Wildlife and Conservation, Sri Lanka customs and Sri Lanka immigration.

The Dreamforge was the fixer and location producer for this shoot. The services we organised included location permits, accommodation, sea-air-land transport and logistics, location catering, etc... We would like to thank all the government and private institutions and individuals who contributed to the success of this project.

BBC Top Gear Series 26 Episode 2 - Tuk Tuk Vs Truck race

BBC Top Gear Series 26 Episode 2 - Tuk Tuk Polo

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