The host of Safari Stories shares why he started this podcast and some of his personal stories whilst on safari. Some of the stories you will hear about include hippos running on the road, encountering elephants on foot and having a male lion walking towards you in the Kruger National Park.
Welcome to the safari stories podcast, the podcast where you’ll hear nail biting stories about all sorts of animals and adventures. Each week you’ll get to ride along as our guests share their amazing Safari stories with you. Now, let’s jump into your Safari stories for today with your host, John Lister.
John Lister 0:23
Hi, my name is John and I’ve decided to start the safari stories website to give everyone an avenue to actually share their stories that they experience on safari. I originally grew up in South Africa so it is an area that’s very dear to me. My school holidays when I was growing up with my older brother and younger sister and mum and dad were spent in the Kruger and we think back almost 30-35 years ago to all the experiences that we had there and they always create such fond conversations and memories. So yeah, I thought I’d set the set up this website and start talking to a few people about their experiences so that we can all enjoy the magic that is a safari. So I suppose a little bit about my Safari stories. I originally started going as a kid, as I mentioned earlier, and one of the things that we always loved about the Kruger was that you never really know what’s around the corner.
So some of the stories I remember as a kid, one of the things I remember quite vividly is myself, my brother and my sister were in the back of the car with mom and dad driving. It was a very hot time of the year and we had the windows open driving along. And we came up to three rhinos, the rhinos were quite sort of tame and calm when we arrived. But after spending a few minutes with him, they got increasingly agitated and annoyed to the point where one started to charge us and so dad had to act pretty quickly and drove off pretty quickly and the rhino actually chased down the road for quite a long time. And as a kid, my brother, sister, and I were in the back, very terrified and yeah, we laugh back at it now, but at the time, it was a pretty scary moment.
Another moment that I remember quite accurately, for lack of a better word is when we were crossing the bridges now, with anyone that doesn’t really know the Kruger there are bridges but that are single lane and every 30 or 40 meters is what can only be described as an octagon. And basically, they use the octagon to get pass other cars. So what actually happens is one will come from the top and one will come from the bottom, you’ll pull into the octagon and one a pool to the right and the other one will pull to their rights and then you sort of edge your way past and then you go cross over and you go to the other side of the bridge or to the next octagon if you need to pass another car you do so, anyway, we were on this bridge and we were going across in the water level was quite high. And dad went to go past a car and realized that he wasn’t going to be able to get to the next octagon before the next car arrived. So he had to reverse a little bit. So anyway, he reversed back into the octagon. And as he was reversing, I was sitting directly behind him and the rear wheel came up on to the edge of the road. So they’ve got the sort of little mini curbs on the edge of the bridges and the back wheel sort of edge up a little bit onto that curb. It didn’t really go over or anything but I do remember looking out the window and all I saw were some crocodile eyes just looking straight up at me. I think as a kid I had nightmares for quite a few years after and I still to this day it kind of evokes a pretty interesting response in me when I look at crocodiles and see just their eyes popping out and sometimes their nose popping out of the water.
And but as a kid we always used to go in and have just such A great time in the Kruger having growing up. Mom and dad moved us to Australia. So we’ve been growing up in Australia for the last 30 years. So we arrived in 87. So it’s 32 years. Since then, getting back to South Africa has always been something that I’ve wanted to do, but it’s always been quite difficult to do with finding the funds and work and family life. So over the last few years, I have been lucky enough to be able to get back there a few times and there has been some great memories created whilst doing that.
In 2008 / 2009, I was able to go back and the first place I went to was in the Greater Kruger. One of the stories I remember from that is we were doing a walk with one of the Rangers. Basically, the night before we’d been talking about, you know what was happening in the Greater Kruger and there were a few stories coming out that some people had been injured by elephants recently. So we were on high alert for elephants. And anyway, on this morning, the car dropped us off. And we would walk, I think, probably about three or four K’s not a very long walk, but just experiencing the bush and getting to know the bush to where we would have breakfast and we started along the way. And the road sort of, we sort of were walking along the side of a river, and as we’re walking along, we’re looking at you know, the different signs and we came up on this tree and the Ranger stopped us and said, Okay, so what I want to show you here is that the bark of this tree has being stripped away. We were able to actually feel the tree and you could see that it was still wet from where the tree had been stripped. So he said, Okay, so this shows that the bark has been stripped recently because it’s still wet. So the elephant’s probably around. Anyway, we left that scene and started walking a bit further, and the road sort of did a bit of a U and came back and as we were walking out, I just spotted the top of the top of an elephant and I alerted the Ranger who stopped, we all had to stop and the Rangers stood to the left and actually he had a rifle and he got his rifle off his shoulder. And we all sat there or stood there and waited just to see how the elephant’s reacted because we’d only notice them quite late and so we were relatively close to them when we actually stopped moving. Anyway, the elephant did have some young calves in the group and the elephant that was closest to us, put its trunk up in the air and started snorting the air and smelling the air trying to see what was going on. And so we had to stand there and be very still and very quiet until everything calmed down. We stood there for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably a few minutes, three or four minutes and we decided to go down. Back the way we came, we walk down into the riverbed. And as we were walking in the riverbed, we came across some elephant tracks. And so the Rangers stopped us and said, Okay, let’s have a look. I want to show you something. And so we looked at the tracks, and he said, Okay, so if you look at this track, you can see that these are the elephants we just saw and we could still see the elephants up on the top of the riverbank, but we were not in danger because it was quite steep cliff and that were never going to be able to make it down that cliff. And so he said, so you can see these are the elephant tracks. And if you look right here, this is actually a leopard print in the elephant tracks. So, from the time that these elephants have walked through here, and up onto that hill, a leopard has passed by and having just experienced the elephant, sort of sniffing the air and not sure what was going on, to then know that there was a leopard relatively close to us was also a very scary prospect, but also a very exciting prospect. So that was probably one of the main stories we experienced when we were in South Africa in 2009.
And since then, I have been lucky enough to go back to the Kruger we went my wife and I last year in 2018 And again this year in 2019, in 2018, this is my first trip back to the actual Kruger rather than the Greater Kruger and my wife’s very first trip to the actual Kruger so it was a very interesting trip because I had to get used to how it all work with driving around and seeing sightings and going out early morning and doing it yourself. Because the 2008/09 was at a Private Game Reserve and therefore, there was rangers and trackers that did all the spotting and tracking for you.
We did this for about two weeks and we just had the most amazing time. One sighting and story that really sticks out in my head was when we were staying at Satara we exited the gate early morning now, what we decided to do this morning was go on an organized tour. So a lot of the camps have tours whereby you will go out with a ranger and you get to go out a little bit earlier and that’s one of the main attractions. They also do evening drives which allow you to stay out a little bit later after the gates close. So anyway, on this morning we decided to do a morning drive and we left Satara I think from memory was about an hour before the gate opens, so it was still dark and so the first part of the drive was using spotlights to see the game. We were having a great trip we’d seen porcupine and a few other things And anyway, we went down the S 100. And we turned right and we’re going down and the Rangers from Singita were coming up the other way. And our driver had a bit of a chat to the Singita Ranger and trackers and their clients and it turned out that they just say a sighting of some lions about 20 minutes half an hour down the road. So we went down there as quickly as we could. And lo and behold, there was the White Lion. It’s quite a unique animal to the area because they really don’t occur very often. And so we were lucky enough to see Casper the white line on this drive. They were just sitting by the road whole, big group of lions and we’re able to sit and spend quite a lot of time with him and take some really good photos with him. So after probably about half an hour, 45 minutes, we decided to leave the lions and head back because time is running out. And on the way back, we were coming down one of the gravel or the hard roads. And I was lucky enough to spot a leopard right next to the road in a tree just sitting there. There been cars that are driven by quite a bit, which not sure why they didn’t spot this leopard, but we were lucky enough to spot it. And so I quickly yelled out to the driver to stop and reverse and as we were reversing, obviously the noise probably annoyed the leopard and he started to make his way down the tree. So as we were getting into position, he was probably about two thirds of the way down sorry, a third down the way other tree and we managed to get a few quick glimpses of him and a few quick photos. But before long he was into the bushes and gone. So that really was one of our favorite drives because we got to see the white lion and also a pretty exciting leopard sighting.
For more pictures from this sighting, please visit our Safari Stories page and the story titled, A Safari Drive to Remember, White Lion (https://safaristories.com/a-safari-drive-to-remember-white-lion/)
Another sort of memory that sticks in my mind is the trip that we just recently had, which was six months ago, in about April of 2019. Once again, it was just my wife and I probably there’s a few signings that really stick out in our head. One was, we spent the night in Tamboti, and we were leaving to Tamboti and we decided to take one of the gravel roads back to Satara, where we were supposed to spend the next night, but we were just taking it really slow to get to Satara because we couldn’t check in for quite a few hours. And anyway, we were driving along the gravel roads. We haven’t seen a car for a very, very long time. I think with been out at gate open, we sort of got away from quite a few cars. And as you come up on different roads, everyone sort of separates and goes, goes their own way. Anyway, we were driving along, and lo and behold, another leopard was sitting right next to the road. We quickly stopped and got the car in position and turned the engine off. And he just sat there and spent a bit of time with us and then walked off. And it was one of the closest leopard sightings we’ve seen in the two times that we’ve been and it was really a memory that will stick with us for a very long time.
For more pictures from this sighting, please visit our Safari Stories page and the story titled Close Up With a Leopard (https://safaristories.com/close-up-with-a-leaopard/)
Anyway, on our way back to camp, talking to my wife, and she said, you know, what’s one thing that you really want to see, you know, what sort of encounter Would you like to have and prior to going on the trip, I’d seen quite a few videos. of big male lions walking out next to the car and pass the car and just the feeling of how big they are and how they sort of command their presence when they’re walking up the road. Nothing really bothers them. I wanted to experience that and I’ll say, Well, you know, I’d love to see a lion walking down the road or walking close to the car. So she said, Yeah, I think you’ll be very, very lucky to get that sort of a sighting. But yeah, we sort of had a good laugh about and had a chat about it.
And anyway, next morning, we’d stayed the night at Satara. We were out early once again, we went down the S 100 and turned right and probably about two or three Km’s down the road. What was there, a big male lion. He’s sitting there. It was on one of the bridges. He was looking around up and down the river way. Anyway, we stopped the car, turned the engine off, and he walked straight towards us and past the car. And so we decided that because he was walking on the one side of the road, we would sort of see if we can get past him. And so that’s exactly what we did. We drove past him it was pretty chilled and got to the moment where we were about 100 hundred or 150 meters ahead of him and pulled the car to the side and got in position so that he walks straight towards us and he just came around the corner and walk down the road straight towards us. It’s an incredible feeling and we got such a great video of it. And still to this day, every time I see that video, it really does evoke quite a great response and memory on how exciting that actual scene was. Anyway, we were able to do that probably two or three times, and then we started to see some of the other cars coming back through the S100. Most of them were turning left, whereas there was one or two that started to turn right. And we had passed the lion again and stop the car and he was coming from behind, up the right hand side of the car. And anyway, he walked past and there was some wildebeest up the road that hadn’t really noticed it be the lion as he was sort of coming from behind them. And he got so close to actually bringing down one of these wheelbase but unfortunately, it was a failed attempt and he went into the bushes and disappeared. And that was it. So that’s one of my favorite stories and another one.
We stayed at Shingwedzi the last day, and we left once again early morning. And we were driving along. And my wife said to me, what’s that running in the bushes just next to us and I couldn’t quite make it out. And we were sort of stopped the car and we’re watching it go by. It was on my right, I’m looking to my right. And it came running out onto the road. And it turned out it was a hippo. And anyway, this Hippo just ran along the road in front of us, and we followed it for a little bit, and then it ran down into the riverbed. And it was just a really interesting and exciting sighting that we never expected to see. And hippos can run, they can move really, really quickly. And so it was another one of our favourite sightings and we also are lucky enough to get a pretty good video of it.
Another quick sighting, in our trip in 2018 one of the things we decided to do, and this was probably a second day, so we’re still getting used to the roads and where to go and what to do and what to see and what to look out for. We’re driving along and it was, it was it wasn’t wet. It was sort of drizzling, but it wasn’t dry. And we been unlucky with a couple of sightings. It was a few cars that it stopped on a gravel road and we just missed a leopard by two or three minutes. Anyway, we’ll continue down the road. And we came around the bend and the bend was a blind band. So we’ve actually gone quite slow. But literally, as we came around the corner, there was a big elephant and he was sort of just standing there and we slammed on the brakes. And because it’s a gravel road, you sort as soon as you hit the brakes pretty quickly, you slide you don’t actually stop very quickly. And so we slid, probably a meter or two and Luckily, we’re going very slow. And the sound of the car sliding, obviously alarmed the elephant and he wasn’t too happy about it. And so we put the car in reverse and reversed up the road and the elephant just followed us for probably two or three K’s up the road. He just walked in towards us and we were reversing giving him space. We always made sure that we gave him a lot of room but he just ambled along and yeah it was just a great feeling to actually see how big these animals are. And yeah, wonderful experience.
Those are probably some of our main memories with South Africa or in the Kruger. We really do love self drive safaris though, both self drive and private game reserves where they drive you Have there merits and both are different you’ll experience such great times, whichever way you go. So, yeah, looking forward to speaking to a few people and hearing their stories and hearing their experiences and hearing what they like about the Kruger and like about different Safari parks and what animals they like. So, in the future, I will be touching base with a few people and just seeing if they were willing to talk to me about their experiences and what they love.
Probably the one thing that I think about the most and what I remember the most is the wait for the gate to open where it’s very calm and it’s very still. You can just hear the birds it’s it’s probably still dark, it’s dark, and the sun’s just coming up so there’s not too much light but the sounds and the smell there’s no traffic or anything the cars have stopped waiting for their turn to get out the gate. And so we quite often sit there and we’ll have a coffee and just reminisce about some of the stories we’ve experienced so far and what we want to see. But just a magical experience, and this is why we are looking to share some of these stories with people so that people can understand how beautiful nature is.
Thanks very much. Please do follow us. At Safaristories.com, we’ve got a Facebook page Safari stories, as well as Instagram and Twitter. We’d love to hear your thoughts about the video and if there’s any stories you really do want to hear about, and I welcome your comments and messages. I hope this is something that you enjoy. Thanks very much for listening and I look forward to speaking to people next time.
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John Lister – Safari Stories Host / Creator
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