On this episode of the Safari Stories Podcast David goes through some of his favourite stories whilst on safari. He has spent a lot of time in the Kruger, which equates to some great sightings, including various leopard sightings, cheetah super mom and a pangolin sighting. David managed a game lodge on the Southern border of the park. From his time there he has accumulated many great stories and he shares some of them with us today. We talk about how to spot animals like a leopard and the some of the skills it takes to spot a leopard, especially given the elusiveness of a leopard.
Welcome to the safari stories podcast, the podcast where you’ll hear nailbiting 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 0:24
So firstly, David, thank you very much for joining me. We’re looking to just go through a little bit about your story and how you came to love the Kruger and nature. If you don’t know David Bough, David is the person behind the David Bough Photography Facebook page. And also the person behind the Croc Bridge blog we will include links in the bio afterwards. But firstly, thank you very much for joining us David. My pleasure. So tell me a little bit about how you became to love the Kruger and nature in general.
David Bough 0:57
So I first, first went to Africa. I think it was Some 15-20 years ago, I was married a long time ago back in the day and I went to spend some time in, in Kenya when they’re on my honeymoon to the Mara and been back two or three times to Samburu and Sarvo and just fell in love with the bush really to be honest. And then married life took over had a job in IT working in London, in the virtual world. So I did that for a long, long time. And then found myself single and bumped into a lady from Zimbabwe in Oxford one Saturday, and started chatting and so was kind of talking about my time in Kenya with her and she obviously had an enormous love of the bush. She then subsequently moved back and I came over to see her she lived in Nelspruit which is about an hour and about out a bit from the park. ran a guesthouse there. And I used to I used to fly out for any spare time I could get really. Even weekends. I used to fly it sometimes on a Friday morning and back on a Sunday night. Wow. And we used to go to Kroger and I was a bit a bit nervous about getting the first time because it’s it’s very different from from Mara. Obviously where you’re allowed. You can’t self drive in Mara, but you can go off road with a guide. So I was a bit a bit concerned about them not going off road part. But my worries kind of disappeared after about five minutes I suppose.
John Lister 2:34
Exactly. Yes. And I am I correct in saying that you ran the lodge or stayed at the lodge for quite a period of time there.
David Bough 2:41
So we used to stay at this little lodge just outside Kruger but overlooking the park. Yes. And we got quite friendly with the boss, the boss down there. And the guy he was running it with had to had to move back to Johannesburg for health reasons and He phoned and asked if we’d like to come in, help him run the lodge. So I gave up I gave up my very well paid job in the city and headed south.
John Lister 3:06
Fair enough. And how long did you spend there?
David Bough 3:10
So I was there for about 18 months at the lodge.
John Lister 3:14
And I think I saw a few stories that actually happened out the front of the lodge.
David Bough 3:19
Yeah, we had done I forgot a bit if you’ve if you’ve never lived there before. It’s a bit of a an experience to be honest with you. We had a staff of we had two guys used to help with the maintenance of the lodge rotating staff of ladies who do the the guest rooms and stuff. Um, but yeah, we had one of the guys used to cycle in from Komatipoort, which is the nearest town and if it was raining really hard on those big African storms or if he had a puncture on his bicycle, I used to hop in the Bakkie and give them a lift to the lodge. It’s only about the pipe about a five minute drive. And he phoned me one day and he said, David, David, so there’s there’s lions I said it’s up I know there’s lions theres many in the park we see them most weeks. He said no, no in the road in the road. So you never know where these things are hopped in the Bakkie turned out to the lodge towards Komatipoort, and they’re about a kilometer up the road was about 300 farmworkers stood across the road. So I drove up, picked up, picked up Silver, and drove back towards the lodge. And they’re in the sugarcane field opposite opposite the logic gates was seven lions that had wandered under the fence from the Kruger and the sugarcane field. And the sugar cane was only about a foot high. So you can see the lions quite clearly. So I pulled in, pulled into the gate of the farm opposite. There was two bakkies from SAN parks and the farmer so pulled up this all good English people decide to say anything I do to help having
John Lister 4:54
David Bough 4:57
Yeah having family in England. I think that was much better. Contribute to be honest. So they said no if we’re fine, thanks. So we stayed for about 10 minutes and watched I took silver back to do some stuff at the lodge lock the logic gates, which seemed like the only sensible thing thing to do and, and then wandered off across the road back to the sugarcane field. And the lions after about 20 minutes, The female got up, wandered through a hedge back towards where the staff accommodation is followed by the rest. And then I had two pistol shots. About 10 minutes later was just a farmer trying to just shop fire two shots in the air trying to scare them back into Kruger. Yes. Anyway, the workers came back after an hour, and I went back in the afternoon to check to see if they if they found the lions. All the farmers that gone back to work on the farm hands have gone back to work. And I spoke to a guy called Irving knight who was he worked a Crocodile Bridge at the time he was there and I said you found the lions then he said no, but we think that they have gone back. But anyway, yeah, when was everyone was back at work and just thinking, you know if that happened in, in England if lions escaped from a safari park or somewhere, that’d be a 10 kilometer exclusion zone and the SAS would be pulled out.
John Lister 6:16
Yeah, that’d be a major catastrophe.
David Bough 6:18
Yeah. But no people just roll their eyes ish and back to work. It’s just one of those strange African things.
John Lister 6:24
And so when you’re staying at the lodge, is that where you got to sort of break away for a bit and go and spend a bit of time in the south of the park?
David Bough 6:31
Yeah, so we used to do used to work three days on three days off. Anyone who’s worked at the lodge knows that they’re long hours so we’d be up it would be up at 4-4.30 depending on the season to see the guests off on safari. And then daytime, you know, just the general maintenance cleaning that kind of stuff, the evening braai normally bed about 9-10 o’clock and then actually, back to work the next day three days was about the shortest that we used to Do so our days off. It’s very tempting to sit around the lodge and sit in the pool and stuff. But with the Kruger go 20 feet from the swimming pool, it’s very hard not to hop in the car and head over the bridge so that most of our days off, that’s what we
John Lister 7:14
okay and spend the day in the park. Indeed. And so, you obviously I’ve seen a lot of things been spending three days on three days off in the park. Tell me about some of your more memorable sort of sighting?
David Bough 7:25
but I’ve been very lucky. And one of the things that always make us smile, you know, when I’ve been there a while and I was a an old hand at Safari in inverted commas, guests come back and say, Oh, we saw everything today, you know, meaning the Big 5. And the and the thing I’ve learned over the years is you know, you never see anything, everything. If you live in the park, there’s always something always something. So, I mean, I suppose suppose in terms of sightings, one of the one of the rarest animals I’ve seen was pangolin, which was 2017 … 2018 I think up in here, it was it was during the big, the big drought we had. So it’s probably 2017. Up near Skukuza and it was one of those blazing hot Kruger days, 45 degrees. We were just heading up to this Skukuza for a cold beer for lunch. It was hot and there was hardly a very few cars around because of the heat and the bush was was really sparse. We were just driving up towards the the high level bridge and on the north side of the Sabi river, and there crossing the road was a was a pangolin just myself and my girlfriend. We had it on our own for about 15-20 minutes, I suppose. She burst into tears as soon as she see, you know, she just shouted pangolin and the tears came. And it’s one of those things that you realize that, you know, I’ve been there a very short time compared with a lot of people and to have that kind of luck. I know people, you know, friends and guests. You can come into Krieger for 40- 50 years and never seen one. And I’d be amazed if I ever see one again, to be honest.
But amazing sighting, they’re much bigger than I thought they were. Probably a meter long. Wow, amazing animals. Just fantastic to see. So we headed down to we’re headed down to the Cattle Baron afterwards. Abandon the rest of the day. We had a nice lunch and a bottle of French champagne at the Cattle Baron to celebrate our pangolin day.
John Lister 9:27
Very good. Very nice. Well, it’s the feature shot on your website. I believe
David Bough 9:32
it is. Yes, it is. Yes.
John Lister 9:35
Quite interesting to see them move like I’ve only seen it on video but the way that they sort of walk in that it’s quite unique.
David Bough 9:42
Yeah, they’re, they’re very, they’re very slow and deliberate walking, and it’s you know, they walk on their, on their on their back two legs. But nw they’re very, I mean, real prehistoric animals. You know, the only other thing I could compare them to in terms of ancient looking is obviously the crocodile you have no they’re bizarre looking things. You know, lots of our guests used to say it’s an anteater. Is it related to them? And of course, they’re not there. They’re obviously their own species
John Lister 10:10
And I noticed that you post a lot of pictures of leopards. So that must be one of your favorites. leopards.
David Bough 10:17
I suppose it’s, I suppose of all the animals that people travel from all over the world to Kruger to come see is Ingway, the leopard which are tricky to find. You know, there are certain roads that we used to go to where we know there are leopards. And sometimes we wouldn’t see them (leopard). Most of the time, we wouldn’t see a leopard / them there. And they (leopard) kind of pop out in trees and from behind bushes when you’re least expecting them (a leopard) really. We used to, we used to go sometimes two weeks, three weeks, in every three days without seeing a leopard. We’d have guests come to the lodge ohh we saw two leopard today and patience is the trick and we always say that, you know, a leopard will come and find you so, and I am. And I guess I mean that they (leopard) are wonderful to see. They (leopard) are very, very solitary but sometimes they’re very brazen. You know, they’ll just sit by the side of the road and watch you as you watch them (leopard)
Leopard Pictures / Sightings for David Bough (Croc Bridge Blog)
John Lister 11:13
And I noticed that you posted a picture about some lions in the reeds that made the paper I believe
David Bough 11:22
so are um, yeah, that was that was published on the online USA Today. I think it’s our local lion pride. The vurhami pride, it’s named after their little bridge at two kilometers, as going to the park. I think one of one of the maybe not the biggest, I don’t think they’re as big as the Sabi pride but at one point there was about 20 to 23 of them so substantially big pride, and they used to hunt regularly on the banks opposite the lodge. And in fact, when, when the Crocodile River was low, they used to hunt on our side of the River as well. We had a strip of land about 150 feet at most on our side of the river. But yeah, the ones so we’d seen him catch warthog opposite the lodge. In the past. We had a great sighting where they were, they were stalking some buffalo that were about five or six buffalo just chipping out in the rivers. Again, another very hot day. And you could just see that about three or four lion heads poking out between the reeds in the bushes and stuff. And the buffalo turned and looked at the lion and the lion to the Buffalo and the lion obviously thought it’s a bit hot and there’s a few too many of them. You know, perhaps we’ll get this one I miss. And the buffalo is they do one of them. One of the older boys went downstream a little way, crossed over the river came up behind the lions and charged them from the back of the reeds. So that caused chaos. There’s lions flying everywhere and buffalo snorting and scooting through the river or whatever, so that that was fantastic. But we had we had one morning where I wasn’t, I was actually off and it’s one of those strange days we weren’t going into the park and You know, for anyone who slept at night, you know, near the Kruger it’s very noisy the animals mating, eating each other up to all kinds of shenanigans. And it’s about three o’clock in the morning. And I remember hearing snorting and growling and you know, we’ve had a long, I think, quite boozy night the night before. Anyway, about quarter to four and knock on the door, and it’s the other guy. He’s used to run the lodge with me, and he said I think you must come and see this. And the Vurhami girls had killed a buffalo right in front of the lodge, about 50 feet from the, from the observation deck. So we had to rule at the lodge that if we saw lions first thing in the morning, we’re go bang on the door, you know, whatever time it was. So we had the whole lodge on the observation deck in their pajamas and whatnot. And we had we had two of the local guides coinge to pick guests up for a day in the park. So they stayed as well for about two hours. They didn’t leave till about picking up at five so they didn’t leave till about seven or half seven I suppose. And they were saying, Well, you know, we might as well stay home watch this cause you’re not going to see this in the park unless you’ve very, very lucky. So say, yeah, we, we were very blessed at the lodge.
John Lister 14:06
And they would have spent a few days there with the kill.
David Bough 14:09
Yeah, so it was it was nice. So the guests that were there for two or three days, I can’t remember which day they, they killed it. But they’re actually caught it in the river, drag it onto the, onto onto the, there’s a open section of grass there, where they where they ate. So that was kind of the first they fed until about early afternoon, and then it got hot and they slept and they came back. And then we had obviously, the vultures appeared pretty quickly after that. The following day, we had the following two days we had hyena, this local hyena clan, not not too far from where we are. So we saw the whole so we saw you know, the whole circle of the killer really from the you know, from the from the catch to the, you know, just the bleached bones by the river.
John Lister 14:51
And one of the things that you sort of hone your skills of sightings when you’re spending a lot of time there. You sort of become one at nature and you can sort of see things that as develop. Tell me a little bit about one of the sightings that surprised yourself in that you were driving along and thought Hang on a second, there’s something not quite right here and ended up being a magnificent sighting.
David Bough 15:17
So I’ll give you an example of so ever everyone calls it bush eyes, you know, yes. And, and I’m not bad. I got some friends who go to the park a lot more than me and it takes them a lot less time to get their eyes back in than it does me. But my last trip we were up drove to Berg en dal, I was with two friends of mine, David and Jacqueline, who live in in Pretoria, and we’re up near Gardenia hide on the lookout for leopards. Strangely. Anyway, so we’re just driving up the road I thinks it S114 I forget which road and there’s a Francolin in a tree going crazy alarm calling. And so we stop to have a look at two other cars there. No, there’s nothing to see. So we stay for another two minutes. And then David who was driving. So next we move on. Jacqueline said, No, no, no, there’s something going on here. Let’s just stay for a bit. So reversed up a little bit and then back a little bit. We couldn’t quite see it was quite a short tree and about six, seven feet but we couldn’t see the Francolin it’s quite thick. And we reverse back and Jack said there in the corner, and by the base of a tree was a dwarf mongoose with one of the Francolins eggs. So that obviously stolen the egg. Much of Francolins dismay, and we watched for about 15-20 minutes as the mongoose tried to break the egg against the base of a tree. So it’s kind of little things like that. I think it’s about as much about listening to the bushes. As watching you know Jack my friend has a real talent for this kind of thing. And it was it was one of those wonderful. I’ve never seen a mongoose with an egg before. And just a wonderful thing to see. And you know things like leopards, for example. I mean those with like, my ex up near Skukuza. we were driving back just before the gates closed about an hour before the gates closed, and even in, even in the quiet season, everyone knows how busy it can be around there. And we’re driving literally one and a half kilometers from the from the Skukuza gate, and my girlfriend was driving. I said, let’s just stop a minute and reverse back and she said, What is it I said, there was a leopard set by the side of the road, and it’s one of those things you don’t expect really. So she goes back about 50-60 feet, and they’re set calmly by the side of the road was this beautiful young female leopard. And we sat there with her she went behind the termite mound. So we reverse back she came out the other side, we play kind of hide and seek for 15-20 minutes before another car turned up. So it just goes to show you know, you can be in the busiest part of the park and you know, be On your mind with the most amazing animal
John Lister 18:01
Exactly. Now, down Croc Bridge way there’s a cheetah and the 4 cubs? It’s Yeah, becoming quite popular now. Have you had some sightings on her? And
David Bough 18:15
I’ve been very lucky. So I I first saw supermom as she’s known when she had five cubs, and when they were when they were very little. And over the years I’ve been back in the UK for a while. I was I was back again for two months at Christmas. So yeah, I’ve seen them grow up really. So I’ve seen them. They used to hunt on tar road between Croc Bridge and turning for the S28 and then up S28 towards Nthahdanyathi and Dukes Dam I think public public knowledge where to look for them. If you find that if you find them or not, it’s a different matter. But yeah, so I’ve seen them grow. up into into its four males that she has. And in fact when I was there Christmas Jacqueline my friend one of the things that she hadn’t seen that we wanted to try and find was Superman when we find her up, just by the towards Nthahdanyathi just before the broken down turn off I’ve never never never remember the name of the road and and the boys then we’re just about to leave or mum was just about to leave the boys then it was wonderful. Watch them mum appear from the bush. And we saw God Hope it her and 1, 2, 3, 4 came out. They played in the turning they did that classic mountain stood on the road sign for us. Yeah. And then a log and then disappeared off into the bush. And we tried to we tried to track them for a while but they headed towards the border. But yeah, wonderful to see. And, you know, I think I think for Cheetah to raise four cubs right in the middle of one of the biggest lion prides in Kruger is no mean feat to be honest with you.
John Lister 20:01
And so you mentioned that you went back in December. Obviously, were unable to go to the park at the moment. But when you are able to get back there, what’s one thing that you sort of long to do and the first thing you want to do when you head back to the Kruger so
David Bough 20:18
I stayed at I stayed a place called Tamboria in Komatipoort. I think quite a few people have been to the partner that and I’m quite good friends with Hanno who enter now he also runs his own Safari company. So I check in there and I pop in to see everyone at the lodge. And they got to they got two dogs, they’re ridgeback and a jack Russell. Who I Miss dreadfully so popping in see them and then straight into the park. Normally stop at the shop. I’ve got a few friends at the shop at Croc bridge, Mikey. if you’re watching this Hello. And then head off to the park. And it’s just, it’s like it’s like the world. The weight of the world leaves your shoulders When you get through those gates, and it’s a special place,
John Lister 21:03
and so you’ve arrived and you’ve just gone through Croc Bridge, what are some of the roads that you going to head down?
David Bough 21:09
So I think some, some people freestyle it from the start, some people plan out a route. I have an idea of what I’d like to do at the start of the day, but it will tend to go out the window when you hit the first junction. And this has got a leopardy feeling about it or, or I don’t know, I just got up here for the, you know, on the off chance. And sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve got my I’ve got my set little loops that I like doing. So like, the S25 and then up to the H5, back onto the tar Gezantomdi loop is fantastic. One of my favorite bits of road it’s very narrow. But on the last trip there, I finally got to see the Gezantomdi, the famous Gezantomdi leopard after five years of trying, and I’ve got Wild Dog there and chased By an elephant and so I had some fantastic fun there. And then other days I had down patiently in the mornings. Normally after about a week in the Croc Bridge area, I’ll drive to Berg en Dal and go in through Malelane. And there’s you know, there’s there’s some fantastic opportunities for all kinds of stuff down by the river there.
John Lister 22:21
Fair enough. And I hear you’ve got a little travel companion Rufus.
David Bough 22:26
Rufus my wild dog. Yes. Yeah, I get some strange looks at airports. But I think we’ve clocked up over over a quarter of a million kilometers now between us and he needs a bath. He’s I’m sure he’s got half the crew. The parking is his fur, but I’m gonna leave him as is. I know he comes everywhere with me. And he’s quite handy on the airplane for a head rests
John Lister 22:50
fair enough. Yeah, I think you’ve had a few profile pictures and that sort of thing with the Rufus featured.
David Bough 22:56
Yeah, we’ve had a few scrapes together me and the boy
John Lister 22:58
Yeah. And so When you think of the Kruger and you’re thinking about, okay, what animal? Would I like to see what what’s your favorite animal?
David Bough 23:08
I think leopards are lovely, you know, and they’re, they’re just magnificent animals. But I think, I think elephant for me, I think, you know, a close encounters with an elephant or a herd or little ones is is always fantastic. And it’s strange because the guests at the lodge, we always used to ask them at the start of their stay, you know, what, what, what the thing was that they were looking forward to most, nine times out of 10 to be a leopard and giraffe, strangely. Those two and then we’d ask them again at the end, and almost all them would say being close to an elephant was was was, was there a abiding memory of the park? And there’s something there’s something wonderful about the animals. I mean, there’s more that goes on in their heads of this and we will ever know in our lifetime,
John Lister 23:52
hundred percent. Um, and so that brings us to pretty much the close or the end of the chat. Is there any other Have a story that sticks in your mind that you think you know what I’d really like to share?
David Bough 24:04
Oh, Blimey. That was one if you if you get a chance to go to to Kruger go to Lake Panic. It’s amazing little hide. There’s a golf club just up the road where you can get a very nice lunch, half as busy as Skukuza and a third of the price and the golf course is in the Kruger. So there’s things about a month ago they had lions on the 14th tee and but Lake Panic is amazing. And there’s leopard there regularly if you go first thing in the morning, sometimes they come down to drink, but one of the most amazing sightings had there was when I first started going with one of those days. We saw black rhino in the morning is one of those one or two or three times I’ve ever seen them in the park, and then only got fleeting glimpse, and then we went to Lake Panic. And we had the cheetah, Cheetah, leopard soaring in the distance and a young leopard pair came down and drank climbed a tree watched us in the hide? And that was fantastic. But we’ve gone there because someone said there was a Python on one of trees. And anyway, we used to be a famous dead tree right, right in front of the viewing deck, and we couldn’t see the snake. So I went into the walkway for crafty cigarette advices and then Toby, the guy that is moved to Australia now called David, David and he’d been taking pictures of woodland Kingfisher fishing from one of the dead branches and he’d been photographing for about two or three minutes as it flew back to the branch that was he was using as a perch. This Python struck and Toby called me out I’ve got literally 20 seconds after the snake had caught it and apparently got two coils around the bird in mid flight before even landed on the on the perch. But we sat there for an hour and 20 minutes and watched this Python try and devour the Kingfisher which is a you know, a remarkable thing to see. And it was the youngest And say I couldn’t quite work out which end to swallow first because the business end of a woodland kingfishers quite pointy. Yeah, you know, so. So yeah. An amazing thing to see. So you know, it’s not it’s a bit like the mongoose and the egg thing. It’s not It’s not all about that leopards and lions.
John Lister 26:15
Absolutely. And anyone that wants to see photos of that I believe they’re up on your Croc Bridge blog So there’s a
David Bough 26:22
there’s Croc Bridge blog and my Facebook page. It’s just David Bough, Bo u gh. come say hello.
John Lister 26:29
Yeah. Well, I’d like to thank you very much for taking the time to have a chat to me some really interesting stories there. And hopefully everyone’s enjoyed hearing David Bough’s stories. I definitely had some unique points to share with us. So thanks very much for your time, David. If you hang on two seconds,
David Bough 26:47
it’s been a pleasure. Thank you.
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