This episode of the Safari Stories podcast features Danny Broome who is the co-creator of the KrugerExplorer App. Danny shares some of his personal wildlife stories within the Kruger, including the time he saw a pack of 30 wild dogs including pups, a hyena kill and many other exciting tales. He also shares some background on the KrugerExplorer App, how it was created and some of its features.

Preview

John Lister: Thank you very much for joining us today. Today. We’re lucky enough to have Danny Broome join us, Danny. He is one of the co-creators of the KrugerExplorer app and they’ve also got the associated website, Krugerexplorer.com. Danny, thank you very much for joining us.

Danny Broome: Hi, John. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

John Lister: How I usually run through the episodes is always ask a little bit about your background and how you discover nature and a bit of your journey to where we are today. So if you could give us a little bit about yourself.

Danny Broome: Happy to do it John. Well, thanks again for, for taking the time to connect and stuff, pleased, to be able to chat to a Safaristories.com.

Viewers and listeners and things as well. And so to answer your question, you know, a bit of background from, from my perspective, and as you mentioned, I’m one of the co-creators of the Kruger Explorer app. And I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to be able to, spend quite a bit of time either working or traveling around South Africa and, and the, the area of the country that always sort of captured my heart and took me back to, was Kruger National Park and then some of the, the wonderful wildlife and habitats and environments that, that you can find both in Kruger and in that sort of low velt, greater Kruger area. So a wonderful corner of the world. And so we, my partner, Charlotte and I. just over a year ago, I came up with the idea of wouldn’t it be great if we could sort of create a single kind of platform of information about Kruger?

We used to drive around the park with half a library of books on the car seats and the mammals guide, the birds guide, a couple of maps, you know, the usual sort of stuff. And, and so we sort of said, wouldn’t it be great if we had a single resource for this information? And wouldn’t it be great to, to really bring that into the 21st century as well.

KrugerExplorer App

KrugerExplorer App Screenshot

KrugerExplorer App Screenshot

KrugerExplorer App Screenshot

And I actually have it on a mobile phone or tablet devices in an app format rather than casting all these heavy books around. And so a little idea is sort of dreamt up then as we were sort of exploring the bush and ever, ever since then, we’ve kind of been working, on trying to make it a reality. So it’s,  it’s been a wonderful journey and, it’s something that we’re very passionate about.

I guess it. That’s very much what I started off as, as a passion project and a lot of your listeners on here will absolutely know what I’m talking about with passion for Kruger. its such a, such a real, tangible thing. So it’s certainly seen us through on this exciting project as well.

John Lister: Absolutely and one of the things I really loved about KrugerExplor. Is the level of detail that you’re going to there’s, there’s so much information there. whether it’s, you’re looking about information about camps and the roads and different tracks to take, and, you know, if you’ve got a spare two or three hours, this is a suggested route to birds, different species, as well as all the animals. So, you really have spent a lot of time putting together a great resource.

Danny Broome: Thanks, John. Now it’s been a, it’s been a labor of love, that’s for sure. It’s a huge amount of content. As you say that the app really sort of breaks down into three different sort of sections. I guess there’s the, the field guide in terms of the actual animals and all the different wildlife species that you can see there.

And that splits into mammals, birds, reptiles, and vertebrates and flora, and there’s over 450 individual animal profiles, which obviously then gives you a lot of information about each of the individual species. Exceptionally high quality photography all times so that you can identify what you’re looking at, particularly with the birds so that you can really sort of get to grips with that sort of stuff.

KrugerExplorer App Routes Screen

KrugerExplorer App Routes Screen

KrugerExplorer App Skukuza Summary

KrugerExplorer App Skukuza Summary

And, and, and yeah, it really just sort of celebrates this wonderful collection of wildlife that you find in, in Kruger and we were, I used to actually be a guide. I’m going back some years at a private reserve in South Africa. And so really lean on all of that knowledge and experience around the wildlife to be able to put that field guide element together.

So it’s a real encyclopedia of, of Krugers wildlife and the other sections. Then, as you mentioned, there’s. There’s the, sort of the routes part of it, which is really the guide in the pocket, I guess. And, and the way that we’ve been encouraging people to think about that is to, A, use it, to plan their trip.

You know, if you’re interested in particular species, if you want to see certain types of animals whilst you’re visiting the park, then it’s actually quite important that you stay in the right areas of the park. And so having that information to be able to read about the different routes that you can take and what you might.

What you might encounter down different roads, is really important. Part of that planning process. And then obviously once your in the park. the app is designed to work completely offline. You can put your flight or phone into flight mode and the way you go kind of thing, you’ve got this guide in your pocket and that sort of telling you.

It’s not giving you sort of hard instructions, but kind of giving you suggested roads to sort of go down, suggested routes to take, if you want to short route or mid route or a full day route, and then you can take it back and off you go. And whatever really tries to do is as soon as you’re exploring it educates from the ground up.

So it’s basically saying rather than. Go down the road, X, Y, Z, because you might see lions a, it sort of says why you’re traveling down this particular road and you’ll see that your surrounded by grass grassy Plains that’s because the geology, the soil is of a certain type, which stops trees from growing, which means you get grass.

The grass attracts the zebra and wildebeest  and the wildebeest and the zebra attract the lions. That’s why this is a great road for lions. And so you get that immersive understanding of. This wonderful environment you’re driving through. the other part of the app is, as I mentioned, that is the end of the sort of slightly more practical stuff.

KrugerExplorer App Elephant Screenshot

KrugerExplorer App Elephant Screenshot

KrugerExplorer App Mammals

KrugerExplorer App Mammals

There’s lots of information about the park, about the camps. there’s, there’s a very high quality maps, which are the most Up To Date that you can get anywhere in the market at the moment, including in the park shops, there there’s new roads that aren’t included on those maps, and then there’s a sightings functionality.

So you could have a checklist of everything you’ve seem, you know, not sort of interactive element in the app as well.

John Lister: Yeah, absolutely. And one of the things I noticed is that, you do actively update the app, so there’s always new information going in there. So. If there’s different species or different roads.

And as you say, you’re the most up to date map for the new roads? it’s quite a evolving project, let’s say,

Danny Broome: We launched it with, you know, there was perhaps 250  actually just over 300 species when we launched it in the field guide element. And, and really that covered all of the major species that you are likely to encounter on any given visit to Krueger.

There are other bird species in particular. We’ve also expanded the invertebrates and some of the reptiles, some of the snakes and butterflies, spiders, things like that. And so we’ve been having increasing rare stuff and which is nice to be able to do. Just kind of makes it even more comprehensive and really sort of ticks it, ticks it off as a comprehensive resource that once you’ve got it, you’re not going to need anything else, for your visit.

Plus obviously we’re very fortunate that we’re able to get to Kruger with good regularity. And so we, we get new information, we get new insights, we will see new species down, particular roads and stuff like that. So we update those routes to say that it reflects on your knowledge as well.

John Lister: Absolutely. And what I’ll say is that anyone that’s heading over there, whether you’re new and, not really sure on what to see in the park or you’ve been going for 60 years. There’s so much information there. You will learn something. so I have definitely have a look at it. there’s a lot of great information and it’s always updated.

Danny Broome: Great. Thanks, John.

John Lister: So, let’s move a little, move on to a few of your sightings and a few of the things that you’ve experienced in the park personally.  So, maybe I’ll shoot over to you and ask you to tell us a little bit about one of your sightings .

Danny Broome: Yeah. Happy to do it. I have to say that this was like the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. When we were chatting before this, and you said, well, you know, we’ll chat about a couple of your favorite sightings and stuff.

I thought, wow, that’s, you know, one of the amazing things about Kruger is just how, how vast it is and how much variety of habitat and environment. There’s three and a half. I think about three and a half thousand kilometers of roads that any visitor can drive themselves down, which is it’s just phenomenal.

And the park itself is the same size as Israel or Wales or Belize, you know, the, depending on which countries, you know, it’s just a vast sort of place. And, and I’ve been lucky enough to spend a huge amount of time there over the years, and it just throws up amazing memories, amazing sightings, wonderful experiences, and so to try and hone that down to just one or two is it was a real challenge, but I kind of, I kind of thought of a couple that we had sort of more, more recently.

And then the sort of the personal magic that kind of came with some of them as well. Which was pretty cool. And so one of them that sort of sprung to mind was when Charlotte and I were in Kruger last October, we were very fortunate to be able to go in at the very north of the park the Zimbabwe border and spend a good number of weeks driving all the way down through to the park.

and we, we had gone in at the North end and we hadn’t been there that long. We were staying at Punda Maria. The northern most of the, the main camps, main rest camps in the park. And, we, we sort of got up early set out as you do at crack of Dawn and it was a miserable morning. It looked like it was going to rain.

It was kind of, the sun was out, but the cloud was so thick that it was pretty dark. I don’t know. Sometimes when you have that exciting feeling of what we’re going to see kind of thing. And this morning just didn’t feel like one of those mornings where we’re sort of driving along the main road that takes you into Punda Maria.

I just casually said to Charlotte, so what are we going to see today? And she, likes we would quite often do. Says, well, we’re going to see wild dog puppies. Ohh wow. I rolled my eyes because that’s an incredibly challenging sighting, incredibly endangered species. That, Kruger is a good place to see them.

But it’s nevertheless, you know, a tough sighting to say the least. And then when you throw in puppies, you know, you’re really asking for a bit of a miracle, that kind of thing. So I rolled my eyes. I don’t know what I said, but with not a lot in response to that.

Wild Dog Puppies

Wild Dog Puppies

So we carried on driving down the road and within less than 30 seconds of Charlotte saying, we’re going to see wild dog puppies, these two adult wild dogs sprint straight across the road in front of us to the point, I actually have to slam the brakes on to, to avoid any kind of collision and stuff.

Wild Dog Puppies playing in the road

Wild Dog Puppies playing in the road

Wild Dog Puppies playing in the road

Wild Dog Puppies playing in the road

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

And then out of nowhere, there is wild dogs everywhere, all around us. And there was a pack of them. That’s about 30 in total, although, impossible to count precisely because so much chaos of all this movement and running around and of, this 30, there was probably about 20 of them that were puppies.

Wild Dog Adults

Wild Dog Adults

Wild Dog Puppy

Wild Dog Puppy

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

It’s just the most amazing experience to have sort of there in front of us surrounding the car, running around. a couple of them had. little bones in their mouths and stuff from something that they had called and they were using as a toy.

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

And I, there was no food left on it and stuff, but it was sort of playing and stuff. And you could see the adults kind of shepherding them and making sure that some didn’t just run off into the Bush and things like that. So it’s this hugely energetic kind of sighting and just amazing experience to be totally surrounded by so many  wild dogs being so active and just a really magical kind of moment.

Wild Dog Puppy looking at camera

Wild Dog Puppy looking at camera

Wild Dog Puppy looking at camera

Wild Dog Puppy looking at camera

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppy

Wild Dog Puppy

Wild Dog Puppies playing

Wild Dog Puppies playing

And that to the fact that obviously Charlotte had made this comment just 30 seconds earlier, you couldn’t, you couldn’t script it kind of thing. So it was a wonderful thing. And I’m one of the things that has always been important to us, cause we’re very active on social media and our blog and stuff like that.

Wild Dog Puppy

Wild Dog Puppy

Wild Dog Puppy

Wild Dog Puppy

Wild Dog Puppy

Wild Dog Puppy

Wild Dog

Wild Dog

Wild Dog

Wild Dog

And obviously we try to get really high quality photography images for the app as well. And at that point I’m trying to then start. To get some good photos and things like that. I think it was honestly one of the hardest photographic assignments I’ve ever had. The light level was extremely low, so it’s hard to take fast photos and just the energy all around.

And then these dogs are sort of moving along the road. So I’m trying to drive and lean out to take photos. Charlotte’s trying to do the same on the other side of the car. And a very chaotic kind of scene, but we did managed to get some wonderful images and we’ll share them with you as well. So hopefully you can sort of hook them onto this and people can see some of them, but it was an incredible experience, a wonderful sighting in an area of the park not really famous for, for its predators, let alone wild dogs and so wonderful.

I think just to be able to see, you know, critically endangered species doing so well, you know, 20. 20 of the next generation were there and not to suggest that that will all make it to adulthood. Cause that’s not how the wilderness works, but wonderful to see such great numbers of, of the critical nature species.

John Lister: Absolutely. And, and I have to say it’s probably one of the first or, I’d say it is actually the first story involving Punda Maria. And it’s not a, it’s not a camp that gets featured too often. so, on that speaking about camps where you’ve obviously traveled extensively through the park, which camp.  Is one that you have always top of your list to go and visit.

Danny Broome:  Again, it’s such a difficult question. I think the amazing thing with Kruger again is that each of those rest camps, you kind of spoilt for choice because each of the rest camps has its own thing. It has a thing that it’s kind of famous for or is unique to that area of the park or whatever it might be.

And it really does mean that you can’t sort of go wrong with selecting a camp. Actually, because there is something awesome nearby to sort of explore and hopefully see in terms of wildlife and stuff. I do like Punda Maria in the North, I think, the access point from there to get up to the periphery region of the park, which is really the only tropical region of Kruger or truly tropical region of Kruger is, is so spectacularly beautiful. And this is right up on this sort of S63, S64 roads along the Luvuvhu river. and it’s, you know, that there’s a lot fewer visitors go there cause it’s pretty remote. And the environment of the, the, the floodplains there with all the fever, trees and stuff is a very magical place to explore.

It’s really very, very special. And, and then you’ve got Punda Maria and a little bit further South, and it’s the biggest of the, the main rest camps there. and it it’s, it’s again, it’s got its own sort of environments nearby that, that offer quite unique species. And particularly if you’re into birding and stuff, there’s probably not a better area of the park.

So it’s absolutely wonderful that, but it’s remote. It’s a, you know, you’re not gonna see the same densities of predators and things like that up there either. So whilst you can tick off some rare stuff, If it’s your first ever, or your only ever Safari experience, then, then there’s probably better options.

So the further South as well. And so if you’re into the big cats and, you know, there’s some of the central areas of the park, Olifants and Satara in particular. I’ve always had some good success with that. and if you’re just into. You know, really exploring a good variety of stuff, but just seeing lots of, you know, the Skukuza to Lower Sabie kind of road there.

Use the H4-1 and some of the roads near that. Yes, it’s popular. Yes. It gets busy with visitors, particularly in peak times, but there’s a reason it gets busy. The wildlife thing is incredible. The density of animals that you can see there, the variety. and, and just the frequency with which you see stuff is amazing.

It’s absolutely amazing. And you can have some, some sensational sightings. like I say, it boils down. to that sort of, what are you after on your trip, planning sort of phase and then sort of choose accordingly, but, certainly spoilt for choice when it comes to Kruger. And I’ve not really answered your question, but,

John Lister: I was going to say Punda Maria is probably that’s probably the first story that we’ve had involving Punda Maria. We have quite a few involving Skukuza to Lower Sabie. and a lot of them have been, you know, not many, cars on the sighting, it’s a unique sighting with very few, others on the sighting. So yeah  , it’s one of the criticisms that a lot of people say that it’s a bit busy down there, but, a lot of the stories didn’t involve too much traffic.

So, yeah, there there’s one thing, but, Let’s I’ll take Punda Maria as your answer as the favourite camp. Lets say you are spending the night at putting the Maria and, you know, sort of, are you one of these people that are up at the crack of Dawn and first at the gate? So you want to be first out the gate.

Danny Broome: Yeah, we try to be, you know, I think it’s, it’s tough in the sort of November, December, January time, because if you’re, you know, that golden hour is, is amazing for sightings, you’ve got the nocturnal, the crepuscular and the diurnal, species all being active at the same time. So, you know, it, you’ve got one potentially wonderful wildlife with the sunrise and stuff.

Find that as well, which if you’re into your photography is. like gold dust, so that that’s, that’s really important stuff too. and so it’s just the right time to be out in the park. in November, December, January time, it’s tough, slow, because you want to do the same at the end of the day, the last hour or two is kind of the same, but opposite.

and so if you’re a, you know, if you’re up at 4:00 AM to get out at. gate  opening time in the morning. And then you’re getting back into camp at 6.30 in the evening. Once you’ve had some dinner, you’re really just going straight to sleep then that’s it. So it is kind of tough. So that time of year we try to, but we’re not always out of the gate at the very crack of Dawn, but.

But if we’re there in, in the sort of the winter months, when the days are shorter and you get a little bit more time to rest and recuperate in the evenings and stuff, and then yeah, we’re usually that or thereabouts I’m heading out and try to try to find where we can find before it goes to sleep or as it’s waking up.

John Lister: Yeah, fair enough. And, one of the other things I’ll always ask about is favorite roads and like routes that you like to do. So as an example, Satara S100 comes up a lot, as people’s favorite roads, what would you say is your favorite road or favorite route to do? Doesn’t have to be a Punda Maria example.

Danny Broome: And so now I can make it up, but you mentioned Satara there and, I can, there’s a particular road, actually. I think it is. It’s certainly it’s quite new. So people don’t always know that it’s there, it’s not on the maps in the park shops as well, which doesn’t help things. But if you’re staying at either.

Olifants or Satara it’s between the two, it’s called the S147. And it’s actually just a one way road, which I think it’s their only one in Kruger. I don’t know that they’ve done it as quite a narrow sort of track, as a new road. So you can only kind of access it from the South and then it takes you north back towards Olifants.

But it’s, it runs along the, the little drainage line. That is there. And there’s a wonderful spot for the cats. And I use the term quite broadly, which is, is uncommon. So I sort of just got bold to do so, but it is a wonderful stretch road for cats. And as is the main tar road, the other side of it.

The water as well. And I had, we had a wonderful sightings as she wants, just to sort of bring it to life where it was just one of those mornings where they’re just the sightings, just keep on happening. You just end up with one of those. And I used to amazing game drives that you could possibly imagine, and we’d come out of Olifants we’d come down the tar road.

And as we got to the junction, with the S147 there was a pride of lions on a kill that they’d taken overnight. couldn’t quite see what it was. It was just down in the. Down in the, the drainage line. But, you could see from all the, sort of the red on the faces and stuff, that they were obviously feasting and fat bellies and all the rest of it.

and so we, you know, we kind of hung around there for a few minutes and literally just a few minutes, suddenly five cheetahs, there’s these sort of sub adult coalition of cheetahs that were all siblings and it’s a grown up together. they’d left the mom and we’re still still of sticking together now that they were, were young adults.

and the five cheetahs. just kind of come wandering up. Really just having a nose and seeing what’s going on. And as they got closer and closer the lion starts to get more agitated. They’ve seen them, and they’re not really happy with the proximity of a, of another predator that might come and steal their prey kind of thing.

So the big biggest at the lionesses sort of gets up and comes to charging across. at these cheetahs. full pelt, you know, she’s not messing around. She really was. She would have, she had managed to catch one. She would have taken one. Obviously the cheetah has the advantage of speed, but just an amazing sort of thing to sort of, again, witness around you.

You got, so the cheetah’s running behind the vehicle in front of the vehicle or lioness charging through as well, and just the most incredible experience and sighting to sort of witness that, that interaction between species and just the energy of the. The moment and the occasion, I think. So it was a really incredible thing to, to sort of witness.

So we were blown away by this, you know, this is going to be the best sighting of the week let alone of the day kind of thing. And so we then pulled them to the 147, cause this was all at the very junction where it comes off the tar. Right. And we were, I don’t know, maybe 15, 20 minutes later, sort of up to 147.

We encounter that. What has now become quite famous? The leopard Cub that sits in a tree while mom is out hunting a long on the 147 and so we, we sat having our breakfast with this little leopard Cub in the trees, quite intrigued by us, and then having a snooze and then awake again, and then sort of trying to catch birds that were landing nearby and just glorious sighting.

You know, we really couldn’t have asked for much more. And then of course, with. Well, white thing is, you know, mum will have gone out hunting overnight, maybe she’ll return. And sure enough, she came back and, and had, had some prey nearby. She had a Bush buck. She came in and, got the Cub down from the tree and off, they went to go and to go and eat.

and this was all in, you know, the space of a couple of hours. And we still with all the sort of hunting that was going on, there was hyenas everywhere. the, obviously the pride of lions, there was another pride of lions further up the 147 as well. Just the most amazing drive or centered around this wonderful road.

It’s a, it’s a fantastic stretch and well worth exploring, but a lot of people just miss it because it’s not on the maps, in the park shops at the moment. cause its so new and it’s. It’s just quite discreet. You don’t, it’s very easy to sort of drive past it. You wouldn’t necessarily realize it’s there, but it’s definitely not one to be missed.

John Lister: Yeah. And to be honest with you, I’ll agree with you wholeheartedly on that. I’ve had some great sightings there, including a leopard and just walk down the Riverway and because the roads so close, you get some really great sightings of, the big cats and I’ve also seen cheetah there. So it is a, it is definitely a  road that yields a lot of results, but like you say it as you’re driving along, it’s very easy to miss.

Danny Broome:  Absolutely superb stretch. And with the water right there, you get all of the antelope coming in to drink, the elephants are quite often there and you can get pretty close. the birding is very good along there eagles down to the little guys.

it’s. Yeah, it’s a fabulous little stretch, but I’m kind of giving away secrets by mentioning it.

John Lister: Well, it’s not featured in a lot of books, so people have to get your app to see it.

Danny Broome: Absolutely.

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