Television presenter and film maker, Bonné de Bod was a field journalist for popular Afrikaans wildlife programme, 50/50, for seven seasons before she and director Susan Scott sold every last possession they owned to film and produce the award-winning STROOP – journey into the rhino horn war.
Bonné, who has loved the natural world since she was a young girl, says her career took her on many different paths before she finally made her mark as a wildlife TV presenter and producer.
“After school I thought I had to take the conventional route, so I studied B. Com Industrial Psychology at the University of Pretoria. After I obtained my degree, I got involved with stage productions, and this is when I realised that I love telling stories.”
Bonné then went on to get her Drama diploma and ended up auditioning for the SABC nature show, 50/50.
Bonné’s new career as a field reporter and producer for South Africa’s longest running nature show was a match made in heaven.
As a young girl, she and her two sisters often visited the Kruger National Park with her parents and grandparents.
“My granddad had this unbelievable knowledge about every animal, plant and tree, and we would stop, observe and talk about it,” she recalls.
In 2014, Bonné realised that no one was really talking about the rhino poaching crisis. So, she and her co-producer at 50/50 decided to invest all their time, resources and money into a project to raise awareness about rhino poaching.
“We sold our homes and we quit our jobs at the broadcaster to make Stroop, to really look at the brutality involved, and the demand in Vietnam. We went undercover and got face-to-face with the illegal wildlife smugglers.”
After filming and producing Stroop – journey into the rhino horn war, Bonné and Susan went on to film and produce Kingdoms of Fire, Ice & Fairytales.
This new adventure took the duo to some of the most beautiful wildernesses on the planet, including The Arctic Circle, The Black Forest in Germany and Yellow Stone National Park in North America.
Speaking to The Citizen about their latest series, Bewonder & Bewaar met Bonné de Bod, Bonné says the series is about a beautiful planet where they travel to unspoiled wildernesses.
From deep within the Namib desert to the Kruger National Park and the spectacular canyons in Patagonia in South America, Bonné spent time with veterinarians, scientists and researchers who all do incredible work for wildlife.
“In Bewonder & Bewaar, I go a little deeper and this leads to very special and intimate moments throughout the series,” says Bonné.
The duo didn’t only have unprecedented access to the researchers, but also the wilderness areas they visited. “We took the camera there so we can take the viewer there,” says Bonné.
Asking her how they decided on the themes and locations for their latest wildlife series, Bonné says she chose the Namib Desert because she has always wanted to see a desert lion for herself.
In Namibia, Bonné spend time with researcher, Flip Stander, a world-renowned lion man who has been studying these animals for over three decades now.
Flip hasn’t lived in a house since 1998, he lives in his research vehicle.
“During my time with Flip I found out that desert lions are lions that have adapted to live and survive in the desert, and that Flip has adapted to research them. He sleeps during the day when the lions sleep. He follows them at night, and doesn’t even switch on the car lights because his vision has adapted to see in the night,” says Bonné.
She recalls the night when they got to see a desert lion about 100 metres from their vehicle.
“Flip stopped with his vehicle right next to us. The lioness didn’t really mind that we were there, but when Flip pulled in, she lifted her head with a softness in her eyes, almost with a look of recognition, and that was a really special moment for me,” says Bonné.
Seeing a Puma in nature has been on the wildlife television presenter’s bucket list for a long time, and so naturally Patagonia in South America made it onto their list of destinations to visit and film for Bewonder & Bewaar.
“I’ve only dreamt about seeing a puma in nature. It’s very rare, on a scale from 1 – 10, it’s probably zero, so I really wanted to go there, not only for myself, but also for the viewers.”
Bonné and Susan spend almost two weeks in Patagonia before the award-winning wildlife presenter finally got to realise her dream of seeing a puma in nature.
“Before we went to Patagonia, the researcher told us to come for two weeks as we might then have a chance to see a puma. I slept with my cell phone next to my pillow every night, and we made sure that our camera and sound equipment were charged and ready every night.”
Week one came and went and nothing happened. Week two also slowly passed with no fanfare, but on the second last day, while filming the sunrise over one of the spectacular canyons, they finally heard that there is puma activity.
“We trekked through the canyon, through very difficult terrain, it’s basically rock climbing for two hours. We came around a corner and there this puma was sitting – this incredible specimen looking at us with this sort of expression of ‘ok, you guys have arrived, so when are you getting me out of here?’ It was just so special sitting next to this puma,” says Bonné.
“After the puma’s collar was reprogrammed, he started waking up slowly. His backside was still a little bit lazy, but it was very much aware of us. He stuck out his tongue to lick around his lips to awaken his senses.
When he got up, we followed him as he was walking through the canyon and he sort of just disappeared over the horizon. It was one of those moments when I wished time could stand still.”
Tune in to kykNET (DStv channel 144) from Sunday 17 July at 8pm for Bewonder & Bewaar met Bonné de Bod. The series will also be available on DStv Catch Up.