Punda Maria Camp
Popular for Kruger Park Reservations largely in a historical context, the Punda Maria camp is situated in the Sandveld region, often referred to as the botanical garden of the Kruger National Park. The camp itself is recognised as the best opportunity to witness the elusive Nyala antelope, and bird watching in the area is without equal.
The area is more widely noted for its rich history than wildlife spotting, having been an ivory smuggler's haunt in the early 1900's. Illegal trade in labour from the Witwatersrand mines, border dodging poachers and an eventual intervention on behalf of the government are all part of the area's abundant historical setting, and guests come to soak in the remnants of this turbulent time.
Game species most likely to be sighted include impala, zebra, buffalo, elephant, eland and sable. The area is also a birder's paradise. Game can prove sparse, but kudu, nyala, buffalo and sharpe’s grysbok thrive in this habitat. Wild Dogs are regularly recorded too. Elephant and lion are also frequently recorded.
The Moahonie Loop is also the best venue in the park to see the diminutive suni antelope. A trip to Pafuri will produce plenty of nyala and impala, and possibly some bushbuck. Vervet monkey and baboon will be seen in abundance and plenty of hippo and Nile crocodile in the riverbed itself.
Birding throughout the camp is excellent. Birds of prey are common overhead. Black Eagle is sometimes seen, while in winter the Whitenecked Raven is a regular visitor.
The camp is in sandveld. The sandy soil means the area is well drained and several natural springs occur. The plant communities are very complex. No single tree species dominates, but several species are restricted to this ecozone. Visitors should search for white syringa, mixed bushwillow, silver cluster-leaf, baobab, pod mahogany, sickle bush and weeping wattle.
The two-sleeper bungalows at Punda Maria are much more social than what you’ll find at the other camps, as three rooms form part of one unit, meaning that you’re sharing your long front porch with two other couples. These two-sleepers have their own bathrooms, but only a fridge and a kettle in the form of kitchen facilities, so all your meal preparing and eating happens on the porch or at the communal kitchens. The three-sleeper bungalows each have a full kitchen inside while the family cottage sleeps six and has a full kitchen, lounge and everything else associated with a holiday home.
The camping area is quite far removed from the rest of the camp, but this is a good thing as it’s much closer to the swimming pool than the bungalows. Some of the spots have electricity and some don’t, so make sure you specify when booking. The safari tents are found at the far end of the camp, and because the only people who really go up there are the ones who stay there, they’re quiet and secluded. Each safari tent sleeps two and has a full kitchen.