The name of the rest camp was given in 1919 by the first ranger to be posted to the area, Captain JJ Coetser. He mistakenly named his post Punda Maria in the belief that this was the Swahili name for Plains Zebra, the first big game he saw on arrival. The correct Swahili name is actually ‘punda milia’ (meaning Striped Donkey). When the error was pointed out to him, he chose to retain the name, in honour of his wife, Maria.
The camp is situated in the Sandveld region that is often described as the botanical garden of the Kruger Park. There are numerous plant species which occur that are unique to the area, along with many area-specific animals, birds and insects. The area is home to some huge trees, including the mythical Baobab.
Game species most likely to be sighted include Impala, Nyala, Plains Zebra, African Buffalo, African Elephant, Sable Antelope, Common Eland and Greater Kudu.
This is also the best area in the park to see some species that occur nowhere else in the park; these include Sharpe’s Grysbok, Suni and Bushpig. It is also without a doubt the best place for birdwatching in the entire Kruger (maybe even the country!), with many rare species occurring only in this area.
Punda Maria is another of Kruger’s camps with a walking trail, and the Flycatcher trail is a must-do for guests. It offers fantastic views of the surrounding landscape, as well as a chance to see fauna like Brown-necked Parrot, Crested Guineafowl or even a Samango.
The camp has what many visitors consider to be one of the best swimming pools in the entire park, as well as a hide overlooking a small pond that is often used by Elephants, Buffaloes and different Antelope species.
There is also a bird bath in the camp grounds, easily the most famous one in the country, that has had visitors like Orange-winged Pytilia, Eastern Nicator and Yellow-bellied Greenbul.
Punda Maria has a small restaurant, a well-stocked shop and a petrol station. From an accommodation point of view, it offers camping, a unique setup of small bungalows with shared barbeque facilities, as well as luxury tents, two family cottages and the newly-renovated Russell Guest Cottage.
The 25 kilometre Mahonie Loop around Punda Maria camp is a favourite dirt road for many seasoned Kruger visitors, and a good road from which to spot African Wild Dog, Leopard and the sough after Pennant-winged Nightjar.
Situated further to the north is the famous Pafuri picnic spot, with the impressive Luvhuvhu river bridge closeby, as well as the Fever Tree forest on the way to Crook’s Corner, a well-known spot where three countries (South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe) meet. This area is home to various spectacular bird species, including Pel’s Fishing Owl, Tropical Boubou, Meves’s Starling, Gorgeous Bushshrike, Lemon-breasted Canary and even Dickinson’s Kestrel.
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