Kruger Part 6 – Punda Maria

Kruger Part 6

Punda Maria

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

23 to 28 November 2018

Campsite away from it all

We arrived at Punda Maria quite early. Two signs greeted us at the entrance. One read “Go to reception to check in before choosing your camping site” and the other “no caravans to be taken to reception”. We ignored the former and chose our site before checking in.

There is a large waterhole just the other side of the fence next to the Hide. Also there is an ablution block with only one loo for men right there. Now this is the choice for everybody it seems – one on top of the other. Well not for us – we found a hardly known spot well away from the others – peace and quiet and a decent sized ablution block unused by most people. A level site in the shade to boot. Rocky helped with the set up.

Rocky having fun with the Serval

Our normal routine was up at 04h00 and out of the camp before 05h00. We spent two long days in the Pafuri area and one early morning on the Mahonie loop round the camp. Another day was spent celebrated Sally’s birthday with a lie in till 06h00!! and then a relaxing time round the camp in the pool and with a short drive later in the afternoon.

Entertainment was never far away. And the elephants made sure of that. Every afternoon they arrived at the waterhole and what followed was much hooha. Elephants barging each other to get to the freshest water, male dominance displays especially when the hundreds of Buffalo came for a drink. Tussles between two males frequently and much bellowing – sometimes all night long. When we arrived the water level seemed reasonably high, on leaving it was almost bare.

Buffalo and Yellow-billed Oxpecker

Then there were the Cicadas. On previous visits they were most noisy along the road to the Klopperfontein Dam – sometimes deafeningly so. And it was unusual in the camp. This time they did a Mexican wave of sound in the camp. You could hear it coming and going from one end to the other. Fortunately it was not deafeningly loud but it did interupt conversations.

The Pafuri area next to the Livuvhu River is the place to visit for all birders. Unfortunately it is a one and a half hour drive to get there – very necessary therefore to get going as the gates open. Most birding is done between the bridge and Crooks Corner and sometimes a drive on the Nyala road. Probably the most productive place is the Pafuri Picnic Site.

Here we saw many of the species that we were hoping to see again along with some unexpected birds like the Black-throated Wattle-eye, Black Cuckoo and a close up view of an African Hawk-Eagle.

African Hawk-Eagle
Crooks Corner

Most notable was the abundance of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers. They were once a dream to see, now the tables have turned and you hardly see any Red-billed Oxpeckers on Buffalo and Giraffe. The Red-billed are now on the smaller game – Impala and Warthogs.

Warthog and Red-billed Oxpecker

We toyed with the idea of going on a sunset drive to see the Pennant-winged Nightjar but in the end we did not go. It is still being seen on those sunset drives. Fortunately for us we had seen them the last time we visited. I guess our decision was based on the fact that we had seen them before and we did not fancy spending three hours on a game vehicle. Here is a shot of one from the past:

Mystical Pennant-winged Nightjar – Punda Maria

The camp was relatively quiet except for those surrounding the hide on the fenceline. It still has the old-fashioned feel. We intended to catch up on our laundry as we were there for five nights. Not to be – the washing machine broke down in 2011 and now has disappeared as they could not fix it. About time they replaced it.

The restaurant still operates but the fancy food is highly priced and of questionable taste. I did let their management know in polite terms of course.

Everywhere was dry and dusty yet we had good sightings of many species – the most productive of the camps at 151 different bird species. Our bird list for Punda Maria can be seen by clicking here.

These pictures show the extent of the dryness and some of the scenery.

Baobab Flower despite the dryness

Animals too entertained us. Numerous elephants and Buffalos everywhere. No Rhino nor cats to be seen. A collared Kudu female was spotted on the Nyala Road in Pafuri – not seen one collared before.

The odd Leguaan also made an appearance;


Of the 10 South African Kingfishers, we saw seven and heard one other – the Striped Kingfisher. We had heard the Woodland Kingfisher from time to time on the way up to Punda and around Punda but it was only on our last day there (28 November) that we had our first viewing. Subsequent to that they were everywhere on our trip back down through the park.

We saw some of the specials seen mainly in that area, White-crowned Lapwing, Meve’s Starling and Tropical Boubou. No sign of any Spinetails and the more unlikely Senegal Coucal or Racket-tailed Roller.

Some of the other species photographed include:

Despite the heat and the dryness we enjoyed being back in Punda Maria.

Our next camp – Taendze for three nights. See Kruger Part 7 – Tsendze comming soon.

Paul and Sally Bartho

Grey-headed Kingfisher



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