Kruger NP Part 6 – Punda Maria

24th to 28th October

From Shingwedzi we headed north to Punda Maria to continue birding. Our friends left us and returned south through the Park. On the way up we had a delightful experience with a pair of Kori Bustards. They were prancing on a hillock by the road.

The camp in Punda Maria was very busy at the bottom near the fence and the hide overlooking the waterhole just over the fence. The ablutions there were over worked and had an unseemly odour.

We headed for our preferred location nearish to the ablutions at the top and overlooking the campsite – away from people.

The waterhole can get very busy at times with small herds of Elephants and hundreds of Buffalo – especially late afternoon going into the night. Often trumpeting quite loudly and for long periods – presumably to let others know that this is their waterhole.

Marabou Storks sometimes visit as this one did. It sat down in a posture resembling a person playing the piano.

On occasion a Leguaan passes by. But it is not often that you get to see it doing press-ups.

Several times we drove the 25 kms Mahonie Loop around the camp. Birds were disappointingly quiet. However we did come across a leopard once – making up for it – a bit.

While we were there we got a message from Trevor Hardaker that a Golden Pipit had been seen and he gave us the co-ordinates. The Pipit was seen approximately 10 kms south of the turnoff of the H13-1 heading on the H1-8 to Shingwedzi. We got up very early to find it. And we did. The co-ords were perfect. Sally spotted it on the verge as we drove slowly towards it. It went up into the trees by the road and moved about from tree to tree and branch to branch. Lovely bird – seems to float like a butterfly as it flies. A calling Monotonous lark also appeared at the scene.

The next day we needed diesel – however the petrol pumps at the garage at Punda Maria had unfortunately been smashed into by a car which had lost control on the drive up to reception. That meant a trip back to Shingwedzi (70 kms away) to fill up. This was not an inconvenience for us. We had the opportunity to look for the Golden Pipit again, a bit of breakfast at the Babalala picnic site and another drive on the S56 side road which we had so enjoyed when staying at Shingwedzi.

Damage control

As we reached the end of the H13-1 to turn south on to the H1-8 a family of Cheetahs ran across the road. The mother heading left and the two sub-adults to the right across the road. We stopped to look at the youngsters as the mother disappeared into the bush. Eventually she re-appeared, crossed the road and united with the youngsters. Nice sighting.

On the way we stopped again when we found the Golden Pipit. Lovely bird. As we left so the bird flew away but we heard it later returned. At Babalala picnic site we stopped for tea then took the S56 loop road to Shingwedzi. We had not gone far when a pair of Coqui Francolins – Sally’s recent bogey bird – crossed the road ahead of us.

Further along we came across the Elephants digging for water while the Leopard watched. Another Leopard further along was hanging out lying in a tree by the road. Then as we approached the Shingwedzi Gate we noticed about a hundred Buffalo taking advantage of a large pool of water in the river bed below. Closer inspection of something odd in the water revealed a pair of crocodiles holding on to something. With the scope out we realised it was the head of a buffalo.

Buffalo demise at the hands of a couple of crocodiles very close to other bathing Buffalos.

The Klopperfontein waterholes were virtually dry, however an Elephant and a few Buffalo were taking advantage of what was left in one of them. While camping in Punda Maria we refrained from visiting Pafuri as we intended to spend three nights at Nthakeni at a community camp just outside the Pafuri Gate.

Here is a selection of the birds photographed in the area.

The day before we left we returned from a drive to find we had new neighbours. They had put their Campervan up so close to us that it was impossible for me to hook up our car to the front of our trailer when we left – without having to drive over their ground sheet and under their awning. Turning our Serval was not an option as we were on a ledge.

Neighbours to the left

Anyway we managed – with a use of their space unfortunately.

Our bird list amounted to 104 different species identified. To see our list please click on the link following.

Then we were on to the top of the Park and to a community run Camp – Nthakeni near the village of Nkotswi – about 6 kms from the Pafuri entrance gate. From our base in Nthakeni we explored not only the area around Nthakeni but also Pafuri. Our time there will be reported in the next part of our Kruger saga. Part 7 to follow.

One thought on “Kruger NP Part 6 – Punda Maria

  1. Dennis and I have had 3 visits to Punda Maria, first time rained and we left early, second time had a super site near the fence and camp not full. Delightful sightings at the waterhole. 3rd to time camp full and we parked quite far back, I had broken ribs and Dennis cut his hand open badly and should have had stitched. Mixed feelings about Punda Maria for us.

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