Punda Maria Rest Camp In The Kruger National Park

Kruger Park Camps – Punda Maria

Punda Maria is the northern most public Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park. Punda Maria and the surrounding areas are renowned for birding and bird watching and if you love birds, this is the right camp to set up at. One of our most memorable sightings just outside of Punda Maria, birding wise, was a sighting of a male and female Arnot’s Chat, a lifer for most birders!

The birding is so good around the Punda Maria because of the habitat it is situated in. It is known as Sandveld and many varieties of plants occur in the immediate area.

There is a conception that Punda Maria is a “poor” game viewing area. We strongly disagree as we have seen such a variety and abundance of Kruger Park animals here. A few to name include Elephant, Buffalo, Lion, Cheetah, Wild Dog, Eland, Cheetah, Leopard, Nyala, Sharpe’s Grysbok and so many, many more. The Punda Maria area is also probably the best in the Greater Kruger National Park to see Bushpig and Suni, which are really rare sightings. Our opinion regarding game viewing in the area is that many people who come to Punda Maria often would like to keep it a secret, and that is true! There is so much negativity, if we can say that, about the game viewing opportunities in the Punda Maria area, it is almost unfair to other visitors.

Punda Maria is a fairly small rest camp, miss-named after it was first used as a Ranger station in the early 1900’s. It was named Punda Maria, opposed to Punda Millia, which means Striped Donkey in Swahili, referring to a Burchell’s Zebra that was the first large animal recorded by Captain J. Coetser. It was an area rife with poaching, especially with regards to the Ivory trade. The region is well documented for past criminal activities and hideaways for people on the run. This is due to Punda Maria’s close proximity to the Zimbabwe and Mozambique border. The history is a lot deeper than this and we could probably write a book on Punda Maria and the surrounds, but that is a brief overview.

Punda Maria is approximately 7.5 kilometers from the Punda Maria Gate, so a short 15 to 20 minute drive should get you there in time.

Punda Maria Rest Camp GPS Co-Ordinates: -22.6919S , 31.0181E

Punda Maria Rest Camp Activities

Punda Maria has a host of activities to choose from. Besides self drives close to the Camp, you can choose to go on guided Game Drives, whether it is early morning, sunset or night drives. There is also an amazing hide in Punda Maria. You can call it a game hide or a bird hide, but you can read one of our most treasured stories from our Kruger National Park experiences just above. The hide is a great way to spend time, any time of day or night, it is floodlit, so you can stay up all night if your heart desires.

Bush walks in the Punda Maria region are also amazing. We have had the best experiences here, from rare birds, to big game, it is well worth it. Another walking option is the fairly short Flycatcher Trail situated in Punda Maria. You can see a variety of birds and animals like Mongoose, Bushbuck and Nyala. I would like to think this in camp trail is named after the African Paradise Flycatcher, a bird we have seen every time we have walked this trail, hard to photograph though.

On the topic of staying in Punda Maria, there is a beautiful re-furbished swimming pool that is for residents only. A great place to cool off, it gets really hot in the Northern Kruger!

The beautiful Nyalaland Wilderness Trail is also booked from Punda Maria and leaves from here too.

Punda Maria Rest Camp Wildlife

Although the Mahonie Loop is right at the doorstep of Punda Maria, and is a great drive for game viewing and bird watching, you do not need to go far to experience a variety of wildlife that frequents Punda Maria.

Vervet Monkeys are ever-present and very naughty here, be careful when unpacking your car. You can often see, and definitely hear (especially close to dusk), Chacma Baboons. They often enter Punda Maria to scavenge and sometimes cause havoc. Nyala and Bushbuck call the camp home, and they can see in the camping grounds, close to the swimming pool and on the Flycatcher Trail. Slender Mongoose also occur on the Flycatcher Trail, and you can often see a few reptiles around the camp too. We once saw a Mozambican Spitting Cobra, a really large one, in the communal braai area near the chalets. Watch out for Scorpions at night! They do tend to enjoy Punda Maria.

Other interesting animals that come out at night in Punda Maria, are the Thick-tailed Bushbaby (Greater Galago) and Large-spotted Genet are regulars. They are fairly approachable and quite easy to photograph. African Civet sometimes patrol the camp at night and Spotted Hyaena can be seen along the fences. The hide attracts all sorts of animals and birds, look out for Leopard at the waterhole and Verreaux’s Eagle Owl hunting as well.

Birding is what Punda Maria is known for and the camp is full of birdlife. You have a chance of seeing a variety of bird species in the camp itself. Birds such as Bush Shrikes, Firefinches, Waxbills, Flycatchers, Orioles and Buntings are common. Some special birds to look out for, especially on the Flycatcher trail, are Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Bearded Scrub-robin and Crowned Hornbill. White-necked Raven and Verreaux’s Eagle can sometimes be sighted overhead, which is really exciting!

Punda Maria is a haven for wildlife due to the natural habitat and the waterhole/hide.

Punda Maria Rest Camp Accommodation

Punda Maria is a favourite camp for many visitors who are in love with the north. The accommodation has been kept the same way for many years, in order to preserve history.

Punda Maria Rest Camp Camping & Campsites

There are 50 campsites or caravanning spots available. All have their own braais and when you are book make sure you request a campsite with power or without. The campgrounds are often full over holiday periods.

Punda Maria Rest Camp Bungalows

There are 18 2-sleeper chalets, and 4 3-sleeper bungalows. All have air conditioning, showers and a communal braai area just a few meters from the bungalows. The 2 sleepers do not have utensils or cooking facilities, whereas the 3 sleepers do. There is a very good restaurant for those who do not want to cook.

Punda Maria Rest Camp Safari Tents

There are 7 2-bed permanent canvas tents on stilts, equipped with fan, shower, fridge, cooking and braai facilities. Genets love visiting the safari tents at night.

Punda Maria Rest Camp Guest Houses

There are 2 6-bed guest houses in Punda Maria. 2 bedrooms with 2 single beds in them each and 1 room with a double bed. There is an open plan area with fully equipped kitchen and living room. There is also DSTV with limited channels. A patio and braai area are also included.

Punda Maria Rest Camp Gate Opening Times:

  • November, December, January – Opens 4.30am; Closes 6.30pm.
  • February – Opens 5.30am; Closes 6.30pm.
  • October, March – Opens 5.30am; Closes 6.00pm.
  • April, August, September – Opens 6.00am; Closes 6.00pm.
  • May, June, July – Opens 6.00am; Closes 5.30pm.

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