Notes for readers:
- Diary entries are written in first person as they were composed in real time.
- The “we” refers to me and a lifelong friend, Razz Rasberry, who has always wanted to see African wildlife.
- This is one of a series of posts chronicling my March, 2020 visit to the Kruger over 11 days and 10 nights.
Leaving Letaba Camp at 0530 this morning, Razz and I headed north to Punda Maria camp. Along the way, we enjoyed breakfast at beautiful Mopani Camp:
Then straddled the Tropic of Capricorn:
Made a pit stop at lovely Shingwedzi Camp:
And another stop to stretch our legs at the rudimentary Babalala picnic spot, where Razz examined an elephant femur:
Altogether we drove 7+ hours today to reach quaint Punda Maria, the northernmost “rest camp” in the Kruger (here is the modest entry gate).
Punda is quite small and personal, the antithesis of Kruger Park headquarters, the sprawling Skukuza Rest Camp. Punda Maria, like all Kruger rest camps, has a gas station, a restaurant (outdoor patio by the young Baobab tree shown below) and a grocery-curio-general supply store (below photo). It even has a swimming pool and a bird hide.
Most of the accommodation consists of small quarters in ancient bungalows that look much like they did in the mid-20th century. Punda Maria dates from 1919:
About a decade ago a half dozen “luxury tents” were added, essentially permanent big tents built on sturdy platforms compete with lavatory and shower. That’s where Razz and I are overnighting:
Truth be told, they are not that luxurious, which is part of their charm, but the tents are comfy, each with its own gorgeous veranda and braai (what South Africans call a BBQ grill):
The Punda Maria rustic tents are part of the adventure of the Kruger. Another exciting element is the nearby lions roaring tonight. The sounds pierces the thin tent canvass and makes for uneasy slumber.
We didn’t quite rack up the diversity of animals today compared to yesterday, but Razz and I did see quite a variety en route to Punda Maria Camp:
- Elephants (hundreds in many family herds)
- Zebra (hundreds)
- Cape Buffalo
- Leopards–kinda, sorta (well, almost saw a mother and her young treed by angry baboons–we were told by the many people parked under the tree that the leopards were there, but we couldn’t pick the specimens out of the dense foliage)
- Kudu (new species sighting today)
- Nyala (new species sighting today)
- Steenbok (new species sighting today)
- Striped Skink (lizard)
- Ground Hornbill (new species sighting today)
- White Stork (new species sighting today)
- African Fish Eagle (new species sighting today)
Also many beautiful fields of wildflowers:
The photo below of both a Kudu and an Nyala (only males have horns) munching grass on a hillock is remarkable because I’ve never seen the two related species fraternizing. Kudu are larger and have spiral horns while Nyala are shaggier and smaller than their cousins and possess curved horns.
Tomorrow we head south again for two nights at Olifants Camp, requiring once again a 400am alarm. More from Olifants tomorrow (day 4)!