This is one of the most friendly camps we stayed at in Kruger National Park and it has a very special place in my heart.
Here’s a brief overview of the camp and the surrounding area. I hope this is useful for anyone planning a safari to Kruger…
We had a bungalow room in a block of 3 others, and had a smallish room with en-suite and full sized fridge/ freezer and kettle. Glasses were also provided. The A/C was second to none (the most powerful of all the places we stayed), and the shower pressure and heat was excellent. Outside our room there was a table and two chairs, perfect for lazy afternoons,sundowners and meals.
Being such a small camp, this was the perfect opportunity for us to meet our neighbours and pick up tips from locals. It is, therefore, a perfect choice of camp for a first timer, self-driving in Kruger. Everyone is so, so friendly, and it was a matter of minutes before we were approached by a local asking where we are from, where we were going and offering invaluable tips as a response. One kind neighbour sat with us and our Kruger map for a whole lunchtime and showed us which roads and routes to take in order to optimise game viewing and our safari experience. His advice was so invaluable that we later altered our accommodation bookings to take on board his recombinations. That’s why I loved Punda Maria – you have an opportunity to meet people and benefit from their experience.
It’s also an incredible location for birding and the landscape is stunning and unique to Northern Kruger – especially if you take the route to Pafuri (more on this in a subsequent blog post).
It’s located about 6hours 40 mins from Jo’berg and is one of the northern-most camps. For this reason it’s incredibly quiet on the roads and it’s not unusual for you to have sightings to yourself or to fail to see another car on the road the entire journey (bear in mind we travelled in the Christmas and New Year peak season so it will be even less busy in other months).
The shop was also well equipped for the size of the camp, and the camp also has a swimming pool and communal cooking, washing and braai facilities.
If you are new to a braai it’ll show, and you’ll stand out like a sore thumb (as we did). Worry not – locals will take you under their wings and will lend you their coals once finished. They will also give you hints and tips on fire management and cooking and will even share their food with you (aka force feed you tasty treats). Be warned – they are serious about their braais and eat a lot of quality meat! Vegetarians – stick to the communal hotplates 🙂
Overall I would not hesitate to go back to Punda Maria. My only words of warning are that a) it’s incredibly hot at 38/39 degrees over Dec and Jan…it will take about 4 days for you to acclimatise to this heat and b) the vegetation is very dense and thus game viewing is harder than in the central or southern regions of Kruger c) It’s also not an area rich in the ‘Big 5’, Though please do not let this put you off – the landscape is worth the trip alone, and whilst we were their there were daily sightings of leopard, buffalo and elephants around the camp.
For further information about Punda Maria, see http://www.krugerpark.co.za/Kruger_National_Park_Lodging_&_Camping_Guide-travel/punda-maria-camp.html
Photos from our South African safari (many of which are taken around Punda Maria) are available in our Taraji Blue online photo gallery.