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punda maria rest camp

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Punda Maria Rest Camp

Punda Maria Rest Camp is one of the main rest camps of Kruger National Park (KNP) which is located in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces of South Africa.  The camp is situated in the northern part of the park about 8 km from the Punda Maria entrance gate. The camp is one of only two main rest camps north of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Kruger Park. Visitors can also reach the camp from the Pafuri entrance gate.

Punda Maria Rest Camp - Self Catering
6 Sleeper - Camp Site (CK6P)

*Excludes camping equipment

Date Range Rate 
2023 – 2024 R575 for 2 persons
 R725 for 3 persons
 R875 for 4 persons
 R1025 for 5 persons
 R1175 for 6 persons

Rates quoted per night.

Include: Self catering, restaurant and shop onsite, Communal Ablutions, Powerpoint

Exclude: Camping Equipment, Daily Conservation fees, all safari drives, all meals 

Punda Maria Rest Camp - Self Catering
2 Sleeper - Bungalow (BG2)

Date Range Rate 
2023 – 2024 R1595 for 2 persons

Rates quoted per night. 

Include: Self catering, restaurant and shop onsite, En-suite, 1 bedroom with 2 single beds, Airconditioned, Communal Kitchen, Fridge

Exclude: Daily Conservation fees, all safari drives, all meals 

Punda Maria Rest Camp - Self Catering
2 Sleeper Safari Tent (ST2)

Date Range Rate 
2023 – 2024R2100 for 2 persons

Rates quoted per night. 

Include:  Self catering, restaurant and shop onsite, En-suite, 2 single beds, Barbeque Facilities, Ceiling Fan, Fridge, Fully equipped kitchenette

Exclude: Daily Conservation fees, all safari drives, all meals 

Punda Maria Rest Camp - Self Catering
3 Sleeper Safari Tent (BD3)

Date Range Rate 
2023 – 2024 R2195 for 2 persons
 R2610 for 3 persons

Rates quoted per night. 

Include:  Self catering, restaurant and shop onsite, En-suite, 3 single beds, Barbeque Facilities, Hotplate, Utensils, Airconditioned 

Exclude: Daily Conservation fees, all safari drives, all meals 

Punda Maria Rest Camp - Self Catering
6 Sleeper Family Cottage (FU6)

Date Range Rate 
2023 – 2024 R5550 for 6 persons

Rates quoted per night. 

Include:  Self catering, restaurant and shop onsite, En-suite, 1x bedroom with a double bed 2 x Bedrooms each with 2 single beds, Airconditioned – Satallite DSTV (Limited Channels),  Kitchen

Exclude: Daily Conservation fees, all safari drives, all meals 

Overview

 

Captain J.J. Coetser, the first ranger to be send to this remote post in 1919 gave the camp its name. He mistakenly christened the camp Punda Maria as there was a huge herd of zebra in the area and the Swahili name for zebra is PundaMilia. Coetser misheard the pronunciation of the name. When his error was pointed out to him, he said that Punda will always remind him of the zebra he saw and quite by chance his wife’s name was Maria.

The camp is situated in the Sandveld region of the park and is known to get very hot during the summer months. Many unique plant species are found in the area. It does not boast an abundance of animals and guests usually stay here who will be travelling the length of the park.

Staying in any of the camps of the KNP is a top experience where you can be guaranteed to see the Big 5. It is one of the more affordable safari vacations that you can book in South Africa.

The camp offers a variety of accommodation to choose from and it also has a designated day visitor area where day visitors and visitors from other camps can braai (barbecue) and picnic.

 

Why would you want to visit Punda Maria?

Spending a few days in the Punda Maria camp provides a true African experience like few other and is definitely something to add to your safari vacation.

The summers in Punda Maria are not for the faint hearted as it can get extremely hot. Because of the remoteness of the camp, it is ideal for anyone wanting to enjoy a quiet stay in the park. In the midst of winter, the weather is pleasant and warm. If you want a stay in the park without the busy tourist areas and experience the quietness of the bush, this is the camp for you.

Today, the camp does have a swimming pool where residents can cool of in during the hottest time of the day or after a safari trip.

Going out on an open vehicle safari is the preferred way to see animals but the best way to spot animals is sometimes right in the camp. Punda Maria is no different and it offers great bird watching opportunities by going on a walking route on the inside perimeters of the camp. You will get a general offering of fauna and flora and being close to animals that you might catch a glimpse of on the other side of the electrified fence.

Where is Punda Maria located?

Punda Maria is situated in the most northern part of the KNP, about 8 km from the Punda Maria entrance gate. The GPS coordinates for the camp is S 22 41′ 44″ E 31 0′ 58″.

 

How to get to Punda Maria

Travelling time from Johannesburg to the closest entrance gate at Punda Maria by car is at least five to six hours.

Take the N1 through Polokwane and head to Louis Trichardt where you link up with the R524. Follow this route for about 140 km to the Punda Maria entrance gate. The camp is about 20 minutes away from the entrance.

The closest airport is unfortunately at the Phalaborwa Kruger Park Gateway Airport, which is about 200 km away if you travel through the park. It is 4 kilometres outside the Phalaborwa entrance gate to KNP. The airport serves domestic flights from Johannesburg and is equipped with car hire facilities.

A map of KNP can be bought at the entrance gates or any of the camps in the park.

Be aware of the gate times for entering and departing from the park. It is as follows:

Entrance gates:

  • January, February, November and December – gates open at 05:30 and close at 18:30
  • March and October – gates open at 05:30 and close at 18:00.
  • April, August, and September – gates open at 06:00 and close at 18:00.
  • May, June, and July – gates open at 06:00 and close at 17:30.

Punda Maria’s gates open and close at the same times as the entrance gates, except for January, November and December when the camp gates open as early as 04:30.

What to do while staying at Punda Maria.

There are many activities on offer at the camp that will ensure an exciting bush experience. All bookings, and further details for these activities are available from reception.

Early morning bush walks and game drives are on offer at the camp and this area is probably the best place to spot the Nyala Antelope on a safari. The area also offers excellent bird watching opportunities. Early risers on safari that head down Nyala Drive, might just be lucky enough to see bush pig.

Activities on offer are:

  • Guided Bush Walks
  • Game Drives with trained field guides
  • Paradise Flycatcher camp walk
  • Nyalaland Wilderness Trail which is a pre-booked overnight activity
  • Bird hide overlooking waterhole on the camping site fence
  • Mangwa Restaurant – the restaurant and shop is the oldest complex in the KNP dating back to the 1930’s. It only has 7 tables inside catering for 34 people and 4 tables outside for 16 people from 07:00 in the morning till late

Various open vehicle safari operators are available to book a trip with. They offer affordable yet exclusive safari trips for singles, couples, families with children or small private groups.

 

What to watch out for when staying at Punda Maria

Staying at Punda Maria is an exciting experience and guests will experience the flora and fauna that this area offers.

Game can prove sparse in the area but kudu, nyala, buffalo and Sharpe’s grysbok are the species to look out for in this specific habitat. It is the best area in KNP to spot the shy Nyala antelope. Wild dog, elephant and lion have also been. At the Mahonie Loop the tiny Suni antelope has been spotted in the past.

Vervet monkey and baboon feature often and in the riverbed, you will see plenty of hippo and crocodile. Be sure to drive up to Pafuri and visit Crook’s Corner.

The area is sand veld which vegetation to match growing in the sandy soil. The area does have a few natural springs that helps the vegetation to flourish. Trees found uniquely in the area is the majestic baobab, pod mahogany, weeping wattle, white syringa, sliver cluster-leaf and mixed bushwillow.

The area is a birders paradise particularly if you follow the Paradise Flycatcher Trail in the camp perimeters. Also be on the lookout for the yellow-bellied and terrestrial bulbul and bearded robin. Birds of prey are common overhead and the Black eagle is sometimes seen. During the winter months the white-necked raven is a regular visitor.

The Mahonie Loop, which is a 25 km circular drive close to the camp is a must route to follow for the most rewarding bird sightings. The following has been recorded on this route: White-breasted cuckoo shrike, crowned hornbill, chestnut bellied kingfisher, crested guineafowl, gorgeous bush shrike, cape parrot, African and European golden oriole, yellow-spotted nicator, sterling’s barred warbler and Dickinson’s kestrel. The shy and elusive Narina trogon has also been recorded on the loop.

What type of accommodation does Punda Maria offer and what amenities/facilities are available at the camp?

Punda Maria provides a variety of accommodation types for singles, couples, and families with children.

Accommodation availability changes from day to day and all inquiries about general availability are subject to change without notice. Last minute reservations in less than 31 days prior to arrival date, are payable within 24 hours after receiving a confirmed provisional reservation via e-mail.

Your accommodation is only guaranteed once you receive a provisional reservation confirmation and to secure your reservation full pre-payment is required a.s.a.p.

At Punda Maria the following accommodation types is available:

Campsites

Camping is the most affordable and the most rustic style of accommodation that Kruger offers. There are 50 tent or caravan sites, with or without power point and rotating braai grids. A maximum of 6 people is allowed on a site. Campers use the communal ablutions and cooking facilities which provides 24-hour boiling water, electric hotplates and washing up facilities.

 

Safari Tents

The camp offers 7 permanent furnished canvas tents on stilts for two people. The tents are fully equipped, with shower, fridge, cooking and braai facilities.

 

Bungalows

The 18 units for 2 people are equipped with en-suite bathrooms with showers, basin and toilet. All units have air-conditioners and a communal braai area. There are no cooking utensils, crockery or cutlery. Use the communal kitchen that has a scullery and electrical hotplate stoves.

An additional 4 units that sleep 3 people also has an air-conditioner. It comes equipped with en-suite bathrooms with shower, basin and toilet. The units have a small kitchenette with sink and a hotplate. Guest use the communal braai area.

 

Family Bungalow

Two 6 bed air-conditioned units with 3 bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms are on offer. One of the bedrooms have a double bed while the other 2 have 2 single beds each. The units are equipped with an open plan kitchen/dining/bar area and living room. One of the rooms is upstairs in a loft with its own patio. It has private braai facilities and comes with limited DSTV televisions.

All units come equipped with linen and towels.

 

Facilities

The following facilities are available:

  • Information at Reception
  • Public Telephone
  • Post Box
  • Restaurant
  • Cafeteria
  • Shop
  • Mini ATM facility available in the restaurant
  • Laundromat
  • Filling Station
  • Communal Kitchens
  • Communal Ablutions
  • Swimming Pool
  • Cutlery and Plates Hampers (from Reception)
  • Basic First Aid Assistance
  • Day Visitors Picnic Area is located 8 km outside of camp next to the Punda Maria Gate
  • Limited DSTV available in family bungalows only
  • Cell phone reception

What do you need to know and bring for a safe and comfortable stay at the Punda Maria?

Plan properly for your stay at Punda Maria to make it a relaxed trip and stay. Bookings need to be done well in advance from your planned date of arrival. KNP is a popular game reserve and accommodation is not always readily available, especially in the holiday season and during the winter months.

Punda Maria does not offer any bed and breakfast facilities and guests must bring their own food and drinks. Meals can be bought at the restaurant and the shop provides most items that will be needed on a daily basis.

Most parts of the KNP is situated well within a malaria area. This is much more than just an unpleasant illness but can be fatal if left untreated. Since it is being spread by mosquitoes, the best way to avoid getting sick is to prevent the mosquitos to bite you.

You can avoid mosquito bites if you take the necessary steps, such as wearing long sleeves and trousers in the evening, using a reputable kind of insect repellent.

The best way to totally avoid a malaria scare is to get the necessary preventative medication prescribed by your doctor before journeying into the African bush.

Although it is basically impossible for larger, more dangerous animals to enter the camp, it is best to always be alert. Nocturnal animals like the civet, porcupines, and others are frequent visitors.

Ensure your stay is happy and safe by taking note of a few simple warnings. You will be sharing your stay with many unusual and dangerous creatures, such as bats, spiders, snakes, scorpions, to mention but a few, and without knowledge some of them could be dangerous.

If you must walk around at night, please do not do so without a torch. Although there is streetlights, it is not very bright and only along the footpaths.

Under no circumstances are you allowed to feed the animals. By feeding any wildlife, you are signing their death warrant as they become lazy and do not seek for food themselves which can cause them to starve. Some also become aggressive.

When to visit Punda Maria

The best time of the year to make your trip to Punda Maria in the KNP is either early spring or late autumn. Kruger is a summer rainfall area and such precipitation is usually convectional and can result in heavy downpours.

The extremely hot summer months from October to April can make any safari tour unpleasant. Fortunately, Punda Maria does come with swimming pool where overnight visitors can cool down in.

The winters are warm and mild during the day and can sometimes be quite cold at night. If you are planning a trip to KNP in the winter that include a night-drive be sure to pack warm clothing that include a warm jacket, beanie, scarf and gloves.

Even animals sometimes shy away from the heat. During the summer months they tend to look for shade during the hottest time of the day and is not always easy to spot, especially since the bush is very dense.

During the winter months, wildlife tend to stay in the vicinity of water sources and can often be seen at the watering holes, rivers and dams. The bush is also less dense, and animals are spotted more easily than during the summer months.

FAQs

Where is Punda Maria?

The Punda Maria camp is located about 8 km from the Punda Maria entrance gate in the most northern part of the KNP.


What to expect and look out for when staying at the Punda Maria camp.

There is various organised activities like morning, sunset or night game drives and guided walks offered from Punda Maria. You can walk the perimeter trail of the camp spotting birds and wildlife.

There is a bird hide overlooking waterhole on the camping site fence and various bird species can be seen in the camp and the surrounding region.

Game can prove sparse in the area but kudu, nyala, buffalo and Sharpe’s grysbok are the species to look out for in this specific habitat.


What facilities are provided at Punda Maria and what do you need to bring along?

All accommodation are equipped with linen and towels, with the exception of guests using the camping facilities. Campers need to bring everything with them that they need for their trip.

Cooking utensils or crockery are provided in some units. You need to bring is your own food, insect repellent, camera, binoculars, and torch.

The camp has a shop on the premises that provide basic everyday items and food. If you prefer you can buy your meals at the restaurant. There is cell phone signal at the camp, a petrol station, swimming pool and laundry facilities. Take note that there is not an ATM at the camp.


When is the best time to visit Punda Maria?

The best times of the year to stay at Punda Maria is during early spring or late autumn, when temperatures are mostly pleasant.


Why stay at the Punda Maria Rest Camp?

The area is rich in both prehistoric and modern history archaeology. 

Birdlife around the Punda Maria Rest Camp?

The area offers unsurpassed bird watching opportunities.  


Best game drives around the Punda Maria Rest Camp?

There are three main drives around Punda Maria – Mahonie Loop, the Klopperfontein road (S60, S61) past the mythologically rich Gumbandebvu koppies and the tar road (H13-1) between Punda Maria Gate and Dzundzwini Hill.


Animals seen around the Punda Maria Rest Camp?

Game can prove sparse but Kudu, Nyala, Buffalo and Sharpe’s Grysbok thrive in this habitat. Wild Dog, Elephant and Lion are also frequently recorded. The Mahonie Loop is also the best venue to see the diminutive Suni Antelope.

Best picnic site close to Punda Maria?

Pafuri picnic site is located in beautiful bushveld surrounds overlooking the Luvuvhu River. The area is remote and tourist numbers are low so enjoy the peace and tranquillity. This site is lusher and more tropical than the picnic sites in the dry central and northern region and you’re sure to see a selection of Pafuri’s incredible birds in the tall trees.
 
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