Northern Kruger National Park
|The traditional accommodation has recently been upgraded. Office, shop and restaurant in the background of upper picture.
Click on picture to enlarge.
Nature - This is the northernmost camp site in the Kruger Park, well above the tropic of Capricorn. I love it for its relaxed atmosphere. Punda Maria has recently been upgraded and has received seven luxury tents and a swimming pool.
The number of tourists you will encounter is quite limited; most come here to enjoy one of the choicest sites for birding in the Kruger Park. Although you will see plenty of elephants, nyala antilopes and many other big mammals, nature does not sustain the large numbers and diversity of mammals that you find in the south. But the area harbours an exceptional variety of birds, a unique attraction. If you are after the big five, go more to the south.
About the name - The rest camp was given its name in 1919 by the first ranger to be posted to the area, Captain JJ Coetser. He mistakenly assumed that Punda Maria was the Swahili name for Zebra, the first big game he saw on arrival. In fact, the correct Swahili name is “punda milia” - meaning Striped Donkey. When he learned of his error he decided to retain the name, in honour of his wife, Maria; literally therefore this means “Striped Maria”. Later park officials used the name Punda Milia for a while, but in 1981 it was changed back to the original 'Punda Maria'.
African history - The northern area is also home to two noteworthy early iron age sites: Thulamela (near Punda Maria Rest Camp) and Masorini (near Phalaborwa/Letaba), which are culturally and historically linked to Mapungubwe Hill. During the course of the investigation of stone ruins on Thulamela in the Pafuri area, an archaeological research team came across the first artefacts that provided some insight into early South African history. The investigation brought to light that the stone ruins were probably the remains of a Late Iron Age settlement, and that the site has been inhabited from the 15th to mid-17th century. While searching through the middens in the area, the researchers came across many remains – gold beads, charcoal, ostrich-shell beads, perforated ornamental cowrie shells, clay spindle whorls, ivory and metal rings. Arising from this the Thulamela project was officially launched in July 1993 with the purpose of restoring the site and turning it into a museum. The reconstructed stonewalled settlement was officially opened as a cultural site museum in September 1996.