Our Nhongo guide Amanda has been on an exciting 14 Day experience with our fantastic guests, exploring the northern parts of the Kruger National Park. She has been happy to share their experiences and highlights throughout their adventure. Let’s see what they have been up to.
A guides diary part 2: Amanda
We are all having such an amazing time up here in the Northern section of the Kruger National Park. The scenery is breath-taking, and the animals have been very happy to share their time with us, allowing us time to observe their feeding habits and just allowing us to be amongst them.
We’re based at Shingwedzi Camp but, we decided to spend a couple of days at Punda Maria Camp roughly 70kms north of Shingwedzi.
Punda Maria was named by J.J. Coetzer, the very first game ranger at this camp. He was originally from East Africa and became part of the Kruger National Park in 1919. The first animal he came across was a zebra, in Swahili, the language of East Africa, the translation of zebra to English, is Punda Milia, meaning stripped donkey. As his wife’s name was Maria, he decided to rename it to Punda Maria, who says romance is dead!
We left camp early, we are getting used to the dark early mornings now and notice that most of the animals seem to become active a little after sunrise, making sure the coast is clear of predators. Our first stop was Babalala, a lovely picnic site where you can sit under the huge trees and watch the animals visit the waterhole. Babalala gets it’s name from the Tsonga word meaning “the name of a person who lived here in earlier times.” In the Setswana language, it means “sleeping on your stomach.” Babalala is the name of a grass that can grow up to 3m and is very resistant to insects and diseases. The local people also us the seeds for brewing beer.
On the drive to Punda Maria Camp, there were plenty of Giraffes posing beautifully for us in the morning mist. Lots of elephant herds digging deep into the sandy deposits of the riverbed to reach the fresh water. By doing this, they also provide small opportunities of water for other wildlife.
The Punda area is very beautiful. There are some lovely loops where you can sit and watch how quickly the sun sets but also, how quickly the temperature drops. The attraction of Punda is that you feel you’re being taken back in time, a time when explorers roamed the land. Imagine the film “out of Africa”, the wilderness of the park, the untouched areas. It’s truly amazing!
We headed out early, the gate already open by 05h45am. We didn’t need telling to go, we were out like a shot. Driving slowly towards Pafuri, a few giraffes caused a minor road block, we weren’t complaining, it was beautiful. The actual drive to Pafuri can be quite uneventful. There’s a lot of unpalatable Sourveld grass which doesn’t attract much wildlife and lack of water.
As we turned a corner, something caught our eyes. We all looked closer just to confirm whether it is what we thought it was and not just a fallen tree shaped like an animal. We looked excitedly at each other as it was exactly what we thought it was… a sub adult Cheetah. It was so exciting and then to our joy, two others joined. It was a mother and her two cubs. They didn’t stay with us long but we managed to get some wonderful pictures. Definitely a highlight to our day and totally unexpected.
There are 14 ecozones in the park and Pafuri is known as the sandveld zone, giving the area sandy soil and a wide range of interesting vegetation like the fluorescent looking fever trees and the magnificent baobab trees. Folklore says that when the gods gave the animals seedlings to plant, they gave the hyena the baobab and he unfortunately, planted it upside down. When you look at a baobab tree, it looks like it has been planted upside down.
During the summer months, the best birding in the park is undoubtedly the Pafuri region. It’s also a very good place to spot the very rare Nyala antelopes. Nyalas are interesting as they are a close contender for the larger and smaller antelopes, therefore, the male is large enough to be classified as a bull and the female is small and classified as an ewe. This makes the Nyala the only mammal that has a bull and an ewe in their species.
Our guests are enjoying some valuable family time and our drives are very chilled. There is a nice synergy between us as we’re all nature lovers and enjoy the views, the peace and every aspect of the park. We arrive at Pafuri Bridge crossing which crosses over Levuvhu River and pull into the lovely picnic spot for some coffee and breakfast. It’s a gorgeous place to stop and take shelter under massive Jackleberry and Nyala trees. It’s a really magical spot as you lose yourself while sitting on the benches overlooking the river, which has a reddish colour to it and flows eastwards. We enjoy wandering around watching the bee eaters swooping to catch butterflies, vervet monkeys trying their hardest to steal our food, it’s all part of the fun.
As we drive to Crooks Corner, it’s overcast but the sun is breaking through nicely. The smell of the zebra breath plant is filling the air with a strong sage smell accompanying it. Crooks Corner is a lookout point on the eastern side of the Park. It’s really beautiful and it’s also where the confluence of the Levuvhu and Limpopo rivers meet and where the borders of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa come to a point.
Crooks Corner was aptly named so due to the amount of criminal activity that used to take place there where all sorts of contraband and ivory would be sold. Those days are gone thankfully but as you stand there, you can actually get a feel of the wild, rugged lives the Crooks lived.
We all enjoyed ourselves and found peace in the fever tree forest. It’s a place that stays in your memory and you long for once you’ve left. It’s like a magical fairytale forest.
Returning to Shingwedzi:
We have returned from a wonderful couple of days at Punda Maria Camp. The incredible scenery is mind-blowing and the smell of the potato bush (imagine the smell of baked potatoes) in the late afternoon, welcomes you back to camp.
We headed out for a short drive around the back of the camp before the end of the day. We found lots of elephants, giraffe and zebras but the elusive leopard is really playing hard to get!
With a few days left, we hope they continue to have amazing and mesmerizing experiences inside the Kruger National Park, with Nhongo Safaris and, we look forward to sharing these magical experiences with you when you visit us in South Africa.