My day started well with a bird that I was hoping to see here at Punda. As I was sipping my morning coffee I spotted some crested guineafowl making their way across the campsite. I grabbed my camera and followed them until they started foraging in the leaf litter under some trees on the other side of camp.
Scattered showers were predicted for today and the morning skies were indeed very overcast. There was a spit and a spot before we left camp and a bit enroute but by 10 am it was fine and sunny.
Today we travelled in tandem with Cathy and Alec as we all wanted to visit Crook’s Corner and then have breakfast at Pafuri Picnic Site. This part of the park is really beautiful. The first part of the trip takes you through plains of mopane shrub and then to the Luvuvhu catchment area when the mopane disappears and is soon replaced with the most majestic trees and palms.
At the beginning of our trip we saw very few animals but just enjoyed the scenery. At Klopperfontein we found a few Egyptian geese and lots of Marabou Storks enjoying the water. Thanks to Cathy for the photographs.
Half an hour later we came upon a traffic jam and wondered if a leopard had been spotted. Well not a leopard but a leopard tortoise was in the middle of the road drinking from a puddle from a recent shower. Thanks to Alec for the photograph.
As we neared Crook’s corner and the vegetation changed we began to see lots of nyala, impala, zebra and kudu and of course elephant.
Finally we arrived at Crook’s Corner, a triangle of land where Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique meet.
One hundred years ago, Crook’s Corner was a No Man’s Land and a haven for law breakers such as ivory poachers and gun runners amongst others. In the corner there was a beacon that marked where the three countries met – in those days Mozambique was called Portuguese East Africa and Zimbabwe was called Southern Rhodesia. The ‘crook’ if the law caught up with him would hop over the beacon to the side that was not the jurisdiction of the cop who was after him. If all three country’s lawmen were there at the same time they would fight over who would get to take the wrong-doer prisoner and of course he would be laughing his head off as he hopped from one side to another.
Today there were no crooks there but there were a number of crocodiles who are equally as scary.
We also heard and saw a fish eagle fly overhead and a giant kingfisher made a brief appearance.
From Crook’s corner we made our way to Pafuri Picnic site. It was after 10 o’clock and we were starving having only had coffee and a rusk before we left camp. We were really looking forward to Cathy’s scrambled eggs and bacon. But uh oh – our way was blocked as is shown by Cath’s photographs.
We had to turn around and take a different route. Alec was behind us and reversed and then called us on the two-way radio to pull in next to him which the Earl did and then took the lead. Well to our horror, a short way along the road another gang were determined to keep us hungry a little longer! They were on both sides of the road and just kept blocking the way. After a while the Earl managed to slip past but the gap was blocked again and Alec couldn’t follow for several more minutes. Finally, the ellies gave way and we continued only to be blocked by first, impala darting across in front of us and then helmeted guineafowl deciding to forget their road safety rules.
It was almost midday when we finally arrived at beautiful Pafuri. We found a table overlooking the river, Cathy and Alec set up their cooker and soon we were enjoying a delicious breakfast in the most beautiful setting in the world.
While my companions enjoyed the view I did a spot of birding. There were many to see but photography was difficult. After half and hour I needed a chiropractor to adjust my stiff neck!
The attendant saw me looking into a tree and called me over and told me where to find the black-throated wattle-eye. This bird has a very limited range in South Africa.
It was almost two o’clock when we left Pafuri. Cathy and Alec took the lead while Earl and I followed slowly behind stopping for every little bird of course. Cathy saw a lovely African Hawk-Eagle and is allowing me to post her photograph.
Earl and I were pleased to find a bateleur.
Posted below are some of the other birds that we saw during our drive.
We also watched these cute tree squirrels frolicking in a tree.
We arrived back at Punda Maria at about quarter past four and Alec alerted me to a flock of marabou storks flying overhead.
Then an elephant trumpeted and splashed water at some nyala at the waterhole. They decided to leave.
Cathy and Alec were in charge of dinner this evening and we enjoyed their wonderful spaghetti bolognaise followed by pears and cream. We really do eat well in the park.
Tomorrow we leave beautiful Punda Maria and for the campers out there I would like to comment on what the facilities here are like.
There are two ablution blocks which when the camp is busy are not enough. They are also in need of an upgrade. Maintenance is a problem. Some of the shower tiles are broken which could cause someone to hurt him or herself. The toilet door in one of the men’s ablutions did not have a lock. Also there were not enough toilets.
Reception, shop and restaurant are in the same building. We were treated in a friendly manner when we checked in. Covid protocols are also in place. The shop is adequately stocked with basic groceries, books and clothes and souvenirs. The service at the restaurant is a little slow but the food is good. The staff are polite and friendly both in the restaurant and the shop.
There is a pool which looked okay but we did not make use of it.
The laundry has one washing machine and one dryer. Each operates with four R2 coins.
The camp kitchen is kept clean and neat by staff – but other campers sometimes don’t clean up after themselves. I bring my own wiping clothes and kitchen cleaner just in case. I usually end up cleaning before and after. There are plugs in the sinks but always bring your own as often these disappear.
Monkeys are a problem. There is someone who walks around with a catapult to chase them but other things need to be put in place to prevent the monkeys causing havoc. The bins are monkey and baboon proof but when the staff collect the rubbish they leave the bags out for the cart to load and the monkeys then get into them and make a mess
I don’t like to be negative but feel it is important to let potential campers know what to expect. After we had set up camp, another camper wanted to use one of the electrical outlets that has four points. Two were not working and of course Alec and Earl were already connected to the two that were. Within minutes Earl fixed them. The camper told Earl that maintenance men had come earlier but failed to do a very simple job. Earl reported this to the camp manager. It’s not the first time that Earl had done free maintenance for Sanparks!
In spite of these little niggles, Punda Maria is a wonderful place to stay. Just be prepared for less than five-star maintenance. The biggest plus is the waterhole.
Oh and one more thing – the ground is hard. Bring a drill.