South Africa Table Mountain

Punda Maria rest camp,
it's like "Africa in the old days"

Punda Maria rest camp is one of only two rest camps in the Kruger National Park lying north of the Tropic of Capricorn.


Nestling on top of a ridge in what is called the Sandveld region, the camp has a sub-tropical climate, which gives it a unique wilderness atmosphere.

The first ranger to be posted in this area, Captain JJ Coetser, mistakenly named it Punda Maria in the belief that this was the Swahili name for Zebra. The correct Swahili name is actually “punda milia”, meaning Striped Donkey (Zebra).

Combined with its wonderful “Africa in the old days” ambience the camp offers a stunning Africa experience, making it a favourite with visitors all year round.


Learn more about the camp by clicking on any of the items in the menu below;



Punda Maria entrance gate to the Kruger National Park
Punda Maria entrance gate to the Kruger National Park
copyright © South African tourism

General info,...

Situated only 10km away from the Punda Maria gate, the rest camp was initially established in 1919 as an outpost from which to combat ivory poachers. During the 1930s it became one of the first rest camps of the Kruger National Park. Many of the original thatched and whitewashed mud-wall structures are still in use, giving the small camp a wonderful “Africa in the old days” ambience.

The hilltop on which the ruins of the Thulamela Royal citadel were found
The hilltop on which the ruins of the Thulamela Royalcitadel were found

On a hilltop overlooking the Luvuvhu river is one of the most interesting archaeological sites in the Kruger National Park, called Thulamela. The ruins of the stone walled city known as the Thulamela Royal citadel, were found 50km north of the camp in the northernmost region of the Park. It was built and occupied between 1250 and 1700 AD by a civilization, which is thought to be an offshoot of the Great Zimbabwe culture.

The rest camp is situated in the Sandveld region that is often described as the botanical garden of the Kruger National Park. Plant communities in the region are very complex and numerous plant species which occur are unique to the area. Trees found in this region include Apple Leaf, Tamboti, Baobab, Leadwood, Shrub Mopane, Mixed Bushwillow, Baobab Sickle bush, Weeping Wattle, Pod Mahogany, Magic Guarri and Mopane.

Wild dogs near Punda Maria rest camp
Wild dogs near Punda Maria rest camp
copyright © South African tourism

Because of the sparse grazing, the region around the camp does not support large concentrations of game. Nevertheless, Kudu, Nyala, Buffalo, Impala and Sharpe’s Grysbok thrive in this habitat and Wild dog, Buffalo, Elephant and Lion are also frequently spotted. Vervet Monkey and Baboon will be seen in abundance and plenty of Hippos and Nile crocodiles are to be found in the riverbed.

Birding throughout the camp is excellent, birders should look for the Yellowbellied Greenbul the Terrestrial Brownbul (Bulbul) and the Bearded Scrub Robin. The "Mahonie Loop", (the 25km circular drive around the rest camp) is undoubtedly a most rewarding birding drive, offering rare species such as the Crowned Hornbill, the Grey-headed Kingfisher, the Crested Guinea fowl, and the Grey-headed Parrot amongst others.

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Map,...

Grey-headed Kingfisher near Punda Maria
Grey-headed Kingfisher
copyright © South African tourism

Go to SANParks.org to view a map of the Kruger National park showing the location of the camp, then click on the map to enlarge.

Go to SANParks.org to view a map of the rest camp showing the lay out of the camp itself, then click on the map to enlarge.

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Facilities,...

Baboon portrait
Baboon portrait - Punda Maria rest camp
Photograph by Arno Meintjes

Services and facilities at the camp include a lovely swimming pool, absolutely a treat after a hot day’s game viewing. The Mangwa Restaurant and Shop is the oldest complex in the Kruger National Park, dating from the 1930s. The fully licensed Quick Service menu is available throughout the day. An A la-Carte menu is available for the evenings, with juicy Spare Ribs, Chicken Schnitzel, Game Meats, excellent South African wine and more to choose from.

The information desk at the reception of the camp can give you detailed information about all the facilities available, which include the following;

  • Information at Reception
  • Public Telephone
  • Post Box
  • Restaurant
  • Cafeteria
  • Shop
  • Laundromat
  • Filling Station (cash and garage cards only)
  • Communal Kitchens
  • Communal Ablutions
  • Swimming Pool
  • Cutlery and Plates Hampers (from Reception)
  • Basic First Aid Assistance
  • Day Visitors Picnic Area (located 8 km outside of camp next to Punda Maria Gate)
  • TVs (limited DSTV) available in family bungalows only
  • Cell phone reception
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Accommodation,...

Bungalows at Punda Maria rest camp
Bungalows at Punda Maria rest camp
copyright © SANparks

The accommodation of the rest camp consists of caravan and camping sites, fully equipped semi-luxury safari tents (cooking, shower and toilet), bungalows and family cottages (all with air-conditioning). The two family cottages secluded by vegetation are situated in a high-lying part of the camp. Further down the hill are two terraces of charming, white washed bungalows, equipped with self-catering facilities. All units are serviced daily and supplied with bedding, towels and soap.

The accommodation comprises the following;

Camping sites

50 x tent or caravan sites, with or without power point and rotating “braai” (barbecue) grids, communal ablutions and cooking facilities (24-hour boiling water, electric hotplates and washing up facilities). Maximum of 6 persons per site.

Safari tents

7 x 2-bed permanently furnished canvas tents on wooden decks and stilts, fully equipped, with shower, fridge, cooking and “braai” facilities.

Interior of a Family Bungalow at Punda Maria rest camp
Interior of a Family Bungalow at Punda Maria rest camp
copyright © SANparks

Bungalows

18 x 2-bed units, equipped with en-suite ablutions (all with showers), air-conditioning and communal "braai" (barbecue) area. There are no cooking utensils, crockery or cutlery, but a communal kitchen with scullery and electrical hotplate stoves is available.

4 x 3-bed units, equipped with en-suite ablutions (all with showers) and air-conditioning. All have sinks and hotplates with kitchenette and communal braai (barbeque) area.

Family Bungalow

2 x 6 bed units, with 3 en-suite bedrooms (2 bedrooms each with 2 single beds and 1 bedroom with a double bed), equipped with open plan kitchen/dining/bar area and living room with (limited channel) DSTV. One of the rooms is upstairs (loft bedroom with patio). It also has a patio/braai area on the bottom floor.

The accommodation at the Camp caters to a variety of guest requirements and is well suited for those guests who are looking for a self-catering bushveld experience.

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Activities,...

Elephants and Hippos near Punda Maria rest camp
Elephants and Hippos near Punda Maria rest camp
copyright © South African tourism

Apart from exciting game viewing, you will also enjoy spectacular scenery on the guided game drives offered. The Flycatcher Trail inside the camp and the “Mahonie Loop” drive around the camp offer unsurpassed bird watching opportunities for birders. Remnants of the former ancient trading Kingdom of Thulamela are close by, and tours can be arranged to visit the remains of this recently discovered archaeological site.

All bookings, as well as further details for these activities are available from the reception at the camp. Activities include the following:
  • Guided Bush Walks
  • Game Drives (in the company of trained field guides)
  • Bush Breakfast and Bush Braai (Barbecue) available on special request. Includes game drive to venue. Confirm availability when booking.
  • Paradise Flycatcher camp walk
  • Thulamela Archaeological Trail (located about 50 km outside of camp)
  • Nyalaland Wilderness Trail (pre-booked overnight activity)
  • Northern Plains 4 x 4 Adventure Trail (weather sensitive activity)
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Climate,...

Crested Guinea Fowl
Crested Guinea Fowl
copyright © South African tourism

Kruger Park lies in a summer rainfall area with occasional bursts of quick summer storms (which can be quite heavy) occurring later in the day, cooling the air and settling the dust. Next to the Pretoriuskop region, the Punda Maria region has the highest annual rainfall in the park at around 650mm per annum. The summer months (October to April) are hot and often quite humid. Winters are warm and mild with cool evenings. Visitors going on night drives during the winter period may require warm clothing.

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How to get there,...

Kudu bull near Punda Maria rest camp
Kudu bull near Punda Maria rest camp
Photograph by Arno Meintjes

BY AIR:

The airport closest to the camp is Gateway airport, which is situated approximately 3km from Phalaborwa Gate. There are daily scheduled flights between Gateway and OR Tambo International airport in Johannesburg. From Phalaborwa gate to Punda Maria rest camp is 201km by road if one travels inside the Kruger National Park. At a speed limit of 50km/hr on the main road, it will take you 4 to 5 hours to reach the camp.

From Gateway airport at Phalaborwa to Punda Maria gate outside the Kruger National Park, is about 243km by road. At an average speed of 100km/hr, it will take you 2 to 3 hours to reach the gate. Allow a further 20 minutes to reach the camp.

BY ROAD VIA PHALABORWA GATE:

Travelling from Johannesburg or Pretoria, take the N1 toll-road to Polokwane (Pietersburg). From there continue with the N1 to Makhado (Louis Trichard), where you turn right taking the R524 to Punda Maria gate, which you should reach after approximately 140km. Allow between 5 to 6 hours for the trip to the gate. Punda Maria Rest Camp itself is 10km away from the gate. Allow about 20 minutes for the drive to the camp, however if you want to enjoy the game viewing possibilities give yourself more time.

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Accommodation availability,...

Angry Lion - Kruger National Park
Angry Lion - Punda Maria rest camp
Photograph by Arno Meintjes

Go to SANParks.org to view a monthly calendar with accommodation availability details of Punda Maria rest camp.

You will then be able to view the Accommodation available page of the South African National Parks (SANparks) website, for Kruger National Park’s Punda Maria rest camp.
  • If you click on the accommodation type, you will see the facilities and content of that particular accommodation unit.
  • The accommodation code enables you to book a specific type of accommodation - if you provide it with your request for booking.
  • The figure between the square brackets [ ] is the number of units at the specific time and date of visit to the accommodation availability page.
  • Please Note that the information is updated and therefore changing real-time on a continuous basis and that requests for reservations are processed on first-come-first- serve basis.
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Tariffs,...

Go to SANParks.org to view the tariffs applicable for the Punda Maria rest camp on the official tariff page of the South African National Parks (SANparks) website.

Reservations,...

Vultures and their Buffalo meal in the Kruger National Park
Vultures and their Buffalo meal near Punda Maria rest camp
copyright © South African tourism

Go to SANParks.org to book your reservation for the Punda Maria rest camp in the Kruger National Park on the official reservations page of the South African National Parks (SANparks) website.






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