Eventually, and as promised
Part 3 - Punda Maria
We woke up early, packed up, said goodbye to the neighbours and set off on a slow drive to Punda Maria.
Punda Maria gate
We packed out and looked around the camp. Punda is one of the small main camps and has a relaxed feel about it. It is not crowded and has a real charm. The camping area is quite lovely with large shady trees and a waterhole right next to the fence and a hide in the camping area.
At about 3 pm we set off on a drive on the Mahonie loop around Punda Maria. This drive was very productive: we found a huge herd of buffalo and they were very wary of our car. See this one sniffing:
At this point there was a small group of dwarf mongoose under a tree right next to our car. The light was too bad for photos though
We also found several kudu, nyala and this monitor lizard:
We also saw a couple of ellies on this road.
The next morning we were out of camp by 6:30 am and decided to drive up to Pafuri and Crook's Corner. On one of the links between the H13-1 and the H1-8 I noticed something on top of a far away koppie on my wife's side of the car and my first thought was leopard but then I thought, "Only a rock". Then my wife tells me to stop, looks throug the binos and says, "Leopard". And yes, there it is lying in the early morning sun. We could see it clearly with the binos but it was too far for pics. We watched it for about 10 mins and then 2 cars arrived and it got up and, in a running crouch, disappeared into a shrub.
We stopped of at the Pafuri picnic site for breakfast. The attendant approached me and told me that I have a flat tyre. I went to check and yes, flat. I changed the tyre and off to Crook's Corner we went. The Pafuri area is really beautiful, nyala are almost as common as impala. There were hundreds of crocs along the Luvhuvhu River. At Crook's Corner we saw two guys walking along the Limpopo on the Zimbabwe side. It spoils the atmosphere a bit.
Here are some crocs in the Luvhuvhu River:
On the Pafuri road:
That night at about 7 pm there was a huge racket at the waterhole. A huge herd of buffalo came to drink and it was such a noise. All the campers had out their torches and we watched them for about an hour. They returned in the middle of the night again. That night we heard lion roaring nearby.
The next morning we packed and were all very down because it was time to go home. We hoped we could find the lions because they were roaring near camp. We set out on the road to the Punda gate. My 5 year old daughter was looking at the pictures in the Kruger map book and asked me if there were any cheetah in the place. I answered yes and not 5 minutes later we see this. As you can see it is a few meters before the T-junction of the Punda gate road:
There was one other vehicle following the cheetah and as they saw us approach (very slowly) they sped up to get closer, obviously thinking that we were going to try get a better view than them. In so doing they chased the cheetah off into the bush. We all went to the T-junction and turned left and waited for the cheetah to cross the road. By this time there were 2-3 other cars. Our car was at the back closest to the T-junction. We were all expecting the cheetah to cross the road in front of us and I mentioned that it would probably cross behind and of course it did just that. I saw it crossing just behind us and being the considerate (sometimes too considerate!) perosn that I am I flashed my lights at the cars in front of me and pointed at the cheetah. Everyone started making u-turns and I just had to reverse and got this great view:
It sat there for a minute or so scanning the bush and saw a herd of impala a 100 meters ahead. It jumped off and went into stalk mode. We knew the hunt is on. It disappeared into the bush and we waited. After about 15 minutes our daughter got bored and we had a long road ahead of us so we had to leave. What a wondeful parting gift from Kruger!
Now its time to plan next year's trip - this time it will be central Kruger. That trip will be somewhat of a challenge though since our family will be extended by one in early January 2008.