The 28-km Mahonie Loop around Punda Maria is a marvellous introduction to the sandveld. Named after the pod mahogany tree, of which there are many specimens in the area, the route is renowned for plants and animals that are rare elsewhere in the Park.
Leopard on the prowl. C Duplessis
About the Far North
From Punda Maria
Klopperfontein to Parfuri
Luvuvhu and Nyala Drives
Punda Maria Gate
The Mahonie Loop
See a map of Kruger Park Far North
There are trees such as the wild kirkia, the knobbly fig, the wild syringa, wild custard apple and myrtle bushwillow. Among the less common buck that may be seen along the drive are the rare, tiny suni antelope - the smallest in the Park - and Sharpe's grysbok.
The suni, also known as Livingstone's antelope, inhabits the thicker sandveld woodlands. It often follows monkeys about, feeding off fruit and leaves dropped from the trees. This tiny, delicate antelope - which stands not much taller than a school ruler - is hunted by a wide variety of predators, including leopards, pythons and the larger birds of prey.
Among the less common birds to be seen is the bat hawk. Its presence here is not surprising, as in Kruger most of the bat species on which it is known to feed are associated with the Punda sandveld. Bats are more common than one supposes. Worldwide, there are about 850 bat species, which means one in every five mammal species is a bat!
Punda Maria Camp
An island of sandveld in a sea of mopane. It enjoys the highest rainfall in northern Kruger - an average of 650mm a year - and is renowned for its diverse vegetation and Afrotropical bird life.
The camp with its ambience of a small village, retains the spirit of the times in which it was built. From being game ranger quarters, it was transformed into a tourist camp in 1933, and the original buildings have been maintained.
The camp is renowned for its birding. There is a short, demarcated walk within the camp perimeter - the Flycatcher Trail
- which offers a good sample of the bird life and vegetation of the area. Punda is a small camp with 22 two- and three-bed bungalows, two cottages that sleep four each, seven luxury tents and a camping and caravanning area.
It has a swimming pool, shop restaurant and petrol station. Before Punda was established as a ranger's post it was the headquarters of an influential chief, Sikokolo.
Mahonie Loop has two notable water holes, Witsand and Matukwala. There is more likely to be animal activity at Witsand windmill during winter when water is scarce elsewhere. Birders should stop at Matukwala Dam and scan the surrounding woodlands for birds such as Dickinson's kestrel and the grey-headed parrot.
For Kruger trivia fans, Matukwala dam was where ranger Gus Adendorff lost his small dog to a crocodile in the 1950s. There are often kudu on this road. Leopard and wild dogs have been seen on occasion.