THURSDAY 20 OCTOBER 2011 SHINGWEDZI TO PUNDA MARIA
6 o’clock found us packed and ready to make our way for a three-night stay at Punda Maria. We saw a number of mammals before the first bird made an appearance – baboons, impala, giraffe and elephants. And then what a thrill to get a tawny eagle first up!
Just before 7:30 as we approached Babalala picnic site EEC called out – Hyena – and there on the side of the road a big boy bathing in a puddle.
He didn’t stick around but finished his ablutions and then sauntered off down the road and into the long grass.
We found Babalala clean and neat, the ablutions had paper, soap and towels and the floors had just been mopped. And there was life to observe. More ground hornbills for our list – A male and female with a single juvenile marched across the veld from the waterhole towards the picnic site and then off into the bush.
Magpie shrikes swooped down into the trees, swooped off again and returned several times.
We observed palm swifts checking out the underside of the dead palm leaves where they like to make their nests – but no nests were there yet.
After a cup of coffee and a hot-cross bun we continued our journey to Punda.
On the side of the road we found an injured fish eagle which we reported when we got to Punda – not sure what happened about that.
We were too early to check in so did one of the drives around the area. Buffalo dominate the area and we found ‘heaps’ of them. Elephants appeared from time to time too and it is definitely the place to come if you want to see nyala.
A highlight bird was the broadbilled roller but he did not give us good photo opportunities.
It was a lovely drive and we saw lots of animals and birds. It was 12 o’clock when we got to Punda and so we checked in and then had lunch at the restaurant – I am happy to report that the food was excellent. H2 and I ordered chicken hamburgers and Earlybird and EEC, who clearly came from the same womb, had croissant tower.
We were delighted with family cottage 23 and decided not to go out for an afternoon drive. Instead we unpacked, rested then went for a swim and visited the hide. Although the waterhole was very muddy there were sections where the animal still drank and we were thrilled when a troop of 23 elephants came down soon after we arrived.
We had a lovely braai for supper and retired to our very comfortable bedrooms for the night.