First stop-Punda Maria

We arrived at the Punda Maria gate with enough time to register our entry into the park before the 6 PM deadline.  Every car and person has to be registered so they know who is inside the fence with all the wild animals.  In the picture showing the gate sign you can see the fence around the park perimeter to separate the animals inside the park from the villages just outside along the edges of the park.  Still, sometimes wild animals get out and I met two men from the village closest to this gate who said they had to protect their father’s cattle from lions! Yikes!

Out first camp, also called Punda Maria just like the gate name, was only 8 kilometers from the gate.  We had about 45 minutes to go this distance.  That seems like a lot of time to travel 8 kilometers but when you are always stopping to look at and photograph wild animals you tend to travel very slowly.  Also, sometimes the animals are blocking the road so you have to add to time to allow for that and still get to your camp before they lock you outside with the animals over night!  You have to be back inside the camp by 6:30 PM.  Once there you are inside an electrified fence and the animals freely roam out in the park.  A few types of animals are inside the camp though.  Can you think of some animals who could get inside a space enclosed by an electric fence?

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“The name of the rest camp was given in 1919 by the first ranger to be posted to the area, Captain JJ Coetser. He mistakenly named his post Punda Maria in the belief that this was the Swahili name for Zebra, the first big game he saw on arrival. The correct Swahili name is actually ‘punda milia’ (meaning Striped Donkey). When the error was pointed out to him, he chose to retain the name, in honour of his wife, Maria, who bore him 12 children.”  source: http://www.krugerpark.co.za/Kruger_National_Park_Lodging_&_Camping_Guide-travel/punda-maria-camp.html

We got to the camp in plenty of time before they closed the gate and had the thrill of seeing several animals along the way.  When we were about 1 kilometer into the park we saw our first animal and it sure was a big one!  It was the elephant in this picture!  Mr. Gibson and I were so excited to see an elephant in the wild.  It turned out we would see many more before the trip was over.  In fact, we saw elephants every day.

The first wild animal we saw in the park; only 1 kilometer from the gate. Note the kilometer marker on the right side of the picture.

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