​User Reviews – MalaMala GR

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Arjuna & Nehra Nadaraja   –  
Australia AU
Visited: August 2019 Reviewed: Feb 16, 2020

Email Arjuna & Nehra Nadaraja  |  50-65 years of age  |  Experience level: over 5 safaris

Top quality and intimate wildlife viewing - luxury done well without going over the top
Overall rating

Being one of the largest privately-owned game reserves in South Africa with an unfenced eastern border with Kruger National Park and the still flowing (late August) Sand River going through the length of the reserve, it should not have come as a surprise that we had seen the big five and much more in the first 24 hours at Mala Mala. The quality of the sightings was exceptional.
Wildlife viewing at Mala Mala is as intimate as it could ever get. The accommodation was beyond expectations - it was luxurious but without pretence. The quality of food was top draw, but served with a delicate simplicity. The gentle professionalism of the camp staff was welcome and the passion, knowledge and professionalism of our wonderful Ranger, Nic Nel, capped it all off.
With Nick’s invaluable expertise the wildlife viewing over the four days provided us a truly unforgettable experience that included:
― daily leopard sightings, including the Nkoveni female making a kill and the Island bend female and cub sharing a kill;
― several prides of lion, including the four inquisitive three-month old cubs of the Kambula pride as well as the rare sighting of two females in a tree fighting over a leopard-kill of an Impala;
― daily sightings of white rhino, including young;
― numerous elephants, including an incredible half an hour in the middle of a 20+ herd and the unforgettable antics of the young ones showing off;
― spending time at a spotted hyena den with curious and ungainly pups playing around, but being totally alert scampering into the den at the slightest sound or shadows cast by birds flying overhead;
― buffalo, kudu, a honey-badger, ostrich, hippo, owls, eagles, voyages of giraffe, baboons, saddle-bill storks with young, the unusual hamerkop heron, kingfishers and much more.
We cannot see how the wonderful Mala Mala experience can be bettered. The one negative of this place - saying goodbye. What was to be our ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ safari is not so! We are already planning our next visit. Totsiens for now.

Claire Roadley   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: May 2018 Reviewed: Jul 4, 2018

Email Claire Roadley  |  35-50 years of age  |  Experience level: over 5 safaris

Just keeps getting better!
Overall rating

This was my second visit to MalaMala (lucky I know!) so I had very high expectations - especially as on my previous stay we ticked off all the Big 5 just between the airport and Main Camp and saw both a lion and leopard kill on our first game drive! This time however it was the accommodation that totally knocked my socks off. Sable Camp has been transformed into a modern, fresh, chic safaris lodge whilst maintaining its authentic character. I loved that the his and hers bathrooms have been knocked into one big bathroom with both a bath and shower. Its had a real injection of "wow" factor so please ignore the rating saying it looked tired and in need of a refurb! Main Camp was busy being done up in May and the team said it should be for the most part complete in July (think they said they would do the last few rooms on the one end of camp at the end of the year). The decks, lounges, bar etc all look fabulous.

The game viewing again was amazing and a real highlight was watching two leopards mating right in front of us as well as seeing loads of different lion with our guide Lucky, who grew up in the reserve. It far exceeded all expectations and I cannot wait to go back again.

Tom Friedel   –  
Australia AU
Visited: May 2017 Reviewed: Jul 26, 2017

Email Tom Friedel  |  65+ years of age  |  Experience level: over 5 safaris

Larger resort style with excellent facilities and game viewing
Overall rating

Mala Mala is the largest private game reserve located in the in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve and adjoins the Kruger National Park on its western side. There is no fence between the two and , consequently, game can move freely between the two areas. This is certainly reflected both in the density of the game and the number of sightings ; during the two full days we spent there, we were rewarded with plenty of Big 5 sightings and recorded some 20 other animal species , including the African Hunting Dogs, which are no longer found in many parts of southern Africa. Since this is a private reserve, night safaris are also offered , which provide a unique opportunity to see some of the nocturnal animals. Mala Mala is also an excellent place for birding.

We stayed in the lower Sable section of the lodge, which is separated from the main lodge and therefore quieter and with fewer people. The accommodation was excellent,more than spacious, and the meals were of a high standard; in fact in many aspects Mala Mala feels more like a resort than a safari lodge (with pool, gym etc).. The guide was excellent, knowledgeable and only too happy to try and accommodate individual wishes for the keen photographers. They try to keep animal disturbance to a minimum by allowing only 3 vehicles at any sighting at one time and, because the reserve is large (130 square Km), there is still a feeling of not being too crowded.

In sum, Mala Mala offers great game viewing , resort style accommodation and is easily accessible from Johannesburg (as are all of the lodges in the area). We have been to many different lodges in southern Africa and for us the more intimate feeling of the smaller game lodges was missing. This is not a criticism, rather a personal preference.

alison   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: October 2016 Reviewed: Nov 7, 2016

Email alison

A dream come true
Overall rating

I am still on cloud 9, having just returned from the holiday of my dreams. Everyone is very welcoming and nothing is too much trouble, all the rangers answer questions with such knowledge and enthusiasm. On the first drive my group saw the big five and there was a friendly rivalry between the rangers which in turn passed to us clients. As we set off, our ranger,Aymer asked us all what we would most like to see so he was able to tailor our desires and hopes. As it was so dry we were able to clearly see leopards stalking, saw twin baby leopards and many other sights at other times would have been impossible. As no more than three trucks view the animals together you can get really close and the animals ignore you, although when a lion cub sharpened it's claws on our wheels we were a little concerned! Being able to go off road made the experience mega exciting, you never knew what we would see, elephants,rhino, hippo, cheetahs, baboons, the list goes on.
The accommodation was very comfortable and clean, with the animals able to wander round as they please you felt at one with them. The food was excellent and the service was second to none with the cheerful and happy ladies. To sum up, if you want a holiday of a lifetime Mala Mala came up with it!

coldfish88   –  
United States US
Visited: August 2016 Reviewed: Sep 16, 2016

Email coldfish88  |  50-65 years of age  |  Experience level: first safari

An Exceptional Experience
Overall rating

Mala Mala was a 5 star experience all around. Game viewing exceeded expectations. We saw the Big 5 in the first day of our four day trip. But each day had its own highlights -- lions stalking, leopards mating, giraffes necking, a leopard munching on an impala snack, elephants drinking at the river, and cheetahs walking along as cool as you please. Admittedly, we were lucky but both rangers talented at finding game and the dry weather which caused the game to hang near the river, helped. At Mala Mala, the guests spend most of day with their assigned ranger. You are with them not only for game drives but also for meals and drinks at the bar beforehand. So you need to get along with these guys to make it an enjoyable experience. However, I saw no one that wasn't enjoying interacting with the rangers, that includes my group who enjoyed hanging with Daniel over the four days. The time and social pressure on the rangers is large, but they all seemed handle it with aplomb. Daniel not only knew where to look, he was very knowledgeable about all the animals we saw (including numerous birds), but was also good at explaining their behavior, or, more to the point, the reason for their behavior. One other ranger-positive remark: the game drives take place very early and late in the day and with the sun low in the sky, back lighting and shadows make for tough photographs. These guys were particularly adept, when possible, at maneuvering the truck around to get a good, close, well lit shot. Now, they can't drive over logs or cross rivers to do this, but if they could achieve a good position, they would. Our rooms were spacious and well cared for. They have complimentary laundry service, a very important feature when you can only carry 20 kilos of luggage for an 11 day trip. The food was tasty and well prepared. Meals were buffets which was helpful in controlling quantities. Final point: work with your travel agent in getting to the camp. Mala Mala has a airstrip 15 minutes from the main lodge. Make sure you can access the camp via this airstrip as opposed to the two hour drive from Nelspruit that we experienced!

zapiture   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: July 2016 Reviewed: Aug 7, 2016

Email zapiture  |  35-50 years of age  |  Experience level: over 5 safaris

Overall rating

The crown jewel of Southern Africa's Nature Reserves

Bubba_NZ   –  
New Zealand NZ
Visited: July 2016 Reviewed: Jul 31, 2016

Email Bubba_NZ  |  50-65 years of age  |  Experience level: first safari

Outstanding safari destination
Overall rating

Mala Mala borders the Kruger National Park. Southern Africa's in the grip of a drought, but Mala Mala's fortunate to have a (much-reduced) river running through it North to South. This and the winter-thinned bush make for a safari bonanza. Thanks to our outstanding guide Tim we saw a veritable A-Z of African wildlife, from top predators through to some of the rarest animals on the planet. Because Mala Mala's private you're not sitting in a queue with tens of other vehicles, and the guides can get their vehicles well off the track. It feels unbelievably privileged. Highlights were wild mating leopards, a female leopard in a cub with her den, running with a nighttime pack of hyena, herds of elephants (and much more). We were in a family double room which worked brilliantly. And I'm always amazed how places like this serve up exceptional food and drinks, which is a bonus. But we came for the safari, really, and it's made for a lifetime set of memories.

Fran Tompkins Visited: May 2015 Reviewed: May 29, 2015

Bush Paradise
Overall rating

We have just returned from our third visit to Mala Mala & as usual, cannot speak highly enough of of our experience. Special mention must be made of Leon, ranger Adi ( previous Rangers Jonno & Paul) & indeed the entire staff who were courteous & friendly. The accommodation is clean, comfortable & attractive, the food is good & lots of it! Only wish was that the orange juice could be freshly squeezed & alcoholic drinks could be complimentary till say 8 pm!!

Massai_1 (Carsten M.) Visited: November 2014 Reviewed: May 25, 2015

Overall rating

Great game viewing (the didn't even had to use a tracker), great accomodation.

TheWanderingAmerican   –  
United States US
Visited: April 2014 Reviewed: May 2, 2015

35-50 years of age  |  Experience level: 2-5 safaris

Safari with Style
Overall rating

Mala Mala is an absolutely amazing safari destination. Having done a more rustic camping safari in the past, I was blown away by the comfort and amenities (wifi, a/c, lack of insects, etc.) of the Mala Mala camp so deep in the bush. The guides themselves are extremely knowledgeable and bend over backwards to make sure that your experience is second-to-none. We saw all of the major animals that are native to the area (rhinos, leopards, lion, elephants, hippo, water buffalo, and so much more)! In fact, we were able to see elephant, baboon, antelope, and others from the porch of our private cabin, while enjoying a glass of champagne.

Another great thing about Mala Mala is that it shares an unfenced border with Kruger, so animals are free to roam between Mala Mala and Kruger. But what makes Mala Mala even better is that Kruger has restrictions on off-road driving, meaning that you can't track animals off of the main roads; but Mala Mala is a private reserve and does not have these restrictions. The guides are able to wander into the bush and get guests close to animals, while being very respectful of the animals themselves to make sure that both parties are comfortable.

Average User Rating

  • 4.9/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star 29
  • 4 star 4
  • 3 star 0
  • 2 star 0
  • 1 star 0
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