User Reviews – MalaMala GR

Sort By: Date Most Helpful Rating 11-20 of 33 Reviews
Mala Mala, Superb accommodation, superb wildlife sightings
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It's always difficult to know just how lucky with wildlife sighting you've been on a trip when compared to those who've come before you but on this occasion we must have been very lucky indeed! As a location for leopards Mala Mala is unrivalled in our experience and we've visited a large part of Africa over the years. The accommodation was excellent as was the food and general service. As very keen wildlife photographers we are always reliant on the expertise of the local rangers, we never have enough time anywhere we go and need the rangers to get us to the optimum locations for photography. They know their area whereas we don't and in this respect they are an invaluable source of the local information every photographer needs. Mala Mala has some of the best rangers we have come across and hopefully our photographs did them justice. We would have no hesitation in recommending Mala Mala as a safari destination not just for leopards but for game photography in general including significant numbers of birds.

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I liked Mala Mala a little bit better because it was easier to find and see more animals in a game ride.

A wild place
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My stay at Mala Mala game reserve was one out of three stays during a photosafari trip arranged by Stu Porter at Wild4 Photo Safaris. He had arranged this stay as the last on our tour and i can understand why. A better ending to a perfect week in the bush is hard to find. We stayed at Rattray´s on Mala Mala where i had the privilege to live in my own Khaya wich is something i can really recommend. These Khayas are simply wonderful and makes you feel like a king. The staff is very helpful and service minded and will always do everything to make your stay memorable.
Anyway, our main goal with this trip was to get as many nice safari pictures as possible and Mala Mala delivered that too. Our ranger Peter took really good care of us and as he also was very interested in photography he had a good feeling for what we probably would like to see. We successfully spotted the big five and lots of other interesting animals such as a pangulin for instance. We went out into the bush at 6 o clock every morning and brought our breakfast with us out to have it the Landrover. Being in april it was kind of cold in the mornings but the car was equipped with blankets so that was no problem. We then went back to camp at around noon to have lunch and do some downloading of our pictures and after that we went back out again until the sun went down and it became too dark for photography. We really had a lot of nice moments at Mala Mala during this trip and those moments will always stay in my mind. I hope i get to go there again sometime.

Superlative unbeatable wildlife viewing
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We chose Mala Mala Rattrays because of its reputation for amazing wildlife viewing and we were not disappointed! Mala Mala has the Sand River running through it and abuts Kruger National Park. It is a huge private reserve (I believe it is the largest of the private reserves in the area) comprising 33,000 acres. Only vehicles from the Mala Mala camps are allowed on the reserve and they are allowed to go off road (unlike Kruger). There were never any more than 3 vehicles allowed at a sighting and we were frequently the only vehicle present. We chose to stay at Rattrays because there are no more than 4 people in each vehicle. The khayas are huge and luxurious with his and her bathrooms, plunge pool, and deck overlooking the Sand River. Mala Mala's motto is "It is all about the wildlife" and if you are interested in seeing the "Big Five" and more, this is the place for you. We were not disappointed! Highlights of our 4 night/5 day stay with our fantastic ranger, Greg Baldwin, were seeing a leopard dragging her freshly killed impala along the ground to a tree (our first night drive!) and the next morning (our second game drive) sitting among a pack of wild dogs as they consumed their kill and fought off a hyena. We experienced the excitement of following the dogs off road and watched them run down another antelope. The rest of our game drives were also wonderful and we had many leopard sightings, elephants, cape buffalo, lion, rhino, hyenas, warthogs, giraffes, mongoose, jenet, wildebeast, baboons, vervet monkeys, zebras, vultures, raptors, different types of storks, and a wide variety of antelope. I suspect that going during the dry season enhanced our wildlife viewing as the animals were mostly concentrated around the river. It is unbelievable how close you are able to get to the animals, just don't stand up in the range rover and you will be just fine. We appreciated the care the rangers took to minimally disturb the animals while we were observing them. You will be very very busy and we barely had enough down time to download our pictures between the early morning game drives, bush walks, meals, and night drives. Others have complained about the food which is served buffet style (we liked it just fine, we did have better food at other places during our trip to South Africa, but no place could beat Mala Mala in terms of the quality of the wildlife viewing and level of service and hospitality). If you want fantastic wildlife viewing that is unbeatable, come to Mala Mala! Yes, staying at Rattrays is expensive, but worth every penny!

Beyond Amazing!
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Let's get the mundane stuff out of the way. The lodging, food and bar were outstanding. The staff was friendly and eager to please. The safari vehicles were open and as comfortable as one could expect. Our Ranger was extremely knowledgable and was great at getting us in the best position for photos while being respectful of the animals. As a private reserve, we had it all to ourselves. Most of the time, we were the only vehicle in sight. At most there would be one other vehicle (this is carefully controlled). That is HUGE! Great for viewing/photos and great for the animals.
Now on to the good stuff: The wildlife.
The abundance and variety of wildlife was astounding. The Sand River flows through the reserve and draws the wildlife to it. As we were being shown our room (all with a view of the river) a herd of elephants came down for a drink. It just got better from there. Our first morning game drive gave us the Big 5 before we stopped for lunch! Before the day was over we had also seen cheetah and wild dogs to round out Africa's Super Seven. Our evening game drive that day ended with a lioness and her three week old cubs on one of their first ventures out of the den. Absolutely amazing! I would return to MalaMala in a heartbeat.

Mala Mala was absolutely AMAZING!
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Brett and Yuri were amazing guides. It was a great experience and we got to see the Big 5 in just 2 days.

A beautiful, fantastic experience for all of the senses that changed my life forever!
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I believe that this trip could not have been more perfect. The weather was luscious, as was the food. We stayed in 5 star hotels and I am sure I would have been as happy in 3 star based on my love of the scenery and wildlife. The food was amazing, the wine was even better.

I believe Mala Mala is dearest to my heart because of its history. I had read Paul Theroux's book and particularly loved the chapter about Mala Mala. Our guide was knowledgeable to the extreme! (Thanks, David) --

I also thought that not using trackers at Mala Mala was very interesting and made the guides work that much harder at appeasing all the guests needs.

I wish I could have stayed longer. I believe I will be back.

Mala Mala is Luxury Safari at it's Best!!!
Overall rating

I didn't know what to expect when arriving at Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa. It was the 5th Safari in 17 days that had included Zimbabwe and Botswana and each place was unique and spectacular. I stayed at Rattrays and was lucky enough to have my own luxury villa which in all honesty was wasted on just one person!!! The accomodation was spectacular to say the least!! The staff were attentive and very friendly and our guide was fun and very knowledgeable for as young as he was. We only spent three days but probably saw the most animals that any other one Game Reserve although each one was spectacular. The guides are in constant communication and are quick to respond to an animal sighting and really do their best to track down the animal in question. We saw a Leopard and her Cubs, Lions at a kill, Lions and Cubs playing on the River Beach. Rhinos and their young, Girraffe, Elephants. The highlight for this particular stay though was a chance encounter with two Hyena pups whose mother was nearby. They got so curious that they came right up to the vehicle and climbed up onto it and was chewing the guides shoe laces and were so playful they tried to chew my camera strap that was swinging around....amazing experience!!! I posted part of it on YouTube at screen name jet400a. I will post the whole 15-20 minutes worth soon. My video of Duba Plains in Botswana is also on there.

The food, just like every other camp, was 1st class. I can't say enough great things about Mala Mala and its accomodation and staff!!! 5 Stars all the way....can't way to go back and take my family!!!!!

Mala Mala Game Reserves definately delivers the wildlife experiences you are looking for.
Overall rating

The Mala Mala Game Reserve is privately owned, nestled between the Sabi Sands Game Reserve and the Kruger National Park. The reserve is about 133 sq kms and only accessible to Mala Mala guests. This is a major point as lodges in the Sabi Sands Reserve share traversing rights with other lodges resulting in increased vehicle and human presence.

Mala Mala is renowned for the wildlife. On my trip I was lucky enough to see the rare pangolin (actually 2 of them), leopards, elephants and an array of other animals and birds. You can see why many documentary makers and professional photographers are drawn to Mala Mala.

The accommodation is good, but a little tired. There are 2 properties on the reserve - Mala Mala Main Camp which houses Sable Camp and Rattrays. Rattray's is more upmarket than Main Camp. All the properties have the concept of "his" and "hers" bathrooms which to me is overkill and I would prefer more space in the bedroom/living area. The bathrooms need an update as well. Accommodation at Main camp is affordable and fine, especially compared to other camps in the Sabi Sands. You'd choose Mala Mala for the wildlife opportunities, not the accommodation.

Mala Mala has its own airstrip so recommend people fly in rather than transfer from Nelspruit or Hoedspruit. This can be done through Fedair. The drive from Nelspruit to the Sabi Sands gate takes a little over an hour then it is another hour to get to Mala Mala Main Camp. Normally transfers are done by an external company so bouncing around in a transit van is uncomfortable, whereas the flight will take you from Johannesburg airport directly to the Mala Mala airstrip.

The guides are great and have a great love of the bush. My guide Ross even has a Masters of Zoology so the depth of knowledge is incredible. The open vehicles are comfortable and reliable. The rangers are allowed to go off road in certain cases, which adds to the excitement. We followed a leopard stalking a rock python which we couldn't do unless we were off road. This is why you pay the extra money to be a private lodge.

Game viewing = 10 out of 10
accommodation = 7 out of 10

Incredible wildlife and an amazing lodge experience!
Overall rating

There aren’t enough good things I can say about our time at Mala Mala. It was genuinely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There were times when it was hard to remember we were in a jeep because our animal encounters were so vivid and personal. For instance, we watched a baby water buffalo born just minutes before our arrival take its first, halted steps. Later, we looked up into a tree and saw a leopard ripping apart an impala it had just killed, while a hyena circled below waiting for scraps. We were only twenty feet or so away from the hyena – too awesome! The impalas, alas, endured another casualty the next day. In the morning, we saw a pack of wild dogs fighting over the pieces of an impala, which gives new meaning to the phrase “pack of wild dogs.” We saw a plethora of giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and zebras, oftentimes only a few feet away from our jeep.

We saw big game everywhere, but one of the more interesting compenents of the safari was learning how a complex ecosystem operates – from the smallest insects to the leopards and lions. For instance, our ranger spoke to us at length about the “life cycle” of rhino droppings, and scooped a small mound off our path to reveal an ant lion hiding in its hole – no larger than the size of a pencil eraser. There was nature all around us, from the elephant herd that walked by my porch only fifty yard away, to the amazing stars in the night sky. I genuinely adored each moment.

One of the more meaningful moments was the morning of our departure, when we went on one last drive to see the only Big Five animal we had left to spot – a lion. After an extensive search involving quite a bit of off-roading with tree branches whipping our faces, we came upon a pride of five lions, lying in the center of the road, asleep. I could now check off the Big Five! I even received a certificate to prove it.

Average User Rating

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

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star 4
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