User Reviews – MalaMala GR

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Mala Mala Game Reserves definately delivers the wildlife experiences you are looking for.
Overall rating
4/5

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

Put your camera down for a while and let your senses soak it in!
Overall rating
4/5

We enjoyed a very informative guide who was very accommodating of guest's preferences. The animals were awesome and provided great photo opportunities. The accommodations, food and service were fabulous. I highly recommend that you make the trip.

A Luxurious Bush Hotel
Overall rating
4/5

Mala Mala is obviously geared towards the high market, with most visitors arriving by plane. As such, it is important to review Mala Mala in this context.

Yes, the rooms are luxurious and contain everything you could need, but there are other lodges that just add that touch of style which give them an edge in the luxury department. More specifically, the rooms felt like a 5-star hotel rather than a bush lodge - there was little viewing to be done from the room which was in near proximity to other rooms and therefore wasnt as open as it could have been. The view from the balcony was less than spectacular, rather dull even, but the occasional animal did walk by. In short - very comfortable, but didnt integrate you into the bush, or even really 'Africa'.

The communal areas were much more succesful in this regard, tastefully decorated, also with large trophies and plenty of space. Eating is done on a large deck with a great view over the river Sands, where the occasional elephant of hippo walks. There were many stories of animals coming into the lodge, but I didnt witness any of this. Further, there is a large and beautiful pool, as well as gym and entertainment room for kids with DVDs. The food was fantastic.

All the staff were extremely friendly and helpful. No complaints here. Especially the guides are extremely knowledgeable and willing to adjust to your wishes. They also eat every meal with you, providing great conversation.

The wildlife is what Mala Mala is famous for and there is no shortage of it. Within my first hour I had seen 2 cheetahs, a leopard and an attempted lion kill. We visited these animals repeatedly, and saw some more great interactions. The one thing I will add is that they are a little obsessed with the 'big five' and even provide a certificate at the end. Although the wildlife is great, and the game drives are lovely, the lodge lacks anything to really get you into the bush; the walk was 20min long and followed a road with the car trailing us, ready to pick us up. Further Ive heard some negative things about their conservation record, perhaps unfounded, but now with the fence to Kruger removed this should be fine.

In summary, a very comfortable and luxurious experience. You will see a lot of spectacular wildlife. Perfect if you want to visit Africa for a short time in comfort and tick your animal checklist. If you really want to explore Africa and experience the bush - go elsewhere.

Emiel de Lange

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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