User Reviews – MalaMala GR

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Beyond Amazing!
Overall rating

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.

A wild place
Overall rating

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.

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

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.

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!

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.

Superlative unbeatable wildlife viewing
Overall rating

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!

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!

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.

Mala Mala, Superb accommodation, superb wildlife sightings
Overall rating

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.

Average User Rating

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

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