I have just returned from an incredible 5 night, 6 day private safari in the MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa. MalaMala has been a destination I have always wanted to go and experience, especially having worked on the neighboring property, Londolozi.
Due to the Pandemic, this trip has been a couple of years in the making and I can tell you, it was worth the wait! The day we arrived it was overcast with a bit of rain. the good news to this was that MalaMala had a good 4 days of solid rain before we arrived(which is very unusual for this time of the year) and literally the day we arrived, the skies started to open up and the forecast for our stay predicted clear sunny skies. It was a first for me to be in this part of South Africa and have it so lush and green, normally this time of the year the vegetation is dying down and lost its color. Having said that, having had the rain move off and the beautiful light penetrating the riverine areas and denser vegetation was simply beautiful.
MalaMala Game Reserve is situated in the North Eastern section of South Africa and borders the Kruger National Park with no fence in-between MalaMala, the Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sands. This means that there is more land for wildlife to move freely between all the properties. MalaMala Game Reserve itself is about 33,000 acres in size and shares about 12 miles of unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park.
There was a fence that was erected in 1964 between the private sectors and the Kruger National Park due to an outbreak of diseases such as foot-and-mouth. MalaMala was hugely instrumental in getting this fence removed, which was in about 1992/93.
MalaMala was the first lodge to establish itself in 1927 and has been thriving ever since, it is also one of the largest privately owned Big 5 properties in South Africa.
As I mentioned, we stayed for 5 nights, 6 days at Main Camp in MalaMala, which is an absolutely stunning lodge.
MalaMala consists of 3 different camps, Rattrays Camp, Sable Camp and Main Camp where we stayed. They are all beautifully furnished and decorated. They are also all situated in prime locations. They all have a view over the river and despite where animals may be, they all have the luxury to drive and access the whole property depending on what animals you are after.
There were a few things that stood out to me in camp. The staff are all incredibly nice, they all greet you, offer you something to drink, take time to sit and talk to you and they are always smiling. For me, having been in the industry for a number of year, this is something that I tend to look for and pick up on every where I go and I must say, the staff at MalaMala went above and beyond for us, even arranging a romantic private dinner for my guests on the last night.
Another thing I wanted to mention was the guiding team. Not only in the lodge is everyone friendly, but you can see the great relationships that the guides have with one another and not competing in the field with other properties or traversing rights makes a huge difference.
Our guide Jono, was absolutely superb.He was extremely informative and always kept us up to date as to what was going on out in the field and gave us options of what we want to do and what we want to see. He has a great sense of humor and often had Corey, Sarah and myself in stitches.
When Sarah, Corey and I were planning this trip a couple of years ago, we spoke about a few different options and ended up deciding on Mala Mala with the focus being on predators, specifically leopards and all I can say is WOW, we were spoilt!
We had multiple leopard sightings, multiple lions sightings, we saw the wild dogs one afternoon and plenty of general game in between.
What I really loved is that we did not fixate on finding one thing specifically, but we chatted before the safari, especially with previous days bringing plenty of rain, we decided to sit back and let the bush show us whatever came our way(this is the best way to approach any safari). I say this to all the guests I go on safari with, because as soon as you put pressure on yourself to find specific animals, you end up missing out on everything else and its often those small things and small moments that lead to the big moments, which in our case happened often.
Here are just a few highlights from our incredible time at MalaMala:
Lens Recommendations for MalaMala:
The time of season and rainfall in the area determines the amount of off-roading that you can do. This means that majority of the time you get really close-up to your subject. I would recommend lenses with such as a fixed 300 F2.8 or even a 400mm F2.8. The reason for this suggestion is not only for the extra reach, but it also gives you a huge advantage in low light conditions or when using the spotlight on animals at night being able to shoot at 2.8 reach, but also a wider lens to capture the beauty of the landscape as well as animals in their natural environments, especially during first light. A lens such as the 70mm - 200mm F2.8 is a very handy lens for this and honestly is probably one of the lenses that I carry with me to most destinations I travel to. A wider lens such as a 24mm - 70mm F2.8 can also be used when animals are close by or can also be used for sunsets or sunrises, and if the chance presents itself then it can be used to do some astrophotography, especially in a place like MalaMala where there is little to no light pollution.
As you can see, we had a phenomenal time at MalaMala! As previously mentioned, it was my first time at MalaMala and I can guarantee you that it definitely will not be my last!
There is something truly special about this place, they call it #MalaMalaMagic and that is probably the only way to explain it.
Being on a private safari allowed us to have our own vehicle and to be flexible in terms of times for drives and also what we wanted to focus on on our drives. The flexibility makes a huge difference and gave us the opportunity to head out, explore and maximize our time at MalaMala.
To Corey, Sarah and Jono, thank you so much for an incredible few days out in the field. I don't think I could have scripted it any better! To the MalaMala team, thank you for going above and beyond for us and ensuring that we got the best possible experience.
I really look forward to returning hopefully one day in the near future.
Until next time,
Private Guided Safari
You don’t mind spending time in the company of others, but when it comes to your safari you want to be looked after, and perhaps even taught a new skill by a seasoned, professional safari guide. This is the Wild Eye Private Guided Safari Experience.
Our team of experienced tour planners will work with you to build a custom travel plan tailored to the destinations you would like to visit, the amount of time you’d like to travel for, your group size and of course, your budget.
The Secret Life of a Leopard
By nature, leopards are very shy and elusive animals, they are fairly solitary and often extremely difficult to find. We are in the fortunate position where we are able to go to some reserves and be able to have quality sightings of these animals. Why is that? Well, it comes down to the way in which guides conduct themselves in the field. Through the past few generations, the habituation process has been a continued effort to relax these beautiful animals around vehicles so that we can see them and understand more about leopard behavior. It is years and years that builds this trust, something that is continuously done. I have had my fair share of seeing what we think is an unrelaxed leopard which in actual fact is a leopard just doing leopard things. Being in the fortunate position we are, it is very easy to overlook this fact, but having experienced this first hand and having learnt so much about these beautiful creatures, is probably the reason that they are my favorite animal.