MalaMala Game Reserve.

It is no secret as to what lies within this property, for lack of a better word. It should be described as a haven more than a ‘property’; and a haven it truly is. For all sorts of wildlife indeed, but its claim to fame certainly derives from its unmatched numbers of predators, namely lion, leopard, hyena and wild dogs.

Like most game reserves it was once a hunting ‘farm’. Early records show that even in those days hunters used to regard lions and Wild Dogs as pests, they were in such large numbers. With the conservation era dawning, MalaMala was one of the first properties to respect the change and changed over to photographic safaris.

In the early days it was a two-day trek to the camp via old Chevrolet truck or even a horse! Planes could soon bring guests to a nearby airstrip, much to the delight of the locals whom had never seen such a thing before. Gradually the trip to this tucked away group of ‘rondavals’ (round huts with thatched roofs) became easier and a pool was even established in the sixties, making it a one of the finest retreats on the continent at the time.

Many things have changed over the years, however some things don’t, and guest still enjoy a delicious meal and a a cocktail under an aged Jackal Berry tree that was the same place the pioneers of MalaMala Main camp would sit under. Even the dining tables under this tree, that are imitations of old boxes used to transport hurricane lanterns that are split into two pieces and placed flat side up, are still in use. Visitors are truly transported back in time to a bygone era when visiting this iconic reserve. But that’s not what it’s all about.

It is, however, “all about the wildlife”. MalaMala’s famous motto that has governed its approach to safaris for decades. A strong focus has been implied on the game viewing experience above all else. To show guest as much of the plethora of animals that exist in the area and the interactions between them. Knowledgeable guides drive their Land Rovers with ecstatic guest around on a daily basis and for weeks at a time - developing a strong connection to the area and to the point where they can almost predict animals, it seems.

It is part of the experience to learn about the birds and the bees, and the termites and the medicinal uses of plants, and everything else between the big hairy and scary animals that most guests dream of. The guides paint a grand picture of the marvel unfolding in front of their guests. A build up, to the finale that is having a lion roar only meters from your Jeep or following a leopard while she hunts impala or sitting amongst a herd of crazed elephants, thrashing and drinking from the sand river.

What is of no doubt, is that something has certainly stood the test of time in this remarkable place and that is that whether you visited 60 years ago or visited last weekend, and whether it was for a week or a few days, chances are high you saw things that only existed in your dreams before. The cubs of a resident leopard or a lion, maybe the battle between lion and buffalo. Whichever it may be MalaMala is certainly the premier destination to search for it. Nothing is guaranteed, yet your highest chance of seeing it might just lie somewhere on these thirteen thousand hectors of pristine wilderness.

Until next time

Andrew Danckwerts

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