MalaMala Camp, situated in the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve South Africa, is built on the riverbank of the renowned Sand River. This place has haunted the dreams of wildlife enthusiast worldwide since its establishment in the 1930’s. Stories of MalaMala have changed in certain aspects over the years, no doubt, but back then a safari consisted of slugging your way for days in your Cadillac or Chevrolet Apache to reach the Sabi Sands. Carrying all your supplies for this usually month-long adventure but it was worth - the game viewing was always extraordinary and to this day it may be Africa’s finest big five safari destination.
MalaMala’s five start camps still grace the banks of the Sand River and its accommodation is to be described quite simply as exquisite. A fine combination of tradition and modernisation, the camps fit into their environment as naturally as the animals themselves. A blend of elegant colonial Africa and the modern interiors with a sprinkle of the “old huntsman” to sum it all up into and authentic safari experience like no other. Food spreads and al carte menus are tantalizing beyond imagination and the staff who’s history has intertwined over the years with the property itself, create some of the finest hospitality in the industry.
However spectacular these camps are, their mention is only a build up to what separates MalaMala from the rest. “It’s all about the wildlife” is the motto that still describes the MalaMala safari experience best. Rangers of the highest quality are the guided experience that people travel from all over the world for. From dawn until dusk the option to traverse the beautiful MalaMala property on your trusty land rover with its epilated ranger is yours. Combining years of experience, knowledge of every rock on the reserve and a passion for all things wild, the MalaMala rangers are guaranteed to lead you into sightings of leopard, lion, cheetah and all other creatures that you have dreamt of.
MalaMala is truly all about the wildlife experience. Although its stunning lodges and five-star hospitality go hand in had with its game drives, its only when your ducking under branches and holding onto the bars in front of you as your ranger off roads his land rover in an attempt to keep up with hunting wild dogs, that you realise that you’re in a truly wild environment. The large, 13000 hector reserve allows for an unbeatable game viewing experience. With only at most a dozen MalaMala jeeps having access to the area it means that one can spend quality time with the animals you find out there without the pressure of other vehicles forcing you out of the area. It is, actually, not uncommon for a jeep to spend the entire day following a leopard and not needing to exit the sighting as others are too pre-occupied with incredible sightings of their own.
With arguably the highest density of leopard on earth and no shortage of the other big cats, it is safe to say that if it’s a predator viewing experience you’re after, then you need not look further than MalaMala.
Larger Populations of Rhino, Elephant, Giraffe, Hyena and buffalo also are present in the area.
The Lodge and Rooms
With 25 rooms and two different lounge areas with their own bars and dining rooms the MalaMala “lodge’ experience is extremely exclusive. Elaborate spreads and al carte menus keep you beyond well fed in the times you’re not chasing after the wonders of MalaMala.
Each room has its own unique design yet stick to the MalaMala theme that blends history and modernization into and elegant blend of leather, straight lines and natural colors. From the patterns themselves to the historic images of safaris of old, one is immersed into the original ideas of the saris experience, of what a safari should be…an adventure.
Being right along the banks of the Sand River means that the rooms are frequented with wildlife of all kinds and it is not uncommon for lion and leopard to be viewed from the decks of your rooms themselves.
After a long day’s safari there’s no better place than the bar of MalaMala to reminisce on your day with other guest and rangers. Riddled with history and stories of old, it is easy to lose track of time in the elegant lounge and bar areas as your re live the history of MalaMala through your own eyes.
My MalaMala experience
After spending most of my life working as a field guide in more rustic but still luxurious tented camps in more remote parts of Africa, it was a change of scenery when I witnessed the five-star luxury of MalaMala. However, this is was not what really captivated me about the reserve. Every park is beautiful in its own way and has a its own unique experience. After working out of remote camps for most of my life where things like leopard sightings were almost mythical stories as these skittish animals were never to be seen (although always present), it took my breath away when a leopard first came to sleep in the shade of my jeep.
It dawned on me that these were common experiences in MalaMala and with all its wildlife, as for generations the animals have and no need to fear the jeeps. I thought that after a while these close-up encounters with the large and fierce animals of Africa that the feeling would wear off, but it never did. After being allowed into the secret world of these incredible animals your hunger to experience and learn more about them only grew inside you. after spending two years at Malamala I had learnt more about leopard firsthand than I had in all the years as a guide in various corners of Africa. The place has filled my dreams ever since and is one of only a few places in Africa that I can guarantee that a guest traveling there, will find what they are looking for…and more.
MalaMala camp in a nutshell
Who should go? Everyone who wishes to experience Africa’s flagship species up close, behaving naturally, in their natural habitat and in large quantities. Whether a solo photographer, honeymoon couple or family group. MalaMala camp is the place of dreams!
When to go? All year round is a good time of year to go but the drier times of year from June to early November is when the game viewing is at its best.
How to get there: Three different routes can bring you to MalaMala. Firstly the SAA flight from Johannesburg to Skukuza followed by a short transfer by MalaMala to the lodge, a private charter, or a Federal Air flight directly to MalaMala’s private airstrip where a MalaMala representative will collect you once on the ground. The third option, although rarely chosen, is to drive yourself.
Suggested length of stay: three nights minimum
Insider Tip: Be sure to ask your ranger for a bush breakfast where you spend most of the day out and about and when your hunger kicks in you’re treated to a full breakfast set up in the bush in the shade of an ancient mahogany tree - cooked right then and there by your ranger himself.