We chose MalaMala due to its history, size and reputation as the first and largest private game reserve and success rate at game viewing. We further chose Rattray’s due to the small size of the property and only 4 people per game vehicle. We scheduled our entire trip around Rattray’s availability and were lucky to get in at all due to booking only three months out. Due to this, we had to visit MalaMala’s sister reserve, Mashatu (Botswana) after Rattray’s which is reverse order of what is normally recommended and for good reason as after MalaMala, it is hard for anywhere else to compare. Our scheduling swap was worth the stay as we were rewarded with lavish accommodations, an excellent and dedicated guide and the exclusivity that we had hoped for.
MalaMala is located in the Sabi Sands area and borders Krueger National Park. We arrived via private transport with Copper Sun tours (excellent, prompt and clean) from Tzaneen as we wanted to do the Panorama Tour and see some of the countryside of South Africa before venturing on safari. You must enter Sabi Sands and drive through rich game area to get to the resort. Along the way we saw Cape buffalo, giraffe, zebra, and impala and were greeted by a herd of elephants as we entered the gate to Mala Mala. What a welcome!
The property looks just as it does on the website. It truly is breathtaking and luxurious. The khayas are all in a row off to the right of the main house as you are facing the property. They are spaced apart nicely with ample foliage so you will feel as if you have the place to yourself. We were in #7 which was a few minutes’ walk from the main house. The one thing the website does not show is the beautiful view you have overlooking the river where herds of elephant frequent the banks. I imagine it is the only place on earth where you will have a river view with elephants from the gym and pool.
The game drives here are unbelievable and on almost every one we saw something amazing, a lioness tree a leopard, cheetahs consuming their kill, sundowners with hippos, herds of elephants departing a river crossing, a herd of 300+ cape buffalo, lots of rhinos, owls, etc…. Our guide, Robin, referred to the wild life goings on as “the madness of MalaMala”. The guides are very dedicated to ensuring guests get up close (closer than you could ever imagine) and personal with the animals for great photos but they also educate clients on the animals habits, way of life and what it takes to survive in the bush.
Do not worry about what clothing you wear; I think you could wear neon for all the animals care. Our group wore lots of colors on game drives, it did not affect anything. The animals have somewhat of an understanding with the game vehicles. The vehicles are seen daily and the animals are ok as long no one stands up or reaches outside the vehicle. You will think they aren’t even paying attention then someone will move wrong and they will let you know to sit back down or lean back in. It is fascinating!
We visited mid-September and the weather was perfect, it was just on the cusp of their summer season. Morning and evening game drives were cool, days were hot. The rains had not come yet so thankfully we did not see any mosquitoes.
We stayed 3 nights and 3 ½ days and felt this was a decent amount of time to fully appreciate the location. This gave us time to enjoy 6 game drives. We were fortunate to be placed with another couple whose personalities complimented ours. Our guide also fit well with us. I believe they try to pair couples based on age and home base and they do a good job. As this is a very pricey location; it tends to have a more upscale clientele which can sometimes come off a bit stuffy. During our stay we saw groups come and go. Each time it seemed the new groups were matched well. The guides are all excellent; rest assured you will be in good hands no matter which one you are with.
We were only disheartened by the food. We went in with low expectations of gourmet dining based on other reviews which turned out for us to be spot on. There are ample selections provided buffet style at each meal for both vegetarian and meat eaters alike so you will not go hungry by any means. But, as we had just arrived from King’s Walden Garden Manor where there were mouth watering, gourmet selections each night, we yearned for more. The bar, dining room, outdoor and boama dining areas are very well done and provide a wonderful ambience in which to share exciting conversations of the day’s adventures.
Overall, Rattray’s on MalaMala is a truly exclusive and luxurious location that will ensure you have an unforgettable safari experience. The game viewing here is world famous and for good reason. We were thankful we discovered this place and opted to upgrade. Rattray’s will be part of our most amazing memories for the rest of our lives.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- MalaMala Game Reserve is the Safari Industry's blueprint to the luxury photographic safari. In existence since 1927, this massive thriving tract of land produces the most exciting wildlife experience this side of the equator. MalaMala Game Reserve is the largest private Big Five game reserve in South Africa. Comprising 13 300 ha (33 000 acres), MalaMala shares a 19 km (12 mile) unfenced border with the world-renowned Kruger National Park, and lies strategically sandwiched between the National Park and the Sabi Sand Reserve. For over four decades, Michael Rattray has remained focused on his objective to preserve and protect the land over which he is custodian. Allowing nature to move to its innate rhythm, guests experience today what the forefathers of the African Safari would have experienced at the turn of the century. This philosophy has paid off, as experienced by a veritable collection of photojournalists and film-makers who have made MalaMala their destination of choice to capture footage of wildlife viewing that would rival any Hollywood production for thrilling and breathtaking animal encounters. MalaMala's Camps (MalaMala Main Camp, Sable Camp and Rattray's on MalaMala) are the embodiment of an authentic safari experience pioneered at a time when the safari was simple - unassuming camps, vast sweeping plains, the African sky and the bush in all its splendour. Wellness was the feeling after a long day in the wild. Cigars were shared without pomp and ceremony. Guests to MalaMala will still spend hours beneath an inky sky in the traditional boma exchanging stories from the wild - a sumptuous meal, good company and relaxed faces warmed by the crackling fire, accompanied by the nocturnal symphony of sound. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Mala Mala Rattray`s Camp Hotel Mala Mala Private Game Reserve
- Rattray's On MalaMala Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa