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Rattray's on MalaMala
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Reviews (192)
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All reviewsmala malasand rivermain campplunge poolheated floorsgame viewingseparate bathroomsover the toplarge verandavisiting wildlifethe reservekruger national parkwill stay with me forevera special tripcape buffalositting areahunting dogs
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Reviewed 24 February 2013

We stayed at Rattray's in early February, and this is a benchmark 5-star establishment. The accommodation is superb, game drives were excellent, the Lodge itself has a nice ambiance, and food was of a good standard for a game reserve. Many supposedly 5-star lodges provide great safaris but fall down on the hospitality, forgetting that guests who pay this kind of rate expect a lot more than just a game drive, but Rattray's generally managed to avoid this mistake. The Manager, Conrad, was usually somewhere around, available to guests and checking on proceedings, and that is really important. I think they still have some room to improve the food offering, and frankly the wine list was below expectations, but overall this was a very satisfying and relaxed game lodge, rating with the best we have experienced. My only real complaint is that the reservations office was having a 'spat' with Amex in January, and would not accept my card, though it was subsequently accepted at the Lodge for sundries; this is not acceptable at this level, and they need to sort it out.

  • Stayed: February 2013, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Peter H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 December 2012

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.

  • Stayed: September 2012, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank lfisgd746
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 November 2012

We spent 4 incredible days at Rattray's of Mala Mala. It is nearly impossibel to do justice to how great an experience this was. The "hotel" consists of 8 individual cottages backing to a river, with only a small fence to keep the animals from your deck. From the deck, which has a small plunge pool, you can see game without leaving home. The cottage is very large, with his and hers baths, a sitting area, dressing areas, wifi, etc. Meals, which were quite good, are served in a small dining area, although several dinners were held communal style in an out door "boma" around a fire and under the stars, with the occasional bushbay in the trees overhead. The reserve borders Kruger National Park and the game viewing was beyond compare. We saw the big 5 nearly every day, and were treated to nursing lion cubs, herds of elephants, grooming baboons, leopards, cheetah, rinos, hippos, girraffe, baby hyenas, and more. The game drives, averaging about 3 1/2 hours in the mornng and afternoon, seemed to be over way too soon. Our Ranger, Gordon, could not have been better. Since it is a private reserve, jeeps can go off road which enhances the game viewing.

  • Stayed: October 2012, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank howard h
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 November 2012

Since '99 I allways chose something else, but now finally I booked Rattray's Mala Mala...
Great lodge, great staff !
Such a shame that the manager, a lovely Belgian young woman, leaves ! She is one of the best I ever met !
As a territory, it's fantastic...big, the river, changing landscapes.
Wildlife as well great !
Food, drinks, stay...perfect !
Our ranger Ross is a wonderfull guy and it is a shame that rangers at Mala Mala must do all by themselves, because of the fact they don't work with trackers (anymore) !
It is absolutely not less quality, safari-wise, then Singita or Londolozi...maybe even a fraction better.
Absolutely a shame that the good staff leaves, she (and her husband/ranger Nick as well) are a difference comparing lodges.

  • Stayed: October 2012, travelled with friends
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Thank Gilbert v
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 October 2012

Rattray's at Mala Mala was close to my number one and definitely my partner's favorite on our safari trip. The rooms were actually houses and they were large with two bathrooms (one with a tub and one with a shower),each adjoining a dressing area with a large closet, a large living area with a dining alcove and an open bedroom raised above the living area with a writing desk as a divider as well as a hall entrance which provided more intimacy. Outside, there was a wonderful private plunge pool which we used a lot because one day the temperature went up to 38 Celsius (100 fahrenheit)! Another day, on the other hand, the temperature was in the low twenties (approx 75 fahrenheit) so be prepared for the variations in temperature. We went the beginning of September 2012. The veranda was huge with a beautiful view of the Sand River (where I saw my first Giraffe I might add). We saw two lions upon arrival at our house. Houses are separated from each other by what look like adobe walls - very discrete, which provided a great deal of privacy on the verandah and pool side of the house.

The service is very personalized with an assigned guide responsible for the needs and wishes of their guests. The guide also shares meals with their guests and are very easy to converse with. The ages of the guests varied a great deal and this did not seem to pose a problem. However, this is a small peaceful lodge with the action taking place on the safaris.

Meals were at fixed times: breakfast and lunch a buffet type affair with hot and cold dishes and always one continental dish for a difficult eater such as myself. Dinner was always excellent. We had dinner in our room every evening as we were tired at the end of the day and wanted an early night. Wake-up with a phone call from our assigned guide came at 5:30 AM every morning for a pre-safari snack at 6 AM when all the guests would gather at the main building. I'm not a really social person, but I found this laid-back and pleasant.

As for the morning and evening safaris, we had a private jeep as per our request, due to my heart condition. It gave us the freedom to go at our own pace. I sat next to the guide where it was not very bumpy. The seats are staggered so those seated behind the guide get a tremendous view but it can be a bit of a rough ride (I know, I experienced this in India and had to bow out after a day). That said, Rattrays has a maximum I believe of four people per jeep so it is never crowded in the jeeps. Also, only once did we see more than two jeeps at a sighting.


Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable about the animals, birds and the stars. I'm a bird watcher, more enthusiastic than knowlegeable, and yet I came away with over 50 sightings over three full days. It was an absolute pleasure spending time with Yuri whose love of the bush was contagious .

The game was fantastic and I liked the more intimate viewing experience with individual animals, rather than herds. The diversity of game was impressive aided by the fact that Mala Mala is a huge concession and more importantly, stretches over both sides of the river.That said, we did have a few qualms about off-roading and its effect on the environment and the animals. Not that we saw any deleterious effects. The lodge is also surrounded by a fence.

In conclusion, we could have spent weeks at this camp instead of 4 nights. It was just wonderful, thanks to the staff, the accomodations and the variety of game.

Room Tip: We stayed in house #4 which I found to be just the right distance from the main building. From what I heard, I believe game viewing might be better closer to the main building.It's something that one should check out.
  • Stayed: September 2012, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank HayKay1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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