Camp Review: Mala Mala Game Reserve, SA

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Accomodations, Africa, Review, Safaris in SA, Story

Mala Mala Game Reserve


MalaMala is a large privately owned game reserve neighbouring the Sabi Sands Game Reserve and shares a common border with the famed Kruger National Park.

Internationally renowned and award-winning MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa is a sprawling 13,300 hectares and lies on the Sand River. It is one of the oldest and more established private reserves in the greater Kruger Park region.

Upon arrival at the Newington Gate, the Mala Mala representative drove us through the more exclusive Sabi Sand Private Concessions (Singita, Lion Sands etc.). As we rode by the fence of the concession, we witnessed the villages that the camps supported. However, we learned that as much as all the lodges support the livelihood of the communities, some suspected poachers actually live amongst them.

IMG_5218Grant, our designated ranger, welcomed us into camp. He showed us around the campgrounds and explained to us the distinct features of Mala Mala compared to other safari experiences – it stresses more focus on game viewing quality. This park is much bigger than any of the other parks in Sabi Sands and it also doesn’t give traversing rights to neighboring properties. Thus, there’s less vehicle traffic.

Mala Mala Main Camp


MalaMala Reserve is an exclusive safari destination within the Greater Kruger Park. It has the highest quality game-viewing on the sub-continent.

The camp can accommodate 36 guests across 18 luxury rooms, eight of which are luxury suites. All suites can be used as a triple or quad room. There is also a single room and a disabled room available. Every room has two bathrooms.

IMG_6189Guests can experience game drives and night drives in open safari vehicles; but while children of all ages are welcome, those under four years of age are not allowed to participate unless their family has booked sole use of the vehicle. Special dining arrangements and babysitting services are available on request as well. A guide will help coordinate all your activities and meals as well.

Sable Camp

IMG_5187Sable Camp is a part of the MalaMala reserve that accommodates up to 14 guests, but can be privately booked for groups between 10-18 people. There are five luxury suites as well as the larger Lions Den Suite (which holds four guests across two rooms). Each suite is uniquely decorated. They are spacious and their elevation allows panoramic views. Guests may also be picked up at their suite to go on game drives instead of walking to the main reception area (which may take longer).

IMG_5191Overall, although the campgrounds and accommodations look dated, I must say, we had a very delightful experience here.

Our game drive experience here was the best. We saw a lot in one afternoon and our guide was very good. Not only did Grant talk about wildlife and birds, he also talked about interesting plants found in the reserve. He also allowed us to step out of the vehicle to check out the surroundings. He also turned off the lights and the engine in pitch-black darkness when we came across a large herd of cape buffalos on the way home just to listen to them grunting in peace.  These instances gave us a better appreciation of the environment as we used other senses to experience where we were.

The food served at the reserve was also very good. Our last evening on safari was quite memorable. We were treated to a feast in their colossal boma with a buffet of delicious dishes. It was a pleasant surprise considering we were both so tired from a long day and lazy to socialize.

For clients who don’t mind a more casual set-up but are genuinely concerned about experiencing wildlife on a grander scale, this is the place.

(P.S. Ensure you request for a room overlooking the river instead of the watering hole. The view is much nicer and promising.)

Rattray’s Camp

Rattray’s Camp is the more exclusive and higher-end sister camp of MalaMala. This homey abode is perfect for guests who want to enjoy the calm surroundings. However, anyone under 16 years old is not allowed.

The main area of the camp is luxuriously decorated. There is a library containing many rare African books as well as works of art. The African themed air-conditioned dining room is elegant and the bar features photographs of early pioneers. Meals are served across a large wooden deck which allows an amazing game viewing experience. There is also a boutique with quality merchandise (clothing, jewelry and artifacts), a fitness facility, and a fully stocked wine cellar. Massage service is available on request.

On arrival, I was a intimidated by the dramatic main reception area. It was totally different from the festive, family-friendly, African ambiance of the Main Camp. We had lunch by the verandah overlooking the sandy river, and witnessed a herd of elephants passing by. This focus on wildlife experience is consistent with the other two camps.

Rattray’s Camp has eight luxury, river-view khayas for a maximum of 16 guests. Each has a private verandah (with a built-in heated plunge pool) and private garden. There are his-and-hers bathrooms as well as an outdoor shower. In-room dining is available at both an indoor and outdoor dining area.

The rooms are reminiscent of old, English colonial houses. All the décor and amenities in the room spell “Out of Africa” opulence. You definitely pay the premium for this option.

I imagine that the camp is perfect for seniors and honeymooners rather than family. It’s this certain exclusivity that their repeat clients really appreciate.

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