Magical place called MalaMala
By Pam Hobbs with Photography by Michael Algar
Ordinarily I wouldn't be too thrilled to find a pile of dung outside my back door, and four or five
guineafowl playing tag on the lawn. But then this is no ordinary place.
It is MalaMala, recognized as South Africa's premier private game reserve on the fringe of
Kruger National Park, and there are no fences or boundaries of any kind to keep the wildlife out.
We chose MalaMala, an hour's flight from Johannesburg, because
statistics show more bird and animal sightings here than at other private
preserves. We were not disappointed. On our first game run, an aged lion
trudged past within a metre or so of our land rover. Walking
purposefully in the direction of a cheetah we had just left relaxing on a
termite hill, he barely looked our way. In our quest for the Big Five that
afternoon, we saw elephants, buffalo, cheetah and two young leopards. No rhino on this run, but
we came upon a family of three the following day.
MalaMala's three camps provide various levels of luxury for guests. The most opulent, Main
Camp, attracts the rich and famous. While management is discreet about its celebrities, I did
hear that Sir Richard Attenborough had left the day before we arrived.
And I know that Premier Tours (the company that arranged our trip)
recently brought Paul Newman here with his family and friends in a
All MalaMala guides have university degrees in the natural sciences.
Our guide is Dale Geldenhuys who generously shares his huge wealth of knowledge as we sit
watching animals at work and play. In constant radio contact with fellow guides, he takes his all-terrain vehicle across rivers and through the bush following paw tracks instead of roads. Our
tracker is Johnson, a local man whose low whistle often alerts us to
camouflaged creatures we may have otherwise missed. Every day we
indulge in seven hours of gameviewing; that's three soon after dawn and
four in early evening. We are astonished at how much wildlife we see,
how close we get, and that the animals are unmindful of our presence.
Actually, although they appear deceptively tame, they really are wild in
that they fend for themselves without human interference. We are instructed not to leave the
vehicle or even stand up because animals recognize us and our vehicle as one image. Should the
picture change shape, they could consider us a threat. I should perhaps add that in the 40-year
history of this preserve, no animal has been hurt by man, or vice versa.
On our second evening, I am torn with anxiety for the impala being stalked by a leopard
determined to feed her two young daughters. With enviable patience she lies in wait, circles the
bush, then prepares to run across open land as darkness falls. A wily
hyena follows us as we follow the leopard. One impala cries a warning to
the rest. Our hunter loses her prey and her youngsters go hungry that day.
Back at camp, we dine royally on Karoo lamb. A campfire glows in the
centre of the reed-fenced Boma. Stars above shine as brilliant diamonds
studding a black velvet sky. Chatter is constant as guests share stories of
their exciting day. In the distance, the old lion roars his goodnight.
IF YOU GO: MalaMala has its own air-strip for commercial and private aircraft. The Main Camp welcomes children of all ages, while the other two camps (Harry's and Kirkman's) accommodate children 12 and over. See their website at www.malamala.com