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Mala Mala Trip Report May 2007

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African Report Mala Mala for 12 nights, May 2007

We flew from Boise Idaho to Minneapolis and Minneapolis to Amsterdam on NWA. We had business class tickets due to the lengthy journey and the fact that I had broken back and wrist in January. The seats on the flight to Amsterdam were not functional and the entertainment centers went out as well. We were a little disappointed, but were able to get instructions from the stewardess on "how to manually" adjust the seats in upright and reclining position. NWA did give us a 25K mileage certificate for our inconvenience. So as one might suspect, I did not sleep on the flight over the Atlantic.

The next leg of the flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg was on KLM and was very nice, working chairs that had an almost flat bed position, a nice selection of entertainment options and excellent service and foods. We arrived in Johannesburg and were greeted by Yolanda a travel representative arranged by our booking agent. She assisted us across the street to the Intercontinental Sun Hotel and had already checked us in and arranged for someone to assist us to domestic flights on SAA to Mala Mala for the next morning. We had a nice breakfast that morning in hotel and walked over to the domestic flight departures for SAA to Mala Mala. They weighed our two duffle bags together and gave us a tag. The flight was delayed about an hour, so we visited with another couple who happened to be on their way to Mala Mala as well. The husbands discussed cameras. I was able to carry on a laptop computer and small backpack onto the SAA flight. My husband had a camera bag.

We had a smooth flight to Mala Mala and were greeted by the Rattray's (owners of Mala Mala) who happened to be at the lodge that week. We were upgraded to Sable Camp, had lunch and then headed out for the first game drive. Our guide was amazed that we had come for 12 nights with only two duffle bags as luggage. We found that what we had brought was sufficient and were glad that we had not over packed. We took advantage of the daily laundry service as well.

The first few days were pleasant and we had warm weather, reaching 90 F during the days. But as the days past a cold front blew in and the weather turned very cold . We were glad that we had the fleece coats, gloves and scarfs to keep us warm in the open jeeps. For the first 4 or 5 days we were accompanied in our jeep by persons who were staying only a couple of nights. Therefore, we spent the first 4 days rushing around in the jeep trying to see the Big 5. We saw the Big 5 nearly everyday and managed to see the Mala Mala 7 by the 5th day. (Mala Mala 7 includes Big 5 + wild dogs & cheetah).

We saw kudo, waterbuck and nyala near our bungalow at Sable Camp, as well as, baboons. One nite we had roaring lions which lasted until 5AM. There were elephants, duikers and kudo that came up near the swimming pool, during afternoon lunches.

We were fortunate to see some very interesting action: leopards mating, lions mating, 5 lions next to jeep that were charged by a rhinoceros that came out of the reeds, a group of 7 lionesses stalking at night and drinking at the river, wild dogs running, and a young male leopard playing with a porcupine.

We spent the last 5 days at Rattray's and it was a nice change of scenery, a different guide and setting. We enjoyed both camps and even managed to use the gym every other day. Watching elephants while walking on treadmill was quite exciting. We used the internet at Ratrray's that was in our room. The internet at Sable Camp was almost non functional and the one at Main Camp worked but took about 30 minutes to log onto email page. Nearly half of our game drives we were the only two people in the jeep and this gave us an opportunity to pace our drives, allowing for nice viewing and photo shooting of birds and other animals, as well as get to know our guides and trackers.

Each day was a new adventure seeing many large and small mammals, as well as birds and reptiles. Some of the more unusual ones that we saw were: secretary bird, servel (small cat), tortoise, porcupine, puff adder, cameleon, little blue heron, wildebeest, giraffe, zebras, and many more. I even spotted a Baird's owl on morning drive as well as a female cheetah, before the tracker or guide sited them. My husband is still amazed that I saw that owl.

We saw a great variety of lions and leopards and rhinos. The first evening we saw the two Roller coaster Males with two Eyrefield female lionesses, one of which looked pregnant. We encountered one Roller Coaster Male lions on the road another evening. We also encountered the other Roller Coaster Male lion and one of females mating the same day that we sighted his brother with a very full belly sunning near a water hole. We saw 5 Charleston female lions at rivers edge, that scattered when a rhino charged them from the reeds. We saw the 7 styx females one evening devouring a kudo in a matter of seconds. As well as these same females at a water hole the night before. We saw 7 or 8 different leopards and I am not able to site their names: two sisters, grandmother to two sisters & male mating, single female in southern end of reserve stalking impala, young male leopard cub learning a lesson when poking a porcupine. The young male leopard cub ended up with quills in his paw. We saw at least 13 different rhinos and lots of elephants and giraffes.

In my opinion Mala Mala still remains one of the best places to view game. Nothing like riding in an open jeep, over the brush and off road while chasing wild dogs, or trailing the lions or leopards stalking game. Overall, a very enjoyable, yet relaxing trip and already counting the days until we can return again.

The flight back to states was via Frankfurt and San Francisco. It took 39 hours from the time we left Mala Mala and unfortunately got little rest on the flights as we had children in the area near us that seemed to sense when you were about to doze off. But can't complain, at least we had leg room and good service in business class. We actually flew over Boise on way to San Francsico and felt like parachuting out at that point. But that leg of trip was non-stop from Frankfurt to San Francisco and we had a 5 hour layover until we got back on plane and flew back 1 hour to Boise.

Hope to post some of the photos soon. I took some with a backup Cannon S2 and did ok, for my first photo shoots. But it was so hard to take photos, when the action was so captivating. We have so many photos to go through, before I post some of the better ones.

Thanks again to all those who helped with questions when I was planning this trip, your advise was invaluable.
-Granny Joan

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