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Mala Mala trip report

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Mala Mala trip report, April 2008

After an amazing safari with 8 customers in Botswana, I flew back to Joburg for an overnight and a hot bath. The flight from JNB is one of the easiest I can imagine, as South African Airways has their Airlink service directly to the Mala Mala property. If I remember correctly, the flight is about 1 hour.

On arrival, the friendly folks from Mala Mala greeted us, sorted our bags and transported us to the lodge. Nils Kure, the Mala Mala Main Lodge manager, immediately realized that we were two very keen photographers who were ready to see what Mala Mala was all about. As you might know, Nils is an accomplished photographer himself, and has a wonderful photo book on the leopards of Mala Mala, now out of print.

After checking into our rooms, I was surprised to have air conditioning! I have spent many moons in mid level to luxury level tents all throughout Africa, and typically do not have the comfort of A/C when it is needed: the middle of a hot day. I have to admit that I didn’t spend much time in my room, as I was out on game drives, eating or working on returning countless emails on my laptop computer. Sad, but true. Even though staying in great places, taking photographs and eating great meals is what I love to do, it is still a day at the office. A good office, but my office nonetheless.

Our first game drive that afternoon had us leaving 30 minutes before the other vehicles, so we could try to take advantage of some of the leopard sightings from the morning from other rangers. Rangers you say? Yes, at Mala Mala guides are referred to as rangers. This is difficult for me to say, since I am so used to referring to my hosts as guides and not rangers. Anyway, we spent the afternoon (2.5 hours) with the bicycle crossing male leopard, and I was blown away at the quality of images and experiences I was able to rack up in only one afternoon. In all of my safaris, and there are many, this was the best single leopard sighting of all time. Truly amazing.

The next 3 days were filled with wonderful sightings, wonderful dining, late nights at the bar, early mornings in the vehicle, a great ranger, a private vehicle, dining with the Rattray’s in the boma, and many gigs of images to sort through. I look forward to returning in 2010! Mala Mala isn’t the wild type experience that I long for, but the quality of wildlife is undeniable. The photo opportunities are first rate, and the number and quality of species is spectacular. The accommodations are very comfortable, but not over the top.

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