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Trip Report - Mala Mala / Rattrays Jan 2007

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I'm back after 8 great days at Mala Mala. I'll make this a fairly short trip report, figuring that additional detail if needed, can be asked for.

Flights - Virgin Upper Class through London. Very good as usual, though IFE didn't work on 1st leg, was offered 20 pounds worth of duty free, I suggested miles would be better and was offered 15000.
BAA Carry on regulations are a nightmare, we did manage to sneak through on way out, but on our return, they limited us to one carry on, and small ones at that. Most of that rule seems to be about reducing the lines as far as I can see, but be warned they are very strict.
Additional airline issues, SAA are now very hot on baggage limits on internal flights, allowing 15kg per person. We had 44kg total, my Star Alliance Gold allowed us an extra 10kg, but I still had to pay R91 for the extra 4kg.
I can't speak too highly about the comfort of the UC suite, I slept for close to 8 hours, JNB-LHR then got ana dditional 4+ from LHR-SFO.

Mala Mala and the SSGR is pretty dry right now. Rainfall is about 25% of normal. This is already being seen in many pan's normally full of water being dry. Also large numbers of Elephants, presumably from Kruger where attracted to the Sand River, we saw herds of 150+, unusual in SSGR.

Highlights

Kikilezi female and cub.
Newington Male hunting for warthogs.
Campbell Koppies female on an Impala kill.
Bicycle Crossing Male posing by the river.
Daughter of Campbell Koppies female on some rocks.
Ngoboswan female (tracks indicated mating with Bicycle Crossing Male) in the reeds near camp.

Styx Pride looking good after back to back Zebra / Kudu kills.
Split Rock Male even attempted to mate with one of Styx Pride.
1 Styx Pride female with 1 Rollercoaster male stalking waterbuck on floodplain in front of camp.
Other Rollercoaster male and 3 Eyrefield females hunting and killing a Nyala. His leg looks much better (for Kaye).
2 young male and 1 feamle (4-5) nomadic.
1 very young male (2.5) nomadic at a very early age, looked like he had been kicked out by new males.

six cheetah in 4 sightings
3 youngsters just kicked out by mom (2F, 1M)
2 adult male
1 adult male post kill at Mlowathi.
Great interaction between the youngsters and the males at Clarendon. The youngsters were very submissive and their was lots of noise.

Elephants - lots of good sized herds. We did get charged by elephants at the Lion kill, very scary and pretty close run thing.

Rhino - plenty around, one charged us and was so close I have to think he pulled up.

Hippo - some good sightings of hippo out of water and one very smelly carcass at Ridge Rocks with lots of vulture activity.

Hyena - awesome visit to the den south of Kirkman's, alpha female is the biggest Hyena I have ever seen! She had 2 three month old's. In addition Beta female had 2 three week old's - totally black and very relaxed.

Buffalo - two herds (150, 600) and lots of Dagga Boys. Even saw Yellowbilled Oxpeckers on the big herd.

Birding was good (164) though not great, lack of water was an issue, and the loss of Leon was felt strongly. We did have a new tool this time, I bought DW a PDA with Roberts loaded on a card. It was amazing to use this to call birds into us.

Mala Mala provided strong game viewing as always. The accomodations are excellent, with Rattrays being out of this world. Food and drink were excellent as was the service.
We found out from our ranger that there is a file on every guest, so rangers know what repeat customers have seen, what their interests are, what kind of pillows they like etc. Very well done.

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