Another question about Sabi Sands/ Mala Mala

Mar 4th, 2008, 10:17 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 123
Another question about Sabi Sands/ Mala Mala

Based on the fabulous advice I received on this board, we were all set to book Mala Mala for seven days for my husband, myself and my 12-year old daughter. Based on the rates on the website, I thought it would be about $1600 per night. I assumed the children's rate would apply to my daughter.

But Mala Mala tells me that my 12-year old is considered an adult. They've offered me a room in the Sable Lodge for $2325 per night for the three of us. GULP. That's significantly more than I had geared up for, and I can't help feeling like it's too much.

By contrast, Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge has a room for $1100 per night for the three of us (due primarily to a fabulous children's rate that applies to 12-year olds).

I know Mala Mala is the premier place for game viewing, but could anyone describe the differences in the experiences I could expect at the two properties? I much prefer to stay at a single property rather than move around for our week at a safari lodge. Kings Camp also looks nice, but considering all of the options is making my head swim!

Finally, those who helped with my last message were right: My husband wants to surf in Jeffrey's Bay (near Port Elizabeth), not Cape Town. It turns out that this portion of the trip is non-negotiable -- he's wanted to go there since he's been 12 years old, etc. etc. Anyone know anything about this area? Are there any good places to stay? Any good day-trips that can be taken from the area after my husband's early morning surf sessions? Also, I read on a website that Jeffrey's Bay is great for shell collecting. Is it considered ethically acceptable to collect shells from South African beaches? Is it legal to bring them back into the U.S.?

Has anyone taken the boat trip from Port Elizabeth to St. Croix island to see the penguins there? Penguins are a priority on this trip, and if we don't see them near Jeffrey's Bay, we'll definitely take the suggestions regarding Simons Town.

Finally, speaking of Simons Town, has anyone done the "Walking with the Baboons" day trip? It sounded interesting on the website.

This is an amazing board -- I can't believe how knowledgeable you all are.
isabel25 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 11:13 AM
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As a huge fan of Mala Mala, I would have to say that doubling the price would not be a good investment to me, this will be your first time on safari, so I would go with Sabi Sabi, remember, its all luck what you see, and you wont have any previous experiences to compare with.

Addo Elephant park may be near Jeffreys Bay.
napamatt is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 11:48 AM
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I doubt you could legally bring shells back to the US -- and its a big headache to do so. We were in the Cook Is. over Christmas, and there was a store selling shells, which would be accompanied by a US-import license -- seemed like a hassle.

Addo is supposed to be great, and may be the only park to have the Big 7 -- the Big 5 + great whites and humpbacks (although it would be very difficult to see them all on the same drive ;-) )
thit_cho is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 12:57 PM
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Is your daughter sharing your room or getting her own room? If she's sharing your room, shouldn't it be 3x the pppn rate of appx $1600? I took my two children in 2006 (they were 9 & 11 so we paid the child rate) but the 3 of us stayed in the same room and the room was huge. Here is a picture of the main room and click "next" to see where the 3rd person slept. But maybe they don't allow three "adults" to share a room? Sounds strange to me.
sundowner is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 01:00 PM
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In the second paragraph of her post, Isabel says that the MM price is based on the three of them sharing a room.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 04:40 PM
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Again, thanks to all for such helpful reponses. Sundowner, thanks so much for the pictures. They really help to get a feel for the space. All three of us will be staying in the same room. The problem at Mala Mala is that the child rate cut off is 11. Although the website says "under 12" which usually means "12 and under," they apparently have a very strict policy about the age cut-off. Therefore, even though we'd have only one room, they'd charge us 3x the adult rate.

Maybe I just need to speak to a different reservations agent. But Napamatt's advice also seems sound, so even if Mala Mala doesn't work out I'm still excited about Sabi Sabi!!!

I loved the picture of your kids. Your daughter reminds me of my daughter. Which ever place we end up at, I hope there are at least a couple of other kids there. Did they enjoy the trip? Any highlights that they really enjoyed?
isabel25 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 04:48 PM
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I'm doing 2 of the baboon walks, but have not gone yet. From what I understand, there are morning and afternoon walks. You walk near the baboons, who have been habituated to human presence.

atravelynn is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 05:05 PM
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Hi Isabel25

Isn't Main Camp available? As
Sable Camp is more expensive.

I have never been to Sabi Sabi so cannot comment other than to say, I have never seen so many people in vehicles as in Sabi Sabi vehicles!

It has been my experience travelling in Southern Africa, that a 12 year old is an adult price - even at places where alcohol is included!

I can't remember when you were going, but I would be asking about a Main Camp suite, which I would think would fit an extra bed.

Kind regards

KayeN is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 05:27 PM
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Maybe I'm just confused. If she was 11 the rate at Main camp for 3 would be $1475. Since she is 12 (adult rate), the price for 3 will be $1725. You don't have to bump up to Sable and pay an extra $600 per night. So if you can swing $1725 per night and want to stay at MM, I'd give them another call (or email).

We were in Room 4 and the bed for the 3rd person was in a little alcove which gave everyone a tiny bit of privacy. Plus the two bathrooms made it easy for everyone to get ready at the same time.

The kids loved the whole MM experience. Katie said if she had to pick a favorite thing it was probably the game walks. At that time of year (end of June) the Ranger stopped during a game drive to take us on a walk. He would point out all kinds of interesting stuff. One morning they packed breakfast and we had a picnic breakfast out in the bush. Very cool. We had the vehicle to ourselves that morning so I don't know if they ever do that with more people or not. The kids liked that, too.

We are going again this summer - spending 6 nights at Mashatu and 4 nights at MM. Katie and my older daughter will be going with me this time.

Good luck finding the perfect spot!
sundowner is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 05:31 PM
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Try MalaMala again. Wish I could give you a name to talk with. Some of their reservation staff, at least in the past, have not been as flexible or helpful for me as at other camps. Perhaps try and talk directly with the camp manger at MM main camp.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 05:40 PM
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There are several other Sabi Sands options for you to look at besides just MM or Sabi Sabi ...... there's Londolozi, Lion Sands, Djuma, Exeter etc etc.,

As a first time visitor to Africa, you are likely to be over-whelmed with the animal sightings. Although, nothing is guaranteed - i have usually had some good sightings at the different places i have been to!
HariS is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 08:39 PM
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I'm officially addicted to this board!

If I can get in at the Main Lodge for $1725, I'll definitely do it. From what the reservation agent said, the problem seemed to be that "triples" are limited at the Main Lodge. But, as Kaye suggests, we don't need a "triple" if that means something different than what Sundowner had --the arrangement in Sundowner's photos looks great. A rollaway bed would also be fine if they have such things there. This discussion will help me immensely in explaining things to the reservations folks.

(We probably could make do with the big bed alone. At the first hint of a noise outside, my little tomboy daughter will probably be cowering under our covers, sure that a lion is about to come crashing into our room. She'll claim she's just trying to protect us, but still . . . an adult? Nothing against Mala Mala, but I think that the whole South African hotel pricing structure has tapped into some deep-seated anxiety that I didn't even know I had about how fast my kid is growing up!).

Sundowner, was the room in your photo a regular room or a suite? It looked very spacious.

Hari, the range of Sabi Sands lodges is staggering to me. Are there any that you particularly recommend among the ones you mentioned, if Mala Mala doesn't work out? I'm now trying to keep it below $2000 a night for our little family of three -- but still want a "luxury" experience. If it matters to your recommendation, I'll confess that design and food do matter to me, probably more than they should in considering a safari. (My brief flirtation with the idea of Singita has blown over completely, however, although I still drool over the photographs.)

Finally, a question for Napamatt. Coming from California, is it still worth spending a few days on the Garden Route? Or has the stunning costal scenery in our own state completely spoiled us? In other words, is there something unique about that stretch of South African coastline beyond what we get at home (for example, wildlife that we don't normally get to see on a coastal hike)?

We're definitely planning to do Simonstown for the penguins and baboons -- and I'm looking forward to seeing the range of shells on the beach during my forced confinement in Jeffrey's Bay -- but I don't necessarily feel the need (for example) to do whale watching in South Africa because, as much as I love it, it is so easily accessible on the Pacific Coast.

I'm picturing the garden route coastline to be something like our own stunning Mendocino or Marin County coast, and, because we have that available to us at home, I'm thinking that we probably could skip the Garden Route to get a few days in someplace else. (Maybe Phinda, as Atravelynn suggested in a previous thread). Anyway, Napamatt, I thought you'd be a good person to ask this slightly sacrilegious question. Any thoughts?

Okay. Enough for now. I've never had so much fun planning a vacation. How did we ever go anywhere before the Internet?
isabel25 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 09:38 PM
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Sorry, i wasn't recommending any of them - i haven't been to most of them! just keeping you posted of the different reserves within the SSGR.
HariS is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 04:01 AM
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My husband and I went to SA in Sept, 2006 and did safari at Chitwa Chitwa. We had originally booked the Safari Lodge but when our confirmation came through it was for the Main Lodge. They kindly gave us the rate for the Safari Lodge for our booking because it was no longer being operated by them. (Don't really know what was going on.) Anyway, we got an incredible experience within our budget. Everything about the place was fabulous and we were lucky enough that within the first 15 minutes of our first game drive (we stayed three nights) we had seen 3 of the big five. We saw each of the big five multiple times and even had the great experience of our Land Rover being charged by a leopard with a kill in it's mouth!

Even though you have the great California coastline as your basis -I can't imagine not making the drive from Cape Town up to Hermanus. (Or vice-versa.) There are so many stunning views and places to stop. We saw whales in the water right along the road outside of SimonsTown! We regularly used to go to the Oregon Coast to see the whales but in Hermanus, we stood on the rocks and decided to stop counting at over 100 whales and spouts visible - that's worth seeing!

Our trip to SA was so great (and we've been to some great places) that we are returning in November this year - can't hardly wait.
PegRick is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 05:41 AM
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Hi Isabel,

We too came from California and spent 3 days at Lion Sands River Lodge in September, 2006. It was fabulous and we had wonderful animal sightings on each game drive. The price was more affordable and it is located right on the Sabie River. The food was unbelievable and the guides were professional and so informative. I
would highly recommend it as a more cost effective alternative. Others are right that on your first safari you will be speechless more than once!

dcary is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 06:20 AM
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Just a point on the whale watching, in California the focus is the gray whale which is a relatively common whale with more than 20,000 individuals. In SA the focus is on the right whale, the most endangered whale in the world at possibly less than 4,000 individuals globally. It may sound similar at first glance but it is a bit like thinking if you have seen a coyote than there is no reason to see the highly endangered African wild dog. If spending time on the coast during whale season I would definitely consider giving them a look -- they are one of the more entertaining whale species too.
PredatorBiologist is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 10:23 AM
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Sabi Sabi and Mala Mala are separated by a road. They are neighbours. I have watched many leopards leave Mal Mala to hunt at Sabi Sabi and similarly so have I seen lions crossing the road as well in the opposite direction.

You will not be disappointed with Bush Lodge. I have never been a fan of promoting one lodge over the other as I have my own set of parameters, likes and dislikes, which aren't necessarily shared by others, so at best arguments for and against are subjective.

Technically both amps are of similar size, both offer night and day drives of approximately three hours duration each, both offer walks, although the Mala guys like to stick to the roads and pursue the walkers by vehicle, just in case, whereas at Sabi you'll venture out along animal tracks sans the security van on your tail.

So my final comment is, if Sabi suits your budget, take it. Both lodges are in the premier game viewing area of the sabi sand and both have been there for over twenty plus years entertaining and enthralling international travellers throughout.
mkhonzo is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 04:59 PM
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As to the comment about going to wine country if you live in California. On my first trip to Africa, my now exwife said she did not want to fly 10,000 miles to see cities, beaches or wineries, I want to see something we do not have in California. I think she made a very wise comment at least for me and in my 5 trips to Africa, I have not seen beaches, cities or wineries and I am very happy with that decision.

Also I second the comment Lion Sands as a another great alternative to Sabi Sands and Mala Mala.
mytmoss is offline  
Mar 5th, 2008, 10:55 PM
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They are correct, Sabi Sabi and Mala Mala are righ next door to one another, and you are going to have an amazing experiance at either lodge. The rooms at Sabi Sabi are huge and you will all confitably fit into one of them without any worries at all. You will have an excellent time at Sabi Sabi.

With regards to Jeffreys Bay, it is a wonderful seaside town and there is lots to do in a day once your husband has had his morning surf. It is about an hour from Addo so you can drive yourself into Addo for a game drive, and it is about 45 minutes from Storms River and tsitsikamma where you can do the tree top canopy advneture, tubing, the hikes in Storms River National park are amazing, there is the most wonderful bridge crossing there and a hike through a forest, you can go to Port Elizabeth for a day and if you want you can book a day drive into Shamwari.
If you are looking for a delicious lunch about 1 hour from you is Cosmos Cuisine which is delicious!

As for the penguins, the boat trip from Port Elizabeth is okay, I am assuming that you will be in Cape Town as well as you said you were going to Simons Town, the basic difference is at boulders you are right up close with the penguins, you can even do a sea kayaking trip with them which is awesome, in Port elizabeth you do not get that close.

Lastly "walking with Baboons" a really great day trip, it is a little scary sometimes when the baboons decide that you are a fun thing, but other than that vry informative and interesting!

Have a wonderful trip!
Doogle is offline  
Mar 6th, 2008, 07:32 PM
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Hi Isabel! We visited Jeffery's Bay in 2005 - it is east of Addo Elephant Park, but not far away. A word of caution about the surfing - the size of the waves varies greatly depending on the time of year you visit. At certain times of the year, the waves are so large that only experts should surf. At other times of the year, the waves can be very disappointing, as they were when we were there. My then 18-year-old daughter described them as "puny!" Do your research, or your husband may be disappointed. I had hoped to shell "admire" (I planned to leave the shells on the beach for others to enjoy - I knew I wouldn't be allowed to bring them into Canada anyway and I'd be surprised if you can bring them into the US) while my husband and daughter were surfing, having read, like you, that there are many shells to be had. Not a shell to be seen anywhere! Jeffery's Bay was a big disappointment, but it may have been our timing! I can't advise you regarding places to stay because we didn't stay in Jeffery's Bay itself. Robin
canadian_robin is offline  

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