Is MalaMala Main Camp really worth the price?

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Feb 27th, 2012, 08:27 PM
  #1
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Is MalaMala Main Camp really worth the price?

Lots of balls still up in the air for safari 2013 but two that consistantly keep landing are Mashatu tented and MalaMala Main.

But sheesh that $685 ppn price tag for MalaMala really stings! Yet the animal densities I've been hearing about, especially with cats, coupled with a low number of pax per vehicle brings on that old "trip of a lifetime" excuse even for a second safari.

The attraction to MalaMala is not accommodation as my preference is something a bit more rustic such as Mashatu but the cats seem to keep calling my name. Just wish they weren't such damn expensive cats!

So is MalaMala really worth the price? Or can I realistically look elsewhere for the same experience?

Has anyone been to MalaMala and somewhere else that might pair well with Mashatu that they preferred over MalaMala?

It's decision time and I need heeeeelp.
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Feb 27th, 2012, 09:09 PM
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We combined Mashatu Tented with Arathusa and Pafuri - makes for driver transfers instead of flights. There are many lodges in Sabi Sand, at many price points. Depends on what "worth" is. Lots of people love MM. I choose not to spend that much.

sabisand.co.za

You could also try Timbavati, north of Sabi Sand. We visited Shindzela last year.
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Feb 27th, 2012, 09:27 PM
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I liked Shindzela last October, but the game viewing can be a bit spotty. MalaMala is hard to beat. You might look into Kirkman's Kamp next door. It used to be part of MalaMala and has some traversing rights with MM.
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Feb 28th, 2012, 01:21 AM
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In the Timbavati and Sabi Sand reserves adjacent to Kruger I've been to MalaMala three times, Leopard Hills, Kirkmans Kamp, Ngala Lodge, and Kings Camp four times. Of those price wise MalaMala is in the middle but at top of my list for game viewing. Especially for leopard. (With Kings Camp second). When going to like Mashatu Tented add in the cost of getting to/from there. Which is $300-$500(?) each way each person more than in Sabi Sand?

Having said that, the terrain in those areas is not the classic African plain savannah, you need Tanzanzia or Kenya for that look and feel.

regards - tom
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Feb 28th, 2012, 03:05 AM
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To me, the whole of Sabi Sands is fantastic for game viewing. If the MM pricetag is too hefty for you, look for something more affordable.

And "more affordable" would be one of the blocks of smaller camps that share traverse. There's two blocks like that in the South (Sabi Sabi + Nottens and Lion Sands + Kirkmans) but those are not exactly cheap either, on average. There's another block in the west, but that one has quite a lot of lodges (so it can be busy), and it is the closest to civilization. So the best block is probably the one in the north. Just make sure to get a lodge that has decent traversing rights (every lodge there is different). Look at the map below to see all traversing rights in Sabi Sands (hover over the map):

http://www.sunsafaris.com/south-afri...abi-sands-map/

A bit more to the south is Timbavati reserve, and as some already mentioned; this reserve has matured, and offers about the same as Sabi Sands; there's less lodges, but those lodges are all on rather big plots (on average) and most of them have good traverse. 6000Ha+ is no exception. But prices are lower as Sabi Sands (again on average). Map showing traversing rights, here:

http://www.sunsafaris.com/south-afri...timbavati-map/

One thing though; horses for courses! If your idea of the "safari of a lifetime" is do nothing else but gamedrives, stay max 15-30 minutes at any sighting, and get as much pics as possible, then the lodges/areas I mentioned above are for you.
But if you look for a more thrilling experience, like walking safaris, like tracking, or like following one animal (or one herd) and getting "closer" with it/them, then there's other options in the aforementioned reserves.
Shindzela was mentioned. Dave does walks in the morning and drives in the afternoon. Hence, he does not share his plot with anyone else. A bit higher than Timbavati lies Klaserie, and Africa On Foot offers idem walks there (but have traversing rights as well). Even in Sabi Sands there's a thing like that; Umkumbe doesn't share traverse but you can do your own tracking. Yes, in the tracker seat.

Ciao,

J.
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Feb 28th, 2012, 02:25 PM
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Pixelpower, isn't Timbavati to the north of Sabi Sands? At Shindzela, we did game drives mornings and evenings... no walks. Dave wasn't there, though, just Mike and Sam. I liked the camp and decided on it based on your wonderful thread on less expensive camps in S.A. Good on ya!

KathBC, what time of year in 2013 are you looking at? Are you going as a single? Some camps don't have single supplements.
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Feb 28th, 2012, 03:17 PM
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ST - yes Timbavati is north of Sabi Sand, both reserves bordering Kruger with no fence between them and Kruger. Happy to hear you liked Shindzela, (know you have experience of many safaris) I might try it coming May .

regards - tom
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Feb 28th, 2012, 06:18 PM
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We went on a walk with Mike after our am game drive. Dave and wife just had a baby and it was Sam's off week. Dave came on the afternoon of the second day and went out on his own so we had two vehicles out on game drives. The best part at Shindzela is the company. Dave and Mike (and Gertie, the fantastic cook) are excellent hosts.
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Feb 28th, 2012, 06:49 PM
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christabir, with a starting point of J'burg what sort of driving times would I be looking at with the Arathusa/Parfuri/Mashatu itinerary?

pixelpower thanks for the great map! Very interesting how the traversing rights are set out.

ShayTay I'll be going single and will likely shoot for Sept/Oct 2013 however May/June would be ok too. Just as long as the days & nights are fairly moderate. Will be starting with 5 days in CT. Have even considered your suggestion of the Ichobezi house boat rather than a few days in Vic Falls, altho not sure if that would work with this itinerary.
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Feb 28th, 2012, 08:21 PM
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If you leave early in the morning, you can make the afternoon game drive. But you can stop in Blyde River Canyon and see that to give yourself breathing room. Or fly to the closest airport and rent a car or get a transfer to camp. You can leave after the am game drive and make it to Pafuri driving outside the park if you rush - breakfast to go and luggage already in the car. The drive from Pafuri to Mashatu (the car stays at Pont Drift - you need to get there by 2pm, i think) is maybe four hours. The drive to JNB is ok, too. You might get in after dark, but that's not difficult. It was a very nice trip. We could have added another week at Mashatu - there's so much to do. Predator drives, cycling, horseback safaris, San Art, walks. We saw lots of cats and so many great elephant encounters. Outstanding staff!!
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Feb 28th, 2012, 11:01 PM
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>> Pixelpower, isn't Timbavati to the north of Sabi Sands?

Of course it is! Sorry! This happens when typing a quick reply while at work (blush).

Weird you had no walks. Didn't Dave give you the choice?

B.regs,

J.
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Feb 29th, 2012, 08:47 AM
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As noted, Dave wasn't there. I think it was his week off. It was also over 100 degrees F, so I don't think anyone wanted to walk. I had the tent closest to the waterhole and had fun watching the action there from my porch (buffalo, etc.)
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Feb 29th, 2012, 06:18 PM
  #13
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christabir I'll be solo and not comfortable with self driving in that area. Mashatu is a definite cause even getting there sounds a bit like an adventure.

What's everyone's opinion on Sep or Oct for that area for weather and game viewing?
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Feb 29th, 2012, 06:59 PM
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You asked about drive times. We had flights JNB to Arathusa and from Mashatu to JNB.. We had drivers to Pafuri and Mashatu. No worries if you are solo - no self drive required. It was a perfect 10 day trip with three very different ecosystems.

It gets hot the end of Sept. We have been enjoying June because the nights are longer so you get a good night sleep. No nap required in the afternoon. It dries out in April/May so the wildlife is easily spotted. Sept is the end of dry season, so it starts to take a toll. For me, I don't like to be hot, so Sept is the latest I think I could handle.

ShayTay - we probably had the same tent. I wish the chairs at the tents were the same as the ones around the boma. Those low chairs were uncomfortable.
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Feb 29th, 2012, 09:06 PM
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Thanks christabir, took your "rent a car at closest airport " to mean self drive.

You flew from Mashatu to JNB? Are there regular flights from there? I've heard about 4 seater planes starting from Mashatu to Mala Mala but it's good to know I can get to JNB from there. May change up the itinerary a bit.

I don't like getting hot either. Back to the drawing board and looking closer at May or Jun.
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Feb 29th, 2012, 09:25 PM
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Out of curiosity, I see an air-road transfer from JNB to Mashatu costs $2700 ZAR or $360 per person each way (minimum two persons).
http://www.mashatu.com/travel.htm
So if like me, you get stuck paying for two passengers, that will add $1,440 to the cost of Mashatu. $1,440 that could buy another two days at MalaMala. Or four days if you do an &Beyond deal where you pay for 3 stay for 4.
http://www.andbeyondafrica.com/speci...gnature_offers

regards - tom
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Feb 29th, 2012, 11:44 PM
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To/From Mashatu you have to connect through Polokwane (customs). It's a regular SAA flight jnb to/from Polokwane. Then it's a charter or road transfer. It took as much time as it would have to drive, and we would have seen more. A transfer from a different co might be less $$. I have no idea what our charters cost, but three nights Arathusa, three nights Pafuri, four nights Mashatu Tented with private charters at the front and back and road transfers was just under $9000 for two in 2009. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I'd add Wildside between Mashatu and jnb, too, just for kicks. It's a bummer tranfers are so pricey.

tom - you and Kath should team up in May and share some transfers.
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Mar 1st, 2012, 09:20 AM
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Hello...I did MalaMala back in 2007 (so long ago). We would not go back. Mashatu on the other hand was a blast.
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Mar 1st, 2012, 09:26 AM
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Christabir, I agree about the porch chairs. I actually sat on the bed with my door open a lot of the time. The wildlife couldn't see me as well in there and weren't spooked.

KathBC, Sept/Oct is definitely hot! Especially in Botswana where October is known as the "suicide month" because of the heat. Late August/Early September shouldn't be too bad, though. June/July/August is their "winter" and can be rather cold at night... frost on the ground and that sort of thing. That time period is considered high season for Bots and low season for S.A. The game viewing is about the same, so I've never figured that out!
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Mar 1st, 2012, 05:55 PM
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Tom - re Mashatu transfer min 2 persons, their reservations office has said it's unlikely I'd be charged for two pax as they would speak with the transfer company and get a discounted rate of which they've still quoted me as 2700 ZAR. I'd then be flying from Mashatu to MM.

Ok this middle aged menopausal woman should definitely not be in Botswana in Oct if it's called the suicide month due to the heat!! Don't want to be in Africa during frost either. I could probably swing early Sep tho.

Back to the drawing board!
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