Kings Camp or Mala Mala?

Jun 22nd, 2009, 05:31 AM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
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I just finished my 4th trip to Lion Sands in 5 years. I see the same rangers, same staff, same management (many of them have been promoted). Yes, they have had rangers leave as can be expected, however when I see the same people after 5 years, it says a lot about the management and it says the staff is happy there. Happy staff makes me happy and want to return.

Mike
mytmoss is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2009, 06:53 AM
  #22  
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Great replies - thank you so much for your input.

I'm leaning towards KC at this point - hoping the stay 5 pay 4 deal will be available for Oct 2010. I see that on their website but only through 2009 - do you see it for 2010 somewhere, Tom?

I'm sure you can't go wrong with either but it's nice to get a feel for what makes a difference between the two to help me decide.
Leslie_S is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2009, 12:29 AM
  #23  
 
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No, don't see any KC rates yet for 2010. They have had this deal (and others) for at least the last two years. I do the stay 8 pay for 6

Suggest you email KC manager Warren at email given on KC site - [email protected]
Warren is a prince of a fellow, and great ranger.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2009, 01:41 AM
  #24  
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
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I don't know anything about KC but stayed at MM in 2000 with my family and thought it was wonderful!
kleeny88 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2009, 12:34 PM
  #25  
 
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Tom,

Your comment on how well educated the rangers at MM is I think one of the reasons they have such a high turn over - most of them seem to be doing it as a gap year thing. Taht's why so of them are so young and inexperienced...is there an age limit on guides at MM as there is elsewhere? they are also worked far harder than at other lodges - they collect you, take you to your room, get drinks etc...no wonder most of them call it a day within 18 months.

All lodges have some turnover of guides but it's good sign if guides are still there (or with the same company) 5-10 years after you first visit. Every camp I've ever been to has of characters like this including the three camps Kaye mentions, apart from MM. Have any of the MM guides been there longer than two years? (I know Gordon had just started there in 2007 so he may just have made it). Rob Scott must have been there nearly two years before his alleged sacking.

My guide was okay at MM and my stop there wasn't soured by him...rather it was the atmosphere a couple of the managers projected. What I've heard since then has confirmed my initial observation - management practice at MM is 15-20 years out of date and accounts for their high staff turnover and poor management-staff relationships.
Tanky is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2009, 01:18 PM
  #26  
 
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Of the three rangers I've had at MM all were top notch. And they do work so constantly that I feel for them. They are with you at -every- meal. At other camps, like KC, they join you only for dinner and that's fine with me.

I heard couple years ago from my ranger who was indeed Rob Scott that two of my previous MM rangers left MM and were then working in London in the financial business!!

regards - tom
ps - here's photo of Rob Scott, myself and tracker Inyati and a leopard. I had the vehicle to myself that day . http://tinyurl.com/kntbxj
cary999 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2009, 01:25 PM
  #27  
 
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I think MM is quite aware of the guide turnover and I think that's what the owners want. The MM rangers are usually as excited as the guests are at a sighting. The ranger trainees go through extensive training before they are allowed to take out guests so they aren't guiding on their first day on the job. I think the MM trackers are the mainstays. I am not a MM expert so I could be completely wrong but that's what I've observed. I haven't been to too many different camps but I can think of two guides that I've had that were in the same place forever and they seemed pretty bored and blase about the whole thing. Not very good. I'm not implying that all long time guides are like that because I've had both kinds.

And my opinion about the rear tracking is that those guys are amazing. It's not just the tracking but spotting. You can only track what has walked across or near the road but sitting up high in the back allows them a very good view and their spotting skills are amazing. In regards to tracking it's pretty impossible to know what they don't see but I have definitely seen the driver pull off the road when there are lion or leopard prints walking in or across the road. I don't know how they see them from the driver's seat but they do. It's pretty cool. Especially when they see the tracks on the road, follow them for awhile and then park the vehicle and track on foot when the tracks veer off the road.
sundowner is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2009, 05:59 PM
  #28  
 
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sundowner - I agree 100% both your points. And I think the best spotter/tracker at any camp is the two-way radio. But I really hate when it is turned up and hearing all the chatter. Ah, another plus for MM, the rangers were headsets. And KC rangers keep radio chatter well under control. I've also heard that MM and KC send out trackers very early to try and find sightings before guests start out.

regards - tom
ps - now someone is going to say that because MM rangers wear headset they can't hear their tracker calling!!!
cary999 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2009, 07:08 PM
  #29  
 
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Tom, I just had to write and say that I'm enjoying your comments about the two camps. I appreciate your point of view very much. But what I really want to know....

After looking at your photos from the link above, I was wondering which lens you have on your camera more - the 70-300 or the 18-200? I have the 18-200 and the 80-400, but only took the 80-400 on my last safari (along with a wide angle) and wished I had my 18-200vr.

Leslie, if you do decide on King's Camp instead of Mala Mala, we'll have some fun times exchanging info when we get back since I think we're planning to be in South Africa/Botswana at about the same time.

Water - I read somewhere that MM processes its own water and that the water from the tap is safe to drink. Is that correct? I'll never forget stopping at Ndutu last year and being offered ice tea...with ICE...I took a little sip but then remembered I shouldn't be drinking it. Then when I got to the room I found out that they have safe water to drink. Boy, I would have downed that entire glass of ice tea in a second if I knew that! ;-)

Good luck with your plans Leslie - I look forward to seeing what you decide.

Carrie
CarrieT is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2009, 07:52 PM
  #30  
 
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Carrie -
I believe all tap water in SA is safe to drink.

Thanks for your thanks. I'm happy to contribute when I can with my perspective. Since getting the 70-300 after my 2006 safari it is my primary safari lens. In 2005 I used a little Canon S2, my first introduction to digital. For 2006 safari the Nikon D200 just came out and I knew I had to have a SLR type camera. So got it and the 18-200 for 2006 safari. After it, since 2007, the D200 with 70-300 is what I use most. I also take a D40X with the 18-200 on it. As you said, often you need a wider angle lens than 70mm. Your 80-400 is a good lens. I don't know what wide angle you have but the 18-200 does a good all around job. And if you can put it on another body it's nice not to have to change lenses and nice to have a back-up body. And, also should the 70-300 go south you have another semi-telephoto.

So for upcoming Sep safari, Kruger, Kings Camp, Kirkmans Kamp I'll take D200 with 70-300, D40x with 18-200, and a Canon S5 for video and another backup still camera. That's half my kit, the other half, same size and weight is batteries, chargers, cards, back-up drives, sensor/lens cleaning supplies, etc etc etc

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2009, 09:39 PM
  #31  
 
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Tap water may be "safe" to drink, but that does not mean its safe to drink. Different bacteria reside in different parts of the world. The water technically is OK to drink, but if you are not from the area, your body has no resistance to the bacteria found there. Its best to drink bottled water in 3rd world countries, although you can get sick anywhere from water you are not used to.

Mike
mytmoss is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2009, 09:53 PM
  #32  
 
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Agree Mike, I try to take few chances and thus drink bottled water. Although I do have ice in my Cokes and G&Ts. Maybe the toxic acids in Coke and alcohol in gin kills the water bugs

regards - tom
ps - and coffee/tea, what water does a camp use to make those?
cary999 is offline  
Jun 24th, 2009, 06:41 AM
  #33  
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Carrie - Yes, we might be able to give a compare & contrast when we get back.

My operator is still waiting to hear from KC - I'm hoping it can work out that we go there. Have been swayed by some of the descriptions of intimacy vs. hotel feeling -- altho' I know either will be fabulous.

The camera questions are a whole 'nother ball of wax. I am strictly a p&s person and I take it that will not work for this trip. Will have to invest in something a step up - -at least with a decent zoom. I know there are tons of posts on camera equipment that I'll be researching at some point.
Leslie_S is offline  
Jun 24th, 2009, 10:20 AM
  #34  
 
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Tom, I'd love to be able to bring two cameras but I try to travel with just a carry-on so it is a little difficult...but switching lenses on the fly is hard (as I'm sure you know! Not just in missing things...but the dirt factor too). You've inspired me so I may try and fit a second in with the 18-200VR for the next trip...maybe if I leave home all my clothes ;-) Well, not all...!

Leslie, yes, you'll find a lot of posts on photography and I think they will be very helpful to you. My only advice to you would be to get your camera far enough in advance to get some good practice in with it before you go.
CarrieT is offline  
Jun 24th, 2009, 11:40 AM
  #35  
 
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Carrie - The first reason I take the D40x, the second body, is for backup to the D200. If I were on safari and my only camera broke, I would have to fly over to Joburg and get another one!!! So its "insurance" that's useful. Useful, once you try two bodies/lenses on a game drive you won't go back to just one.

Bless you for being able to safari with camera kit and only a carry-on for it and everything else. I'm happy to just get only the camera kit on carry-on. My few clothes etc simply have to go checked.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jun 25th, 2009, 07:08 AM
  #36  
 
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I find the fact that MM want inexperienced guides (and that's what they are - the knowledge of wildlife is just one aspect, dealing with guests is quite another) baffling. I wouldn't call their three month training extensive either, certainly not compared to other camps. No-one comes out of any training - safari guide, army, medical, whatever - and is fully effective. However, being inexperienced they also cost a lot less to employ - which is probably the bottom line.

Ever wondered why they only have one black guide at MM, seemingly the only one they've ever had? It was explained by one of the managers to that direct question from a guest. I was amazed at his reply.

Let's not go down the MM spotters route...although I guess it's a mute point if they have been on strike for six months. Perhaps MM will do a Wilderness and do away with them altogether to save money.

Carrie - Tom's right about having two camera bodies. I always take two after being on a trip with a photogrpaher whose one and only body broke on the second day. He looked so depressed for days afterwards - I thought he was going to throw himself to the lions.
Tanky is offline  
Jun 25th, 2009, 06:06 PM
  #37  
 
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You're both right - I should bring two. I have two camera bodies, but it was a space issue last time because I was on a small plane and probably will be again for the next trip. But I would be devastated if it stopped working! I think I'd have to seriously consider Tom's comment about the flight to Johannesburg to get another. Maybe I can just wear one around my neck at all times and that way they won't count it as suitcase weight...
CarrieT is offline  
Jun 25th, 2009, 09:15 PM
  #38  
 
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Tanky, ever see any female rangers at Mala Mala? I know lots of fine lodges have hired great female rangers. I have heard that Mala Mala does not, but I have not confirmed that. One of my best rangers is a young lady working out of Lion Sands.

Mike
mytmoss is offline  
Jun 26th, 2009, 03:47 AM
  #39  
 
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Mike, I didn't see any on my one visit there and haven't heard of any. I'd be unlikely to return to be honest unless there were major changes to bring MM up to the level of other similarly priced camps.
Tanky is offline  
Jun 28th, 2009, 12:02 PM
  #40  
 
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+1 Tanky
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