Mala Mala or Londolozi

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Nov 4th, 2012, 09:28 AM
  #1
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Mala Mala or Londolozi

Mala Mala Game Reserve will always be the TOPS. 32kms of River frontage in dry season.
MalaMala is THE BEST period.
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Nov 4th, 2012, 12:29 PM
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902, have you been to both? And for how many nights each? And are you employed by either?

Regardless, I would say Londolozi is better because they do NOT charge you for cokes, beer, wine, etc. like MM does!!!

regards - tom
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Nov 4th, 2012, 03:30 PM
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We stayed at MalaMala several years ago and it was amazing. The best guides and animal viewing of the four camps we stayed un
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Nov 4th, 2012, 04:08 PM
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Londolozi is superior to Mala Mala in so many ways. Many of them I cannot discuss here on Fodors.

Mike
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Nov 5th, 2012, 02:43 AM
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Mala Mala or Londolozi?

I'd say neither. Way too expensive. Idem safaris can be had elsewhere for 1/3rd of the price.

J.
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Nov 5th, 2012, 06:25 PM
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I haven't stayed at Mala Mala but I stayed at Londolozi this past June and it was extraordinary.
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Nov 5th, 2012, 06:55 PM
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Pixel power can you be a little more specific please
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Nov 6th, 2012, 03:38 AM
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Hey 1ladyrep.

Sorry, I find myself retyping the same info here regularly. But then after a while everyone just speaks about Sabi Sands and 3 or 4 specific lodges again. It gets a bit tiring to retype the same thing over and over

So let me keep it "short" (*) this time;
(* sarcasm; there's no way to say it all in one or two sentences)

During my travels I have found out that most people are like me;
They don't need super-luxury and personal pampering, but they simply want a very very good comfort level and delicious meals.
Their main purpose of going on safari is to be close to the animals, but taking home the perfect picture is less important (in fact, I found out that with my 2nd hand camera gear I am often the "bigshot paparazzi"; most people's gear is much less ...some even use their iPhone!)
They earn a good income, but let's be honest; any money one can save, one can spend on something else. So as such, they'd rather pay 300$ pppn then 600$+ pppn.

If you fall in the categories I describe above, and you don't need special things like a personal vehicle to be able to get the perfect angle for whatever wildlife shot, then you should know that...

- Sabi Sands has got other lodges that are much more affordable. In the north of the reserve there's a block with a lot of lodges sharing traverse, and in the west there's idem. Both have got expensive lodges, but also much more affordable options. Imho the north is the best as it's further from civilization. For example; Arathusa and Elephant Plains are well worth checking out.

- There's also "solo players" in Sabi Sands. They got a little plot, do not share, do their own thing. Umkumbe Lodge comes to mind. Cats will only be seen if they happen to move through the area, but I can quasi guarantee you sundowners with multiple rhinos around your vehicle (if you stay a couple of days). And Herman (the owner) lets you sit in the tracker seat. Yes, also for big 5 sightings. A very special place doing a very special thing. Umkumbe costs about 200$ pppn

- Animals see no reserve borders and there's similar reserves, all bordering Kruger, no fences in between, which all harbour lodges that again offer the very same thing as Sabi Sands:

* Above Sabi Sands lies Manyeleti. It's a community area, but apart from the little town next to the lake there's nobody there except, you guessed it... lodges and their guests. The Honeyguide camps may be a tad expensive, but in the south, not far from Sabi Sands there's Pungwe camp offering walks in the morning and a drive+nightdrive in the evening. At 200$ pppn. Lots of water in that reserve, so lots of animals too.

* Further north is Timbavati. Quite a lot of lodges there. Again some share traverse, and some go solo. Again expensive and very affordable options. Timbavati really starts to look like Sabi Sands imho; their traversing agreements becoming very stable and all. I made a map showing traverse for my site (but I only cater to Dutch speaking customers). You can also find the map on Sun Safaris (based in Cape Town) website, here; http://www.sunsafaris.com/south-afri...timbavati-map/ (just hover over the map with your mouse).
In the lodges sharing traverse, Simbavati River Lodge is a very affordable option. In the lodges going solo, Shindzela is incredible. It sits next to Ngala (&Beyond property), has a huge lake in the middle of a fairly big property, has incredibly good guides, great food, and a dream location (at a lugga where elephants come dig for water very regularly). And again; 2000$ pppn.

* Above Timbavati is Klaserie. Lots of private owners here, but also a bunch of lodges all sharing traverse. Google for Africa On Foot, Gomo Gomo, Baobab Ridge, and Nthambo Camp. The first and the last are sister camps, AOF doing walks in the morning, nThambo is all drives. Both have excellent guiding, but nThambo is all-in (drink as well I mean) and their rooms are just incredible. AOF is about 200$ pppn, nThambo is 350$ pppn. The latter is my favorite camp in the whole of Kruger area.

So you see... great stuff to be had if you just look further than your nose. I found about all these places simply by Googling a bit. Sometimes I am even surprised that not more people do as I do. After all it is what the www is for.
You know, it's not just this area. In any other area where there seems to be nothing else than expensive options; I can assure you there's mid-market options as well. You just have to work around their marketing budgets, and look further than page 1 of Google results
I just returned from Namibia last week, and here as well I found three wonderful places that are incredible not only in what they offer but also in price. Will write a trip report soon.

Ciao,

J.
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Nov 6th, 2012, 05:13 AM
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Pixelpower, I hope you've saved the above so you can copy and paste the next time a question like this comes up. Repetition of questions tends to be a tedious trait of travel forums. Your response gives lots of specifics for alternatives for 902alert or anybody else.

One reason I think some of the other many Kruger options are not as well known is that when agents are used, these other places provide less commission. Also, some clients' requirements of max 4 or 6 in a vehicle might not be met.


"For example; Arathusa and Elephant Plains in are well worth checking out." I hope to some day. Years ago I had a pair of travel agents tell me exactly what you said and their suggested lodges were Elephant Plains in Sabi Sands and Goma Goma in Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, which I think is now called Simbavati River Lodge.

Here is something I saved about Elephant Plains.


• numbat83 on Jan 21, 09 at 10:58 AM

Elephant Plains was fully booked (which they almost always are -- one needs to book early to secure a reservation there) and our vehicle usually had 8 people. They have 3 vehicles, and others had fewer people on some drives, it just depends on the configuration of guests, of course. In our vehicle, one person sat in front with the driver, and then there were two people in each of the first two rows (where one could easily fit 3) and then usually 3 people in the back row, which was higher. I loved the sightlines from the higher backseat when I sat there. People changed around so that everyone got to try different seats. It never felt crowded. We traveled with wonderful, considerate people, and it was never a problem to get great photos -- the sightlines were excellent from all the seats. There were many "regulars" at EP and the drives were wonderful


In fact the whole thread is here and mentions Lion Sands, which you have also, Pixelpower.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...-cape-town.cfm

I ended up choosing Mala Mala because:

-it offers the largest area in Sabi Sands.

-Mala Mala could even traverse into Kirkman's (which Mala Mala had sold off) but Kirkman's could not traverse back into Mala Mala.

-the river attracts animals who need a water source.

-the river also contributes to the overall habitat because the soil composition dictates the vegetatation, which dictates the herbivore density & diversity, whic determines the quantity and diversity of predators.

-there was a no single supplement option, saving me $$

-Mala Mala is the oldest of the lodges and many generations of animals have become used to vehicles making them more relaxed.

-the legendary animal status also swayed my decision toward Mala Mala points in my book.


It was a fantastic 4 nights in Mala Mala. On a Sabi Sands/Kruger return I'd like to try out some of the other places listed because:

-correct me if I am wrong, but Mala Mala no longer uses tracker whereas many of the other places do still use trackers. Trackers offer an advantage in finding wildlife.

-my finances were better when I went to Mala Mala than they are now.

-I may not be planning so very far in advance for trips, which is what is needed to snag that no single supplement room.
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Nov 6th, 2012, 07:32 AM
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Great suggestion for J to save his several replies and combine them for this question that comes up every 3-4 months.

And his suggestions/recommendations also need some additional information about the camp's game drives. Which is why most guest go to a camp, for the twice daily game drives. As Lynn says, some camps cram full the game drive vehicles, three across in tight seats. This is not optimal for viewing, nor selecting what wildlife to view, and worst of all for serious photography. For me, I'll gladly pay another $200 per day for a game drive vehicle that limits the guests to 4-5 and has great guides/rangers.

regards - tom
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Nov 6th, 2012, 07:22 PM
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I like Jochen's response, but it really wasn't a response to the original question on which to choose between the two. I have never ventured north of the Sabi Sands (Manyeleti, Timbavati, Klaserie) because I have tasted how traversing works and I really don't like it for my specific safari requirements for me and my customers. The western sector of the Sabi Sands has traversing that often interferes with what is best for guests. As Jochen points out there can be decent cost savings in this approach, though, but this is out of the scope of the original question of whether to go to Londolozi or Mala Mala.
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Nov 6th, 2012, 08:54 PM
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Re what andybiggs says about traversing, I believe he means how camps share each others properties for game drives. Some camps share traversing rights with several other camps and this can lead to conflicts of interest. Other camps do not share traversing rights with other camps and thus have their property solely for their use on game drives. And like having few(er) guest photographers on (crowding) a game drive vehicle having sole use of the property is advantageous.

regards - tom
ps - Andy Biggs leads photographic safari tours and tours all over the world. Check out some of his photos (and tours) here -
http://www.andybiggs.com/
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Nov 7th, 2012, 08:08 AM
  #13
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car999
No, I am NOT employed by Mala Mala nor Londolozi and have been to both. Thanks to everyone for their input and I find it curiously suspicious why pixelpower keeps referring to Sun Safaris and Umkumbe. Now I do wonder who is who on this forum.
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Nov 8th, 2012, 12:10 PM
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902alert, here is just a little more information to assist you. I have been to Mala Mala many many times, but I have never been to Londolozi. I have been to Singita on the other side of Londolozi, so hopefully this frames my own experiences on the matter.

If wildlife viewing is absolutely #1 on your list, my hunch is that Mala Mala is going to be a better choice. The reason why I say this is that Mala Mala has more land, fewer camps and thus fewer vehicles per hectare. Mala Mala basically has 2 camps (Main and Sable camp share the some of the same rooms), and Londolozi has more than this. Londolozi does have more camps that would offer you more choices for your own experience, though, and this can be a good thing if you are looking to control costs, privacy, accommodation quality, etc etc.

Since Singita and Londolozi have similar-sized properties, my experience at Singita was that of wishing for just a little more land for the number of days that I like to spend at a camp (4 to 8 nights). My experiences at Mala Mala have had me on all corners of their property, and I never felt like I had seen most of the roads very more than once.

Anyway, just some additional information that might help you with your decision.
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Nov 9th, 2012, 11:20 AM
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Hey 902alert,

No need to wonder who I am. I've got no hidden agenda. My name is Jochen, my site is marulacamp.com. I am in the process of starting my own lodge (sorry can't say more on that hihi), hence the name. To already build a bit of a potential customer base, I put together safari itineraries for Dutch speaking customers (Netherlands and Belgium). I used Sun Safaris a lot in the past, have always been very pleased by their services and by what I experienced in the lodges they co-own. That's why I recommend them, and that's why the itineraries I put together are in fact 100% arranged by them.

They use Londolozi and Mala Mala too, by the way. It's not an "us against them" thing. A TA like Sun just puts together an itinerary beeds on the needs and budget of the customer.

Ciao,

J.
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Nov 9th, 2012, 12:07 PM
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Oops. beeds = based. Serious typo.

Anyway, good discussion in this thread! A bit more info from me...


About space in the vehicle:

As I said; "if you don't have special needs..." then you need not go for Mala Male persé, certainly not if it's out of your budget range. People like Andy, who are very much into professional photography, and who provide tours aimed at other photo-nuts that want to get some safari-experience, they of course DO have special needs. And indeed, then a policy of "6 ppl max" per vehicle is very useful.
Note however that most lodges, is Sabi Sands or the other reserves, will fill their vehicle completely, if possible. A typical small camp has 5 rooms. Equals ten seats in the vehicle; one next to the driver, then 3 rows of 3 people. Camps that go bigger will still try to match their vehicle space with their number of beds.
Now, you should know that a lodge is never 100% full. Most very popular camps get to about 70-80%. Elephant Plains is one of them. I visited that place two years ago. On a total of 6 game drives, only 2 had 9 people (never 10), and sometimes we were with 6 or 7. Even when full, there's always someone that needs to leave, or that is just arriving (and thus not participating in the game drives).
Most lodges, certainly those that charge 500$+ pppn, have occupancy rates lower than that. So it may seem that they allow their customers more space, but often it's just because they struggle to get their occupancy rate up. ;-) Strangely enough, Arathusa, even though it's still fairly reasonably priced, also has lower occupancy rates.
Occupancy levels also depend on the popularity of the private reserve. On average, this level will be lower in Timbavati, and even a bit lower again in Klaserie. So if you choose one of the other reserves, you can easily avoid crowded vehicles. (although I wouldn't even call it crowded; for a regular tourist the seats are big and comfortable enough to enjoy the game drive. 3 people per row is not cramped or anything. Also because they're completely open vehicles. There's certainly no comparison with those minibuses in Kenya!)


About wildlife being more relaxed around vehicles:

Lynn raises a good point there; the longer a lodge is in operation (and also; the more lodges in the neighborhood providing the same activities!) the more relaxed the game becomes. But we should not exaggerate this I think. Don't forget; animals move around, and these reserves are next to each other. And if we're talking about animals that stay put (like: to defend a territory), then we should not forget these have only a lifespan of about 10 years. What I'm trying to say is; it takes only one generation to make them get used to vehicles. As an example: the camps in Klaserie are all fairly new (going for 4, 5 years now), and they already have a bunch of leopards and some lion prides of which the members all have names, and who all can be approached to about a meter or two from the vehicle. Absolute top is Rhulani; she's crawl into the vehicle and go to sleep on your lap if you would let her.


About traversing:

A lot has already been said about that. Again, if you have special needs (and photographers who want to stay long at a sighting certainly have them!) then traversing can be a PITA; you need to leave and make room for other vehicles. But if you area regular tourist, then the rules that lodges set amongst each other are A-OK. The rule is mostly; max three vehicles at a sighting, and if someone else wants to come in, you need to make room after 15 minutes. I've only ever observed these rules in action at Elephant Plains, and I saw that all customers were happy to leave after 15 minutes, to go look for another animal.
Andy has a point about number of lodges per given area. Certainly, the north and west blocks of Sabi Sands are the most "crowded" in that regard. I assume that's why I saw the rules in action there. However, I've never seen these rules applied at any lodge in Timbavati or Klaserie. So what are we worrying about?


About water;

True, the closer to water, the more animals. But I can tell you one thing; a plot next to a river does not have more animals than a plot away from the river (although it helps for the look of the lodge; rooms next to a river are simply more wanted). That's because everyone in those reserves have constructed plenty of artificial waterholes (dams). In fact, there's way too much of them, which can even lead to overgrazing. And also; those dams gave plenty of trouble during the last floods in January (or was it February?) this year. That's why at some reserves there's a new rule now; if your dam breaks, you may not repair it.
I'd say right now your chances of seeing a lot of animals depend on the type of vegetation. Ive been driving around a lot in those reserves, and you cannot believe how vegetation can change one km to the next. Some places are big mopane blocks, good for ellies and the odd dagga boy, but not for much else. Some have no fruiting trees at all (no baboons there), some have marshy areas (where rhino's come to wallow in the mud in the evening), etc etc... In fact; lots of places agree on traverse because they just look at each other area and go "with your grasslands and my mixed woodland, we can offer a lot of different animals to both our customers".


Bottom line; I'm not saying Mala Mala, or any of the other posh places, do not deliver a good product. They do! I'm just saying; if it's out of your budget range; don't despair. There's something out there for everyone. It just pays to look around, and put all those reserves under your magnifying glass. Google is your friend. Take some time to dig a bit deeper.

Ciao,

J.
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Nov 10th, 2012, 07:29 AM
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This is a very informative thread. I also learned about PITA.
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Nov 11th, 2012, 07:41 AM
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andybiggs
Thanks for your info. I have been to Mala Mala, Londolozi, Singita and a few others and as I said Mala Mala is the BEST for exactly the same reasons you stated.

pixelpower
Well, you seem to have slipped up with your bragging how you built the traversing page on Sun Safaris in another thread and here you just slipped up again. I WONDER and WONDER I Do!
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Nov 11th, 2012, 09:04 AM
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Well stupid me. I thought this was a question on which place to go and the merits of different properties. Then the discussion widened to include other places. Now I realize that except for 1ladyrep's request, this post had a very different purpose.

Oh well, hopefully someone who really is deciding on where to go on safari in Sabi Sands or Kruger, and is weighing costs, goals, locations, etc. area will benefit if they google or search this forum.
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Nov 11th, 2012, 09:06 AM
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To tie together a few terms and sentiments expressed above:

Cary999 finds paying for Cokes at MM to be a PITA.
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