Sabi Sands Trip Report

Old Apr 28th, 2008, 02:00 PM
  #21  
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Isabel,

Dinner at Mala Mala is served in the boma so you're at a long table with all the rest of the guests, not just your game ranger so you do get to talk to a large group of people. I'm not sure there's anyway to avoid the escort - part of it is for your protection. I believe you can opt to dine in your room which may solve your problem if you're feeling less social some nights. I'm sure if you explain your request to the management at Mala Mala they'll work something out.

Bob
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Old Apr 28th, 2008, 02:12 PM
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I agree with Isabel as I know doing group dinners is not "our thing". We don't mind a few group interactions but not every night. We really prefer our own company most of the time. We never travel in groups or organized tours. Game drives with others has us worried as it is. we both suffer from only child syndrome. We are staying at Rattrays so I assume private dinners can be arranged for some of the dinners?
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Old Apr 28th, 2008, 02:19 PM
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Actually maybe Napamatt can decribe dinner routine at Rattrays? He seems to go there several times a year and knows his food and wine. Is it always a boma situation or are there more formal sit down service type dinners? I am a wine and food photographer so it is of interest but I am changing spots or stripes so to speak and definately going for the animals not the fine dining. Though good food and wine is always a plus.
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Old Apr 28th, 2008, 04:30 PM
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My problem with the ranger dining experience wasn't that I'm anti social - in fact I loved chatting with the other guests its just the rangers tend to be much younger and well lets just say a bit less interesting than the guests. Actually because I'm quite social I tended to get landed with him by both my family and our other travelling companions. Yes you do eat together in the boma or on the deck but someone has to sit with them and they NEVER get the night off ( at least at main camp!)I begged the poor guy to go to bed the night of his 17hour day and he just couldn't. I definitely don't by the escort story, someone could just escort you to your room at the end of dinner and frankly MM is very well lit and dangerous animal encounters seem very unlikely in the few yards to your room. It really irritated me..but everyone's different and it may be so irksome to others.
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Old Apr 28th, 2008, 04:40 PM
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You can have dinner served in your room at Mala Mala. For example, I cannot imagine honeymoon couples wanting to spend every meal with the ranger and the rest of the vehicle.

Not being on a honeymoon, I found the ranger's presence to be a nice amenity and never felt imprisoned.

Scfphoto,
If you are already worrying about your only child syndrome and getting on with others, then the cost of a private vehicle may be well worth it to you and make everyone happy.

With your own vehicle, you could easily opt out of meals with your ranger, giving him a night off, which I am sure he'd appreciate.

I feel so sorry for those rangers when they get late night revelers.
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Old Apr 28th, 2008, 05:01 PM
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Thanks for the feedback. We are not "that antisocial". We get along with other friendly respectfull people fine. We will see what happens with vehicle mates and hopefully won't get matched with incompatable knuckleheads. I have read many of the stories on this board about the vehicle mates from hell. What I don't get is why people don't just tell the others to shut up and respect others in the vehicle. If someone is being anoying and rude I have no problem telling people to cool it. My biggest worry is I will tell some rude person off even if the ranger is trying to be accomodating. Can you just tell the ranger no offence but don't feel obligated to come to dinner with us if you have others to attend to or something better to do. Thanks but no thanks.
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Old Apr 28th, 2008, 05:28 PM
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I think you have to tell the management not the ranger. I'm a bit soft and didn't want to in case he got in trouble, we were only there 3 days so we hacked it - any longer and we would have had to do something about it.
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Old Apr 28th, 2008, 08:21 PM
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I posted on the Rattrays dinner service on my trip report, but can probably add a few things here.

Isabel, just let the manager know when you arrive, or better still have your TA advise them ahead of time, though follow up on arrival.

Yvonne
On the escort piece, I agree anyone could escort you, but you do need an escort. On your next visit, get up five minutes early in the morning and just look at the animal tracks on the sand paths. Also I do remember some guests one time, who after finishing their room service meal, went to sit by the pool at 10pm! That's right within 15 yards of the river, and the nice tall grass, at night.

This topic does highlight a quuite interesting difference between MM, Singita and Wilderness in Botswana. My first few safari's were at MM, so we were very used to having someone tell us where to sit and how things were organized. We had a little culture shock in Botswana, where you were left to fend for yourselves at WS and Kwando, once you realize you sit anywhere its ok, but it did make for an uncomfortable moment, where you think everyone is looking at you, the new idiots.
I contrast it with Singita, where eating with the ranger happens on Boma night only. The rest of our meals were taken when we chose and on our own. That was a nice change, however, on our first appearance at the camp we were introduced to Vivian, who made sure that when we arrived for subsequent meals, she was there to seat us and take care of us, again removing that uncomfortable moment.
On the whole I enjoy chatting with the ranger, they are smart enough to be unobtrusive when not part of the conversation and certainly don't need entertaining.
Hope this and the piece on my report help.
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Old Apr 28th, 2008, 08:24 PM
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Kaye

I think you're being kind to the Styx Pride, if you go back through the cyberdiary to 2000, you will find on every occasion that they have cubs that they troop them around long distances from an early age, it was the opinion of Leon for one, that this was not a good idea.
Just my two cents. I still have a soft spot for those Lions.

Matt
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Old Apr 29th, 2008, 01:31 AM
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Hi Matt

I probably am being kind, but too easy for us to say, when we don't live with danger every moment of the day, as those little ones do!

They do walk them long distances, but maybe they feel safer when the cubs are with them, as leopards are also seen on those koppies. Also the older lionesses of the Pride are no longer with us, so the remainder are maybe not as street wise, and the threat of the male lions is a lot greater now - no real stability at all for any of the lionesses with cubs.

Hi Yvonne,

Escorting you back to your home is only a part of the reason for your ranger. He is also responsible for getting drinks for you - without him there, and I would guess he has no choice, even if he doesn't sit with you, another ranger would be responsible.

If you don't wish him to be there, tell him, I don't think this needs to be done through management at all. When I go for longer periods, I rarely go to dinner, nothing to do with the ranger but I just get so worn out. I pretty sure they take no offense! I myself, usually prefer the company of the rangers, not the other guests. I find the rangers far more interesting than most guests.

I will sometimes choose to eat meals (breakfast and lunch) at my own table, that depends entirely on what my fellow guests are like. Quite often the ranger will sit with me, when told by my fellow guests that they would prefer to eat alone. But you do need to say that, otherwise he will not know.

Kind regards

Kaye
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Old Apr 29th, 2008, 02:30 AM
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Just an added comment on the meal arrangements at Rattrays. We were there for 5 nights in March. In this time the guests (18 max) left and arrived so even if some of them are 'not to you liking' the group changes quite a bit. Also there is time to strike up friendships with kindred spirits. The main area of the camp where early morning and afternoon tea is served in not large and in our limited experience was a good get together time. Also at Rattrays everyone meets in the bar before dinner and you were by no means expected to limit your conversation to your fellow safari mates or your ranger. Our ranger, Wesley did sit with us and escort us back to our room at night but we would not have wanted it any differently. He was an amazing guy and we enjoyed his company enormously. I think that the ethos of MM is that although the accommodation is 'upmarket' you are there because you want a wildlife experience and this is a 24hr thing. While sitting at dinner Wesley was able to point out 2 prides of lions roaring and he was able to give us an idea of what was happening out there in the night. Thats what its about not fine wines, Michelin star food and beauty spas. Its a group wildlife experience.

Having said this I got the impression that the management did organise the meal seating to best suit the guests. When we first arrived we had our own table for lunch. Wesley hopped between us and the other newcomers who were to share our vehicle. We all got on very well so at dinner we were seated together. From then on Wesley and sometimes Melissa and Niles the Manager joined us. They had magnificent wildlife stories to tell and this part of the day was almost as memorable as the game drives.

Where ever you go you can meet people who are not quite right for the situation but this can be fun as well. Imagine the sight of the woman we saw on the game drive in another vehicle putting her umbrella up as it started to rain or the guy with a camera lens larger than his fellow guests heads - that would have been a bit annoying though.

I am happy to answer any specific questions re Rattrays as I know its always difficult to find out the little things.
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Old Apr 29th, 2008, 05:38 AM
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Hi Yvonne

Just referring to your comment re Sparta. I do not think it has anything to do with an arch rival situation - but on MalaMala, I have never heard any area called anything but by the original farm name - eg Toulon to the south, Sparta to the west, Gowrie to the north, or Kruger to the east.

I am now curious as to who your ranger/tracker were for this trip to MalaMala.

Kind regards

Kaye
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Old Apr 29th, 2008, 01:50 PM
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OK our ranger was very sweet but only all of about 24 at most, hed only been working there a year but Im a musty 47 year old.. so I guess wed not a lot in common.
All in all MM was just a bit too stuffy for us, if wed had fantastic sightings all would have been forgiven but actually we saw more at the 2 cheaper alternatives, maybe just the luck of the draw, but maybe down to the skill of the staff at Idube and Nottens. So on to Nottens then, we were picked up from the airstrip at lunchtime by Joseph and driven an hour or so to the camp. As we entered the rather ram shackled collection of buildings - the scene was rather unprepossessing, especially compared to the manicured beauty of MM. We were conducted into the main living area overlooking a large grass plain and introduced to the guests relaxing with a couple of drinks and reading through old copies of the guest book from 20 years ago. And then, guess what, we were left ALONE!! Just the guests together, no wardens! They run an honesty system and guests just help themselves from the bar. The whole mood was just so different, just like one big house party. One of the other couples had been to Nottens at least once a year for 18 years.. it was a real out of Africa feeling with old safari hands and great conversation. A few hours later the staff returned and showed us to our really beautiful rooms. Two adjoining bedrooms just perfect for families with whitewashed walls , huge comfy antique beds and incredibly chic inside and outside bathrooms. Nottens uses only paraffin lamps at night and lights the whole camp with millions of little candles, the atmosphere is magical and just perfect. Everyone eats together at the table hosted by the younger of the Nottens family .. I just cant recommend the atmosphere enough. The food is lovely , not gourmet but home cooked and delicious I think in the Sabi Sands context it is quite unique.
But I guess the real question is what about the game? That evening we set off in pursuit of those pesky dogs.. no luck, but what a different approach. I think the bottom line is that Joseph the ranger has been at Nottens for 20 years not 1 and it really showed,. He and the tracker didnt tear around but stopped, looked, sniffed, listened.. in other words actually tracked. But despite this the dogs were gone and we ended the evening at the scene of yet another giraffe buffet, this time the lions were dining not the leopard. What a wonderful sight 2 huge males and about 4 lionesses and 7 cubs all feasting on the kill..amazing.
The next morning we took off again in search of the dogs. We drove to where they were last seen and all that was left was a lot of flattened grass, Id more or less resigned myself to only ever hearing rumours of the dogs. We headed back toward the camp via the small watering hole and as we approached another amazing scene unfolded. There before us were the dogs, seconds before they had chased a mother and baby waterbuck straight towards us and into the pool. There they both stood, strangely serene as the dogs barked and harries them from literally 2 meters away on the bank. Joe said the baby now had little chance of making it and I found that instead of hoping to see a kill I felt so so sorry for the beautiful baby - I just wanted them to escape. The scene was surreal, the dogs, the waterbuck, 2 kingfishers swooping over the pool, and just beside the buck two cute but incongruous ducks. On the left hand bank the two resident water buffalo that hang out on the water hole were less than impressed with the dogs. They bellowed and shook their horns and ran at them . The dogs were strangely beautiful, much more so than they seem on TV - larger and with really striking markings. They huffed and puffed and ran all round the pool but not one of them wanted to get this paws wet. It all seemed an impasse and then just on cue ....a rhino turned up!. the final straw for the dogs. They left in disgust and our brave little water buck lived to fight another day and all I can say is that I for one was mightily relieved . What a sight... Well anyway more later..but for now all I can say is that exactly as you all predicted Sabi Sands turns up trumps!
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Old Apr 29th, 2008, 03:44 PM
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Your account at Nottens reads like a dream. I was wondering what the rhino symbolized. What an encounter!
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Old Apr 29th, 2008, 03:45 PM
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Wow Yvonne, awesome sightings. And yes you are quite right, there can be times at MM (and every camp) where you know yourself that a slower approach might pay dividends. The amount of game our tracker and ranger missed at Singita because they were concentrating on the radio etc was a surprise. I don't know whether there is such pressure to show most guests as much as possible and in particular the Big 5 that it drives the guys to behave a certain way. Also I think the MM approach to ranger recruitment and working conditions is feeling the strain of 700 lodges in SA. The rangers we saw at Singita, were older with more experience and worked less hard (a good thing IMO, and yours also I believe) at the social side.
Also I think you can get people in any job who either have an off day, or for whatever reason are just mailing it in, rather than really trying. It just sucks when they are driving you. We know recommend a specific tracker who really works very hard for us and is superb, so I know it's not fair to make generalizations about any camp.
Lastly the matter of what game you see ultimately is luck, I think being smart really improves your chances, but being in the right place at the right time is often about luck. The game we saw in our first two drives at Singita, blew away any two similar drives at MM this trip; but I've also seen 7 Leopard in one game drive there, so I'm not about to say Singita has better game than MM, we just had better viewing on this trip.
Nottens does sound delightful, what day was your dog action, we were probably tracking them without success the other side of the river.
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Old Apr 29th, 2008, 07:50 PM
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Hi Yvonne,

I'm trying to figure out, where Nottens is in relation to it's location? Do they share the northern region with Djuma etc etc? or is it South of MM near Sabi Sabi etc etc.,? Thanks ........

Hari
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Old Apr 29th, 2008, 08:01 PM
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Hari, Notten's is adjacent to the SW corner of MM. See http://www.sabisandslodges.co.za/Map.asp MM allows Notten's to do ground transfers from the MM airstrip, so you can use the scheduled SAA Airlink flight from JNB to AAM.
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Old Apr 29th, 2008, 09:20 PM
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Thanks, Rick .......
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Old Apr 29th, 2008, 11:09 PM
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I definitely agree that luck has lots to do with game sightings. And while I think the approach and experience of the tracking was better at Idube and Nottens ultimately I think their greater success was probably to do with a higher density of vehicles in a smaller area. Although I would hasten to add we didn't get a feeling of and area thick with tourists, we bumped into the other jeeps no more often than at MM. When I look back the only quality sighting that our vehicle itself produced apart from the dogs was the second leopard that my husband spotted! But the experience of driving with staff who are really tracking is just much more fun than if you feel you're just being driven around. I also agree that the problem at MM is that the staff are just trying so so hard to please that I for one can sense the pressure on them. As with so often in life things feel better when everyone is relaxed. BTY our dog moment was on the 30th March I think. When I've finished the report I'll try and upload our pics to Kodak, with the dogs
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Old Apr 30th, 2008, 12:53 PM
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Yvonne

We were seeking the dogs on the 4th and the 6th. Glad you saw them.
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