Short trip report from Thornybush, Mala Mala

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Jan 24th, 2006, 02:37 AM
  #1
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Short trip report from Thornybush, Mala Mala

Just back from the above, and Cape town(which I wll post separately).

Upon arrival at Johannesberg airport, we were met by Mark from Taga safaris with the unfoturnate news that the Sabi Sands was flooded due to recent rains, and he was advising us against starting our trip at Simbambili as we had planned. Instead, he had made arrangements for us to go to their other property Thornybush Game reserve, in the northen provence, which was significangly dryer. After the shock wore off, we trusted Mark, and followed orders. All transfers went smoothly.

Thornybush is truly luxurious. Beautfully appointed suites, situated over a river(which was dry). Outdoor showers, great bed linen, large terraces. The food was some of the best we had the entire trip. the staff was wonderful The game viewing was very good, even if they could not go off road due to the still soggy conditions. Our was the third generation in his family to do so, and it was great to watch him and our tracker at work. We saw the big five within 2 drives, saw tons of babiesIncluding a 2 week old elephant), including a leopard with its cub, which we followed for about 20 minutes. We had a great time at Thornybush, and felt it offered a great balance of luxury and game viewing. We then transferred to Mala Mala, and stayed in Sable Camp.

The accommodations at Mala Mala were no where near as nice as Thornybush. The marketing of Sable Camp is very misleading. It is not a separate camp, but 8 or so deignated suites within main camp that have their own pool and boma. Definitely not worth the premium. The suite we had was large, but the appointments not particularly nice(linen, towels, robes, etc). In fact the regular room I saw was newly updated with nicer appointment.I would not pay the premium to in that camp again.

But then there is the game viewing, which blew us away. Our ranger and tracker were fabulous. We had paid for a private vehicle, which was worth every penny we spent. We gave our ranger free reign, with only one request(to see hippos out of the water). In all fairness to Thornybush, the ability to go off road, which we could definitely changed the viewing experience.

We saw leopards maiting, families of elephants. Both prides of lions, including staying with one pride for over an hour one evening as they went hunting(unfortunately we did not see a kill), hippos at night looking for food. The rangers are extremely educated and knowledgable.

Some of the practicies at the camp felt very out of date, such as the rangers dining with you(which we let our off the hook for after one meal), the singing and dancing at dinner. The food was fair at best. Serving lamb curry when it is 90 degrees out is something I dont understand. It would have been nice to been served local food as opposed to lasagna. But,the game viewing, which is why we came to South Africa, could not be beat. Given the amount of transversing area, I dont know how anyone can have better game viewing than Mala Mala does. It made for a specatacular experience, and we cant wait to return.













































































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Jan 24th, 2006, 02:58 AM
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just curious to know why your safari outfitter excluded lion sands...mala mala is also in the sabi sands, if it was so heavily flooded surely they should have offered to cancel MM too?

seems that taga did you in, as you stated, took you the thier property Thornybush, is it true that they own this property?
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Jan 24th, 2006, 04:19 AM
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I am not aware of any relationship between Taga and Inzalo(who manages Simbambili and the various Thornybush properties) other than their acting as agent. I am grateful to Taga for making the arrangements, as I dont believe it hampered our trip, and quite possibly saved the beginning of it. As the rain was abating in the Sabi Sands by the time we got to Mala Mala it had dried out sufficiently to not hamper our trip at all
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Jan 24th, 2006, 04:28 AM
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Hi Ellene,

Pleased to hear that you had a great gameviewing experience. Have been to Thornybush in July 2002, and the gameviewing was good, but unfortunately I remember it best for not serving lunch!
I have been regularly to MalaMala and I still believe they have the best gameviewing in the Sabi Sands of the places that I have now been to which include Londolozi, Singita, Lion Sands, Ulusaba. I have always known that other places have far more luxurious accomodations (although having now stayed at Rattrays that is no longer true) as for me the most luxurious in accomodation would be Rattrays and Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, though very different. The best food (in general) would be Londolozi Bateleur. I live in Australia and I do not go all that way for food or luxury accomodation, it is for gameviewing only, though I do like the luxury, food not so important for me.
I am not really sure why the gameviewing is so much better, but to me it is - even a quite gamedrive has a lot to offer.
I actually like the ranger eating with us, and at the other camps where it is not the practice, I feel a bit ignored, though if you end up with a ranger you are not really comfortable with, I suppose it is a good thing, though I have never had a ranger at MalaMala whose company I didn't enjoy.
Kaye
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Jan 24th, 2006, 05:06 PM
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mkhonzo,

Please don't start untrue rumours. Taga Safaris does NOT own Thornybush! Also, for your information, Thornybush and Simbambili are each owned by Inzalo. They are each very luxurious lodges. I would be very surprised the switch from Simbambili to Thornybush would not actually be considered an upgrade.

Mkhonzo, I am not sure why you even mention Lion Sands. There are also 20+ other lodges in the Sabi Sand to consider, and if you are talking about Lion Sands main lodge, it is not on the same level as Simbambili or Thornybush and if you are talking about Ivory Lodge, then it is double the price of Simbambili, as well as having no common ownership as Simbambili, as does Thornybush.

Here is the website for Simbambili AND Thornybush:

http://www.thornybush.co.za/index.ph...n&SubPage_ID=8

Unfortunately, Simbambili sort of gets swallowed up in this website, but it is there, one of Inzalo's six properties.
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Jan 24th, 2006, 07:39 PM
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santharamhari
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Actually, I have been to the Lion sands River Lodge in 2003 and enjoyed the experience totally!!! It is pretty luxurious and food pretty good also. Way better than Mala Mala main camp. Yes, the traversing area is not as big as Mala mala.......but you still get to see a fair bit.
 
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Jan 24th, 2006, 08:07 PM
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I'm sorry to say this.......but i wasnt overly impressed with Mala Mala.....yes, the rooms are nice. We had a nice ranger (Ryan), the game was good (nothing spectacular)in comparison to other properties in the sabi sands.....but over a 4 night stay, i found Mala Mala main camp to be very impersonal and very commercial. Nothing really innovative. Lion sands would do a lot of different things to vary the pace every day. For example, bush dinners etc etc., and the game viewing was pretty good also. Except maybe, Mala Mala has better quality lion sightings (from my experiences)could differ......

Let me clarify this.......the only reason i would go to the sabi sands is for good, quality leopard viewing and photography......otherwise, i would anyday prefer other destinations......

Just my opinion......everyone is entitiled to his or hers
 
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Jan 24th, 2006, 08:57 PM
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People see things very differently, and I suppose it comes down to what is the most important to you - to me it is gameviewing - and from my time at MalaMala, and it has been quite a lot, I have found the gameviewing exceptional. I have just returned from visiting the Sabi Sands, and this time I also included Lion Sands and Londolozi, and the gameviewing at both was disappointing. I also go to Singita, the gameviewing that I have had there, is also not as good as MalaMala.
So to me, MalaMala does its job with my gameviewing being fantastic, that I eat in a different area each night is the least of my worries.
Everyone has their own experiences, and if you are not happy, don't go back! Paying what we pay per person per night, I need to be happy it!
Kaye
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Jan 25th, 2006, 01:54 AM
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I agree with the last post. Besides the game viewing, Mala Mala does not have the best facilities, food etc. But I dont need to spend 28 hours for those things, I did for the game viewing. And for that I dont see how anyone elses can compare. We cant wait to return there.
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Jan 25th, 2006, 06:40 AM
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ellene: curious about the reference to singing and dancing after dinner...is this traditional african music - performed by the staff? I would definitely find this kind of thing off putting if I go anywhere in the world. Or were you referring to actuall singing and dancing by the guests?
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Jan 25th, 2006, 07:24 AM
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Rocco.
I was not starting a rumour, I was however asking a question.
"instead, he had made arrangements for us to go to their other property Thornybush Game reserve".

This quote implied ownership and I was curious to know if that was the case. My mention of Lion sands was an error, perhaps the name stuck from a previous thread, as you point out I should have said Sibambili.

I am curious about Taga and their motive for the switch, which has been clarified, they worked in the interest of their client and that is the sort of knowledge that I think we need to have when considering various outfitters for our travels.
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Jan 25th, 2006, 07:58 AM
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leanapayne - I can't answer for ellene but when I was at MalaMala in 2004, they had the staff sing traditional songs. I first thought it was kind of cheesy but ended up changing my mind. The ranger told me they want every guest to be able to hear the songs so they keep track of who is leaving. If a guest is departing and they haven't heard it yet they schedule the singing the night before they leave. I was there 6 nights and they did not sing every night. They seemed to really enjoy themselves and it didn't appear
"forced" or like a "dog and pony show" like some of the singing I have witnessed at other camps. I enjoyed the songs with them.
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Jan 25th, 2006, 08:52 AM
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It was traditional african music. It did feel forced to me, but I guess it is a personal preference.

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Jan 25th, 2006, 06:41 PM
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Just got back to the states a few hours ago, having been to Main camp at Mala Mala and Rattrays.

I will post a separate trip report but some highlights were 9 Leopards in 8 days with audio of a very young cub. 26 Lion, including a spectacular daytime, in the open, kill of a Buffalo bull. 185 birds in 8 days, and 114 on our Big Day, which included the kill, so definitely not total birding.

For years the Rattrays have considered their product to be game viewing, not meals, accomodation etc. As the market is changing they are adapting, as Rattrays shows. Over dinner with the Rattrays they were very interested in our thoughts on Rattrays and asked us to be very thorough in our critique of the camp.

To my mind, the atmosphere in the boma, bar and lounge at Main Camp are second to none. A lot of the rangers were new this time, but they were soon on first name terms with us and enquiring about our bird count when vehicles would meet occasionally in the bush.

As for the singing, that is one of my favorite parts of the experience. I am not a floor show kind of guy, in fact I hate it. But when I look at the joy on the faces of the staff who sing and dance for less than ten minutes every few nights, I now its not forced. I have also asked many of them if they enjoy doing it, and I hope I know them well enough to tell the difference between a real yes and a company yes.

I would agree that Sable is not worth the extra, except that they limit the guests to four per vehicle, which is nice. I have not had a private vehicle and I am very happy for all the friends I have made at Mala Mala, we have now been there four times with a couple from Maryland as crazy as us and we're getting the dates together for next January.

Summary

Game is excellent
Accomodation is very good, but bathrooms need updating. Rattrays is magnificient.
Food is very good, but definitely of the comfort variety. BTW go to India and you will be served curry with the temperature over 90 degrees. Also in many parts of South Africa, curry is a local dish. The menus feature a blend of western dishes and South African dishes, to please the palate of the unadventurous who don't want to try new things.
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Jan 25th, 2006, 07:52 PM
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santharamhari
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Hi Napamatt, Congratulations on that buffalo kill experience.....wow!!!

Is Ryan still a ranger at Mala Mala? He is very good. I agree that the main camp bar and lounge are good........but i wasnt very impressed with their boma......had better experiences....

You see any cheetahs this trip?
 
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Jan 25th, 2006, 09:05 PM
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Hi Matt,
Have been wondering when you are due back home. Sounds as though you had a great time with some fantastic gameviewing, and I would expect no less! 2 quick questions, which pride killed the buffalo and who had the baby leopard - was is the Ngoboswan Female?
Kaye
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Jan 26th, 2006, 03:57 AM
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Matt,
Terribly jealous you got to see a kill, we tried twice, with different prides, to no avail. The evening hunt we went on was one of the thrills of our life. It is apparent that the Rattarays' priority is the game viewing, with the excellent and knowledgable rangers, and their large amount of land. We would return, but stay in main camp, dont know if I can ever spring for the upgrade to Rattarays.

Glad you had another fabulous experience.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 10:51 AM
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Kaye

There will be a full trip report in the near future (have you done one yet?). The Buffalo was killed by the Eyrefield Males with help from the 4.5 year old female who is a litter mate of one of the males. They were the cubs who were doing very badly when the pride was having a lean time a few years ago, then they found a dead Rhino, killed a Buffalo and a couple of Kudu and now are magnificient Lions.

The Leopard Cub belonged to the Ngobowan female. It was one brief call as she arrived at their den, located in the rocks just south of the West Street Bridge on the eastern side.

We also saw the Beaumonts male, who you may have seen at Lion Sands, he is the dominant male in that area and ranges into the Kirkman territory.

Ellene

The big advantages with Rattrays are the wonderful accomodation and the more southerly location, we went to a beautiful spot in the far south for sundowners we had not previously seen. We plan on going back next January and will spend 5 at Main Camp and 3 at Rattrays, thats the idea right now.
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