Trip Report - Mala Mala and Makanyane

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Mar 1st, 2005, 03:55 AM
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Trip Report - Mala Mala and Makanyane

This is going to be long so I will post segments as time and jet lag allows.

Travel

Headed out on the 17th. First leg was United Business to London. United is really losing it in comparison to most carriers. The staff being UK based were a little less surly than the US based crews tend to be. Highlight was a Selbach-Oster 2003 Riesling, best wine on a plane in ages.

Picked up a car at Hertz - got a good deal with AMEX. Spent a long lay over by getting a room at Sheraton Skyline for shower and breakfast. United doesnt allow use of arrivals lounge for upgraded tickets (most other airlines do - I dont undersatnd their problem) so we had to go the hotel route. For some reason now, showers in the UK are limited to 38C so you dont scald yourself. So the ultimate nanny state gives us cold, low pressure showers - positively invigorating! Breakfast was OK.

Spent the day visiting some of my wifes relatives then headed back to the airport. Assumed BA long haul flights went from Terminal 4, big mistake. BA now flies some long haul flights from T1. So we had to grab the train back to T1. Still had plenty of time, they have a nice private check in area for club and first with no line. Quickly through dedicated secuirty line and into the lounge.
Comfortably appointed with nice sandwiches, full bar and wine bar. Not as nice as Virgin Clubhouse which is my preferred carrier to RSA.
Club World was pretty good. Cabin crew much better than on United. Flat bed is pretty good, though there is very little handy storage for books etc. Food and wine were good not great, but IFE is streets ahead of United. There was a comedy channel on the audio and two on video. At one point I nearly died laughing listening to Billy Connelly talking about swimming in the North Sea. My wife raised the privacy screen so no one would think we were together. Virgin does not have the fully flat bed on the Joburg route but I have lways been comfortable at a less than full recline anyway. I probably give the Virgin seat the edge, it is a little wider (I have to check that fact, but it was my impression). One thing half the seats face backwards so check the seating map and get a seat assigned if you want to face forwards. In most seats you will have to climb over someones legs or have someone climb over you.
Virgin wins with quality of blankets and pillows and the sleep suit. We had taken our sleep suits from the last Virgin flight and so did not have to sleep in our clothes.

Arrival in Joburg. Met by Wilderness Safaris rep with our tickets (we booked through Eyes on Africa - highly recommended)
He escorted us to the Domestic terminal and saw us to the security checkpoint for our flight to Mala Mala on SAA Airlink.

At the gate we met up with our friends who had flown down from Dubai. We met them last year at Mala Mala and have met up with them twice since.

The flight to Mala Mala is in a 30 seater turbo prop and takes an hour. It is not cheap, but it is very handy. You are about three minutes from camp.
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Mar 1st, 2005, 04:18 AM
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Time to write another before I have to get up.

February is not an ideal time to safari. The weather usually results in a couple of wet drives and the grass is usually very long. However we also like the migratory birds and come twice a year so we see the bush in different conditions.

Last year we had seen 162 birds in five days in March and while not necessarily trying to beat that record we did want to take our running total of birds seen at Mala Mala from 188 over the 200 mark.

First Drive
Driving along River Road we turned a corner and right in front of us was the Bicycle Crossing Male Leopard. We hadn't seen him before, so it was nice to meet a new Leopard. We followed him over the casueway and up the hill towards Piccadilly. He did some nice scent marking for us. As we decided to leave him, we heard the roar of a female Lion. Turning another corner we saw the lactating feamle of the Styx Pride. Her cubs are believed to be two weeks old. She was looking for the rst of the pride and gave us a nice display of roaring.

Next drive was quiet so we focused on birds and took our total to 104 for two drives. Highlight was a very relaxed pair of Saddlebill Storks at Mlowathi Dam.

Next drive we saw a group of four Dagga Boys (male buffaloes) wallowing in a nice mud hole. Then we watched a male Rhino do the same in a different pan. He was very relaxed and even treated to us a huge fart delivered through the mud - delightful. While watching the Rhino we picked up a new bird. We had not seen a Dwarf Bittern before on six trips, just like buses though we would see two more in different locations straight after. That is one of the nice things about enjoying the birds as well as the mammals, you get far more out of a sighting.
Then we found the Styx Pride. 4 females and 2 older cubs, then didn't do much but sleep and groom.

On the causeway heading in we saw a Whitebacked Night Heron.

Next morning a very relaxed female Cheetah on Piccadilly. It was hot so she just relaxed with the occasional wary look around for signs of trouble. She looked pretty full so the chances of hunting were very limited. Finished the drive up at the airfield where the Eyrefield Pride were lounging in the bushes on the west side of the field.
Nice White Stork up there also.

In the afternoon we headed up to the airstrip to see the Lions(4 females and 6 males) They were up and on the move heading towards Londolozi, when a female spotted a warthog and three piglets at the other side of the runway. She imemdiately began to stalk using the long grass as cover and we watched as she encircled the unsuspecting pigs. Other members of the pack began to fan out as she intensified her hunt. then as she crossed the runway the Warthog saw her and started running staright down the edge of the runway with her piglets leading the way. The Lioness bounded along behind and looked like she might not get lucky when one of the piglets tripped. All we saw was contact and then heard a quick squeal and it was over. The Warthog stopped for an instant but with several more Lions in pursuit she took off and saved her other two babies. The lioness ran off with her prize and was not seen again for some time. The rest of the pride provided some amusement for us for a while. The 6 year old Eyrefield Male is a terrific specimen, we hadn't seen him since Oct 2003.

We headed east and saw a group of four Rhino at the Matshapiri open area, not relaxed so we didn't follow up. After sundowners we headed to Mlowathi were the Campbell Koppies female Leopard had been sighted. We saw her in June 2002 when she was newly independent from her mother the Nogobswan female and was struggling to establish a territory. Now she has cubs. She had disappeared as Leopards do into some pretty dense bush. As we debated the next course of action, the heavens opened, so we donned rain gear and hightailed it back to camp, for a hot shower and dinner.

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Mar 1st, 2005, 06:10 AM
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Time for a bit more before I head to work.

Good birding at the causeway. Giant Kingfisher, Reed Cormorant, Greenbacked Heron, Wiretailed Swallow and a Pied Kingfisher beating a huge fish which it had just caught. the Giant Kingfisher tried to steal the fish but the Pied was having none of it. We spent a good deal of time following up on some Male Leopard tracks (probably Tjololo of National Geographic fame) but we couldn't locate him. We saw the Split Rock Males (Lions) together having a snooze. Then we caught a very limited visual of the Mlowathi pride and their cubs on the banks of the river. they were below us so the visual was extremely limited. Instead of heading back to camp we drove to a beautiful spot on the Matshapiri were our Ranger (Leon) and tracker (John) prepared a bush breakfast for us.
On the way back to camp we spotted the female Cheetah from the day before who had killed during the storm the previous night and was now very fat.
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Mar 2nd, 2005, 06:08 AM
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Highlight of the next drive was the Jakkalsdraai female and her two 6 month old cubs. They are the fourth generation of a Leopard family that we have seen over an 11 year period. The extroveretd cub gave us a great show of stalking and pouncing on her mother. Next we got a better view of the Mlowathi pride and their cubs, but the rain started, then the females looked like they didnt want to start hunting with us near their cubs so we withdrew.

Next morning a great sighting at the airstrip of a Cheetah and her three 2 year old male cubs. By that afternoon they had killed a male impala and were enjoying their meal in the thick bush. A little later we got to spewnd some time with one of the Leopard cubs lounging in a tree. At the end of the drive we were treated to the younger of the Split Rock males roaring while lying on his side, lazy git!

On our last morning we saw a nice breeding herd of elephants in the river including a ten year old with half a trunk. Her breathing could be heard clearly and to drink she sucked water into the trunk then squirted it back to her mouth, fascinating to see how the animlas cope with disability.

On to Makanyane in the Madwike. The flights dont mesh so we had a land transfer from Joburg to Madikwe, about 3 and a half hours.

Mayanyane is a lovely lodge. Each room is beautiful and the setting is very nice. Food is stunning.

Makanyane sits on private land but drives go into Madikwe, but to get there you always have to go the same way, so you get familiar with a small part of the property.

Madikwe has lots of general game but there are a number of dead spots where you dont see anything. The central plain is really special and has lots of Wildebeest, Hartebeeset, Springbok, Impala and Zebra. And in February flies, millions of them. They only appear in February and are gone with the first clod snap, I would bear that in mind when planning a trip.

We did some get fabulous Lion interaction in and around camp. A coalition of three males is looking to usurp their fathers and did a lot of marking and roaring and then mating with a young female. The mating, the first for both parties lasted about seven days! Eventaully the three males were joined by their half brothers and after some fighting it appeared that they may all get together, that would be a fabulous coalition. These Lions are from Etosha originally and seem to be a little more active in heat than usual, they also have the black mane genes.

Good birding at Madwike, saw many birds not found at Mala Mala, including Blue Cheeked Bee-Eater and Abdim's Stork.

Madikwe has Leopard but they are very shy and elusive so dont expect to see them. Cheetah are a much more common sight and we saw a coalition of four males.

Other game highlights are White and Black Rhino, we didnt see Black and some very relaxed Black Backed Jackals. Our ranger called the male Fluffy and obviously knew him. The youngish pup almost caught a banded Mongoose but was surprised by its bite and let go.

Last sighting and the main reason to go was Wild Dpgs. We saw 5 a splinter from one of the packs who had just fed and so were interested in nothing more than sleep. Even when they are sleeping, it is such a thrill and priviledge to see them.

Dogs are doing very well here, presumably because Lion and Leopard numbers are lower than in other areas. the authorities are going to great lengths to mainatain a predator / prey relationship that is lower than in many areas. This is a positive for Dogs.

Lastly at Makanyane they had rescued some baby Banded Mongoose. Sala and Carla were mischevious two month olds and Runt was a little two week old male. They had the run of the common areas and would noisily investigate any new sight or sound. Great fun to be around and particularly good if you were missing your own pets. They loved being picked up, mainly so they scramble around your head.

Back for the 36 hour door to door journey.

Next trip July.
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Mar 2nd, 2005, 08:21 AM
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What wonderful sitings. Enjoyed your report. Where will you go in July?

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Mar 2nd, 2005, 10:26 AM
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Back to Mala Mala for 4
Kings Pool 2 - hoping for Wild Dog den in Linyanti area
Mombo 2
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Mar 16th, 2005, 11:38 AM
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napamatt: Your pictures were stunning...thanks for sharing! Also, I wanted to ask which lodge you recommend when staying at Mala Mala. The game viewing looks to be fantastic from your pictures. Thanks in advance for your advice.
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Mar 16th, 2005, 11:48 AM
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Thanks for sharing the trip with us!
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Mar 16th, 2005, 11:51 AM
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Girlpolo33 - Mala Mala currently has two options, main Camp and Sable. Sable is a smaller, more intimate setting at the southern end of Main Camp. i would recommend Main Camp because it is cheaper and the experience is almost as good. Sable does limit vehicles to 4 rather than 6, but the MM vehicle will hold 8 in comfort let alone six, so that is not a big issue. The other difference is that you will feel like you are in a smaller camp. We were in Sable in September 04 as guinea pigs, then went back in February. Our next trip will be to Main Camp in July. The game will be the same whichever option ou choose. Mala Mala is constructing a new camp about 25 minutes south down the river on the site of the old Harry's Camp. I believe this will be more luxurious and therefore more expensive.
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Mar 16th, 2005, 06:44 PM
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napamatt: really enjoyed your pictures.
I assume the leopard pictures were from Mala Mala, but wondering where the cheetah pictures were taken. Were the wild dog photos from Madikwe?
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Mar 16th, 2005, 07:22 PM
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Thanks, Matt. I'm already thinking of South Africa for 2006 and your impressions of Mala Mala will be very helpful. I'll be on horseback safari in Botswana this May. Clearly, I'm hooked on Africa...planning the next trip before taking the one upcoming! : )
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