Trip Report - Mala Mala, Rattrays Jan 2006

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Jan 29th, 2006, 07:45 AM
  #21
johan_belgium
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Matt,

Great report!!! I have never been to Mala Mala and can't wait to go after reading your wonderful stories.

So I'll be at Mala Mala main camp in late May early June 2006 for 6 nights after being in Lebala and Kwara island.

Personally I think the place itself (the scenery - floodplains) makes Duba unbeatable when it comes to lions and buffalos. But you have to be lucky and patient to see some good action. By the way I am wondering what effect the national geographic documentary from Derek and Beverly will have on their bookings.

Greetings,

Johan
 
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Jan 29th, 2006, 08:01 AM
  #22
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For the birders among you, we saw 95 birds before the end of the morning drive. We took a continental breakfast with us, which we enjoyed atop Kapen rocks, a beautiful spot.

At the end of the evening drive we caught a brief glimpse of the Ngoboswan female as she returned to her young. We did hear one call from a very young cub, but they have yet to be sighted.

Next morning we saw a small herd of Elephant drive the Lions off the Buffalo carcass briefly, a great interaction. Took the trip bird total to 169, just 6 short of my 175 target.

Later that morning we transferred to Rattray's, a simple ten minute drive from Main Camp. The welcome was very warm from Pete the manager who I had met at Main Camp last summer, Maretha, Warren our ranger and last but not least Michael, our favorite barman. The camp is simply stunning, in fact the rooms reminded me of Kings Pool, with the addition of a second bathroom.
There was a choice of double indoor shower, bath or outdoor shower. A lovely deck, private plunge pool and wonderful views of the river. Decor was very tasteful and everything had been thought of.

Our first drive led us in the direction of the carcass, but first we got a nice view of a Long Crested Eagle, these are not normally found in the lowveld, preferring the forested foothills, since we always fly in now, this was a real bonus.

By now the Lions had dragged the carcass a good way into some shade, and had consumed a large portion of it. All around us were Lions with bloated stomachs, breathing very fast, satisfied but a little uncomfortable. By now there were about 100 or so Vultures gathered in surrounding trees, mainly Whitebacked with a few Hooded. We headed south to find Leopard, Warren and Collen our tracker spent a lot of time tracking on foot without success. We then had drinks at a beautiful spot in the far south where the river makes its second 90 degree turn. On the drive I passed the 175 target with the 175th bird being a Giant Eagle Owl, two years ago, this had been my 150th bird, amazing conincidence. Still no Stierlings Barred Warbler.

Next morning the carcass was dragged into a donga and two Lions were still feeding. By now the Hooded vultures were becoming quite daring and venturing around the site for scraps, until the big male Lion chased them off. Then we headed south and crossed the river Kirkmans, we saw the two Rollercoaster Males, then got into some very tricky bush trying to catch up with the Selati pride. Warren, who drives a little like a bull in a china shop, then managed to break a tie rod, so we had to wait for relief. In the meantime, a Kirkmans vehicle picked us up, took us to see two Lions feeding on a male Impala, about 20 yards fom where we had broken down.

Later in the day we went back to the carcass, by now the stench was awful! Less Vultures around because the Lions are staying put.

After searching for a reported Duiker kill treed by a Leopard we eventually find the Matshapiri female with her prize. She delighted us by jumping from her sleeping branch to feed on the carcass. On the way home we spent a lot of time trying to identify Nightjars, a fruitless task.

Our last full day and another very hot one. One of our friends had become quite ill, so arrangements were made to take them to see the Doctor in Skukuza, who was very friendly and didn't charge for his time. Meanwhile on the drive, we hooked up with the Lions who had by now left the carcass and were heading toward the river, however they still seemed ready to hunt and got quite close to some Impala. The action at the carcass was now negligible, the ribs had been picked clean and all that remained were a few Hyena's chomping assorted leg bones.

That evening saw us up follwoing up on Leopard tracks, of course we never found a Leopard, but did see a Gabar Goshawk, so that was good. Eventually we went to the golf course area near Kirkmans and saw the Beaumonts Male with a treed Impala. He is also called Tumbela at Lion Sands.

Our last day arrives and we realize that eight days may not be enough for us at Mala Mala. Our friend Peter needs 1 bird for 175 and we eventually see a Speckled Mousebird.

We follow up a report of Lions mating infrequently near Mlowathi. Rnagers often leave a branch on the road to indicate where you should head off road to a sighting. In this case a sleeping male Lion (Split Rock) indicated where his partner was having his way with one of the Styx pride. We actually waited over thirty minutes without action before we were joined by the other Rattrays vehicle. A bunch of first timers, they managed to sit for five minutes before announcing they were bored and wanted to move on. Of course there was hot Lion sex about two minutes later

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Jan 29th, 2006, 08:08 AM
  #23
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Johan

I'm sure you will love Mala Mala, just let them know you are an experienced safari goer and ask for a seasoned ranger, Leon is best if available.
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Jan 29th, 2006, 08:21 AM
  #24
johan_belgium
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Matt,

Thanks for your advice.

Although it will be difficult to beat 2005, I am gonna give it a try ... with Mala Mala, Lebala (2), Kwara, Duba Plains,Palmwag rhino camp, Wolvedans and Skeleton coast.

Greetings,

Johan

Greetings,

Johan
 
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Jan 29th, 2006, 08:36 AM
  #25
 
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Napamatt,
Thanks for the action packed report. From a giraffe parade to the lions killing the buffalo, it was quite a successful trip. Glad the birding went well too.

Would you mind sending the Mala Mala rate info from Eyes on Africa to me too? I am considering using them for a 2007 SA trip. Thank you!

Lynn
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Jan 29th, 2006, 09:10 AM
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napamatt: Thanks for sharing such a wonderful trip report! Your descriptions transported me back to the Sabi Sand. I've been to Londo and Singita, but your enthusiasm for Mala Mala makes me want to include it in a future safari. I hope you can get some of your video posted on the web!
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Jan 30th, 2006, 07:59 AM
  #27
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Just a quick point of clarification. I didn't say that Nicky gets me higly discounted rates at Mala Mala. That is a misunderstanding that I want to put to rest right now. I do receive slightly favourable terms becuase I travel twice a year to Africa booking through the same agent each time. Furthermore now I have the relationship, I no longer shop around, Nicky always puts together great itineraries at a fair price.
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Jan 30th, 2006, 08:03 AM
  #28
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Actually the biggest benefits I get at Mala Mala as a regular visitor is that I often get upgraded and when the Rattrays are in camp they invite us to dinner and are most generous hosts.

Hope this helps clarify the situation.
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Jan 30th, 2006, 11:39 AM
  #29
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After the Lions, our final high point of the trip was a nice sighting of the White Cloth female patrolling her territory. She very obligingly climbed a tree and posed for photos. We had seen her in the company of her mother and sister when she was six months old on our very first game drive, and here we were 12 years and 109 drives later. It has to be said, shes aged better than me.

This was a great trip we saw so many great interactions, 9 different Leopard, 26 Lion and 185 bird species. We picked up our last bird a Little Sparrowhawk in a tree next to Rattrays while waiting to leave.

A big thanks to the Rattrays team for taking such good care of our sick friend. They decided to stay on extra day and the staff helped change various airline and hotel bookings without a moment's hesitation.

Now I have to figure out our dates for next January, back to Mala Mala and Rattrays, yes we really liked it that much.

Next trip, the Delta in June, just need the latest corporate re-org to be kind to me, and I might be able to afford it all.

Hope you enjoyed a glimpse of Mala Mala.
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Jan 30th, 2006, 11:40 AM
  #30
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P.S. photos and video to follow.
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Jan 30th, 2006, 11:54 AM
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Thanks for the trip report. I have been to the Sabi Sands once, and I usually don't like to repeat, but based on your review, if I do return, I think it would be to stay at Mala Mala purely based on the size of the property and game viewing.

But, unlike you, I only get to Africa for safari once a year, at the most, since there are so many other places I want to visit (like Honduras in February and St. Petersburg, Russia in May), and I'm committed for 2006 (Hluhluwe and Kgalagadi) and I'm considering Gabon in 2007, so no chance I'll get to Sabi Sands before 2008.
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Jan 30th, 2006, 12:21 PM
  #32
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Michael

We too have many other places we'd like to visit, but none are calling us like Africa, so we wkeep going back. It would be much cheaper if we wanted to go elsewhere, but we don't right now. Hope you do get to Sabi Sands.
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Jan 30th, 2006, 12:40 PM
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I know. Even though I have tried to reduce my Africa visits, I still made two separate trips in 2005 (Madagascar in May and Tunisia in December), and I'll be in South Africa and Lesotho in July 2006. Even though I'm trying to limit my visits, I am in the very, very early stages of planning a trip for December 2006 (and I've been playing with a trip to visit a national park in northern Cameroon on the Central Africa Republic/Cameroon border, but I'm not sure about logistics/safety/expense, so I'd say that trip is unlikely, but not out of the question).


Michael
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Jan 30th, 2006, 04:12 PM
  #34
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One last piece of excitement to report.
Richard Branson was on our flight back to London, very nice guy, had a quick couple of minutes somewhere over North Africa. Only comment, for a billionaire, he's a bit of a scruff.
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Jan 30th, 2006, 09:32 PM
  #35
 
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Thanks for the wonderful report. Great stories, and the discussion about lion cubs makes me wonder, once again, how guides maintain that lions "don't see individuals in the vehicle (unless they stand up) they only see one big vehicle." I say poppycock! When a lion meets your eyes this way, I just cannot believe that they think we are part of the car. After call, my housecats seem to have figured this out, I doubt we are really fooling the big cats.

Interesting about Rattray's too. Is Kirkman's still there? I heard it was, but that they no longer have the same traversing rights as MM. True?
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Jan 31st, 2006, 06:33 AM
  #36
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Kirkmans is now owned by Exeter. they purchased Toulon from Mala Mala, the southernmost portion of the old Mala Mala property, though Mala Mala maintains traversing rights. I think Kirkmans may have traversing rights over Charleston but I'm not sure. I would certainly recommend Kirkmans for those not able to spring for Mala Mala.
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Jan 31st, 2006, 06:42 AM
  #37
 
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Napamatt, are there maps of Mala Mala that show the subdivisions -- Toulon, Charleston, for example. I would have thought they would have strived to enlarge their property, but I guess its very expensive to maintain, hence the sale of Kirkmans to Exeter.
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Jan 31st, 2006, 10:09 AM
  #38
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Property size is an interesting question. I believe you can have too much property to work it consistently. With Main Camp being in the north, not that many vehicles would ever venture too far south and so the south would not get quite the coverage needed to keep up with whats going on there. It made sense for Mala Mala to sell Kirkmans because its distance from Main Camp made logistics quite a challenge. In past years Mala Mala also sold a little traversed piece of Marthly to Londolozi.

As for a map showing boundaries I am not aware of one. I have a sense of boundaries from geographical features on the small map provided as part of the check list.

A trainee ranger joined us for some of our drives and we tried to get a copy of his road map for the property, but he was too big to beat up and we couldn't afford the R5000 bribe he required.
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