The Trip of a Lifetime – Mala Mala Private Game Reserve, the Big 5 & more
2018 was the year of travel as I was given the chance to see so much of South Africa. From visiting sweeping mountains of the Limpopo timber district and farmlands to the breathtaking heights of the Mpumalanga Panorama Route. The year ended off with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Mala Mala Private Game Reserve.
It is truly something special, to be able to see animals living their lives out in the wilds. There is no greater sense of satisfaction than seeing a lioness provide for her pride or watching elephants graze along their journey. The heart fills with joy knowing that these animals are living how they are meant to and not caged or used for entertainment.
The trip to Mala was a gift from my boyfriend’s brother. As a ranger there, he is allocated a few days a year to offer family and friends a chance to see what the job is all about. Without hesitation, we agreed to a luxurious 2-night stay in one of the Mala Mala Sable Camp suites.
The drive from Johannesburg is a long one, around 6-hours without stops but naturally, one needs to stop along the way. We made use of a few places along the way including the Alzu Petrol station that is home to quite a few rhinos. They can be seen from the highway but it is worth a stop to look out across the plains while having a quick loo break or a bite to eat.
To get to Mala Mala, you need to head towards the Newington Gate which is close to Lillydale. From the gate, you are officially inside and can see animals at any moment. The first sighting we had as we drove towards Mala Mala was of an impala nursery. There were a handful of little calves all taking shelter in the shade underneath the trees.
Once we reached the camp, we were greeted by Obe, who had ice-cold drinks and cool towels ready for us to cool off. When we arrived it was a solid 36-degrees outside. She signed us in and gave us a little tour of the common area where we would be having breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.
We were then taken to our room which was a luxurious suite. You can click through the gallery below to see some of the highlights of the room.
Once we were settled in we went down the restaurant for lunch which was a buffet selection of salads, cold meats and a warm meal. We filled our personalised water bottles and placed our drinks order for sundowners and then set off for our first game drive.
Within 5 minutes of being on the drive, we saw a large male leopard. We went on a total of 4 game drives during our stay and managed to spot each of the big 5 plus wild dog and a selection of other predators and buck.
Because it was my first experience seeing the incredible big 5, I was pretty much in tears the entire time we were there. I had told my boyfriend that if I saw an elephant calf, I would cry but I was only kidding myself! It is an incredible thing to see wild animals out in the wild where they belong.
Take a look at some of the beautiful animals we spotted on our drives in the gallery below.
Lastly, the common spaces at the Sable camp are exquisite. They are beautifully curated with African style pieces and skulls collected from the reserve. From the bar to the library and the infinity pool that looks straight out over the Sand River, everything was just stunning and peaceful.
The entire camp is open so wildlife can wander over at any moment. While we were eating dinner on our first night, a clan of Hyena ran across the grass below the deck where we were sitting. On the second night, a Genet climbed up the deck right where we were sitting, I was terrified when the bushes started russeling and flooded with relief to see the tiny animal and not a Leopard. Once snuggled in bed, we fell asleep to the cackle of Hyena.
You can see some of the snaps I took of the common areas in the gallery below.
The entire experience was a trip of a lifetime! Something that one needs to experience for themselves. As we left the game reserve we encountered a young elephant bull who had wandered into camp. Our final encounter was the most breathtaking of all. Just before the Sabie Sabie turn off a huge elephant bull crossed the road so we had to stop in our tracks.
He had one tusk and was much bigger than our car. He splashed around in the mud hole right there so we waited for him to walk off before we drove passed. He took his sweet time and before he set off on the way he made sure to remind us who the boss of the bush was. I have never seen my boyfriend reverse so fast in his life as this giant animal walked towards us, trunk lifted in the air, most likely giving us a good toot.
The next goal is to do a self-drive through Kruger National Park and camp out in a little less style. What is your travel goal for the year?
With My Love,