Sandwiched between the Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sand Reserve – sharing unfenced boundaries to boot, MalaMala Game Reserve is not only one of the largest and oldest private Big 5 game reserves in South Africa. But it is also renowned for the greatest diversification of wildlife species on the African continent.
Established and exclusive, MalaMala Game Reserve sets the benchmark for the luxury safari industry in Southern Africa. Visitors here will truly feel like they have their own private slice of safari paradise. Together with the "MalaMala Seven", namely the rhino, elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion, cheetah, and African wild dog, MalaMala Game Reserve plays host to some of the most elite lodges and exciting wildlife experiences this side of the equator.
There is no time limit on safaris and no “queue-to-view” on this immense tract of terrain. You can look forward to exclusive and uninterrupted game drives on 13,300-hectares of pristine wilderness comprising riverine thicket, open savannah, and – the lifeblood of this land – the mighty Sand River.
Stretching from north to south through the reserve for 20 kilometres, the mighty Sand River attracts animals in abundance that migrate unhindered from the Kruger National Park. Wildlife succumbs to the seduction of this perennial waterway, along which many of the lodges are built, and this magnetic-like pull proves to be the prosperity of Mala Mala’s unrivalled game viewing and wildlife experiences.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting MalaMala Game Reserve
There are a few ways to get to MalaMala, each with different costs and conveniences to consider. The most convenient way is to take one of the daily flights between Johannesburg's Airport and MalaMala's private airstrip. The flight should take you only about 90 minutes, whereafter you will reach the camps after a quick ten-minute drive. Please note, however, that luggage is limited to 20kg on these flights.
Alternatively, you can touchdown at Skukuza Airport. From here, you can take a road transfer or "lodge hop" light aircraft to your end destination. Commercial flights from Johannesburg generally take one hour, whereas flying from Durban takes an hour and a half, and Cape Town is just over two hours away. From Skukuza Airport is a one-hour road transfer from MalaMala Game Reserve.
For those with a will of their own and more time on their hands, self-driving to the Greater Kruger is a very feasible and enjoyable option. MalaMala is roughly a six-hour drive from Johannesburg. You can also rest assured that the road is tarred, well-maintained and that you will find more than enough clean service stations on your way there.
There are multiple ultra-luxurious private game reserves in Kruger National Park, including the Sabi Sand, Timbavati, Manyeleti, Thornybush and MalaMala Game Reserves. Each is home to a number of secluded lodges, offering their own experiences and accommodation options.
At MalaMala Game Reserve, you have the opportunity to go off-road to get a closer look at the animals, go on night safaris, bushwalks, and have an uncrowded experience.
When staying at a public park, you have to stay on the designated main roads, can only safari during set hours, and have to share the experience with a convoy of other safari vehicles.
Because it's located in the Kruger region, MalaMala Game Reserve is a year-round destination. However, it does remain seasonal. Here is what you can expect throughout the year.
November to December: It's summer in the bush, so you can expect hot, humid weather conditions with afternoon thunderstorms. There are generally lots of newborn animals making their debut during this time.
January to March: Your drier months, you can expect very hot weather conditions. This is also a great time for birders as the beautiful migratory birds pay their annual visit. Game drives are generally scheduled for very early morning when it's cooler.
April: During this autumn month, the bush becomes more sparse, and temperatures start cooling down a bit, especially at night. Some thunderstorms can still be expected in the afternoons.
May to June: With winter's arrival, temperatures are cold, especially at night. You should therefore pack plenty of warm clothes. The bush is sparse, offering excellent game viewing opportunities. The elephant herds are very mobile during this time.
July to September: It's very dry in the bush with icy temperatures at night as well as early morning. Visibility is good for game drives, and the animals are usually congregating around water sources.
September to October: Spring has arrived, also known as the dry season. You can expect hot, dry winds and sparse landscapes. Water sources are low and limited, so animals tend to gather where they can find a sip, so you get good game viewing opportunities. The first bit of rain starts to fall towards the end of October.
Here is a rough idea of what you can expect on a MalaMala safari. Please note that this differs depending on where you stay.
05:00: Wake up to get your day started!
05:30: Coffee with your ranger and tracker before going on safari, most often on an open 4x4 vehicle.
09:30: Start heading back to the lodge for a scrumptious breakfast.
11:00: Depending on where you are staying at what time of the year, you can often embark on a bushwalk with an armed tracker. This gives you a chance to appreciate the smaller wonders of the bush.
13:00: Enjoy your lunch and unwind.
16:00: Meet for your afternoon game drive.
16:30: Your evening game drive promises different sightings than the morning, with nocturnal animals coming out to play.
18:00: Watch the incredible sunset while you drink a G&T.
18:30: Using a spotlight, take a peek into the lives of your nocturnal creatures.
19:30: Return and freshen up for dinner.
20:00: Feast on dinner while your ranger tells you stories around the campfire.
Unfortunately not. We are not doctors, so please note that you should always speak to your doctor about malaria prevention before travelling. However, on that note, it is entirely possible to have a safe, malaria-free holiday in Africa by using prophylactic drugs.
Tip 1: Repel the Mosquitoes
The female mosquito responsible for transmitting malaria is a silent mossy, so you will have to ensure you repel them. They can strike at any time of day but are most active at dusk as well as dawn. Always wear repellent as well as long-sleeved shirts and long trousers in the evenings and mornings. Please note that clothes alone won't protect you, as they can bite through the material. Most of our lodges will have screened windows and doors, air conditioning systems, and mosquito nets to further protect you.
Tip 2: ALWAYS Take Anti-Malaria Tablets
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself against malaria is taking Prophylactic tablets. Please note that you have to speak to your doctor before taking these tablets to ensure that you take the right one, as well as the correct dosage when entering the malaria area.
Tip 3: Keep an Eye Out for Symptoms and Finish Your Course of Meds
If you start to notice any flu-like symptoms, you must get a malaria test to be safe and catch it early because malaria reacts well to early treatment. Also, don't stop taking your meds until the course is complete!
The highlight of any safari in the Greater Kruger National Park is exploring the bush and the wildlife by enjoying a game drive or bush walk. It's an incredible experience to see amazing wildlife in their natural habitat, but we do urge you to take note of the guidelines below that will assist in ensuring the long-term survival of South Africa's beloved Kruger National Park.
Please respect your surroundings and the wildlife by following these guidelines:
- Take back photographs and memories only! Do not remove natural objects (rocks, flowers, plants, etc.) from the Kruger Park or any of the reserves. It disrupts the ecology of the area.
- Do not try to attract the animals’ attention by imitating their sounds, clapping, throwing objects or any other means.
- Never tease or corner wild animals. This may cause an unpredictable response and a potentially dangerous reaction.
- The vegetation in Kruger Park is very sensitive, and off-road driving causes erosion. Only go off-road with a ranger and never on your own.
- Remember that you are a visitor to the animals’ natural habitat, so observe the animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking on game drives will frighten the animals away.
- Don’t litter! Besides being distasteful, litter thrown on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds.
- The African bush is very dry, ignites easily, and fires can kill many animals. So PLEASE abstain from smoking on game drives.
- Respect your driver/guide’s judgment about your proximity to certain wild animals. Don’t insist that they take the vehicle closer so you can get a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a well-deserved meal.
- Always follow your guide’s advice – they are the experts! Don’t be afraid to ask them questions if you are unsure of anything.
- Never attempt to approach a wild animal on foot, especially near your lodge or campsite where the animals have become accustomed to humans.
Game drives are an exhilarating experience! Whether you are up with the birds before sunrise to view the bushveld’s early risers or tracking the nocturnal animals with spotlights at night, safari game drives in the African bush are an experience of a lifetime.
Private game reserves along the western border of the Kruger National Park like MalaMala offer the best game viewing experience. There is no fencing between Kruger and the reserves so that animals can roam freely between them. Game viewing in Kruger Park and neighbouring reserves is essentially the same, but there are some differences in the type of game drive you will experience.
The main difference between Kruger and the private reserves is that only closed vehicles are permitted in Kruger Park, whereas the private reserves offer open vehicle game drives. The advantage of open vehicles is that you get better views and feel a great deal closer to the bush and the experience. The ranger and tracker who accompany you on excursions in the private reserves are also in contact with other vehicles on game drives which significantly increases your chances of finding the animals you most want to see.
Off-road driving is forbidden in the Kruger, and night drives may only be conducted by park rangers in large park vehicles. In contrast, the private reserves offer night drives every evening. They may also leave the roads to follow animals into the bush and provide better opportunities to witness animal behaviour and interactions.
No matter where you are in the area, however, the scenery in the Kruger National Park is wild, unspoiled and breathtakingly beautiful. Heading off into wild Africa in a safari vehicle where there are no fences or man-made structures, you have the unique opportunity of enjoying Africa just as you had imagined it. Wide-open plains are alive with game and watering holes teeming with birdlife, herds of elephant and buffalo. You might get close to a pack of lions, watch giraffes grazing on treetops or see a cheetah on the hunt. Leopards are more elusive characters but can be seen frequently in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, adjacent to the Kruger National Park.
Your game drives will focus on the animals whose movement is determined by the season and the rainfall. Most South African safari lodges have a ranger and tracker accompanying all game drives. They are well trained and knowledgeable and can offer great insight into the various ecosystems found in the Kruger National Park. Having the trained eye of a tracker on board increases your chances of seeing something special and exciting.
On safari, each day is different. You could be silently watching elephants drink and bath one day, and the next day you could be following a wild dog hunt off-road. Whatever you encounter is sure to be a unique experience, and your guides and trackers will willingly answer all of your questions. Sundowners are an old safari tradition, and most game drives will pause at sunset for a cocktail and a quiet moment to listen to the shrill sounds of the bushveld.
Many game drives are on open vehicles, so you should remember to take sunscreen and a hat during the day (all year round), and in winter, you will need warm clothing in the evenings (May to August). The Kruger National Park is one of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuaries. Morning and evening game drives offer spectacular sights, sounds, and observations of flora and fauna that form part of the vast ancient African ecology network.