To the iconic MalaMala Game Reserve, for the ultimate African Safari—including multiple sightings of The Big Five

MalaMala Game Reserve is in the Top Three African Safaris. If you want the supreme safari experience, this is it—an African independent private game reserve bordering Kruger National Park without fences, and with some of the easiest, highest quality sightings of the Big Five available throughout the continent. This is untamed Africa as it was meant to be, thanks to half a century of dedicated commitment to conservation by the renowned, far-sighted Rattray family and their successors.

MalaMala Game Reserve sets the benchmark for sustainable eco-tourism and its reputation around the world for legendary game experiences is testament to that. Guests can hardly believe the number of sightings of the famed ‘Big Five’ safari animals, even within the first two days, leaving time still to soak in the details of the African bush, to stand in awe of a blazing sunset, and to capture the beauty of a lilac-breasted roller shimmering in the sun.

‘Not even Tanzania’s famed Serengeti Game Reserve or the awesome Ngorongoro Crater fills your camera viewfinder faster with Africa’s legendary Big Five—at MalaMala, lion, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros and elephant appear magically,’ says acclaimed wildlife photojournalist Geoff Dalglish in his Sunday Times review. ‘Nor could Hollywood script the wide-screen wildlife encounters any more dramatically or frequently than Nature does routinely in the private game reserve that is arguably South Africa’s most famous internationally.’

It’s partly about location. The lowveld has the greatest diversity of animal species on the African continent and MalaMala, South Africa’s largest private ‘Big Five’ reserve, is right in the heart of it. The MalaMala Game Reserve enjoys an enviable position as it straddles the world-renowned Sand River and lies strategically sandwiched between the Sabi Sands to the west and the famous Kruger National Park to the east. MalaMala shares a 12-mile unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park, allowing game to roam freely in the region.

MalaMala also offers the ultimate exclusivity. It comprises a massive 33,000 acres of pristine wilderness explored by guests of the three MalaMala camps—this really is your own slice of the African bush. There is never a ‘queue to view’ for any sighting on the reserve. A maximum of three vehicles at a time is allowed at a sighting and, unlike in the public Kruger park, vehicles can also go off-road. This can hugely improve sightings—you may see a lioness from just feet away, witness a buffalo giving birth, come across a leopard lying on a tree above your head, a pride of lions going about their business, a herd of elephants up close, or another leopard in the fork of a tree as a huge yellow moon rises above her head . . . the experiences are life-enhancing—and currently they include a pink elephant, literally—a baby, spotted last month and filmed for the wider world to see.

Speaking of filming, MalaMala is the chosen setting for the current National Geographic TV documentary ‘Africa’s Deadly Kingdom’. MalaMala is an icon of Africa: it is also traditional, elegant and luxurious. Whilst the Rattray family have retired, the well-trained management team still manage the reserve with the same spirit of excellence that has been the hallmark of MalaMala for 50 years. Simply sublime or lap of luxury? It’s both. MalaMala offers the choice of three distinctly different safari camps. All take advantage of stunning views over the Sand River. MalaMala Camp and MalaMala Sable Camp offer all the comforts discerning guests might expect, with a relaxed atmosphere. Both camps were completely ‘re-imagined’ in 2018 with care to maintain the distinctly African character their many repeat guests love so much—while at the same time introducing a more contemporary edge. And then there is Rattray’s.

Tucked away in a forest of green on the banks of Sand River lies a special place at the heart of it all: Mala Mala Rattray’s Camp. It is like walking into the film-set of ‘Out of Africa’. The walls are lined with wildlife—prints, paintings and portraits where once hunting trophies hung. This is the setting chosen by Vogue for its safari fashion shoot: the perfect colonial setting, oozing style and safari cool. Eight spacious and luxurious khayas (Zulu for ‘home’), offering lush seclusion and spectacular views of the Sand River, where you can view wildlife while ytaking a dip in the private plunge pool, cooling off in the outdoor shower, or enjoying a massage on the deck. Only four guests from Rattray’s are accommodated per safari vehicle to ensure that you have the best experience, the ultimate luxury safari destination. To stay at Rattray’s is to step back in time, to live the luxury colonial African life. A columned porch leads to an open single-storey villa with a long verandah, a library, and a bar filled with historic objects including the MalaMala 1920s-1950s hunting log: a veritable Who’s Who of the era.

As to the food, from sundowners in the bush to three-course meals and refreshments on request, food and drink are liberal, and delicious African-European in style. Dinner is often taken on the veranda under the African night, or in the boma—an atmospheric traditional round-fenced enclosure with an open fire, where the meal is served beneath a sausage tree festooned by bush babies. And bush breakfast after an early game drive is a real treat, with eggs, sausages and bacon cooked over an open fire by the rangers—whose experience and knowledge of the wildlife is second only to their ability to cook up an outdoor feast. Truly, to visit MalaMala is to experience the wild heart and home of Africa. Once you have been here, you will dream of a return.

¶ MalaMala is renowned for not offering discounted rates—but exclusively CountryClubuk Members are invited at special rates including internal flights, year round. Thus a three-night stay at the iconic MalaMala Game Reserve, including all Big Five safari activities, meals and drinks as well as return flights on Federal Air from Johannesburg direct to the MalaMala airstrip, is from just £2,053 per person for three nights (two sharing). Your saving is around £1,150 per couple. This rate includes a complimentary upgrade at MalaMala Camp to Suite accommodation, MalaMala Sable Camp or MalaMala Rattray’s Camp, subject to availability on check-in at the camp. It excludes international flights to Johannesburg and any extensions Members wish to make (for instance, you can take the Blue Train to MalaMala). Valid from now until December 31, 2019, subject to availability.