MalaMala has become something of a byword when it comes to luxury game lodges. It has set many standards in that respect, and few can beat its Big Five wildlife sightings, thanks in part to a long, unfenced border with the Kruger National Park.

Did you know?

Even when at full capacity, MalaMala offers hundreds of hectares of wilderness per guest.

MalaMala Game Reserve is writ large in the conservation history of South Africa. It is one of the clearest examples of the successful switch from hunting to photographic safaris.

The first portents were recorded in 1960, when then-owner Wac Campbell noted that of the 130 visitors during the year, half had been women and children. From 1927 until then, MalaMala had been something of a rough, huntin’, shootin’, manly kind of place.

When Campbell died in 1962, the land passed to his son, and from then until now not a solitary animal has been hunted. The only pursuit has been in the cause of fabulous wildlife sightings and photography.

MalaMala was bought in 1964 by the Rattray family, who had been neighbours since 1937, and the reserve has never looked back. It was one of the first to offer luxury game lodge accommodation, although what was luxury then (his and hers basins) has now morphed into something else entirely.

MalaMala has continued to set the benchmark in many ways. Owners Michael and Norma Rattray are passionate about this wildlife haven, so although fine linen, comfort and good food are very important, the conservation of the wilderness and its animals remains their top priority.

This wild Eden sprawls over 13 500ha and has a 12km-long unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. Its human infrastructure is kept to a minimum. For this and other reasons (including the Sand River and the diversity of the landscape), MalaMala offers a surer chance of seeing the Big Five than most other reserves.

In fact, the rangers record the days in a year when the Big Five are NOT seen. There are no other vehicles allowed on the property, other than MalaMala’s, so you can stay as long as you like at a sighting.

Not surprisingly, MalaMala has been featured in many books and wildlife documentaries.

For many visitors who return year after year, MalaMala remains the ultimate wilderness destination.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

MalaMala bookings and enquiries
Tel: +27 (0)11 442 2267
Email: reservations@malamala.com

How to get here

By far the most convenient way to get here is by air. There are two daily flights to MalaMala’s airfield from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

The drive from Johannesburg takes between about five to six 6 hours. Take the N4 to Mbombela (Nelspruit), then the R40 to Hazyview. From there it’s less than 40km to the MalaMala gate.

Get around

Once at the reserve, you will be transported in 4x4 game-viewing vehicles. You could also opt for the after-breakfast bush walk.

What will it cost

This is a premium wildlife destination, and is among the more expensive in South Africa. Check with the lodge for current prices. The price will include all meals, accommodation and game drives.

Length of stay

MalaMala boasts that 99% of its visitors who stay two nights see all of the Big Five and more (you might also see other fascinating animals like cheetahs, wild dogs and civets).

What to pack

Don’t forget your binoculars and cameras. Depending on the season, bring warm clothes. Although winter (May to August) is temperate, temperatures can plunge at night.

Where to stay

MalaMala has three camps – Main Camp (which also accommodates children), Sable Camp, and the splendid Rattrays on MalaMala, replete with crystal, leather and the elegance of a bygone era.

What to eat

The scrumptious food is home-cooked and uses natural produce

What's happening

It’s not all about wildlife. You can relax next to the pool or work out in the gym, if you’d like. At Rattrays on MalaMala, you can also enjoy a massage.

Best buys

Have a look at the safari boutique for gift ideas.