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Mala Mala Minute by Minute


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It’s not really minute-by-minute but I did keep track of our sightings in 5-minute increments and eventually I get to that after some ramblings and musings.


Mala Mala in the Sabi Sands has a reputation for legendary game viewing, so I thought I’d quantify my experience over 4 days to offer something more specific than just superlatives and names of animals that make up the Big 5.


At first I was reluctant to post my reports on this forum, reasoning that people posting here were such hard core naturalists and conservationists that they would build a nest of leaves each night like the chimps and dig up roots for meals. I thought a report that mentions Mala Mala’s rondavels, its exercise room, and brie on the lunchtime cheese board might be out of place on Safarinet. Once I read the variety of reports, I was convinced to throw my first contribution up here as well. And I hope it won't be the last.


Mala Mala Main camp: June 23-26, 2007 for 4 nights


Ranger: Bruce. If you go you must get Bruce! Bruce is the Best. I am sure his skills are representative of every Mala Mala ranger and any one of them would provide an excellent experience. That’s good because I’ve recently learned that Bruce is no longer there.


Tracker: John. He is the senior tracker and wowed us continually. I want John scanning the horizon from the high seat in my vehicle. The John & Bruce combo is unbeatable. I’m sure in the interim John has teamed up with someone else for an unbeatable combo.


Room: 11. This room probably does not have the most open views of the area surrounding the lodge. I did not request any particular room and spent very little time inside looking out. The room itself was lovely. I did appreciate that there was no single supplement.


TA: Eyes on Africa

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Some comments I’ve heard, read or picked up from who knows where and what I discovered for myself after a first visit to Mala Mala:


1. “The Sabi Sands is not the real, wild Africa”—if it’s wild enough for the wild dogs to den, it is wild enough for me. As the plane circled above the airstrip I was pleased to see no buildings, no golden arches, etc.




2. “Sabi Sands/Kruger is Africa-lite”— I did see more smart, khaki and olive safari ensembles at Mala Mala than anywhere I’ve ever been. I’m talking 10-member families in crisp, coordinated safari uniforms. I agree that has a “lite,” even comical element to it. But I observed those fashions at lunch and not on parade in the bush frightening the animals, so it had no impact my game viewing enjoyment, and who knows what these finely attired families thought about my safari duds.


There was a phone in the room and that’s how we received our wakeup call from our ranger. And there was a fridge. Mala Mala was the first Africa accommodation that I ever had the ability to heat (or AC), but it’s also the furthest south and coldest spot I’ve stayed. Lite, dark, heavy, whatever you want to call it, my days at Mala Mala provided me my required “Africa fix” and then some.


3. “It’s all so managed.”—The lodging, food, vehicles, customer service are very well managed at Mala Mala and offer a highly effective model for any operation. In the concession, it’s like being on safari anywhere that allows only 3 vehicles per sighting and requires rangers to take turns. The wild dog den was further managed in that only one vehicle was allowed for about 20 minutes. To me that’s wise management of the resources.


Of course, I realize the whole Kruger-Sabi Sands area is managed by professionals. There is the controversy over elephant culling, there are controlled burns, sometimes wild dogs or other species are relocated. But unlike some places that are considered more wild and remote, there is no artificial water source at Mala Mala to attract animals.


4. “The rangers are always talking on their radio and racing around from sight to sight.”—The talking was almost inaudible and incoming messages were delivered through earphones. There was frequent communication in Zulu between ranger and tracker. Tracker John usually initiated the exchange with a whistle. It was always exciting to hear that whistle because we knew John had a surprise for us. If you request racing around, you’ll probably get it. Those in my vehicle requested staying put on many occasions and that’s what we got.


5. “Tarred roads”—Maybe I got that from pictures of Kruger. No tar to be found. There was one bridge.


6. “Along the boundaries you may encounter vehicles from neighboring concessions peering into Mala Mala’s property to get a glimpse of good sightings.”—Never saw a vehicle from anywhere else. Mala Mala has traversing rights into Kirkman’s and we saw their vehicles when we went down there. But it was still 3 vehicles max to a sighting.


7. “If you are at Main Camp, it’s pretty much like a hotel and you lose the bush atmosphere of animals in and around camp.”—I saw no animals roaming between the rondavels, but we saw herds of buffalo and elephant at the water in front of the lodge as we had lunch and tea. Plus we had some Fish Eagle action. At the entrance gate I watched vervets, bushbuck, and nyala. I heard lions roaring a few times at night from within the solid walls of my room.


8. “Tired rooms.”—I do not subscribe to Architectural Digest, so my observations may lack integrity. I couldn’t tell that the room contained tired décor, but at the end of the day it always contained one tired (and happy) occupant. My room was great and very comfortable with a patio. It had the standard Mala Mala his and hers bathrooms. I limited myself to the one that I labeled as “hers.” So maybe all the tiredness was contained in the “his” bathroom. I actually thought about that while I was there and just kept the door of the “his” bathroom shut so if that’s where the tiredness was hiding, it would remain put and not escape.


10. “There’s too much emphasis on the Big 5.” The emphasis came from the visitors. I heard far more Big 5 talk and comments like “we just need to see the lions and we’ll have the Big 5 today” from guests than the ranger. I experienced our ranger, Bruce, trying to get us quality sightings and not counting to 5 every outing. But this topic was more prevalent at Mala Mala than other places I’ve been.


11. “The Sabi Sands’ has animals, but the terrain/environment is nothing like (fill in the blank.)”—It is not vast endless savanna with humungous herds like the Serengeti or the Maasai Mara. But there are open areas in the north of Mala Mala where cheetah can be found. It is not the brilliant blue and green vistas of the Okavango Delta, but the area near the river offers a more lush habitat. It also does not have the expansive salt pans of the Kalahari, the rainforests of Uganda and Rwanda, or a giant waterfall like Zambia or Zimbabwe. No collapsed volcanic craters like Ngorongoro and not a towering sand dune to be found. No penguins either—they live near Cape Town. Mala Mala is located in an area of primarily scrubby bushveld that alternates thicket with open areas. It is appealing to many animal species and that makes it appealing to me.


12. “After Mala Mala, nowhere else can compare.”—I now understand why so many people enjoy lengthy and repeated stays at Mala Mala. I can see making a repeat visit or two myself. But, I have not cancelled my plans for a walking safari in Zambia. And if I want vast endless savanna with humungous herds, the brilliant blues and greens of the Okavango, salt pans, rainforests, waterfalls, craters, sand dunes, or penguins I need to expand my visits beyond Mala Mala.

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For me safari means being close to nature, 24 hours a day, not just on game drives or walks. It also means simplicity and not perfection - a holiday from all the comfort, gadgets and well-managed things at home. I don't want to see phones, fridges, AC, room safes, internet access or even TV sets - or guides with ear plugs. I like it if things are not so well-managed, if the vehicle has a breakdown, if the beer doesn't have the 'right' temperature - in short, if one has to improvise, "Let's make a plan."


If looking at the MalaMala camps entry page (www.malamala.com/camps.htm) it looks like bush hotel to me - exactly what I don't want to see during my safaris.

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It took me forever to get to Mala Mala because I thought I wouldn't like it either. But I was pleasantly surprised. I did not go with the same expectations I would take for a caneoing safari in Zambia or a mobile walking safari in Zimbabwe or a birdwatching jaunt out my back door. I might have been disappointed if I was expecting something that Mala Mala obviously does not deliver.


As for the beer, I don't know if it was the right temperature or not as I can only afford to drink the beverages that are offered for free. But the water was just fine--temperture, taste, everything about it.


You need read no further on this one Nyama. I'll catch you on some other threads.

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Atravelynn - I know quite well what I want and what to expect. You certainly will never find me at MalaMala or any camp with similar permanent structures, or those nice Botswanan camps with wooden walkways - in those camps I feel like being in a prison.


Of course, chances are good that you'll meet me at places such as Kutandala.

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Nyama, I was thinking of people like you when I made this comment at the start of the thread...


At first I was reluctant to post my reports on this forum, reasoning that people posting here were such hard core naturalists and conservationists that they would build a nest of leaves each night like the chimps and dig up roots for meals. I thought a report that mentions Mala Mala’s rondavels, its exercise room, and brie on the lunchtime cheese board might be out of place on Safarinet. Once I read the variety of reports, I was convinced to throw my first contribution up here as well. And I hope it won't be the last.


So I'll look for you at Kutandala and maybe up in the trees in Mahale or Kibale.

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Atravelynn - I have to apologize for having overtaken your thread in such a way. I've removed the content of my original post here along with those pictures. After reading your posts the next morning I realized that I interpreted some of your lines in a wrong way. Not meant as an excuse, but maybe helpful to avoid such situations in the future - English is not my first language and sometimes it needs a more direct speech that I get it right. I will no longer disturb your thread.

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Atravelynn, I'm just happy to be in Africa and with my next trip being South Africa and a self drive through Kruger - there will be no nesting or root eating here... admittedly in Tanzania we drank water taken from streams and made friends with Cape buffalo and hyenas in the night. However this time we're taking my eldest daughter and so must temper that desire for being in the middle of nowhere.


I look forward to reading what Mala Mala offers, as it will be as close as I will ever be likely to get with my limited finances...

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Thanks for posting over here Lynn! Enjoy reading others opinions of camps as everyone has their own experiences and observations.

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Does this mean we may be seeing a report from Game Warden's Daughter? It would be nice to get a youthful perspective, not that we aren't all young at heart.


As an odd aside, when I wrote the word hard core as in hard core naturalists, in the preview part it automatically changed to teddy bear. So I divided hard and core into 2 different words.


Let me try it again: teddybear. There, look at that! You read teddybear but that is not what I wrote. I put hard and core into the same word. teddybear There it goes again, only that time I typed the whole word in Upper Case.


Is this a built in censor that changes any words that might be offensive into other words? The s-word for dung remains the s-word for dung. I just tested it, then erased it.


When I master the gallery and inserting photos. I'll finish the report.

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From myths to observations.


1. It is very easy to be vegetarian at Mala Mala because there is a veggie entrée at every meal and there are loads of veggie side dishes. You don’t have to make any special requests because veggie options are there anyway. Everything I ate was delicious. The cheese board alone is worth the trip. Come for the Brie, stay for the leopards.


2. For anyone who does not like small planes, the daily Johannesburg to Mala Mala departure is on an approximately 30-seat plane with two pilots. (not small by Africa charter standards) Even if there are far fewer passengers--and that was the case both

ways--that’s the plane that flies. The rangers told me even if only one or two people are going, that’s still the plane that is scheduled and used.


3. Drinking plain tap water instead of buying a beverage at meals, sundowners, or at the bar was no big deal. (It’s also my MO at home.) The tap water is safe to drink, unlike most places in Africa. There was also bottled water in the room. Speaking of beverages, I must mention the delightful (and complimentary) lemonade that accompanied each lunch.


4. The trackers who sat at the back of the vehicle all carried a long wooden stick, which they would use to move aside low hanging branches or thorny brush as we drove. But at sightings they would also swish the stick in the grass to make noise and perhaps gain an animal’s attention. I saw many of the trackers do that. I must admit I was feeling uncomfortable about it. Then I made an observation and did a bit of analyzing.


I observed the animals paying little or no attention to the stick moving in the grass, just as they paid no attention to our voices and the vehicle in general. In fact at one sighting of a leopard in the grass, the stick was going swish, swish, swish, and the leopard was just lying there, ignoring us, with that typical look of disgust and disdain that all felines seem to have perfected. Suddenly, he became highly alert and sat up. The leopard had heard a sound that registered as meaningful—-the approach of a hyena. So the leopard was easily able to distinguish between background noise and important sounds.


I analyzed my unease with the stick and compared it to my complete acceptance of pulling up next to an animal in a loud, emission spewing, several-ton vehicle, sometimes mowing down vegetation in the process. I recognized my faulty logic as: stick, bad; Land Cruiser, fine. After all I have to get a picture. That’s why I just accepted the stick routine, but I have not encountered its use elsewhere.


But a stick on the ground is far different from snapping fingers in the air. When a member of our vehicle used this method to gain an animal’s attention, the ranger quickly put the kabosh on that in a stern manner, and rightfully so.


5. The lodge where you can relax and warm yourself by the fireplace has many trophy animal heads and skins on the wall. I asked about them and was told they all came from the area, which used to be used for hunting. I also was told that not all of the animals were killed, some just died. Just thought I’d mention this fact.


6. The rangers really do all get up when you enter the room. I experienced the full effect of this often as I usually would be one of the first to lunch or to tea and I’d come upon them all sitting in a group.


As someone who is not bold enough to ever try to start “The Wave” at a sports stadium, I felt quite empowered being able to get my own mini version of it going on a daily basis with the Mala Mala rangers. I even considered pulling some mischief by entering the room and going, “Oh, I forgot my camera,” then I could leave and re-enter the room a few seconds later claiming, “That’s ok, I don’t think I’ll need my camera.” Next, I’d state, “But I did forget my malaria pill,” and head out again only to return a moment later, “No, here’s my malaria pill in my pocket.”


Of course, I didn’t resort to such juvenile behavior. In fact, quite the opposite. At lunch or tea when I’d see the rangers in a group on the veranda, I’d quietly creep past them on the path below the veranda that leads past the library. I’d emerge onto the veranda from the steps on far side in an unobtrusive manner. I told myself I was practicing the stealth that would be necessary for my upcoming rhino tracking at Phinda. One time my ranger, Bruce, asked me what I was doing as I slipped (apparently not unobtrusively) onto the veranda. I explained my humanitarian mission of keeping the rangers seated.


7. Mala Mala is wheel chair accessible. My neighbor used one.

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I love the detail. Mala Mala is probably the premium safari operation in Africa.


What I find interesting is how relatively small things can make the difference. Like his/hers bathrooms and wheelchair friendly, air-conditioners etc


This will all help when I build my new lodges during this year.

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At first I thought you might be joking or something with the comment on building your safari lodge. But when I clicked on your profile and saw the game farm link, I think it is possible.


Here is just my take on those amenities, except for the wheelchair accessibility, which is great. I mentioned them and the other luxuries and formalities at Mala Mala because they were there and I wanted to be accurate in my report. Those things might be very important to some people in choosing where to go. For me, if a nice cheeseboard or fancy dessert is put in front of me, I'll probably eat it--and enjoy it--because I love to eat. I even like the contents of the East African breakfast boxes and lunch boxes. So gourmet cuisine is not an important factor in deciding where I go to view wildlife. Ironically, I've read and heard that some people think Mala Mala's food is just so-so. What??? I thought it was outstanding!


I chose Mala Mala solely for the prolific wildlife and because (though not inexpensive) with the no single supplement room, it was something I could afford and I am very grateful for that. If I had found out the library, exercise room, pool, cheese board, Internet connection, his/her bathrooms, fridge, and electrical wiring for the A/C and heat had all blown up a week or two before my arrival, it would not have altered my plans one bit.


I was impressed by the wildlife and I was very happy with the ranger/tracker combo that was with me to seek out the wildlife. They were genuinely enthused about what's out there and we developed a great repor. The management did a good job of putting me in a vehicle with a husband who was a photographer and a wife who loved the bush so that we all wanted to sit at length at interesting or potentially interesting sightings. That paid off big time.


I hope new lodges and camps cater to a crowd who cares less about luxury and fanciness and more about nature, wildlife, and conservation. I hope there is a profitable market for this type of visitor.


So Dikdik, is the info on your new lodge contained in that gamefarm link?

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I am totally down market, self catering. But I do believe that the accommodation should be good. You need a good nights sleep, and shelter for bad weather. I want to cater for the disabled. The market is pretty saturated and you need to be slick and different at the same time and not expensive.


I will probably look towards only the local market, and have absolutely no guides. Yeah sure, there will be someone who can give advice, but I believe there are not enough places where you can disappear into the bush on your own. Just take a radio with and get lost. If you want to sit on a rock and watch a bug then you welcome.


You would be amazed what you see if you just sit still alone for a while. Really soak up the feeling. I love it. I am sure there are some more nuts like myself around. I want visitors to think that they are on their own farm.

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Except for the self-catering, I'd be interested in your camp. Though I did "do" Kruger with the self-catering angle, I do like to come "home" from a game drive and have food ready without having to prepare it. I stayed at MalaMala also and though the room was very nice, I don't need air-conditioning, 2 bathrooms, telephone, or refrigerator (unless self-catering)-just a comfortable bed and pillows, a sink, shower and toilet. Just to sit and absorb the sights and sounds around would be nice enough.

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I missed your earlier comment about deleting things, but thanks. I recall from elsewhere that you mentioned your German language skills surpass your 2nd language English skills and I attributed some of your correspondence to that very fact. My English skills way surpass my German skills so we won't be able to have a meeting of the minds in German. I appreciate the fact that many of the people I interact with online communicate in English, even if it is more of an effort for them.





Your place sounds intriguing. I could self cater as in bread, cheese, fruit, peanut butter, some cans of stuff,yogurts, etc. But what I can't do is drive from an airport over to where you are because I am afraid to drive on the opposite side of the road from what I am used to by myself. Once on the premises, I'd be fine driving around. Is there a plan for someone like me? Feel free to email me on that. I think my email appears somewhere. It's atravelynn@hotmail.com

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8. Rangers eat every meal with the occupants of their vehicle. I liked spending every meal with the ranger, even though I realize it puts more of a time burden on him. Especially if you are traveling alone, it means you always have pleasant and good-natured mealtime company. I am assuming being pleasant and good-natured is something MM looks for in every ranger they hire and Bruce certainly met those qualifications. While my vehicle/meal companions during this stay were also pleasant and good-natured, that's not a given. So at least the ranger is a winner at mealtime. I could understand how a family or a couple--especially a honeymoon couple--would like some meals alone. The information packet in the room offered other dining arrangements upon request.


To me, more time with the ranger added another dimension to the safari experience and offered more of a bonding opportunity along with more reason to fight back tears upon departure.


At one point I likened our ranger, Bruce, to the wild dog pups (and not because of his youth relative to his clients.) We had observed the members of the wild dog pack being so eager to meet their younger pack-mates.




They'd wait at the den opening and beg for the babies to emerge so they could pounce on them, lick them, and play with them. (That would go on until the mother would charge in and scatter the dogs and give the pups a break.) I felt we guests were treating the ranger in a similar manner because whenever we'd see Bruce at lunch, tea, or for drinks at the bar, we'd surround him and pose all sorts of questions. Granted, we did not pounce or lick. Sometimes I'd notice the poor guy would be trying to down bites of his lunch between our battery of inquiries. Anyway, I appreciated his availability.











9. Nice dinner attire is no more necessary, at least not at Mala Mala Main Camp in the winter months, than anywhere else on safari. Somehow I thought in the Sabi Sands that eveningwear needed to be stepped up a notch. Maybe at the higher end properties or in warmer weather this is true. But the lovely lavender top and shoes I packed special for meals were a waste of my precious luggage space. No one knew I was wearing my lovely lavender top under the several layers of jackets and fleece vests and I doubt the bonfire in the dark boma illuminated my face enough for anyone to appreciate I had put on mascara. I have since been informed that at Ratrays and Sable, nice dress was customary in the summer months.


10. The record setting cold spells I had read about prompted me to bring my battery operated toe warming socks. There really is such a thing and they take one D-Battery per sock. I got them at Gander Mountain, a camping and hunting store. I used them twice and am not too embarrassed to admit it. Of course I did not wear them on the plane with the wires and everything. Many days I wore a wool hat and neck warmer along with mittens for most of the morning.


11. The cold prompted warnings from the ranger to wear a "beanie." I know this means a wool hat, just like bonnet means hood, kit means gear, and puncture means flat tire. But from my US viewpoint I had a hard time not laughing out loud whenever I heard the term beanie because I envisioned sitting in the vehicle wearing a little cap with a propeller on top. If I got that propeller spinning, I bet it would get the leopard's attention.


12. The Zulu greeting in the singular form is uncannily similar to Sony Bono.

It is Sah-knee Bon-ah. gallery_108_51_6981.jpg



13. There is indeed a very well equipped exercise room with several machines at Mala Mala. It is discretely tucked out of the way and it provides the same great view as you get from the veranda. I did not personally take advantage of this amenity.


14. The winter hours of a 7:00 am breakfast give a late start for photographers looking for the best light. Fortunately the husband of the couple I was with was very interested in photography so they did not linger at breakfast and we could depart promptly. This is a later start than I have experienced elsewhere in the winter.


15. Where do all the guests at lunch and at the evening meal in the boma go during the day? We rarely encountered other vehicles in the bush. Sometimes we'd share a sighting, but then they'd disappear again. It never felt crowded.


Enough enumerated comments. It's time to board the plane and start the trip.

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At the Mala Mala airstrip I loaded up with a family of eight into a transport vehicle and made the short journey to the lodge. En route we saw a female kudu and some of the family members eagerly shouted, "What's that?" I responded, "A female kudu," and was about to mention the significance of the first sighting when they remarked, "Kudu, that was what was on the menu last night!" Perhaps I should have revised that to the significance of the first bite.




They were a good-natured group and were apologizing in advance for me getting "stuck" with their family. They started explaining who in the group was known for being loud so that I'd be prepared. I assured them that their group would likely not be "stuck" with me as an add-on and I hoped Mala Mala would agree with my logic.


It did and I ended up spending all four days with a lovely couple from Florida who had always wanted to go to Africa but could not manage the amount of time necessary during the husband's working years. They were newly retired, on their first safari (MM was their 3rd destination) and they were having a ball. The husband was into photography and the wife had binocs at the ready to take it all in. Their cheerful attitudes were especially impressive given that they were chilled much of the time. Their travel agent, who was from Zimbabwe so should know Southern Africa's weather, told them to bring only a safari hat and no gloves, wool hat, etc. I felt bad all bundled up in my winter gear when they had none. I even offered them some, but they declined.


Anyway, our interests were entirely compatible in the bush and they were nice company at meals. Adding Bruce as the ranger and John as the tracker was a superb combination.


Sightings are in 5-minute increments. Not all birds or antelope seen were recorded. For example, beautiful lilac breasted rollers often flitted from branch to branch near the vehicle or perched in the sun, but I didn’t include their frequent presence.

Our weather was cool in the mornings and evenings with lows around 6. The highs would reach 27. Most days the wind would pick up from about 9 am to 4 pm. Cool and windy sends animals into thicker brush so our conditions were not always optimal but our sightings were still plentiful. Thanks to John and Bruce.

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23rd pm

3:00 An elephant herd was in front of camp as we gathered for tea


3:15 Trio of baby water monitor, Pied Kingfisher, Hammerkop hanging out together


3:20 female nyala--This was a first sighting of a new species for me so I was excited. I asked Bruce to find some nyala for me to photograph, but when he found out I was going to Phinda, he assured me that they would be more plentiful there; 2 bushbuck and some impala; baboon family that was having an internal scuffle; elephants in the river at a distance


3:25 banded mongoose troop; juvenile Bateleur Eagle


3:30 male bushbuck


3:35-3:45 big male giraffe that we watched until he disappeared


3:45 Gymongene; Crested Barbet; bachelor herd of impala


4:00 flock of Grey Louries--Go Away birds


4:15 elephants eating in thick brush; African Wood Hoopoe (my favorite African bird)


4:20-4:30 watched a kudu herd of males and females browse


4:35-4:50 watched a mother and baby rhino until they slipped into the thick brush


5:00-6:00 Leopard (Rollercoaster female's daughter) in tree with a bushbuck carcass. She moved the carcass to a couple of locations in the tree. A hyena was lurking on the ground. We were able to sit at this sighting an hour. A couple of other vehicles came and went during that time. They were unobtrusive enough that I don't recall anything about them..


6:05 3 male buffalo


Night drive begins

6:55 an injured male buffalo sleeping in the road--The injury appeared to be from tangling with other buffalo according to John and Bruce.

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24th am




7:25-7:35 2 males and a female rhino getting a drink


7:35 Bateleur Eagle


7:50-8:25 Mating lions with a giraffe watching from a distance. They mated 3 times. It was a Rollercoaster Male and a Styx female. With the Styx pride in disarray, the female will not encounter a problem from her own pride’s males when she gives birth I was told. I read that a Rollercoaster male was killed by a croc on approx June 30. If it was the lion I saw, his genes have been passed on. The turbulent nature of the lion prides at the moment at Mala Mala meant this pair would be our only lion sighting. We did see them again one evening.





8:30 2 klipspringer on a high kopje


8:35 herd of 6 kudu with 1 male


8:45-9:15 After hearing several impala bark, hearing a leopard growl (which John and Bruce heard but I did not), and watching the impalas’ heightened alertness, we searched for the leopard or whatever predator, but did not find it.


9:20 grey duiker


9:30-10:00 watched wildebeest graze as we did the same (coffee, tea, snack time)


10:15 small zebra herd—male, baby, 3 females


10:20 4 male buffalos



10:25-11:00 a breeding herd of about 15 elephant came to the river for a midday drink and the juveniles tussled in the tall grass near the river. The adults did a good job of shielding the tiniest baby much of the time.




11:20 returned to the lodge


At lunch we had Shelly’s Francolin and Guinea Flow (strutting around, not on the plate). A fish eagle was trying for his own lunch in the water in front of camp.


I bought postcards and wrote them. Reception will affix the correct postage and mail them for the price of a stamp. I wished the postcards had Mala Mala printed on them instead of being generic South Africa animals and I wrote that suggestion on my evaluation. On the plus side, I had forgotten to bring the address for one card. No problem; I popped onto the Internet in the library and 10 minutes later I had the card properly addressed.

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24th pm

3:10-3:20 big male rhino that grazed then headed to thick brush


3:30 gray duiker


3:50-4:00 My notes show “twins.” But I cannot recall twin whats. I think it was zebra, kudu or giraffe and am pretty certain it was a pair of juvenile giraffes. I know for sure it was not Mary Kate and Ashley. You’d think I’d have no doubt since we watched these twins for 10 minutes. I’m attributing the memory block to the excitement of the wild dogs that came up next.


4:00-4:05 small herd of kudu with 1 male


4:25-4:40 We made our way to the dog den for our turn at viewing. The rules are quite strict and only one vehicle at a time is allowed to leave the main path to venture in to the den area. We waited a few moments until the other vehicle emerged and was back on the road and then we slowly advanced for our turn. About six adults were milling around the den, interacting with each other. (I think there are about 8 adults total.)




Before our allotted 20 minutes of viewing was up the dogs rudely decided to take leave of us and head off to hunt. We followed them for a few minutes and could see a couple of pack members at a distance and then they slipped out of sight. Unfortunately those behind us in the queue did not get to see the dogs that night, as we were the last to be entertained.


4:45 African Hoopoe


4:50 male kudu


4:55 couple of male nyala


5:00 gray duiker


5:10-5:30 Sundowner and begin night drive


6:05 hyena


6:15 white tailed mongoose


6:20-6:30 sat with a herd of buffalo


6:30 small herd of nyala


6:35 back at the lodge

That evening the Rattrays were mingling with the guests during our appetizers and drinks before dinner.

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25th am


7:40-7:50 herd of about 400 buffalo--We watched a few calves become tangled in vines and brush and then figure out how maneuver to free themselves.


8:20-8:40 watched huge troop of baboons and herd of impala


8:40 Black Collared Barbet


8:55-9:05 watched a mother rhino and nearly grown calf plus a young calf until they trotted off


9:10 2 steenbock


9:20 several vervet monkeys and a large impala herd


9:25-10:10 Leopard, the Rollercoaster female's daughter with remains of the bushbuck carcass, trying desperately to find a comfortable sleeping position in the tree.


10:15-10:40 Coffee, tea break at a small pond with turtles sunning themselves on the bank


10:50 herd of running impala that I was able to photograph




11:05 frisky bachelor herd of impala


11:10 small flock of Brown-headed Parrots


11:15 family of warthogs on a ridge in a beautifully picturesque setting that was captured only in my mind and not on a memory card because warthogs don't pose long for family portraits


11:20-11:30 buffalo herd and Redbilled Oxpeckers




11:40 back to lodge


Before lunch the buffalo herd came to the river in front of the lodge and drank then lingered on the banks, spending over an hour in sight of the lodge.


The Rattrays were again circulating at lunch and it was a pleasure to share with them how much we were enjoying our stay and our time with Bruce and John.

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25th pm

3:10 Trio of baby water monitor, Pied Kingfisher, Hammerkop hanging out together. I

did not accidentally copy and paste from the pm of the 24th. This must be the group’s stomping grounds. There was also an active troop of vervets nearby.


3:20 4 zebra


3:25 John demonstrated his keen spotting skills by pointing out a tiny speck of a klipspringer on a rock about half a mile away. Binoculars proved him right.


3:40 several dwarf mongoose


3:45 steenbock


3:50-4:00 3 zebra; a pair of black backed jackals


4:10 zebra herd with an impala herd; flock of Red-billed Quelea


4:30-5:25 Leopard (Newington male) was sitting on a termite mound then went to sleep at the mound’s base. We watched him nap and occasionally look up. To help keep us entertained, a Red Headed Woodpecker pecked on a dead tree nearby while the leopard slept. He took no notice of the woodpecker.


5:25 The leopard suddenly became alert and sat up. A hyena was approaching. To avoid confrontation the leopard retreated up the nearby tree where his meal of impala was waiting. We occasionally got whiffs of that meal and it was not appetizing.


5:30 lone rhino


5:35-5:45 Sundowner and night drive began


5:45-6:00 sat with buffalo herd


6:30-6:50 heard the lion roars before we saw them—The mating pair were separated by a few hundred meters and were calling. The female was calling for her Styx pride mates and the male was calling either for his brother or just serenading his girlfriend. We stopped about 5 meters from the female and her roars made my breastbone vibrate. We could all feel it. The male was roaring from the bridge and delayed many of us from crossing for a while.


7:00 back to the lodge


Heard the lions during the night.

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26th am

We left early and took a breakfast box.


6:40 bushbuck


6:45 Burchell's Coucal; impala herd noticeably fluffed up as they do in the cold


7:00 gray duiker


7:05 2 gray duikers


7:10-7:15 3 ground hornbill--mother, father, juvenile, a happy family unit. They even spent some time leaving the ground to perch in a tree. An article in a Federal Air magazine indicated that South Africa had only about 1500 of these unusual creatures left. So we had just observed .2% of that population.



7:15 3 giraffe and a zebra herd




7:30-7:45 We arrived at the wild dog den and were all thrilled to see the mother standing in front, nursing her pups. It was Ranger Bruce's first wild dog pup sighting. She nursed 5 or 10 minutes before nudging the pups back into the den. Some went more willingly than others. We debated staying and waiting for the rest of the pack to return or moving on. There were no other vehicles in the queue for dog viewing. John gave his opinion that based on I’m not sure what he felt that the dogs had left very early to hunt far away and that they would not be back soon. We all trusted John’s judgment and headed out in search of another canine den--hyenas.


8:00 Zebra, impala, kudu


8:00-8:10 herd of about 15 kudu with males and females


8:15 Gymnogene; lone male buffalo


8:20 lone male elephant eating along the road


8:35 Black Crake; Brown Hooded Kingfisher


8:50-9:10 Kirkman’s—we were in their concession looking for the hyena den. Turns out the hyenas moved it but we did see one attractive hyena in the area and watched it. Then we saw another a few minutes later.


9:20-9:40 Breakfast. While Tracker John stepped into the bushes (denser bushes than I ever use for that purpose) I heard a rustle that did not sound like John doing his business. I mentioned it to Bruce. When John emerged he told a tale of being confronted by a hyena and frightening it off. That explains the rustle. So while the hyena den had been vacated and empty, we succeeded with hyenas in an alternative manner. We decided to try the dog den on the way back, thinking they might have returned by then, after their long hunt.


10:00-10:30 Still no other vehicles present at the dogs and no one had called in their intention to see them. Lucky us, the dogs were back from the hunt. The mother was lying on the termite mound behind the den, nursing the black writhing and squealing mass.










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We saw dogs milling around and we watched the alpha female mother beg for regurgitated food from the alpha male, baring her teeth in a pleading smile and uttering a cry I had not heard before. We also saw one dog regurgitate food for another.





When the alpha male and female wandered off together the other dogs immediately took the opportunity to run to the den and encourage the pups to come out. Their greetings started out as gentle nuzzling but quickly progressed to rough play. That’s when the alpha female came storming back to “rescue” her babies from their exuberant pack mates and send the little guys scurrying to the safety of the den. That only lasted so long before they’d venture out again to play with the big dogs.





This whole scene was such a privilege to watch that I felt like we had all been through some secret initiation ritual and now all held membership in an elite club. We should have created a handshake. Maybe we could just use that bared teeth regurgitation-seeking grin and cry.



10:30-11:15 We drove back to the lodge. Dog dens are often in areas that do not have lots of game around. They don’t need it close by because they have such stamina to run to where game is more plentiful. Plus less game means less predators nearby that could threaten the pups. As a result we did not see too much on the way back since we took a direct route and weren’t meandering in search of sightings. And the wind had really picked up, which does not help. But we were quite satisfied with the morning’s viewing.

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