Mala Mala Game Reserve
While contained geographically in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Mala Mala Game Reserve is an independent private reserve that borders Kruger National Park. There are no fences forming the border, meaning animals can roam freely, enhancing the naturalness of the experience for visitors who come on safari to these areas. Many travelers prefer to visit unfenced reserves instead of those that try to create a perfect collection of animals with a containment.Mala Mala is among the best places to see Big Five wildlife, leopards and many other species of animals, including birds. In total, Mala Mala covers 51 square miles with altitudes ranging between 850 and 1500 feet, providing for a diverse landscape and a diverse array of wildlife.
Among the many things you'll like about a visit to Mala Mala Private Game Reserve are:
- Excellent wildlife sighting opportunities with a very high likelihood of seeing all Big Five game.
- Off-roading is allowed in safari vehicles so close-up wildlife encounters are possible.
- The extensive riverfront further enhances wildlife viewing opportunities.
- Exclusive, since traversing rights to this private reserve are not granted to other properties.
- Not crowded since the number of lodges is limited.
- More affordable than some other reserves on the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and more.
You must understand, however, that self-driving is not allowed on the Mala Mala and that accommodation may not be as luxurious as on some competing properties. The number of sightings makes up for this, however.
More About Wildlife At Mala Mala
Mala Mala provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Africa. You'll see leopards on almost all game drives, and you can usually see all the Big Five in a couple of days. Since traversing rights aren't granted to non-guests, as is usually the case, the experience is exclusive. That means more sightings and more time with each sighting.
Lions, cheetahs and leopards are seen most frequently from the lodges' off-road vehicles. Buffalo and elephants are also very common, especially near the Sand River. It's likely you will quickly see a white rhino, but sightings of black rhinos are very rare. Without any fences, however, sightings cannot be guaranteed.
The area is most known for leopards, and you may be able to follow these usually elusive cats to witness their natural behaviors up close. You may also see wild dogs, which are not always present on the private reserve. When present, you will be able to see them up close.The best sightings are possible in the dry season from June to September when vegetation is at a minimum and wildlife come to watering holes more frequently. This is especially the case from August to September. Temperatures for human visitors are most comfortable at these times too.
Birds, Scenery And More At Mala Mala
Mala Mala is bordered by Kruger National Park and Sabi Sand Game Reserve, with no fences on either side. The scenery is woodland savannah, dense riverfront forest, bush, grasslands and rocky outcroppings. The Sand River cuts through from north to south over a 13-mile stretch.
While many experiences at Mala Mala Game Reserve are focused on Big Five game, birding is also excellent in this area. There are more than 300 species of birds present on the reserve, and guides are familiar with them. When you choose to do both guided walks and game drives, you can see the most birds. For serious birders, booking a private game drive specifically for birding is strongly recommended. Note that migratory birds from Europe and North America are on the reserve from November to April, making this the best time for birding.
The optimal time to visit Mala Mala Game Reserve for the best overall experience is in September. This is when the bush has been thinned by the winter and animals are most likely to visit watering holes because of an extended season with little water. There are few tourists during this month, so crowding at lodges is unlikely. Plus, September offers comfortable temperatures for human visitors.
Reaching the reserve is easy when you fly into Johannesburg. You can then choose to take a scheduled flight to near the reserve and continue by ground or plane hop. The drive to the reserve from Johannesburg is nearly 6 hours, and roads are mostly good. Still, the distance by car is too much for many travelers.No matter how you reach Mala Mala Game Reserve, it's worth the trip. For excellent game viewing, choose this excellent game reserve.
O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg is the initial destination for most people in getting to Mala Mala from abroad. From here you can take the twice/day scheduled flight to Mala Mala Airfield as run by Federal Air or take a connecting flight to Nelspruit Airport/Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP). A transfer from Nelspruit to your lodge can be arranged and takes about 2 hours for 170km/105mi.
Driving to the reserve by way of hired car from Johannesburg is also an option. The distance is about 540km/335mi and the drive takes around 5.5 hours.