MalaMala game reserve is South Africa’s first and largest private game reserve. Here, the big five abound and you can be privy to some of the most dramatic wildlife encounters. MalaMala stretches over 130 km² (50 mi²) and shares an unfenced border with the world-renowned Kruger National Park. This greatly increases the animal variety and provides unimpeded access to magnificent wildlife. The reserve has been acknowledged as having the best game viewing in South Africa with lions, leopards, rhinoceros and elephants being easily spotted here.
In existence since 1927, the reserve has welcomed many photo-journalists and filmmakers who feel drawn to the land’s unique natural beauty that remained untamed over the years. Tjololo, a famous male leopard that became a star of the National Geographic documentary, lived in the reserve.
MalaMala features many different habitat types, which are an allure in themselves and range from open savannah to granite outcrops. Thirteen kilometers (eight miles) of the perennial Sand River also flows through the reserve and has been named as one of the most distinct landscape features.
Although many visitors feel attracted to the park for the regular sightings of the big five, other - just as fascinating and important species - call MalaMala home, too. Threatened animals such as cheetah, pangolin and African wild dogs are being protected within the reserve. A variety of birdlife is yet another highlight - bird lovers can hope to be rewarded with sightings of some rare species such as martial eagle and ground hornbill.
CEO and owner, Michael Rattray, has been known for his conservation expertise and has been working hard to build MalaMala’s reputation as an area of sanctuary for all wildlife. The game-rich eastern side of the reserve has no human presence for almost 16 hours per day, which helps to preserve the natural balance and a feel of a true wilderness.
The park is accessible by car and by plane. It takes 5 ½ hours to drive to MalaMala from Johannesburg. Alternatively, you can take a short, one-hour commercial or charter flight.
The best time for wildlife viewing is the dry season (June to September). From August to September many animals congergate around water sources making it a popular time to visit.
A wide range of activities is offered, including walking safaris, 4x4 safaris and night safaris. Skilled rangers, who closely collaborate with the trackers from the Shangaan tribe, accompany visitors on their outdoor activities and vouch for an optimal game viewing experience.
The park’s accommodation is famed for its traditional, yet luxurious, facilities that aim to take the traveler back in time and provide one with a glimpse of the first safaris.