- Overall Impression
- Common Areas
- Eco Friendly And Responsible Tourism Practices
Twice a day, rain or shine, mostly, we went out as scheduled in search of animals. A silent radio made the drives especially quiet, and except for nature’s call, we never disembarked the vehicle during the drives. Distractions were at a minimum. The only time we saw other vehicles and guests during game drives was at important sightings, which were limited to three vehicles. Otherwise, we seldom saw other vehicles, except from afar.
In between the early morning and late afternoon game drives guests spent their time relaxing in eight luxurious and spacious suites with two bathrooms each and private plunge pools. For those of us who wanted a little exercise there was a full size pool and a small open air fitness corner. At meal times, we had the choice of joining our guide and fellow guests in the open deck or dining in our suites. It was also possible to have an in-suite massage, visit the small gift shop (or the larger one at the Mala Mala Main Camp) or request a bush walk (with an armed escort in case of predators).
We enjoyed our most recent stay at the family owned lodge and look forward to a future visit. Thanks to its combination of outstanding game viewing in the Sabi Sand Reserve, exclusive and adult oriented setting shared with few guests, customer service, comfortable and luxurious accommodations, and modern conveniences (like an in-suite laptop) it remains a favorite among the handful of ultra luxurious safari properties of the African continent.
General Manager Nils Kure
Handicapped Access No
Internet Connectivity Although there was Wi-Fi Internet connectivity in guest suites, the service was down during our visit .
Length Of Stay Two nights
Location In the Mala Mala Reserve within the Sabi Sand Reserve west of the Kruger National Park
Owned And Managed Michael and Norma Rattray.
Size The 2.8 hectare area housed a lodge with eight suites for up to 16 guests and 32 staff including four rangers. It was located within the Mala Mala Game Reserve, which has 13,500 hectares (33,000 acres) with additional traversing access to 2,500 hectares (2,000 acres) shared with two other properties (Mala Mala Main Camp and Sable Camp) owned by the same company.
Year Established-Renovated November 2005
Room Our 120 square meter (1,200 square foot) suite was quiet and elegant, featuring comfortable and stylish furnishings in an open room design that took advantage of the bush setting. It was decorated in russets, khaki, and stone colors. At the entrance foyer there was a 4 foot long wood table with a large framed oil painting hanging above it.
In the center of the suite there was a wooden four poster bed with mosquito netting and night tables on each side. At the foot of the bed there was a black leather bench. Wood and wicker furniture populated the room. On the walls there were sketches of primates, limited editions, a map of Mala Mala and a black and white animal photo.
In the space between the bedroom and the sitting area, there was a wood desk, lamp and director’s chair facing the porch and bush. Locked in the desk drawer there was a new looking 15“ LG laptop computer for guest use.
In the sitting room, my favorite area of the suite, there was a wood armoire housing a remote controlled 26 X 16 PVision satellite television and a Yamaha DVD player. One of the two drawers had a heating tray which came in handy for in-room meals. This was particularly convenient when it was raining and we felt like staying or for a romantic evening. There was also a sofa, two tables, a bench, two wicker armchairs, several lamps, a divan in the corner, and a side table.
In spite of the blistering summer heat outside, the temperature in our suite was cool and comfortable. There was a mini refrigerator with bottled water. The pale yellow room had wood floors, central air conditioning and two ceiling fans. Sliding glass doors led to a private porch with a view of the Sand River. A private plunge pool was located on the side of the building behind a walled enclosure. From the inside it could be reached via a side door from the shower side bathroom.
There were four lounge chairs in the open porch behind the room. Two of them and an umbrella were in front of the plunge pool and two more faced the river. Although there were many insects outdoors the inside of our suite was nearly insect free. We didn’t see (or hear) any mosquitoes during our brief stay.
The bar was stocked with South African wines and sparkling wines. The only imported brands were French champagnes.
One night we had dinner in our room. Although we greatly enjoyed group dinners and chatting with fellow guests in the boma; it was a treat to dine in the comfort of the room. One of the staff members brought our order, setting the main courses on a hot plate and the ice cream in the mini fridge. At the end of the meal, we called and she cleared the dishes.
Facilities There was an indoor dining room, outdoor seating on the terrace, and boma enclosure. There was also a curio shop (behind the reception desk), library, fitness center and massage room, small bar and full size swimming pool.
Pool In addition to the private plunge pools in the suites, Rattray’s had a river facing full size pool in front of the fitness center. It held 120,000 liters of fresh water and was 1.5 meters deep on average. There were lounge chairs and umbrellas around the navy blue tiled pool. I made time during the day to swim some laps in the refreshing pool before heading out on our game drives.
There were game viewing drives twice daily, in a topless Land Rover 4×4, for a maximum of four guests. Animal sightings were usually limited to three vehicles. Morning departures, while we were there, were at 6 a.m. with a return between 9 and 9:30 a.m. Afternoon departures were at about 4 p.m. with a return about 7:30 p.m. Our tracker sat in the last row of the vehicle where he had the advantage of height. From there he guided our ranger into and out of the bush during off road excursions.
Thanks to the well maintained roads our drives were fairly comfortable. They became bumpier when we went off road in pursuit of a sighting opportunity. When that happened we were so thrilled we didn’t mind the bumpy ride.
Although we visited the property at the beginning of the summer, we encountered rain only the last evening and the morning of our departure. The staff provided us with waterproof pull on pants and jackets which kept us mostly dry during the drive.
During the evening game drives, there was a “bug drizzle” from the countless insects attracted by the light our tracker used to spot animals from the back seat. They sat on our heads, hands, and arms.
Almost right away we saw the Big Five. There were 35 leopards that had been identified by the reserve rangers within the reserve. During our visit we saw or heard: duiker, steenbok, impala, buffalo, kudu, bushbuck, waterbuck, vervet monkey, elephant, leopard, four male lions and nine lion cubs, giraffe, hippo, scrub hare, white rhino, tree squirrel, leopard, nuptial dung beetles with a ball, and Nile monitor
Birds: European bee-eater, Jacobin cuckoo, forktailed drongo, Egyptian goose, tawny, brown snake and Wahlberg eagles, crested, Swainson’s and Natal francolins, grey heron, redbilled hornbill and yellowbilled hornbills, woodland kingfisher, blackbellied korhaan, grey lourie, redbilled oxpecker, blacksmith and wattled plovers, and whitebacked vulture.
Other Only children 16 and older were welcome at Rattray’s. Massages were available by a locally trained masseuse.
Thanks to an electrified fence that surrounded the camp, it was possible for guests to walk about the property unescorted during the day and night. In 1962, the MalaMala Game Reserve was the first privately owned game reserve in South Africa that chose eco-tourism as an alternative to hunting as a sustainable land use practice.
MalaMala had mosquitoes program that relied on Pybuthrine, an organic product, used in conjunction with K-othrine, a long lasting spray to target the adult stage of mosquitoes and other biting flies in buildings. The company also used Vectobac, an eco-friendly chemical used on standing water to target the larvae of mosquitoes and other midges.
MalaMala Game Reserve supports the Pfunenani Trust, an initiative that serves to support the communities on the fringe of the SSW with self help schemes. To address high unemployment in South Africa, MalaMala Game Reserve only employs South African citizens with priority assigned to individuals from the communities on the western fringe of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin.
Rattray’s on MalaMala has a state-of-the-art sewerage and effluent filtration system that permits the property to collect sewage and grey water in large underground tanks in the camp. This water is pumped at high pressure through small expandable pipes to a large underground sand bed. From there it filtrates down through the sand bed through a plastic sheet and is eventually so clean it’s potable. The water is used to plant reeds above the surface and to irrigate the gardens. Except for the environmentally-friendly and bio-degradable materials necessary to stimulate microbial action, and break down the fats from the hospitality department, no chemicals are added in the process.
The Rattray’s on MalaMala gardens, designed with indigenous plants only, require less watering, resulting in less water being drawn from the Sand River. All waste and rubbish in the camps is sorted and recycled. Glass, plastic and tin are separated and sent to the local town (Nelspruit) for re-cycling. All other rubbish is incinerated at the local plant at the camp.
Date Of Last Visit 2008 2006
Reviewers Article by Elena del Valle
Photographs by Gary Cox
Service There was twice daily room service: Morning cleaning and evening turn down. Staff were attentive to guest needs, accommodating schedules, meals, and game viewing times to our requests and the circumstances.
Would You Stay Again? Yes