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.

Overall Impression At Rattray’s on Mala Mala, a small and exclusive safari property in one of the best game viewing areas of Africa, Big Five game viewing was the number one priority. Game drives lasted about three hours and were limited to four guests per vehicle. During our last visit, we shared the vehicle with two enthusiastic repeat visitors, a mother and daughter from Europe, who made an annual pilgrimage to Mala Mala, and now Rattray’s, for their game viewing fix. We were accompanied by Warren Meredith, an English speaking young guide who drove the vehicle, and Jeffrey, a tracker who sat in the last row and whose job it was to spot the game viewing opportunities, especially of the highly coveted Big Five animals (elephant, hippo, lion, leopard, and rhino). Warren was our go-to person during our stay. He dined with us, accompanied me on a bush walk, and organized wake up calls and any activities we might want to schedule.

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.

Class Of Accommodation Luxury game viewing lodge

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

Lobby And Common Areas The Lodge was decorated in earth tones in a British colonial style with lots of woods, safari mementos, animal skulls, and black and white photos on the walls. Muirhead Interior Design and Val Munroe were responsible for the property’s soft finishings. The owners brought in paintings and shared their input and approval on all aspects of the décor. Persian rugs were supplied by Paco. The flooring was of Rhodesian teak.

Bathroom Rattray’s stood out for its twin bathrooms. Each suite had two bathrooms, one with a shower, sink, and separate water closet; and another almost identical bathroom with a claw foot bathtub instead of a shower. There was a full length mirror in the shower room. The shower was large enough for two and had dual shower heads with individual temperature controls. There was a make-up mirror, vanity and bidet in the bathtub bathroom. There were heated towel racks in both bathrooms and under floor heating kept the tiled the bathroom floors warm in winter. The bathrooms had framed prints on the walls and a khaki color scheme. The khaki towels were thick and clean smelling.

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.

Food And Wine The menus have received the close attention of Norma Rattray over the 44 years that Mala Mala has been in existence. They were developed to offer vegetarian and game options, as well as salads and fruit. Guest feedback also played a role in the selection of menu items. During our two-day stay meals were was mostly buffet style with plated meals in the evening.

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.

Amenities There were two types of cotton bathrobes (thinner for summer and thicker for winter), cotton slippers, and a hair dryer. There were Molton Brown toiletries: Ultra Smooth Coco de Mer body lotion, Cucumber Conditioning Shampoo, and Vitalising Vitamin AB&C bath and shower gel in 1.7 ounce bottles. Complimentary scented bath salts were set in a bowl next to the bathtub. There was complimentary bottled water and fruit. An electronic safe was available in our room and another one was accessible at reception. There were magazines and game viewing handbooks in our suite. There were additional coffee table and safari books in the library.

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.

Game Viewing Warren was kind enough to escort me on a morning bush walk; since it was summer the rest of our group went to relax before lunch. Due to an unusual amount of predator activity in the designated walking zone it was necessary for one of the vehicles to follow us to make sure we were safe.

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.

Activities Options available were game viewing drives, bush walks, working out in the fitness area, sun bathing, massages, and bathing in the lodge pool or the private suite plunge pool.

Curio Shop A small shop was open on request between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. There were branded Mala Mala clothes, jewelry, and safari sundries. On request, it was also possible to visit the larger curio shop at the Mala Mala Main Camp nearby.

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.

Eco Friendly And Responsible Tourism Practices According to information provided by the family owned business, the Rattray Group practices a policy of empowerment of the local communities. The Group seeks to empower local communities by promoting deserving individuals from the local communities into positions such as food and beverage manager, housekeeper, workshop manager, curio shop manager, environmental manager, laundry, reservations, and reception. In addition to providing employment to the peripheral communities of the MalaMala Game Reserve, the Group also purchases services including construction, brick making, environmental management, road maintenance, entertainment groups, and curios from neighboring communities.

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.

Cleanliness Excellent

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

Contact Information

  • Address:
    • PO Box Malamala 1353
    • Skukuza
    • South Africa
  • Phone:
    • +27 13 735 3000
  • Fax:
    • +27 13 735 5444
  • Email:
  • :