Mala Mala – in October
I can count the number of places we’ve been more than four times on one hand. Mala Mala is one of them. Our first visit was in 2009 (combined with the Okavango Delta), followed by 2011 (combined with Mashatu), and then 2017 (combined with Makgadikgadi Pans), and then 2018 (combined with Sossusvlei).
This time we only had a week, so we decided to spend the entire time at Mala Mala. We spent five nights, so had 10 game drives (four full days, plus afternoon drive on arrival day and morning drive on departure day). We booked about a year in advance to get the photo vehicle, which comes with a specialist ranger, who we’d followed on Instagram prior to our trip. We stayed in Sable Camp as we did the year before.
We previously visited in autumn (May) and winter (June/July). In October, the weather is much warmer and there is much less water, so the animals are drawn to the remaining water. Most of our sightings were within view of Main/Sable Camp or Rattrays. It was in a word: insane.
We had several sightings of the Kambula pride. This impressive pride has 22 members, all sired by the Gowrie males.
Here’s a time lapse of them on the move
And here’s some audio of one of the Gowrie males (sound on !)
During the last hour of our last game drive, we came across one of the Kambula lionesses with her four cubs feasting on a giraffe. I find the feasting photos a bit gory, but the full-bellied cubs were adorable.
During our 10 game drives, we had 12 different leopard sightings (10 different individuals). We event had one drive with four different leopards !
On our first game drive we came across the Nkoveni female – neither Andy, nor our ranger Daniel, nor I got the shot of her leaping over the small stream (straight towards our vehicle)
My new favourite – the Kapen leopardess (SO chill around us, and so photogenic)
On another game drive, we followed the Maxims male and Three Rivers female (until they went across the border to Londolozi).
Most of the time, leopards are very well camouflaged up in the trees. We found this one and waited patiently for her to descend. Unfortunately she didn’t leave her perch until just after sunset (which explains the blue background in the last shot)
And a lot of times, you find them after dark (Nstumi female)
She was just about to mate with the Nweti male when they were spooked by some francolins (sound on!)
We also saw the Emsagweni female, who we’d seen on previous trips but has since lost her right eye. She continues to successfully raise cubs to adulthood despite her reduced vision.
Hyenas aren’t usually the most photogenic creatures, but the cubs are adorable and super curious. We made two visits to the hyena den, and were patient enough to see the 4-week olds emerge from the underground tunnels.
Mala Mala isn’t known for cheetahs. We’d had better luck with cheetah in East Africa, but we had a few great sightings the last time we were here. Our ranger even mentioned that they hadn’t seen cheetah or wild dog in a few months. We had one lightly rainy morning, and we were the only vehicle that went out for a game drive. After a slow start, we suddenly made a u-turn and sped in the other direction. One of the anti-poaching patrols spotted (ha – see what I did there?) two cheetah.
Then, one our last game drive, we spotted two different chetah right at the air strip ! They had killed a hare, and a cheeky jackal kept trying to steal it which made for some good blurry moving cheetah shots. While playing with their kill, one of the cheetah wound up wearing the hare as a scarf.
We had one wild dog sighting, but they were sitting very still so good for photos 🙂 One was missing an ear – amazing how they can heal with no medical intervention.
There were SO many elephant, including cheeky little ones no more than a few weeks old.
There were also several elephant IN camp.
Like the elephants, we saw giraffe on every game drive. Most of the time they were drinking from the Sand River so we patiently waited for the dripping water shots. Giraffe are also eyelash goals.
We had a couple of decent sightings of cape buffalo. They are usually difficult to photograph as they tend to face away most of the time, but we found a few herds who cooperated and let us photograph them and the oxpeckers who nibble on their ticks and small parasites.
See you in 2021 !