Mala Mala Sable Camp
Our next stop was a staple property visited by many Fish Eagle Safaris clients in the past, so I was long overdue for my first visit. Mala Mala – in our case Sable Camp – was less than an hour away by car from Earth Lodge. We made our way to Mala Mala in time for lunch where we were visited by one of the resident bull elephants having his own lunch nearby. That bull elephant has been known to follow the riverbed adjacent to Mala Mala and eat any vegetation he can reach.
We were visiting just before a somewhat major renovation of the rooms, so things were set to change quite a bit. At the time of our visit, the rooms had two separate ‘his and hers’ restrooms. Some guests loved this while others thought it to be quite odd. Mala Mala decided to renovate into one large restroom including a shower and a tub and in many cases keeping 2 separate toilets. We’ll have to come back soon to see the difference, but I can tell you that our clients have been very pleased with the renovations.
As one might expect, just before a renovation is due the rooms seemed a bit dated to us compared to other properties. The view from many of the Sable Camp rooms is quite spectacular, however. They each have a view out over the Sand River and surrounding bush.
The Mala Mala Game Reserve is well known for being one of the best areas for predators in the Sabi Sands which makes it one of many excellent options in the area. Our game viewing experience didn’t disappoint as we were able to almost immediately see a large pride of lions including 2 males and 6 females. As is typical of lions during the summer months, they were taking a nap.
During our remaining game drives we saw plenty of elephant, hippo, and leopard right by Mala Mala camp, and nearly a hunt attempt by a lioness at dusk. She seemed to be following some impala, but was distracted by a male lion roaring in the distance. Predator interactions like these are always very interesting to watch.
Mala Mala wasn’t perfect, however. We may have been spoiled by the food at Earth Camp, but we just didn’t love the buffet style that Mala Mala offered for lunch and dinner. Some of the options were good, but just not up to par with other camps we would visit during this trip. Our clients haven’t had an issue with these buffets, however, so take this criticism with a grain of salt.
I was able to visit Rattray’s at Mala Mala, the most luxurious of the properties on Mala Mala Game Reserve. The suites were more like high end condominiums with plenty of space and another amazing view of the Sand River. If you’re looking for a deluxe property in the Mala Mala area, this is it!
In the 1920s, Harry Kirkman joined a cattle ranch in what is now known as the Sabi Sand reserve. As cattle was his business, he developed a reputation as a lion hunter while trying to protect his cattle. After quite a long drought, the cattle business was mostly abandoned in favor of safari camps. Originally, quite a few supported hunting, but by 1935 even the famed lion hunter Harry Kirkman became a conservationist. He served as a ranger for 24 years and was named the warden of the Sabi Sand private game reserve in 1959.
Harry Kirkman’s homestead on the Sabi Sands has now been remodeled into Kirkman’s Kamp. Within the buildings you will find quite a lot of memorabilia from Harry Kirkman himself. Quite a lot of it is hunting related, such as lion skulls and animal pelts. Obviously hunting is no longer permissible but it is interesting to note the history of the area. When you’re visiting, look around and ask about a few artifacts. Their stories may interest you.
The property is located within the Mala Mala Game Reserve, so game viewing is very similar to that of Mala Mala. There are two rooms per ‘building’ each of which have been recently renovated. The rooms themselves are very clean and comfortable with small porches that look over the Sand River. The main area absolutely captures the early 1900s but with a slight modern touch. The beds and linens at Kirkman’s felt like the most comfortable ones during our trip. If you want a touch of ‘home’ feel with your safari experience, you can’t go wrong here.
Our guide was Gareth, who was wonderful. He quickly found us one of the local leopards who was about 12 years old. The male was in the process of tracking down a female leopard, and as they found each other a hyena stumbled upon them in the road. We got to watch quite an interesting encounter with lots of hissing and growling just before a quick rainstorm hit us. Not to worry, ponchos were ready on the vehicle and we made our way back to camp. It was dark at the time, so our photos didn’t come out too great.
The following morning we came across a pride of 16 lions! There were many cubs in the pride which made for some great photos. One of the females had been injured so she walked without the use of one of her hind legs. These kinds of injuries happen quite often, and our guide mentioned that she would eventually starve if her leg didn’t heal.
Once again very fresh food at Kirkman’s. They offer an a la carte menu with a nice selection made to order. They even did some small surveys of the clients after meals asking what we liked and didn’t like so they could keep the menu tuned to their guests’ palates. I thought this was a great touch, and even though most clients had nothing negative to say about the meals I’m sure it helps the staff stay on their toes.
I have highly recommended Kirkman’s Kamp since my visit and I will continue to do so. I believe it is one of the best values in the Sabi Sands.
Since our visit, &Beyond has opened a deluxe property in the same general area as Kirkman’s Kamp, so if you are looking for even more upscale accommodations, ask us about Tengile River Lodge!
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