MalaMala Private Photo Safari by Jeremy Peters
I was a 43 year old South African safari virgin I¹d seen plenty of wildlife on the iconic plains of East Africa, but had never stepped into the wilds of this country. All that was about to change….
When I first told Marius of my wants and needs, there was little hesitation in recommending MalaMala as somewhere that would satisfy my passion for capturing beautiful wildlife on camera! I had no expectations of the trip until my girlfriend and I, and our 3 month old baby girl, touched down in Cape Town, and thus began a 6 week countdown to the safari where everyone we came across espoused the virtues of MalaMala. My excitement grew with each conversation and so did my indebtedness to Emma, as this was a trip I was making solo!
I booked a 4 night Oryx photographic safari in MalaMala, accompanied by Marius from Oryx who was the specialist knowledge behind the lens and ranger expert Roan who’s been guiding at MalaMala for 5 years and is their photo specialist. Besides knowing the place like the back of his hand, Roan is a consummate host who will make sure every aspect of your
stay is top class.
Roan drove a game vehicle, adapted for photographers, which I paid extra to use exclusively. While some might consider this an expensive luxury, it was perfect as we did as we pleased without any pressure from other punters -which frankly is important!
As South Africa¹s oldest and one of the most prestigious game reserves, MalaMala doesn’t come cheap. However, I can tell you that your belly will never be empty, your thirst will always be quenched and if you don¹t see Leopard aplenty then you have seriously sinned and this is payback! MalaMala will provide plenty of magic moments, and it¹s reputation as big cat territory is well earned. I think my Leopard count from the 4 nights at MalaMala was 8 or 9 separate sightings. Leopard are seen almost every day of the year!
So, what were my magic moments? Too many to list but to pick a few. Watching a mother leopard with her 2 cubs playing on the rocks when one got stuck in a crevasse and the other cub adorably came to it’s siblings rescue. Photographing lion cubs playing cat and mouse with each other in the late afternoon sun. Driving to the north of the reserve early one morning, in the limited hope of finding 2 male cheetah. We found them and watched them as they posed with the sunrise in the background. Watching a herd of elephants drink from the Sand river and photographing Lions in the dark. Then beers after a successful day in the office!
One notable point which makes all the above experiences so magical is that you feel you are on your own in MalaMala and much of the time we were! MalaMala has a policy of no more than 3 vehicles at one sighting, so even as beautiful sightings are radioed in you know that only an additional 2 vehicles might join to share the wonder.
Four nights was just right for me of course I would of loved to stay another four but balancing cost, time away and having enough time to see the wildlife, it’s about right. We didn¹t idle, wake-up calls were at 5am and we were off half an hour later.
I could write heaps about how well I was looked after at MalaMala but all you need to know is the food is first class, it¹s not Michelin gourmet, it¹s hearty home cooking and plenty of it. Plenty to choose from the wine list but my only negative from the whole trip is that booze isn’t included in the price I think it should be, but then again it was still great value after converting everything back to pounds!
Oryx took excellent care of me and Marius was proactive in sharing his knowledge gleaned from years of photographing wildlife. I definitely returned home a better wildlife photographer and with some lovely images for the portfolio. Testament to Marius and the Oryx team is that I have already signed up for another photographic expedition next year bring on more magic moments!