This post is about the safari experience for children and families at the MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa. The MalaMala Game Reserve offers activities for young safari-goers and its rangers are trained to customize the experience. It’s recognized as one of the best family educational holidays in South Africa.

The main camp of the MalaMala Game Reserve is the grand dame of safari camps. It’s South Africa’s oldest and most historical private game reserve.

At the Mala Mala Game Reserve in the Sabi Sands of South Africa

At the Mala Mala Game Reserve in the Sabi Sands of South Africa

ABOUT THE MALAMALA GAME RESERVE IN SOUTH AFRICA

Michael Rattray, founder of MalaMala, begun the concept of a luxury safari experience ahead of everyone else by improving on a safari camp established in 1927 by his father’s friend. This was in the 1960s, at a time when most other camps were nothing but tents and bush. Little has changed at the MalaMala Game Reserve in the Sabi Sands over the past decades.

At the Mala Mala Game Reserve in the Sabi Sands of South Africa

Animals wandered around outside our villa at the Mala Mala Game Reserve in the Sabi Sands of South Africa

“We’ve kept this lounge pretty much as is,” explained Greg Baldwin, MalaMala’s head ranger and our host for our stay, as we walked past a cavernous room done up with leather chairs and animal skins.

He added, as we stopped to inspect faded black-and-white photos of the camp on the walls, “If you look at these, you’ll find that much of it is still very recognisable.”

Each group of guests at the MalaMala Game Reserve is assigned a ranger who takes care of every detail of the stay, including menus, activities and transfers. We were lucky to be assigned their best man. In fact, Greg is probably the best ranger I’ve had in the 20 safaris I’ve done in Africa.

Greg was a master planner and also a mean 4WD driver, a great storyteller and a walking encyclopedia on everything in the bush.

STEEPED IN NOSTALGIA

At the Mala Mala Game Reserve in the Sabi Sands of South Africa

The historic main lodge of the Mala Mala Game Reserve in the Sabi Sands of South Africa. The interiors have largely remained the same for decades.

Indeed, the camp layout is almost the same, as are the original cone-shaped lodgings from the 1930s. The structures have been rebuilt and upgraded since then. But the rooms and suites at the main camp nevertheless have simple native-inspired furniture and a comfortable old-fashioned atmosphere.

The bougainvillea trees that line the pathways provide a delightful shock of pink, when in bloom, to an otherwise typical green-and-brown safari landscape. These trees were planted by an English aristocrat back in 1935.

Meanwhile, adjacent to the lounge is what is perhaps the camp’s most famous room. The MalaMala bar is cozy, lined with vintage photos and its centerpiece is a masculine wooden counter made shiny from use.

This bar counter has been there ever since anyone can remember. It’s the venue of perhaps a thousand stories. In fact, it still has the old score board on the wall on which safari goers used to tally their animal sightings for the day over rounds of drinks before dinner.

The salad at dinner at the Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa

The salad at dinner at the Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa

IMPORTANCE OF WATER SOURCES IN A SAFARI LODGE

However MalaMala is not only big on history but also literally in size. With over 13,000 hectares to its name, it is South Africa’s largest Big Five private game reserve. Also, it enjoys the enviable asset of having a major river (and watering hole) running across it. This practically ensures the significant presence of animals on its property.

The river that runs through the Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa

The river that runs through the Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa

SAFARI FOR KIDS: ACTIVITIES AT MALA MALA

In South Africa for a family holiday, we’d thus chosen MalaMala because of its history, its size and for its tailor-made safari programs for children. MalaMala even prepares tuckboxes with chocolate chip cookies, candy and milk for the children to take on their game drives.

The Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa

ANIMAL TRACKING

Tutorials on following and identifying various animals in the wild via their spoor markings.

SURVIVOR CHALLENGE

Hands-on lessons on basic survival skills including water sourcing, plant identification and food foraging.

“READ” THE BUSH

Junior rangers are taught the warning signs of dangerous animals, and first aid skills for emergency situations in the bush.

GAME WALK

Learning more about the different rocks, trees, birds and nests in the wild via walks around the camp escorted by an armed ranger.

JUNIOR CHEFS IN THE WILD

The host ranger prepares a bush breakfast that enables children to learn how to make fire and how to prepare a meal outdoors.

RADIO COMMUNICATION ON SAFARI

Children are taught the skills and etiquette of radio communication, as practiced on drives and out in the bush by the MalaMala rangers.


Read about family fun at the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve in South Africa