“Unforgettable MalaMala”, by Greg & Jan Byrne
My wife, Janette, and I visited MalaMala in July this year, and I must say it certainly lived up to our expectations. After a long overnight flight from Sydney, Australia, via Johannesburg, we were met at the airstrip by our Ranger, Greg Baldwin, who ferried us to our Khaya at Rattray’s Camp. Once we settled in, we joined Greg for a marvellous lunch, where he introduced us to fellow adventurers, Connie and Greg from Illinois, excellent companions with whom we were to spend the next few days. This made for interesting conversations, what with three “Gregs” in the same group – most unusual.
We all met again at 3:00 pm, and set off on our first game drive, our travel-weariness melting away as we crossed the Sand River and headed into the bush. We soon encountered impala, warthog, giraffe and elephant … and then it got even better.
A call over the radio reported the sighting of a leopard west of the river, so off we went in search. We eventually found him, the West Street male, lying on a fallen tree trunk, barely 10 metres from our Land Rover, yet totally unconcerned by our presence. Fantastic! This is what we hoped to see. We stayed with him for a while, following him through the bush as he moved to a more comfortable resting place.
Later, after “sundowners”, we were heading back to camp when we heard that the Eyrefield pride were resting in the river bed opposite Rattray’s camp, so off we went to find them. Along the way, Greg (the Ranger) spotted another leopard resting in a tree, which he identified as the Newington male. We then drove into the river bed and found the pride of lions spread out along the sand, so we parked the Land Rover in their midst and watched them for a while with the aid of the spotlight. Eventually, we headed back to camp, and on the way we had to stop to let a rhino cross the track before we could continue. Back at camp, we freshened up, then joined everyone in the bar for pre-dinner drinks. The evening was capped off with a marvellous dinner in the boma, beside a crackling fire. We’d had a huge day, having seen two leopards and four of the “big five” animals on our first game drive. As we went to bed, Jan and I wondered “does it get any better than this?”