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Mala Mala, Londolozi or Singita Lebombo

Charlotte, North...
posts: 19
reviews: 7
Mala Mala, Londolozi or Singita Lebombo

Hello,

We are planning our next trip to Africa in September 2014 and would really appreciate some advice regarding where to stay in South Africa. Our itinerary at this point includes Duma Tau and Chitabe Lediba in Botswana and Singita Pamushana in Zimbabwe. This is our 6th "safari" trip to Africa and our third time in South Africa. We have stayed twice at Singita Boulders and also at Phinda, Ngala, and Metaya. We are trying to decide between Mala Mala - probably leaning towards Rattray's, but maybe Sable, Londolozi - either Tree or Granite Suites, and the Kruger Singita properties - probably Lebombo.

We've read that Mala Mala has the best game viewing of any of these places and has a much larger area to traverse, but have also read that it is showing its age a bit. Rattray's seems more "hotel-like" to me than some of the other properties we're considering, but we like the idea of only 4 to a vehicle. I'm a photographer and understand that the photographic opportunities at Mala Mala are outstanding since the animals are so habituated to the vehicles.

The Londolozi property looks stunning, but when we consider the number of vehicles on the property, it seems like it might be a little crowded. Also, how does the game viewing at Londolozi compare with Mala Mala?

We started looking at the Singita Kruger properties and love the beauty and remoteness, but wonder if there are enough animals there to be interesting. As much as we love the big cats, we really enjoy a large diversity of wildlife. We have had the good fortune of seeing wonderful wildlife throughout our trips to Africa, so we would rather see something interesting (and that may mean dung beetles pushing a dung ball) and take our time to enjoy it than rushing around just to check the "big five" off our list. In fact, what we'd most like to see are the more elusive animals - a caracal, aardvark, or maybe even a pangolin! We enjoy the thrill of tracking, and would like to do a fair amount of walking.

It's been hard to get good information about the amount of game at Lobombo. I certainly don't expect the same level as Sabi Sands, but I also don't want to go just to stay in a nice luxury hotel.

In summary, what we're looking for is a nice lodge that doesn't seem crowded and actually feels like we're in the bush, plus enough wildlife to provide an interesting 4 nights.

Would love any advice since we just continue to go in circles!

Thank you for any help!

Debbie

13 replies to this topic
Mytmoss
posts: 420
reviews: 4
1. Re: Mala Mala, Londolozi or Singita Lebombo

Londolozi's propery while not as large as Mala Mala is still very extensive. The lodge and staff are tops and the game viewing there is absolutely outstanding. I do not know anything about Lobombo so I cannot be much help there. I personally will never stay at Mala Mala no matter how good the game viewing is. I cannot go into details here on the forum as they are personal opinions.

As for unusual animals that you want to see, the sightings are so rare, it matters not where you go, its a matter of luck. On my last trip I finally got to see a pangolin. My tracker, who had 35 years experience, had only seen 5 others. You might also consider asking for a private vehicle so that you are not pressured by other passengers to see the big 5. I too like to spend time watching interesting stuff and I have found that having a private vehicle makes me very happy!

I think Londolozi would be a great choice for you and you will have a fantastic time there.

Mike

SOUTH AFRICA
posts: 2,267
2. Re: Mala Mala, Londolozi or Singita Lebombo

I agree with Mike's recommendation of Londolozi. To answer your question about Singita Lebombo - I have stayed there before. This concession has to be one of the most beautiful places I have been to and it most definitely worth including in any itinerary! The game viewing was much better than I had anticipated it to be, but to me the most wonderful thing about being there, was the feeling of true wilderness in that magnificent concession, with only the minimum number of vehicles out there.

Tanya * owner * Africa Direct

Gold Coast
Destination Expert
for Kruger National Park
posts: 2,422
reviews: 22
3. Re: Mala Mala, Londolozi or Singita Lebombo

Hi Debbie,

What a tough choice !.

I cannot help with comparisons as have only stayed at one of those lodges. Have heard however from other people that Londolozi is wonderful, and always gets great recommendations here.

We have stayed at Rattrays and it was unreal. We have experienced some great sightings at various lodges in Sabi Sand and the top favorites always include what we saw in our 3 days there.

Not sure what you mean about hotel like, IMO was nothing like a hotel. For a start the rooms are not rooms at all more like little houses, very large and well distanced from each other for complete privacy. The khayas overlook the river and have huge decks across the back to spend down time lounging around and of course a private pool. From our deck we saw antelope, giraffe, rhino and a herd of elephants cooling themselves off in the water,. Rooms are extremely comfortable, soft cosy couches and daybeds, king bed, his and hers bathrooms [not needed but comes in handy!] and even a desk with a laptop computer and internet access for those who just must keep in touch. Not something you would get anywhere. Maybe the hotel bit refers to the main lodge where there are a lot more guests, including families.

We had amazing lion and leopard sightings, in fact we spent over an hour and a half at one leopard/hyena sighting, never had to leave a sighting to allow other vehicles in like can happen at other lodges. We only ever saw one other vehicle at a sighting and in fact mostly it was just us. In fact due to their strict rules regarding the wildlife we had a viewing all to ourselves of a 4 week old leopard cub which will stay in my heart forever, no other vehicles were allowed near it. No doubt a once in a lifetime experience.

The food was amazing loved everthing, as I said rooms incredible and of course I have forgotten one of the main things...only four pax to a vehicle. Just loved that, we only ever stay where there is a maximum of six, cannot imagine sharing the seat with a stranger. Like Mike we love our photography.

We actually had the vehicle to ourselves on the last day which was nice, but we also enjoy the aspect of meeting people from all over the world, as we have done at other lodges.

Enjoy

Edited: 3:22 am, March 20, 2013
Charlotte, North...
posts: 19
reviews: 7
4. Re: Mala Mala, Londolozi or Singita Lebombo

Thank you all for the quick responses. They are all very helpful!

Tanya, I'm particularly happy to hear that you thought the game viewing at Lebombo was better than you had anticipated. Obviously, I realize that it will not be on par with Sabi Sands, but the wildness and remoteness is very appealing to me. On our last trip we spent some time in the Selous in Tanzania and loved it for the same reason. After researching reviews on obscure blogs until 1:00 last night, I think we're leaning toward Lebombo. I was wondering what the makeup of the guests were while you were there. After reading the blogs (and of course Trip Advisor reviews), my sense is that there will be a good number of first time safari folks there, and that 2 nights might be more the average time for people to stay. If so, we may choose that place to hire a private vehicle. While some first timers love seeing everything and soak it all in, I've been with a few that only want to see the "Big 5" and if they are only there for a short time, then sometimes we find ourselves trying only to see those animals to the exclusion of the others. As a photographer, over the years I have collections some incredible shots of the big five, but find I can come back from Africa with almost no photos of antelopes because we are with vehicle-mates who aren't interested in them. We had a particularly difficult time with this a few years ago at Mombo, since we were staying for 4 nights and got new people in the vehicle almost every day and we had to go by the same sighting every time (we also had the man who won the prize for the most obnoxious guest in history in our vehicle for 2 days!). After a while, we just want to sit quietly, watch animal behavior and soak up Africa and all its treasurers and we're probably terribly boring for those folks who want to chase after the big cats all the time. We can watch an elephant herd, happily, for a hour.

Mike, I definitely know what you mean about seeing the elusive animals. I keep telling my husband that we have to keep going back to Africa until we see a pangolin! If we are every lucky enough to see one, then I'll change it to a caracal....or whatever we haven't seen. On our last trip we saw a cheetah in full run and that had been at the top of my list for a while.

Thesandmans - I guess what I mean by "hotel-like" is the TV in the room and the fact that the camp is fenced (at least so I've read on TA). We love that we might have to dodge elephants on the way to dinner or (as in the case of our last trip to Singita Boulders) have a leopard that claims our room as his property and sits on our roof and sleeps at our doorway. Yes, there were times we couldn't get into our rooms until he decided to wake up and move away, but we just had to sit at the bar with a nice glass of rose for an hour or so, so of course it was torture! What I guess I'm saying is that I love the wildness of Africa and I don't get the sense of that from looking at Rattray's. When we stayed at Mateya, we had a gorgeous room, fantastic ranger and sightings, but the fenced off property felt just a little too protected and I felt more like we were in a hotel. I do realize that Mala Mala probably has the best game viewing in the world, and your inclusion of the baby leopard (another one of the things I'm dying to experience) draws me to Mala Mala. As a photographer, I know the sightings there will be plentiful, close and the animals will be relaxed, so that's where I'm really torn. Do I trade off the wildness of a place like Lebombo with the better photographic opportunities of a Mala Mala or Londolozi. That's very hard for me. My hubby, however, not being a photographer is what's pulling us more towards Lebombo.

In the end, I know these are three fabulous places and we'll be happy at any one of them. The other three properties we selected were very easy.....I guess I always have to struggle a little when planning a trip!

Thanks to all of you!

Debbie

Gold Coast
Destination Expert
for Kruger National Park
posts: 2,422
reviews: 22
5. Re: Mala Mala, Londolozi or Singita Lebombo

Hi again Debbie.

Ok now I see what you mean and yes there is a tv in the room, however it is discreetly hidden in a cupboard and we never once even opened the doors, I guess they cater to all types and some people still need a tv. Personally we go on safari for three to four weeks at a time and we have never so much looked at a tv screen, in fact we are usually too tired anyway !

Yes it is also fenced, You will get a mix of both in the Sabi Sand lodges, some are and some are not. Our other 'favorite' lodge in SS where we have stayed four times is not fenced, and it is lovely to have the animals wandering around I agree. Apparently though there some been some nasty incidents over the years and I guess each lodge has to take that into consideration. One in particular involving lions, let's just say very bad. We always get escorted to and from the room at night but let's face it the guard is only armed with a torch !!

At Rattrays the fence is quite discreet and does not take away the bush feeling at all but I can understand completely what you mean.

I am sure you will love whatever you choose. The location of Singita is on the eastern boundary of KNP, we have driven past the entrance a few times when self driving. Certainly is right in the bush, although of course same for the others. Would be interested to know if they drive out of their concession into the main park, there are a few big lion prides in the surrounding area.

Cheers

Western Cape, South...
Destination Expert
for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
posts: 6,264
reviews: 40
6. Re: Mala Mala, Londolozi or Singita Lebombo

I'd be interested in more Mala Mala comments. Since there are a total of 23 accommodations at Main Camp and Sable Camp and the reserve can thus easily have another 40+ guests on game drives besides the guests at Rattray's - was it unusual that the Rattray's experience was so personal and isolated? We know the Rangers communicate and commonly drive to a good sighting that one of their colleagues has reported on the radio. Is there some sort of understanding among them that Rattray's guests are exempted from sharing sightings?

Gold Coast
Destination Expert
for Kruger National Park
posts: 2,422
reviews: 22
7. Re: Mala Mala, Londolozi or Singita Lebombo

Hi Dave,

Fair question but I dont think we got any special treatment, although we did usually feel away from everyone else I think the reserve is so big maybe they can manage things a little that way,

The hyena/leopard interaction was found when we went to check on a rhino carcass that was in the area just in the hope there may be predators hanging around. we really got lucky not only was there a family of hyenas but also a leopard in the tree above, It was amazing to be able to spend so long there and during that time a couple of other vehicles turned up for short periods then left. I think as we were just loving the experience so much there was no need to leave. the other vehicles were close by and more could have come at any time so no we were not getting special treatment,

As for the leopard cub there were very extreme rules. No cars at all unless the mother was at the den, only one car with minimal people allowed in, certainly no vehicle with families would have been allowed in. Plus it was in a steep ravine where no more than one car could have accessed anyway, it was actually quite tricky almost scary to get to and easy to see why a stream of cars would not be allowed in. They were really only allowing very minimal access, and we were the only ones to see this at all. The other vehicle from Rattrays did not go there, we were just lucky I think as there were only four of us we just got in for a short period. Special treatment ? maybe? but I think it was really a case of just one visit/vehicle for that day only.

There was also a great lion kill right outside Rattrays in the river, we visited the pride on the buff several times and there were always other vehicles there from all the camps, same with some mating lions.

Another pride we spent time with at the river a few times, always another vehicle there with us.

I really just think despite the number of people in all camps the reserve just seems to be able to accomodate the vehicles as they spread out all over, it seems to take ages to get around. Another example some other guests spent time with 3 cheetah brothers, an amazing sighting but we missed out on that. A sight that I am sure plenty of main camp guests would have enjoyed immensely.

Remember to that with no other vehicles from other lodges the area of MM is still bigger than the total trversing areas of others, so probably just less vehicles per eqivalent square mile, no reason to have any crowded sightings

Make of that what you will.

Mytmoss
posts: 420
reviews: 4
8. Re: Mala Mala, Londolozi or Singita Lebombo

Londolozi is smaller than Mala Mala and I rarely if ever experienced much traffic there also. The amount of land does contribute to less traffic. It does take a long time to get to another sighting which may be a blessing or a curse. Its a curse in that if you really do want to see what others are seeing, you might not have enough time to get there or the sighting might disappear. While lack of traffic is a determining factor for my lodge choices, there are more important reasons I choose others over Mala Mala.

Mike

SOUTH AFRICA
posts: 2,267
9. Re: Mala Mala, Londolozi or Singita Lebombo

I am heading out to stay at Mala Mala Main Camp tonight. I'll be happy to report back....

Tanya * owner * Africa Direct

South Africa
posts: 1,212
reviews: 14
10. Re: Mala Mala, Londolozi or Singita Lebombo

Tanya, looking forward to your feedback about MM main camp. Last time I was there was before the strike, after which they fired their trackers. Not sure if they use trackers again now, but if they do they probably still sit on the back of the vehicle as they did before. That's how they do things at Mala Mala, I was told.

Mala Mala and Londolozi both have fantastic traversing areas, and I would second your suggestion of Londolozi. For a photographer, it may be worth asking abou their dedicated photographic vehicle which is uniquely equipped to suit the needs of photographers.

Singita Lebombo is situated in one of the most scenic areas in Kruger and there is plenty of wildlife in this area. Very much worth a visit. The lower frequency of sightings compared to the Sabi Sand is only due to fewer vehicles to call in sightings over the radio. Singita Sweni is not far away and also situated in an excellent area from a game viewing point of view.

Hope you enjoy your 6th safari, Debbie! So great to hear that you keep coming back to Africa for more!

Onne from Wild Wings Safaris

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