Zebras are a common sighting

Guide To Mala Mala Game Reserve In South Africa

Mala Mala is part of a collection of private game reserves in Mpumalanga called Sabi Sand Game Reserve. It covers 130 km2 of territory and has a 19 km-long unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. It is also bordered for 20 km by Sand River. We will talk about how these two features are extremely advantageous in the next section.

Mala Mala Game Reserve Laika ac License: CC

The eastern part of the river is completely uninhabited by humans. There is also no telephone phones, no roads, and electricity, which makes the majority of the park completely untouched and shielded from excessive human interaction.


The absence of fences along the Kruger National Park border enables the free movement of animals between the two parks. The Sand River contributes further by attracting animals not only from Mala Mala itself but also from Kruger National Park.

Mala Mala Game Reserve Laika ac License: CC

As we mentioned earlier, the park has the densest population of big five (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, and elephant) in entire Southern Africa. In addition to the big five, the park has two surprise elements in huge numbers: cheetah and wild dogs. The park has strict security measures against illegal hunting and poaching, so it is impossible to come across such cruelties even when it occasionally happens in Kruger.

Mala Mala was once home to a famous leopard called Tjololo, who – despite his smaller size – was quite competitive and dominant in the park. He was even the subject of the National Geography document called Stalking Leopards. He sadly passed away in 2007.

Another interesting fact about the park is the word Mala Mala, which means Kudu in Xitsonga. This is because the park is extremely packed with kudu, which is why the predators were attracted to the area in the first place.

Mala Mala Chris Bloom License: CC

Hyena, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, and hippopotamus are the other members commonly found in the park.

MalaMala Game Reserve, South Africa flowcomm License: CC


Mala Mala National Park allows a certain number of guests at a time, so your safari experienced won’t be interfered with by human crowds.

Classic safari tour packages have a daily itinerary including all three meals. Two main safari drives are organized. The first one departs at 5:30 am or 6:30 am depending on the season. The afternoon drive departs at 4:00 pm. If you like hiking, you can also join optional guided bush walks after breakfast.

Besides the classic safari tours, special safaris can also be organized. You might want to join a photo safari, where the sole purpose is to take high-quality wildlife photos. This can be useful for wildlife photographers and tour operators.

When it comes to children, Mala Mala makes sure they are treated exclusively. Normally, children under the age of five are not allowed on the classic safari drives; however, families can arrange special tours to accommodate their kids at an additional cost. This will be a super cool experience for your children as if they are preparing for a scout camp, as they will learn all the basic skills to survive in the wildlife.


There are several ways of getting to Mala Mala.

  • Skukuza Airport is closest to Kruger and Mala Mala National Parks. You can take daily flights to the airport from either Johannesburg or Cape Town. Once you land in Skukuza, you can take a shuttle that will take an hour and cost you 40 USD.
  • You can also fly to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport from Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town. It is two and a half hours away from the park entrance.

Click here for detailed information.

  • If you are in Johannesburg, you can also use Federal Air’s shuttle services. The air shuttles depart twice daily from OR Tambo airport and land in MalaMala Game Reserve private airstrip 10-minute drive from the campsite. The updated price for 2019 is 5500 Zar one way.

Click here for detailed information

  • Self-drive is also possible, although you have to drive for 6 hours from Johannesburg. The entrance to the park is through Sabi Sand’s Shaw Gate. For detailed information regarding the directions, click here.


  • Unless arranged otherwise, check-in time is 12 pm and check-out time is 11 am.
  • Neutral colors are recommended during the game drives to avoid attracting animals.
  • Climate: Mala Mala is in the subtropical Mpumalanga region, experiencing hot and humid summers followed by dry and mild winters. We recommend that you visit between March and April when the Sand River has the ideal flow rate. This is when the animals are drawn to the river the most.
  • Sunscreen is essential regardless of the season. The temperatures are quite high even in winter, so the sunlight can sneakily burn your skin even if you don’t notice.
  • Bring warm clothes for winter. It is best to dress in layers so you can take off/wear according to the changes in temperature.
  • The tap water is filtered and drinkable.
  • Safety: We can’t emphasize enough the danger of leaving the vehicles during game drives. It is not only extremely dangerous to come close to the animals and try to feed them, but also illegal since you would be disrupting the ecosystem. So, you might end up in jail if you don’t comply with this rule. Also, remember to keep your mobile phones on silent during the game drives.
  • Mpumalanga is within the malaria zone, so you need to consult your physician for the precautions you need to take, especially if you are traveling in summer.
  • Wifi is available at the campsites.
  • Power Supply: 220V AC