SPOILT FOR LIFE: 5 days, 10 game drives at MalaMala – Part 1

Text and photographs: Astrid Bluemel

DAY 1 – first impressions:

I am a photographer. I love coming to MalaMala. This time I am bringing my friend Susi, she’s never been to Africa before. I am pretty sure that after this experience she will love Africa and love going on safari. The one down thing: she’ll be spoilt for life.

I don’t know which of us is more nervous, she or me. Did I, in my enthusiasm, overdo it with all my stories of this wonderful place? All turns out well, she loves the plane ride from Johannesburg, and already wants to photograph the impala at the airstrip through the planes window! I barely managed to stop her, and this only after I promised her loads of them, at very close range which wasn’t a very hard promise to keep.


After tea we leave for our very first afternoon game drive. We are teamed up with two couples from the USA, which are as delighted as we are at every animal we see. And we see a lot! A giraffe, totally unimpressed by our presence, then two black billed stork in the riverbed, posing for us. We get lovely pictures, their black and white feathers and black and red beaks contrasting with the sand and green background.

Black billed stork

A cheetah pops in over the western boundary, we get some nice shots of him, unfortunately he moves rather quickly and disappears into dense bush. That is one thing that will happen to us more than once this trip. All in all, not a bad start at all!


Today’s highlight for me is an elephant family crossing the riverbed. They walk a mere 5m past our jeep and Susi almost falls of in amazement. Just wait till the lions and leopards do that, can’t wait to see the look on her face when that happens. At sundown we head for Matshapiri dam where we find a female leopard which likes to fish the catfish there. She’s all muddy, but we get some wonderful close up shots of her with use of the spotlight.

Susi in jeep with elephants passing

Susi’s comment: I am so happy to be here! Well, I am too!


DAY 2 – high hopes:

Up at 06:00 and after a great coffee to wake us up, we are in the jeep by 06:30, let’s go. We head straight for the wild dogs den site, can’t wait to get there. On the way there we already see elephants and a small dazzle of zebra walking towards us on the road decide to stare us out. We lose. Unfortunately we only get a very brief glimpse of one pup and the alpha female at the wild dog den, they disappear, we hear the pups playing on the other side of the termite mound but can’t see. We’ll come back tomorrow.

Cape hunting puppy

The rest of the morning is rather “unspectacular”, we see kudu, impala (as I had promised), zebra, wart hogs and elephants. We watch another elephant crossing, as always the little ones steal everyone’s hearts, they roll and play in the sand like little kids on a beach holiday.

Baby elephant

In the afternoon we find a pride of lions. Once they stop sleeping it gets more interesting, we follow them as they move along, hoping to witness a kill. They disappear in dense bush, too bad but they will have their dinner without us. This afternoon wasn’t as spectacular as yesterdays, but still, Susi is only one buffalo away from her BIG 7 (which is BIG 5 plus wild dog and cheetah). And guess what, the lions walked right across the lawn as we were having dinner!


Susi’s comment: We have seen so much already, I must buy a book so I can study all these animals and know what I am looking at. Boy, I’m impressed. That is motivation!



Stay tuned for part 2 of Astrid and Susi’s wonderful journey!

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