Staying at the Luxurious Rattray’s on MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa

“You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.” 
― Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa

Our wondrous safari journey into the heart of South Africa’s massive wilderness began after a few days exploring Cape Town and a stay at the historic Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel.

Weary from travel, the warm air hugged us for reassurance as we deplaned and made our way to meet the transport towards MalaMala. Nothing could prepare us for the wonders we were about to experience.

Upon our arrival at Rattray’s Camp, we were welcomed by friendly staff who made sure we settled in properly. We had an afternoon to relax from our travels before embarking on our much-anticipated safari adventure.

We were introduced to our camp ranger, Joe, who was to be our host and guide during the safari. One thing I loved about this camp was having the same guide each day, and we even shared all our meals together. Joe is an incredible photographer (check out his work on Instagram!) and we still keep in touch.

Joe discussed all our scheduling preferences while also taking into consideration the optimal wildlife viewing times, and the typical camp routine.


Don’t let the term ‘camp’ fool you as you’re planning your first safari.

Our accommodations were some of the most luxurious I’ve ever experienced – a lush canopy of green surrounds the property, located on the banks of the Sand River. The camp offers a sophistication we could not possibly have imagined. That’s the beauty of discovering a place for the first time.

A bit like stepping back in time, Rattray’s camp captures the simplicity of a past era, with a classic, refined style in each of the freestanding suites. MalaMala Reserve boasts Big Five game viewing, and judging from the view of the river outside our suite, we were in for some fantastic sights. Even as we arrived, from our vantage point in the suite we spotted a elephants drinking from the river, escaping the hot afternoon sun.

As we entered our suite, we were enveloped in quietly elegant surroundings, with a touch of Victorian flair in the furnishings. The gigantic windows keep your focus drawn to the outside world. A dip in our own private plunge pool (built right into the verandah!) was in order.

It’s almost as if the hotel’s designers had grasped onto the last bastion of historic safaris in the African bush, then kicked it up 10 notches.


Every meal at Rattray’s is a delicious and memorable experience. Game drives start early in the morning when it’s still quite cold outside in the winter. Before the drive we enjoyed coffee and light snacks, and during the drive we also stopped to have a coffee (the abundance of coffee in Africa made me very happy.)

After lunch, a siesta, bath, or workout in the gym facilities, it was back out to the bush. As the sun began to set, we would stop at a spectacular location each day for a sundowner cocktail and appetizers.

Dinner can be enjoyed in several locations on the property. The most special  is inside a reed “boma” enclosure for a cozy meal around the fire outdoors. If being inside for meals is more to your liking, you can dine in the African-themed dining room, on the large wooden deck, or you may, of course, dine privately in your suite. Afterwards, have a night cap at the historic bar and mull over photographs showing the early days of the camp.

Our first night at Rattray’s, the kitchen staff came out and sang beautiful songs during our meal.

There are only eight suites on the site; each suite is generously equipped with grand river views, an indigenous private garden,  bathrooms with a clawfoot tub and double shower. A fun feature of each suite is an additional outdoor shower, for the ultimate nature experience. Massage services are also available.

My sister and I loved taking long hot baths in the afternoon after our early morning game drives.


From the design of the hotel to the daily schedule of meals and game drives, Rattray’s truly provides an exceptional and classic safari experience.

MalaMala Rattray’s Camp is dedicated to making your safari adventure intimate and memorable. With 4-6 people per safari vehicle, you can go at your own pace and stick together with your family or travel companions. They take pride in making each of their guests feel like a part of something special as they ride deep into the wild of South Africa. With Joe as our guide, we made our way into the bush and all around the reserve. He took the time to carefully tell us about each animals we saw and the area in general. His intimate knowledge helped make the entire experience unforgettable, and he always encouraged questions. One day we even got up before sunrise for a special hike up a gigantic boulder, where we could look out over the entire reserve as the sun came up.

For the enthusiastic amateur or veteran photographer, Rattray’s Camp even offers a dedicated photographic vehicle. An experienced photographic ranger and the appropriate gear outfitted in the vehicle offers guests the ultimate photographic bush experience.

More so than most safari adventures, at MalaMala you have a higher chance of seeing the Big Five. But what impressed us the most about this wonderful camp is that they are dedicated to the safety of all the animals in the wild, and do their part in the overall conservation effort to reduce poaching in South Africa.

In short, it was a wildlife adventure we will not soon forget.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the above links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. 

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