Bush etiquette

  • Should you have a special interest regarding any aspect of the local fauna, flora or abiotic environment, please let your ranger know. This way he can ensure that your stay is especially memorable.
  • Ask questions: No matter how dumb you consider your question, please ask. By asking questions you help your ranger to ensure that you enjoy your stay and leave well informed on the environment. The only useless question is the one not asked!
Should you have any medical conditions that the ranger should be aware of, please advise him. It is especially important that he has knowledge beforehand of allergies such as bee stings, in order to check with you whether you have your Epipen on hand in the event that a bee stings you when you are far from camp. The Land Rover is equipped with a small medical aid bag, with provisions to assist with minor injuries. You must ensure that you bring along any necessary medication to cover your specific medical needs.
  • During game drives, mobile phones, iPads and other similar devices may be used for photographic purposes only. These devices must be switched to silent so as not to disturb other guests, rangers or wildlife.
  • No telephone calls may be made or received whilst guests are on game drives.
  • MalaMala is part of a strict rhino poaching controlled area and therefore photographs of rhino using these devices is not permitted.
  • Mobile phone coverage (MTN) and wireless internet connectivity are available at the MalaMala Game Reserve camps. However please note that the use of laptops and cell phones are restricted to individual bedrooms out of respect for other guests.
  • Should you have any queries regarding the use of electronic devices and mobile phones please discuss these with the camp manager.
The ranger carries a high-powered rifle on the Land Rover, which is there for your protection. He is trained and efficient in the handling of the rifle. Stay behind the rifle at all times.
  • Smoking and cigarette butts: No smoking is permitted while on the Land Rover. During a drinks break it will be possible to have a cigarette, but please ensure that you have the necessary means to ash into and dispose of your cigarette butt when you are finished.
  • Litter: It is important that the game reserve remain litter-free. Do not throw anything overboard! This includes decomposable items like fruit skins. No one would like to spend the time and money to visit Africa to take a photograph of a wild elephant with a banana peel at its feet! Please discard these items inside of the vehicle.
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent are provided on the Land Rovers, but if you have specific sunscreen or insect repellent needs, it is advised that you bring the necessary products along with you.
  • If you bring a camera, make sure that you have spare batteries or memory cards/film. There is nothing more frustrating than missing out on an once-in-a-lifetime photographic opportunity because you are unprepared.
  • Binoculars are a handy tool for game viewing. If you did not bring a pair, your ranger will have his pair with him during the safari.
  • Commands: These could include keeping still when a predator or other animal walks in close proximity to the Land Rover. Even small movements may agitate an animal and make it feel uncomfortable.
  • Radio: Every Land Rover is equipped with a radio, which the ranger uses to communicate with other rangers. The ranger will wear a headset so that you don’t have to hear the radio during the safari. Please be patient while he is talking on the radio, as he is more than likely listening to information that may benefit your experience.
  • Ask questions: No matter how dumb you consider your question, please ask. By asking questions you help your ranger to ensure that you enjoy your stay and leave well informed on the environment. The only useless question is the one not asked!
  • Speak quietly at sightings: It is not necessary to whisper at sightings unless indicated to do so. Talking at a level so that everyone on the Land Rover can hear is acceptable. Please take the other Land Rovers at the sighting into consideration.

Game drives

  • While on the open Land Rover there is no need to wear neutral bush coloured safari gear, but it is best to avoid very bright or iridescent colours.
  • During the summer months it is advisable that you wear lightweight clothing, as well as sunscreen and a hat.
  • Bring something warm to wear should it get cool during the evening part of the drive.
  • Winter drives – especially early morning and evening – are cold, so it is essential to bring clothing suited for these conditions.
  • Midday in winter can be warm, so you may want to dress in layers so that you can shed clothes as the day warms up.
  • Should you have any special needs, the Land Rovers are disability friendly and cater for a wide range of needs. A ramp in camp is provided for wheelchairs leading up to the front seat next to the ranger. On the seat, necessary cushions, blankets and straps can be provided if necessary.
The Land Rover in which you will travel to see wildlife is open – there is no roof, no doors or windows. There will be times that the ranger will take the vehicle off-road in order to follow animals and tracks to afford you the best possible view of the animal. Please be aware that these are wild animals that you will be seeing and even though they may seem relaxed, it is important that they are treated with respect with regard to how close the vehicle is to them. The ranger will allow the animal to dictate where he will move and park.
  • Watch out for branches: Watch out for branches and don’t touch them. A lot of trees on the reserve have sharp thorns, which can easily penetrate the skin if a hand is placed on it while driving past. When driving off-road, be on the lookout for branches and duck under the roll bar of the seat in front of you, allowing the branch to pass overhead. Be aware of branches when the Land Rover is reversing.
  • Hold onto the bars when off-road: When traversing rough terrain, hold onto the bar in front of you to stabilise your body, making the ride more comfortable.
  • Don’t stand up: Don’t stand while driving or at any sighting. The cats are especially habituated to the shape of the Land Rover that is presented to them. By standing up, you are altering the shape that they are used to, which may cause them to become agitated and uncomfortable. Should they feel threatened, they are more likely to either attack or run away and neither option is desirable. In certain situations, such as when viewing rhino or buffalo from a distance, ask the ranger whether you can stand as it is often not a problem. If you feel that you need to stretch your legs, do not hesitate to tell your ranger and he will stop for a break. Do not, under any circumstances, stand when the vehicle is moving.
  • Communicate if uncomfortable with a situation: Most animals are habituated to the presence of the Land Rovers. If, however, you feel uncomfortable at being too close, or that a sighting is too gruesome – such as a kill – tell the ranger so that he can place a greater distance between you and the animal or leave the sighting altogether. At times you may go off-road driving. If you feel uncomfortable with this activity, please say so.
  • Stay on the vehicle unless instructed or permitted to do otherwise: If you wish for a comfort break while out on the reserve, please inform your ranger and he will happily oblige. MalaMala’s policy is to stop in an area where it is open enough to see any animals approaching.
  • Secure your belongings: While not using your equipment, please ensure that it is safe and secure, and not in danger of sliding off the Land Rover. There are sealed Velcro pouches on the back of the seat in front of you. These pouches there are for the purpose of storing your belongings.

Bush walks

Two guides accompany you on the bush walk – the lead guide on foot, and the backup guide follows in the Land Rover in case of any potentially dangerous encounters with animals. The Land Rover is also at your disposal should you wish to take a break, but do not want to stop the walk altogether.

The aim of the walk is to avoid any encounters with large and dangerous wildlife. Instead you will look at things you do not usually experience on game drives. This includes tracks, birds, vegetation, as well as the other smaller, yet interesting, animals. It also affords you the opportunity to get some exercise. The walk will be conducted on the road through an area that is relatively free of dense vegetation.

As the aim of the walk is not to get close to animals, the colour of your clothing is not crucial, as long as it is comfortable. Bear in mind that your body temperature will rise during the walk, so any unnecessary garments should be left on the Land Rover. The most important aspect is that you have closed, comfortable walking shoes, a hat and sunscreen. There is water on the Land Rover and it is advisable to take a bottle with you during the walk. Small cameras and binoculars will also add value to your experience.
  • Stay behind your guide: Please stay behind the lead guide and the rifle at all times. This is self-explanatory as during any chance encounter with a dangerous animal, it is important that your guide has a clear view of the threat and that he is between you and the danger. Follow behind your guide and, should you stop to talk about something, you should please still ensure that you stay between the guide and the vehicle. At no stage walk ahead of the guide.
  • Stay together: It is important that you stay together and that no one strays from the group. An animal will be more likely to move away from a group than to move away from an individual. If you see something that catches your eye and would like to take a closer look, get the attention of the lead guide and the whole group will go together to have a look.
  • Communication: While walking please remain silent so as to hear warning sounds from any animals. When stopping at an interesting subject, it is acceptable to talk at a level loud enough for everyone to hear. During the walk there are two hand signals that may be employed – an open hand, meaning stop walking, and a finger to the mouth meaning to remain silent. These signals are used when an animal has been detected close by but it has not become aware of the presence of the group, so therefore it is important that the group remains unnoticed until the animal moves off.
Listen to your guide.

Identify potential hazards: This includes everything living and not living. Any creature has the potential to be a threat and should be treated with caution and respect. Other threats include sunburn or tripping of an inanimate object like a rock.

Golden rules:

  1. Stay behind the lead guide
  2. Listen to his commands
  3. Do not run!

In the event of a potential threat, the Land Rover will move close enough to the group to allow it to be used as security either by moving between the threat and the group, or allowing the walkers to climb into the vehicle. The guide will give you instructions to stop, not run and stay behind him. Follow these instructions because your guide will always put himself between you and danger.

  • Lion: These animals are likely to detect people before they even see them and will move away. There is a chance of encountering lions that are sleeping in the heat of the day. In that case, it will be possible to climb into the Land Rover before they notice the group. Should the lions wake up and notice the group before the Land Rover can get to you, the best thing to do is to back off slowly. Follow the guide’s instructions and he will get you out of the area.
  • Elephant: In the open areas where the bush walks take place, elephant detection is relatively easy. By spotting an elephant from far away, observation will be possible without climbing into the Land Rover. After that, the walk will take a different route so as to avoid encountering elephants. Once again, follow the instructions of your guide.
  • Buffalo: Like elephants, buffalo detection is possible in an open area, and from a distance. The same procedures for elephants applies here.
  • Lion: A charge from a lion will often be a mock charge, but no chances will ever be taken. The charge will be loud with a lot of growling as the lion tries to intimidate you. It is important to keep your wits about you and try to remain calm. The situation will only become more dangerous should people start running in every direction. Stay behind the guide and he will shout loud and clear instructions as to what you must do. Lions tend to charge several times during mock charges, backing off each time and charging again. In this situation the guide will ask you to show the lion that you are more confident and dominant, by shouting at the lion. Between each charge you will slowly back off while maintaining eye contact with the lion.
  • Elephant: A mock-charge from an elephant is likely to be very vocal. As with the lion, remain with the group. Shouting and clapping could unnerve the elephant and send it away. There is however no rule of thumb to predict how the animal will behave, thus it is imperative to follow the lead and instructions of your guide.
  • Buffalo: A single male buffalo is more of a threat than a herd of buffalo. When encountering a buffalo at close quarters, the buffalo is likely to stand still and watch. Remain calm and quiet while the group slowly walks backwards from the animal. The buffalo could also turn and run or charge. If the buffalo charges, it will not be a mock charge, so do not be surprised by the rifle shot! Do not run, the vehicle will move in and the guide will focus on the animal.