Every year three generations of the Rowland family assemble at a beach house they’ve dubbed “Camp Rowland.” Last year, with two of their grandchildren college-bound, they decided to take “Camp Rowland” on the road to Africa. Here, grandmother and storyteller Judy Rowland recounts a magical moment for her family at MalaMala Game Reserve, a private reserve bordering South Africa’s Kruger National Park. MalaMala is a Bushtracks’ perennial favorite destination due to its reliable wildlife sightings, welcoming staff and knowledgeable guides, and their Junior Ranger programs for kids and teens on safari.
The Rowland family recounts their safari at MalaMala Private Game Reserve:
“We had at least one viewing of the famed Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, cape buffalo and rhinoceros during the first two days at MalaMala. Since a shot has not been fired there in over 60 years, the animals have no knowledge of being hunted and are not fearful of the large 4x4 jeeps transporting guests on their sightseeing adventures. They treat each vehicle as just another large, lumbering creature in the bushveld. That does not mean that the animals are tame. They are still deadly predators. The Rangers treat them with utmost respect while getting as close as possible. In public parks there can be as many as 30 vehicles lined up to view a sighting.
Lioness at MalaMala, Kruger National Park. Photo by Hayden Rowland, age 13.
Kruger Game Drive Before Sunrise
One morning at MalaMala we rose well before sunrise to be treated to a real Bush Breakfast. We climbed into our open air Land Rovers by flashlight, and took off into the darkness, each swaddled in a soft plaid blanket and cuddling a hot water bottle (our summer is Africa’s winter, so our photos from this outing look like an advertisement for down jackets!). We drove to a rock formation called a kopje, which was the highest point on the reserve. As we were disembarking and starting our climb to the top, the whole world was painted in a pink glow, awaiting the rising sun. At the apex of the hill we were surprised and delighted to find picnic tables spread with crisp white linen, chairs with fresh blankets and local flowers as centerpieces.
Judy and Tom Rowland enjoying time with their grandchildren on safari. Photo by Rowland Family.
"We Felt We Were the Only People on Earth..."
Our Rangers then lit a huge bonfire, fried bacon and scrambled eggs in the biggest skillet ever seen. We had coffee and hot chocolate while we watched the fiery, red sun creep over the horizon. It was so quiet and still that we felt we were the only people on earth as we watched the landscape waken and start to move in rhythm of another African serenade. While on this high vantage point, our youngest grandchild, 10 year old Hanna, was the first to spot a leopard walking far beneath us along a dirt trail. The Rangers immediately gave her the nickname Eagle Eye. She bore that proudly and it was even put on her Junior Ranger diploma.”