An adventure in Swaziland

Jenny Bowen
Dec 15
An amazing place with wildlife and stunning scenery!
Beehive Huts, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary

Arrive in Swaziland in the morning and pick up your car and drive to your first night’s stay, only an hour away.

As you drive through the reserve keep an eye-out for the abundant bird life and animals such as hippo, crocodile, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, nyala, impala and warthog. Crossing the dam make sure that you look on the small island close to the road on the far side, a popular place for hippo and croc to sun themselves.

Mlilwane is Swaziland's oldest protected area and gave birth to the concept of nature conservation in the Kingdom. Ted Reilly, having witnessed the disappearance of wildlife, turned his 450ha family farm, Mlilwane, into the Sanctuary as it is today.

There’s a network of self-guided trails through Mlilwane, ranging from a leisurely stroll along the plains where a variety of game are often found, or you can try the harder trails leading up to the infamous Rock of Execution. The trailing philosophy is to promote an affinity with nature and if you are quiet, you should see a wide variety of animals along the different trails such as wildebeeste, zebra and many antelope.

There’s also the opportunity to do something more active, such as mountain biking or horse riding. Mountain biking in Mlilwane is a popular activity and trails are accompanied by a Swazi field guide. It can be a gentle hourly ride along the plains, or a 3 to 4-hour mountain bike trail taking you into some of the beautiful mountains of Swaziland.

Alternatively, you can see Mlilwane from a horse’s perspective. There are fantastic trail horses throughout the reserve and these are for both beginners to experienced horse riders. The wildlife’s used to the horses, so you can get up close and personal with much of the plains game and riding through herds of zebra and something to remember.

Simply sit by the hippo pool. One of the attractive features of the camp is Hippo Haunt Restaurant, which overlooks a hippo pool providing wonderful wildlife viewing. The restaurant consists of a cozy inside area with a fireplace and comfortable couches as well as two outside wooden deck areas where you can enjoy meals and drinks from the bar.

Accommodation: Beehive huts. The huts have the feel of traditional Swazi homesteads with grass dome-shaped huts arranged in semi-circles all semi-enclosed by traditional Swazi kraal fencing. Huts are tastefully designed with twin beds and en suite bathroom yet in keeping with the surrounding area, they are surprisingly larger inside than you anticipate! 

Foresters Arms

The Foresters Arms dates from colonial times and is a place of great character and charm. It’s gloriously situated on its own estate in the mountains, and is a short scenic tarred drive from the capital, Mbabane. Set in the heart of the Kingdom, it’s ideal for exploring all attractions.

Foresters Arms has a personal and relaxed feel about it, where time slows down and you can have the opportunity to appreciate the glorious scenery of the surrounding area. The hotel’s exceptionally helpful in offering ideas of where to go, and what to do and can tailor make it to your needs.

The hotel combines excellent service with charm so you can step out of the fast lane, relax and rest. The relaxed atmosphere’s echoed in the lounges, pub and restaurant with charming furnishings, old prints and roaring log fires for chilly weather.

The spacious grounds and colourful gardens create a tranquil atmosphere and the invigorating climate’s ideal for walking, horse riding and biking. Going further afield there is the opportunity to visit Ngwenya glass factory. Here you can see glass being blown and shaped into glassware such as wine glasses, sculptured animals like lion and giraffe and extraordinary vases. Ngwenya also has a number of other shops and traditional artefacts which you can buy as gifts or for yourself. Here you can also stop for lunch before moving on. This is a great place to do a spot of souvenir shopping. There’s also a host of other activities to do, or simply sit by the swimming pool and watch the birds in the garden.

On the way to Foresters, we recommend that you visit Mantenga, which is located behind the mountains of Mlilwane. Here there’s a stunning waterfall and a traditional village where you can learn about the Swazi culture and how a traditional village is set. Local villagers will show you around, explaining the roles of the head man and his wives, their sons and daughters and the traditional healer. Twice a day at 11.15 and 15.15, there’s traditional singing and dancing, beautifully done with the backdrop of Execution Rock, a brilliant opportunity for photos.

Maybe spend time exploring the iron ore mine and visiting Ngwenya glass factory where recycled glass is created into extraordinary glassware. Or maybe visit Malolotja Nature Reserve. This is one of the most impressive mountain parks in Southern Africa and is the largest protected area in the Kingdom. The spectacular scenery and the variety of fauna and flora makes it a prime highveld conservation area. The views in Malolotja are stunning, something similar to being Tolkeins book 'Lord of the Rings'. And if a dragon rose up from behind the mountain range, you probably wouldn't be too surprised!

In Malolotja, you can hike the well-marked trails by yourself, using the maps provided, or walk to one of the incredible viewpoints to watch the wildlife. There’s also the chance to participate in the unique Canopy Tour®, the only zip wire in the kingdom, which offers dramatic scenery of striking rock formations, towering cliff faces and views across the lush forest canopy towards the Malolotja mountain peaks. It’s an experience not to be missed!

Accommodation: All 34 bedrooms are tastefully decorated, with bathrooms en suite, telephones and satellite TV. The personal touch of the Foresters Arms spills over into the bedrooms as well where they have a homely and welcoming feeling to them.

The rooms are spacious and all open up onto the delightful gardens and the outstanding views over the surrounding countryside. The colourful gardens are a favourite haunt of sunbirds, paradise flycatchers and other colourful birds. 

Mkhaya Game Reserve

Mkhaya Game Reserve, named after the Acacia nigrescens tree, comprises of acacia-dominated thornveld in the south and broadleaf sandveld in the north. Unique, intimate encounters with Mkhaya’s wildlife are exceptional and all travel within the reserve is by open Land Rovers or on foot. The reserve is criss-crossed with dry riverbeds, dotted with waterholes and has a network of intertwined game-viewing roads.

Mkhaya currently supports four of the Big Five; with leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino being present on the reserve. You should be able to see rhino up close and personal. A host of other game such as giraffe, hippo, crocodile, roan and sable antelope, tsessebe, eland, kudu, ostrich and vervet monkey are also seen regularly.

The birdlife is also abundant and the rare Narina Trogan can sometimes be seen in camp along with the more common species such as the crested guinea fowl.

Mkhaya was set up as a breeding program for endangered species such as the black rhino, roan and sable — a sighting of the elusive black rhino is normally very high up most visitors list, so keep your eyes peeled on those game drives!

During your stay, there’ll be game drives in the early morning before breakfast and also in the late afternoon. After breakfast, there’s often the opportunity to go on a walking safari where you can learn how to track wildlife. During the rest of the day there’s the chance to sit at nearby Kirky Hide to see what comes into drink, you never know what to expect!

Mkhaya is staffed and patrolled entirely by Swazis from neighbouring communities and has what is arguably Africa's most effective anti-poaching unit. The reserve’s totally self-financing through visitor revenues. 

Laid out along the banks of a dry river bed, is Stone Camp where the vegetation comprises of tall fig, leadwood, sausage and knobthorn trees, with a lush under-canopy giving it a year-round subtropical appearance. The camp is known as 'Stone Camp' due to the dolerite rocks used in the construction of the semi-open stone and thatch cottages. The whole living area is comfortable, quiet and relaxing and a welcome retreat after a day out in the African sun.

Following the sandy path to your accommodation, which snakes its way through the bush, you realise what an exceptional experience you're going to have at Mkhaya.

Accommodation: Stone Camp is unique in style and offers visitors the opportunity of really getting back to nature. Each unit is laid out discretely in the riverine forest overlooking the dry riverbed, linked by pathways which are lit at night by paraffin lanterns. The entire internal structure of these cottages, although veiled for privacy, is open to the external bush, which gives visitors a totally unique and true bush experience.

There’s no electricity in the camp which adds to the charm and tranquility of the camp. Magical.

Tented Camp, Mbuluzi Game Reserve

Mbuluzi game reserve which is a bushveld paradise in the North Eastern lowveld of Swaziland. Named after the majestic Mbuluzi River, Mbuluzi Game Reserve lies in the foothills of the Lubombo Mountains forming part of the 60,000 ha Lubombo Conservancy.

It’s beautiful driving around Mbuluzi. You can stop any time, get out of your vehicle and walk if you want to. One of the main attractions are the giraffes, the largest herds found in the kingdom. It’s possible to walk within these herds without disturbing them and getting up close to these magnificent animals is certainly something to remember.

The reserve’s very well managed and you’ll probably find you’re the only people in the reserve — so definitely make the most of this exclusivity and enjoy the enjoy the spectacular surrounding.

Mbuluzi is a unique Game Reserve encompassing some of Swaziland's most pristine bush-veld, it has a variety of landscapes and excellent bio-diversity. Mbuluzi offers a very diverse habitat of rocky ridges, knobthorn savannah and riparian forest. 

There are many kilometres of well-marked and maintained trails offering visitors a choice of short strolls or all-day hikes and hikers are free to explore the area at their own time and pace. Bird and game watching along the walking trails can be very rewarding, and because Mbuluzi has such diverse topography in a single morning's walk you can move from the riparian foliage along the river to boulder-strewn hill tops with lovely views over the conservancy. Common species include giraffe, zebra, kudu, blue wildebeest, nyala, impala, warthog amongst others. Leopard, hyena and of course crocodiles make up the major predator population.

Accommodation: The camp has unique luxury tents each with an en suite bathroom and fantastic outdoor showers. The thatched kitchen/lounge area is well equipped with a huge veranda area. An inviting swimming pool adds to the picture.

The Tented Lodge has been designed and built with the natural environment in mind; the Lodge is sensitively positioned on the banks of the Mlawula River, overlooking steep cliffs where baboons, bushbuck and kudu can be watched from the comfort of a deck chair. 

Hlane Royal National Park

In the vast bushveld expanse of eastern Swaziland where the hot, still sun of Africa beats on the dry but life-giving soils lies Swaziland’s largest protected area, Hlane Royal National Park. Hlane is home to the largest herds of game in the Kingdom and at night you go to sleep listening to the rumbling roars of lion.

Entering the park drive to Ndlovu camp, named after the elephant that are often seem drinking from the nearby waterhole. The first thing you should do is to walk down to the water hole as you never know what’s there — often there are white rhino and maybe hippo, crocs and a host of antelope too. It’s one of the best places in Swaziland to see wildlife on a regular basis.

Hlane offers fantastic sightings of white rhino, and Swaziland claims to be the best place to see rhino in the world. There’s also elephant, giraffe, hippo, crocodile, hyena, as well as large populations of zebra, wildebeest and impala.

Hlane covers 30,000 hectares of Swazi bushveld, dominated by ancient hardwood vegetation. The park’s home to lion, elephant and white rhino, with an abundant and diverse bird life, including the highest density of nesting white backed vultures in Africa.

There’s a network of self-drive game-viewing roads criss-crossing the park’s flat terrain, weaving between the 1,000-year-old hardwood vegetation and shallow pans, which attract great herds of animals during the dry winter months.

Guided walking safaris, mountain biking and game drives in Hlane's open Land Rovers are available. Head for the bush and experience the sights and sounds of Hlane against the roar of Hlane’s magnificent lions — the symbol of royalty and the pride of Swaziland. Pedal amongst wildlife (not where the lions are!) and in between giant trees. The mountain bikes can be hired on an hourly basis and are accompanied by a Swazi field guide. 

A visit to Mahlindza Waterhole is highly recommended. Here there’s a bird hide overlooking the water where enormous herds of impala and other ungulates congregate. Spot the resident crocodiles along with maribu storks and fish eagles. We advise taking a picnic here, you could spend the whole day here and not realise it!

At Ndlovu Camp, there’s an open-air restaurant and a game-viewing deck where you can sit back and enjoy the view of the waterhole — a perfect place for sundowners, tasty meals and relaxation. The food in the evenings is diverse and often game meat is available. The camp’s open, has no electricity and is reminiscent of the old Kruger National Park rest camps, with abundant bird life and a relaxed communal atmosphere. Sundowners here is a must.

Accommodation: Ndlovu Camp has delightful en suite twin rondavels near to Ndlovu waterhole. These twin rooms are beautifully designed and set in the bush away from the main part of the camp. There are often impala wandering through the area and each rondavel has its own veranda. There’s no electricity in the camp and paraffin lights are provided giving a wonderful atmosphere to your room. Be lulled to sleep by the distant roar of lion. 

Mjejane River Lodge, Kruger

Mjejane River Lodge is an exclusive lodge situated within the revered Mjejane Game Reserve — a private Big 5 Game Reserve incorporated into the Kruger National Park.

Perched on the banks of the Crocodile River and surrounded by thousands of hectares of raw African wilderness, it’s here that the paths of predators and prey cross. It’s here that you’re assured of a breathtaking wildlife experience.

Mjejane Game Reserve is an experience that speaks to the soul and mind. From the moment you breathe the fresh Bushveld air to the time you witness a pride of lions strolling past your home, or an inquisitive elephant herd joining you for a sundowner by the river — it’s a magical sensation. Innovative thinking has created the most exciting private game reserve in Southern Africa.

It embraces a breath taking 11km river frontage and, together with the private bush stands, epitomises the intimate bush experience showcasing Africa’s Big Five. The reserve includes a private bridge over the Crocodile River, giving home owners the unique privilege of accessing the Kruger’s 7900km road network directly from Mjejane Game Reserve.

Activities include visit within the private reserve as well as Kruger excursions.

Accommodation: There are 6 luxury rooms which consist of 3 double rooms and 12 twin rooms. All rooms have en-suite bathrooms, hair dryers, tea and coffee stations, mini bar fridges and private patios overlooking the serene waters of the Crocodile River. As the African bush weaves its magic spell, your senses will awaken as never before and you will soak up a host of new experiences that will feed your soul.