In my previous post I wrote about the first part of our trip to Swaziland and our stay at Hlane. Our last 2 nights were spent at a different park, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary located a little more than an hour from Hlane. In part 1 I mentioned that the original plan was to spend all 3 nights at Mlilwane however when we called to finalize our booking, we were told that the camp was booked out for the first night for a private function. When we arrived at Mlilwane we discovered that this private function was in fact a celebration of 50 years of conservation in Swaziland with the King of Swaziland in attendance to unveil a commemorative statue. I wonder how many people can say they got bumped because of a King and on their birthday no less, haha.
Impala grazing in Mlilwane Camp
Mlilwane is a very special place. It is not a Big 5 reserve so don’t rock up hoping for a traditional safari experience. It is however, a place where you can get close, real close to nature. There are no fences around the camp which allows an assortment of grazers to wander around freely and without fear throughout the camp. And as there is very little risk to be eaten by predators here (there are leopards though they are rarely seen, and also crocs), you can do your own walking safari or hire bikes and explore the sanctuary at your leisure. There are also some good driving trails if your 4×4 is looking for a bit of exercise.
Sweet Female Nyala next to our tent. She came up to me and sniffed my hand.
Warthogs snooting about under the garbage
Mlilwane has a variety of accommodation choices including camping, rest camp huts, traditional Swazi beehives and self-catering cottages. After a long, cold winter in Jozi, I was really excited to get the chance to sleep in our tent again. The nights were quite comfortable at about 10°C and it felt warmer in the tent than our own bedroom. Bliss.
Are you going to help or take photos ?!?
Our Camp (yes I helped…)
Beware of Hippo sign in camp. Could make for an interesting late night bathroom visit.
The Hippo Haunt Restaurant in the camp serves a buffet breakfast, menu lunch and a buffet dinner. We chose to mix it up a bit and eat some meals there and some we prepared ourselves at the tent. The restaurant has a great deck overlooking a watering hole so you get a fantastic view with your meal. Hippos often make an appearance however they were staying further upstream while we were there and we didn’t get to see them.
50 Years of Conservation Commemorative Statue
After a restful first night, we were ready to hike the popular Hippo Trail. I absolutely loved this. The hike is 6.8 km and really pretty easy, more of a walk. It is marked as 2.5 hours but we took a bit longer as we stopped often for photo ops. The terrain is varied as you start by crossing some open plains, then wind your way through a forest and end up at the Big Dam. I wish I could do this every day.
Magnificient Tree Agama outside reception
The Hippo Trail
Young Male Nyala
Young Male Nyala a bit closer
African Wattled Lapwing
Zebras on the Trail
Mom protecting her baby. She kept a good eye on me while junior was grazing behind.
Views along the Hippo Trail
White-Fronted Bee-Eaters Nests
Terrapin catching some rays
Here Comes Trouble
After our hike and a leisurely lunch back at camp, we opted for a more lazy afternoon and took the Jeep out for a ride on some of the 4×4 trails. Not all the trails are well-marked so it was a bit difficult to follow on the map but we ended up high in the sanctuary with some really lovely views.
Winding our way up the mountain
Eye See You
Views from Above
Impala guarding our tent during the night
The following morning we had breakfast on the restaurant deck as we watched the bird life wake up and fish for their breakfast. Sadly it was then time to pack up the Jeep for our drive home. Another day or two at this camp would have been perfect. I did however manage to sneak in a few parting shots of some of the camp visitors.
Warthog in front of our tent
Warthog Braai ?
What did you just say ?!?
Beehives – these looked fun to stay in
On the way out of the sanctuary we took one last drive past the Big Dam. I was thrilled when I got one more chance for some last zebra shots.
Beautiful but watch out for…
Who me ?
Luckily he was on an island…
And appeared to be very sleepy…
We did see another croc off in the grass a few hundred meters away so you must be careful around water and not approach the banks too closely. Crocs can run up to 17 km an hour, I don’t think I could outrun one !
And here ends our stay at the lovely Mlilwane. I am sure this is a place we will return to many times. Until we meet again Mlilwane…