A visit to Mlilwane Nature Reserve-Swaziland
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary – Swaziland.
The Medical Students from Boston were obviously excited as they left the main camp on horseback for a ride into the Wildlife Sanctuary. Some had never ridden a horse before and certainly never amongst Zebra and Wildebeest.
The Mlilwane private reserve has an interesting history, an excellent education centre, a good selection of wildlife, and mouthwatering birdlife. It is also conveniently situated near the main towns of Mbabane and Manzini in Swaziland. Accommodation is available in a wide variety of forms, from basic camp grounds to luxury lodges. The typical Swazi Beehive, huts with shared bathroom facilities in the main camp, have a real African feel about them, and come at a very reasonable price.
Our visit however, was a day trip and after an interesting hour’s drive, during which we listed more than 20 different species of bird, we walked around the main camp that is set in a picturesque wooded area. The braai (barbeque) fires had been lit by the local workers, using the biggest logs I have seen in a braai. The Hippo Haunt Restaurant that overlooks a dam, and where we enjoyed a cup of coffee, provided a great view of a selection of water birds, including Hammerkop (Hammer-head), Giant Kingfisher and a variety of Herons.
The braai was excellent, but the highlight was a walk along the river with our guide, Kurt Platt, who warned us to look out for Crocodiles and Hippo, and if we saw any to keep a safe distance! Along the walk we listed a few more bird species and brought out list for the day to 49. We also saw the biggest number of Bee-eaters that we have ever seen in one area. We then saw one of the largest crocodiles on a bank of the river, just about 10 meters away, and a pod of Hippo at a more comfortable distance.
A Wildlife sanctuary like Mlilwane is not as vast as most of the other Game Reserves in Southern Africa, does not offer the “Big Five”, but it has a magic of its own. The opportunity to walk in the wild or even ride a horse or a bicycle amongst the animals is special, and you can bet that the students from Boston will have some great stories to tell and photos to show when they get back home!