Mike Unwin
United Kingdom UK
Mar 23, 2015 March 23, 2015

Mike is an award winning wildlife writer, editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

Category: Best Kept Safari Secrets

Malolotja is Swaziland’s premier nature reserve but, like Swaziland itself, is often overlooked. Visitors will find few other people and can enjoy fabulous scenery, hiking as impressive as the Drakensberg and a wide variety of rare and unusual wildlife.

Exhausted, I levered the pack from my back and slumped into the shade of a sugar bush for a welcome drink of water. Bird calls drifted up from the canopy below: the chirrup of sombre greenbuls, the growling of a turaco. Down in the forest the trail had been all cool, green, filtered light. Now, up on the exposed, boulder-strewn slopes the sun had me pinioned me to the hillside like a beetle on a sand dune. An unseen baboon barked its alarm call from the ridge-top ahead. Now I could hear the rush of the falls. I shouldered my pack and pressed onward.

Swaziland, southern Africa’s tiniest nation, does not boast famous safari destinations to rival those of neighbouring South Africa, but the muscular wilderness of Malolotja Nature Reserve – its premier park – offers fabulous wild hiking, with a chance of encountering rare and unusual wildlife. For birders, Malolotja means the blue swallow – southern Africa’s rarest bird and just one of a fine cast of avian A-listers. Among other wildlife, alert hikers might meet klipspringers or mountain reedbuck skittering across the rocky slopes, an otter lolloping along the riverbank or even a shy serval stalking the marsh.

And at dusk, aardwolves roam the hillisides, searching out the fresh diggings of aardvarks to feast on the termites. Plants, too, are prolific: orchids in the grasslands, cycads in the forests, aloes and coral trees splashing the hillsides with scarlet. It’s not ‘Big Five country’, give or take the occasional leopard print. But whatever you find, you’ll have it all to yourself.