Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Category: Alan Murphy's Column

In a three part blog series, Alan will look at obscure, off-the-beaten-track safari destinations. Places often overlooked by the crowds that are better off for their anonymity. In this, his first, he looks at safari possibilities in Swaziland.

Okavango Delta, Kalahari, Kruger: such iconic names ring with safari legend. But Southern Africa is a huge region. There are so many opportunities for a sublime safari. And why do it with the crowds? Why pay top dollar?

The kingdom of Swaziland has always been a favourite destination. Ever since the border guards mistook me for Austrian (they didn’t know Australia); ever since I got my first speeding fine in Africa. At that time I chose to be polite, courteous. And respectful to the police officer. I bade him a cheery ‘good morning’. ‘Not for you it isn’t’...he responded.

Black Rhino
But the Swaziland I will never forget can be summed up in two words: black rhino. It’s one of the best places to see them on the entire continent. Actually the kingdom  has an interesting conservation history. Conservationists and poachers at war culminating in a shootout between rangers and poachers at Big Bend. Fortunately, the good guys won.

Mkhaya Game Reserve is the place for black rhino. These critically endangered creatures have been almost wiped out from the continent by hunting and poachers. Their horn is valued for all manner of weird things in other corners of the planet. A few remain. They are restless, shy and aggressive. Wouldn’t you be? To spot one in the wild is a rare treat. Advice: stay in your vehicle; if on a foot safari stay close to your guides and look around for cover.

Wildlife Reserves
But there’s much more to the tiny kingdom. Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is a gorgeous area. Zebra, giraffe, warthog, antelope, hippo and birds, including black eagles are here. But no large predators. So it’s perfect for a walking or mountain biking safari. And if it looks like stormin’ take cover. Lightning strikes are common.

Another favourite is Hlane Royal National Park. It’s a beauty. Lions and elephants are highlights but there are plenty of other animals. In fact it’s packed with wildlife. And this is low-key wildlife watching. It’s the opposite of say...Kruger in season.

But for unspoilt wilderness head for Malolotja Nature Reserve in the northwest. Mountains, grassland and forest provide varied terrain. It’s also tops for walking, and packs a punch for birders (almost 300 species recorded).

Swaziland ain’t perfect. But if you tire of the crowds, want to stretch the legs, love African landscapes. And most of all want low key wildlife watching, the tiny kingdom appeals.

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