Overview – Mlawula NR

Alan Murphy
Expert
By Alan Murphy

Alan is a renowned Africa expert and has authored many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the Swaziland section of their 'South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland' guide.

Alan has authored many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the Swaziland section of their 'South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland' guide.

Alan has authored the Swaziland section of Lonely Planet's 'South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland' guide.

Alan researched and wrote about Swaziland for Lonely Planet.

Mlawula Nature Reserve is more low-key than its popular neighbor Hlane NP. It protects a wild tract of beautiful undisturbed bush in Swaziland (Eswatini), but poaching has been an ongoing concern and wildlife is scarce and skittish. Rhino were hunted out in the 1980s. There are very few facilities, and people usually organize their own drives and walks. Fishing and mountain biking are allowed, but you’ll need your own gear. Birding is outstanding with over 350 species recorded. Raptors are particularly well represented.

 
Best Time to Go June to September (Dry season, best wildlife viewing)
High Season Dec to Jan (Little-visited reserve)
Size 165km² / 64mi²
Altitude 147m / 482ft

Pros & Cons

  • Off-the-beaten-track destination
  • Independent, low-key experience
  • Pristine habitat and excellent birding
  • Many self-guided hiking trails available
  • Not much wildlife
  • Limited accommodation options

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Wildlife

Mlawula is not a place to see a large variety of animals. You’ll mostly see zebra, blue wildebeest and a variety of antelope. Impala, waterbuck, eland, bushbuck and greater kudu are all in the reserve. The beautiful nyala antelope is quite common and so is klipspringer in the rocky outcrops. Spotted hyenas and leopard are present, but rarely seen. If you’re staying inside the park, you might hear the characteristic whooping of the hyenas at night. Crocodiles and hippos are found in the waterways.

Scenery

The stunning scenery of Mlaluwa is best appreciated when hiking one of its many trails. A map is available at the entrance gate. The trails in the Lubombo Mountains provide excellent views across Swaziland to the west, and as far as the Mozambique coast to the east. The reserve features a plateau, which is home to unique flora including rare species of cycads. The trails on the plateau lead visitors past ancient caves, pools and waterfalls.

Weather & Climate

The weather and climate of Mlawula is comparable to that of Swaziland in general. More info:

Best Time to Visit

Mlawula can be visited throughout the year, but the dry months from June to September are best for wildlife viewing. At this time, the bush is not as thick and animals head for rivers and other water sources. As Mlawula isn’t primarily a wildlife viewing destination, you might prefer the wet summer months when the scenery is lush and green, and birding is at its best (this is the time migratory birds are present). The summer months from October to May can be very hot though, with regular afternoon rains. April and September are beautiful transitional months.

Getting There

Mlawula is quite accessible and any vehicle is usually fine for getting around the reserve. It is located about 100km/60mi from Manzini, and the drive takes about one hour and 40 minutes.

Health & Safety

Please read our malaria and vaccinations page for Swaziland, and our general wildlife viewing safety precautions page for more info:

Want to Visit Mlawula NR?

Mlawula NR Safari Reviews

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  • Wildlife
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Latest User Review
Kyle  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Sep 17, 2018
Wonderful experience with opportunities to experience the bush on foot.
5/5

I only visited for one day, but everything that I experienced was fantastic. I enjoyed the lower numbers of people around, so that the interaction with wildlife was more serene.

Full Review