​Expert Reviews – Mlilwane WS

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Mark Eveleigh   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: November

Mark is a travel writer who grew up in Africa and has written over 700 titles for CNN Traveller, Travel Africa, BBC Wildlife and others.

A chance to get your feet/wheels/hooves into the African dust
Overall rating

It was already early evening when I drove into the hills of Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Covering just 46km2/29mi2, Mlilwane doesn’t take long to drive across but I had to keep stopping to gawk: the highland landscape was spectacular with the gold-tinted flank of Nyonyane Mountain looming above the plains. It’s said that in the old days this was the ‘Execution Rock’ from which criminals were thrown and that – with a gruesome sense of humor – Nyonyane means ‘Little Bird’ in the local language.

Happily, those birds are long gone but you have a chance of seeing 245 other bird species in the sanctuary these days along with 49 species of large mammals.

“When I was a kid on Mlilwane, which was then our family farm, you could drive across Swaziland and feel like you were passing through one endless herd of game animals,” recalled conservation legend Ted Reilly.

The old family home is now Reilly’s Rock Hilltop Lodge, an idyllic lodge among a purple snow-drift of jacaranda blooms. Down at the main rest camp you’ll find irresistibly quirky ‘Bee-Hive’ accommodation and a campsite. Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary became the country’s first protected area, but it was never intended to be a Big Five park. There’s a feeling of freedom here and, in the absence of dangerous animals, a delightful sense of being able to stamp your boots into the African dirt rather than simply watch the wildlife from the cocoon of a game-driving vehicle. You’re free to walk and mountain-bike (with or without guides) among zebras, wildebeests, nyalas antelopes and even – with a wary eye open – alongside man-made dams inhabited by hippos and large crocs. This is also wonderful horse-trekking country and a highlight of my visit to Mlilwane was an unforgettable dawn gallop among herds of zebras and blesboks.

Average Expert Rating

  • 2.8/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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