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The Mlawula Nature reserve in Eswatini is located in the northern part of the country is found next to the Mbuluzi Game reserve and a one stop Centre for wildlife lovers. The reserve is right next to the Lubombo Mountains that provide a good backdrop for Mlawula. It is also perfect for all types of tourists travelling to Eswatini that is families, couples, groups and those that love all the different types of outdoor activities.

The Mlawula Nature reserve has quite a number of activities that tourists can engage in like hiking due to the presence of the different interlinking hike routes found in the reserve, game drives where you get to see the different animals, fishing which is done in both the Mlawula and Mbuluzi River which flow through the reserve, birding which is best done during the wet season and nature walks where you get to feel the wild nature that the reserve has to offer.

The Mlawula nature reserve is a perfect destination because tourists get to self-drive and self- walk themselves around the park while enjoying the beautiful scenery that is found in the reserve and even during the peak season, it is never crowded with tourists like other reserves in the country.

Hiking through Mlawula

You can either take a short walk or hike around the Mlawula nature reserve. The hikes routes can either take you just a few minutes, hours or days depending on which route you have taken. The hike through the Game reserve can be done with the help of a tour guide but there is also an option for all those that would love to go on self-guided hike because all you will need is a map and you will be able to enjoy all the wilderness that the Mlawula has to offer.

Hike up the Lubombo Mountains

The Lubombo Mountains are located within a close vicinity of the Mlawula and can easily be accessed through the reserve. The hike routes that hike up the Lubombo Mountains offer different beautiful scenery depending on which one you would like to take but it is better if you try out both.

One of the routes will take you past the Mahlabashane gorge where you will be able to view different plant species like the ironwood trees and animals like the red duiker, the hyenas, the black backed jackal, aardwolf and side striped pangolin among others.

The second hike route will take you past the Khabane cave which is a home to the Swazi Euphorbia owls and since this hike is a little bit steep, it will offer you some of the best views of the Mlawula nature reserve from an elevated point of view.

As you head out for the hike within the reserve, make sure that you carry your own bottled drinking water because the tap water within Eswatini is not safe for drinking.

Go out for picnic in the reserve

There are designated places in Mlawula that were set apart for tourists who would love to enjoy a picnic in the woods. The main two picnic places in Mlawula where you can relax with your family are:



The Hyena pool

The Hyena pool is located in the southern part of the reserve in the Siphiso valley. It is a well situated place from where you can enjoy your picnic with the dense vegetation around you and an occasional glimpse of the hyenas that roam around in the valley.

The python pools

The python pools are also a good place for tourists to enjoy a picnic while in the Mlawula Nature reserve. It is a home to the quite a number of wildlife that is the pythons themselves, a few bird species, lizard and not forgetting the tree and plant species that are around the pools and all this can be viewed while you enjoy your picnic.

Game drives in Mlawula

Game drives around the Mlawula Nature reserve an either be done with the help of a tour guide or you can self-drive yourself around for as long as you have a map of the reserve and the roads within the reserve are clearly marked which means that you will hardly get lost while driving through. You can also either opt for the day game drives or go for the night drives but note that the night drives are booked in advance and are extremely rare. There are two sections within the reserve from where you can easily view the animals and this is the Mbuluzi Gorge and the Siphiso valley. Some of the animals species that you will get to see while on your game drive include hyenas, leopards although these two are rarely seen, zebras, kudus, crocodiles, antelopes, the blue wildebeest and many more others.

Fishing in Mlawula

The Nature reserve is crossed by two great rivers that is the Mbuluzi and the Mlawula Rivers and this is where the fishing is done. There are different fish species that you will get but you will need a permit in order to be allowed to do some fishing in Mlawula and you should also follow the catch and release policy which was put in place so that the fish species are preserved.

Birding in Mlawula

The Mlawula game reserve is a home to more than 350 bird species and it is considered to be a top spot for birders. The Mlawula which is adjoining to the Mbuluzi Nature reserve sees many bird species flying from the nearby reserves and other countries during the rainy season. A few of the bird species that habitate within the Mlawula include the whisked tern bird, the African black duck, the white backed night heron, the African palm swift, the crowned lapwing, the African broadbill, the Egyptian goose, the scooty tern and the three banded clover among other species.

Mountain biking in Mlawula

Mlawula is also a top destination for tourists who would like to try out Mountain biking. There are dirt routes that are about 33 kilometers that you can try out and the bikes are available for a small fee. Tour guides will be around to give you all the basic instructions that you need but make sure that you put on all the protective gear before going out for the Mountain biking expedition.

Where to stay in Mlawula

The Mlawula Nature reserve does not have a lot of accommodation facilities and the few that are there need to be booked earlier on in advance otherwise you might end up in the accommodation facilities that are located in the nearby towns.

The Maphelephele cottage

The Maphelephele cottage which is found within the reserve can only accommodate eight people and it gives you the great feeling of living in the wild. There is no electricity at the cottage although you get to enjoy a warm bath from the gas which you will also use to prepare meals for yourself.

The Magadzavane lodge

Unlike the Maphelephele which has no electricity, this lodge can accommodate about 40 people and it has electricity, self-contained rooms that are well furnished, a restaurant that provides all meals and all the rooms have a great view of the Lubombo valley.

The Siphiso campsite

The Siphiso campsite is best for tourists who love camping. The bathrooms and toilets here are shared but you do not need to worry about that because they are thoroughly cleaned. There are two summer houses available for rent and here is enough space for you to put up your tent and its strategic location under large trees ensures that you have all the shade that you need while staying at the camp.

Best time to visit Mlawula Nature Reserve

The Mlawula Nature reserve has two seasons that is the wet and dry season. The best time for tourists to visit the Mlawula Nature reserve is during the dry season which happens from May to September. This is the best time for game drives, animals viewing due to the sparse vegetation during this time and the animals also move around searching for water.

The wet season which is experienced from October to April and during this time the reserve receives a lot of rainfall making it hard to view the animals although it is the best time for birders who would love to see the different bird species that habitate within the reserve.

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