The Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary was established in the year 1961 and its main aim was to help in the conservation of the wildlife that had been depleted due to the serious poaching that had been done by the colonialists and locals looking for food. It is located in the Ezulwini valley and covers over 100,000 hectares at the moment. There have been rules that have been set so that whoever is found hunting down the wild animals is taken to prison for violation of rules and this has greatly reduced on poaching in the country.
The word Mlilwane is translated from siSwati and it means little fire. It was named little fire due to the fires that usually happen on the Mlilwane hill and it is said that it is caused by lightening. The Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary is a good destination both for families and individuals seeking for an adventure. It is a small park as compared to the rest of the other wildlife centers in the country and some of the animals are kept in enclosed areas so as to create space for all the animals that are brought into the sanctuary.
Entrance to the sanctuary will cost you about four dollars per person which is really a small fee to pay for all the activities that you will enjoy once you have gained entrance to what is best described as an animals paradise. But if you have an international wild card, you can gain access into the park for free without paying a single coin.
Highlights for tourists in the Mlilwane sanctuary
The Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary has a lot of tourist attractions that need to be explored and since it is a home to some of the endangered species in the country, it is only right that you check out and below are some of the things that you can engage in while on your safari to the sanctuary.
Birding in the Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary
There are over 240 bird species in the Mlilwane sanctuary which are best seen between November and April during the rainy season. some of the bird species that breed within the sanctuary include, ostriches, the Jackal Buzzard, the brown hooded king fisher, the Senegal lapwing, the buffy pipit, the African grass owl, the greater painted snipe, the African pygmy kingfisher, the blue crane, Denham’s bustard, the violet backed starling, the crested guinea fowl, the African finfoot and the Emerald spotted dove among others.
Hiking in the Mlilwane sanctuary
There are two trails that canbe sued for hiking thet is the southern and Northern route. Hiking is best done during the dry season and in the mornings or late afternons to avoid the overhead sun in the afternoons. The Northern route will lead you to the the part of the sanctuary that is filled with grasslands and alittle bit flat landscape and it is not a tiring tale to take on but it will take you to the Lupholo peak whereas the southern route will lead you to the Nyonyane Mountain, this is a little bit hectic to take on but once you get to the peak of the Mountain you will be rewarded with the greatest view of the whole Sanctaury.
You will need a few things that you will need as you head out for hiking and these are hiking shoes, lots of water, insect repellent, a wide brimmed hat, sunscreen and appropriate clothing that is long pants and long sleeved shirts in order to avoid scratches from trees and thorns.
Enjoy the Mountain biking race
This is an annual event that is carried every year in June and one of the highlights you should look forward to when you visit the sanctuary. Several bikers from across the world come in for the competitions and this draws in a large crowd. If you visit in June, you will be able to enjoy the event and also meet up with the different people who come in to see the Mountain biking event while enjoying some great snacks from the Southern Country.
Horse riding in the Mlilwane sanctuary
This is one of the better ways that you can explore the sanctuary because on a horse ride you get to explore all the places that you could not get to while on a game drive. Horse riding is majorly done using the Chubeka trails but this is done in the prescence of an experienced tourguide to take you on the trails so that you do not get lost and they also explain about the different things that you will see while horse riding.
You do not need to worry about not knowing how to ride a horse because there wil be guides to take you through the steps before being allowed to ride. For the beginners, you can trottle on the horse with help and for those that have experince in riding are allowed to take the horses at a gallop speed and the best time for one to go for horse riding in the sanctuary is during the dry season.
Take a walk to the interpretation Centre
The interpretation Centre is located within the Mlilwane sanctuary and it is where you can learn about how the sanctuary was made and the history of Eswatini from the colonial rule until it got it independence. It also has information about all the animals and birds that are found in the sanctuary and you must admit, it will be like killing two birds with one stone as you will be able to see all the wildlife and at the same time getting a history lesson about the country and the Park.
Game drives through the sanctuary
The game drives are the higlight of the whole safari to the sancturay as this is one of the many ways that you can get to view all the animals that habiate within the sanctuary. The game drives can be done in two ways that is either a self-drive through the park or a tour guide taking you around the park.
The common animals that you will get to see in the Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary include the Zebras, warthogs, hippos, wildebeest, crocodiles, Impalas, the grey duiker, the red hartebeest, the greater galago, the Oribi and some nocturnal animals which include the civet, leopards, the porcupines and many more others.
Where to stay in Mlilwane
There are three camps that are located within the Sanctuary and you can choose one of these as your accommodation facility while on a safari and these are the Sondzela backpacker, the Reilly’s rock hilltop lodge and the rest camp.
The rest camp
This is the finest accommodation within the sanctuary which every tourist should book if they intend to spend nights there. The rooms are all grass thatched and were constructed in form of traditional Swaziland huts which make them eco-friendly. Add that to the local dishes served and the camp fire which is lit every night that attracts warthogs that come for the best making it a good place to bond with some of the wild animals that come around the camp.
When to visit the Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary
The Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary cannot be considered as top destination for wildlife but it is still worth visiting. The best time for game viewing is between June to September and this is when the dry season sets in making it easy for the animals to be seen due to the thinning vegetation.
The sanctuary is very safe to visit and every tourists who comes around needs to first sign in the book of visitors at the entrance and they also have to sign out as they leave. All the hike trails are well marked and the dangerous zones as well and this is done so that the tourists do not get any accidents while in the sanctuary.
Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary covers 4,500 hectares and comprises of a southern and northern section. The southern section is predominately open grassland plains with middleveld vegetation, stretching up onto the striking Nyonyane Mountain with its exposed granite peak known as the “Rock of Execution”. Mlilwane means Little Fire, being derived from the numerous fires started by lightning strikes on the Mlilwane Hill.
Mlilwane is Swaziland’s oldest protected area, owned and managed by a non-profit making trust.
Nyonyane Mountain is where ancient San or Bushmen people once lived and where Swazi Royal graves are situated. This gives it great historical significance. Behind these mountains, the stunning Mantenga waterfall and beautiful Usushwana Valley form the divide, before stretching up to northern section, which includes one of the highest surrounding points at Luphohlo. Tourist activities are concentrated in the southern section, with only guided trails entering the pristine mountains of the north.