Mlilwane is a small but beautiful park. It may not be able to stand up to the other parks as far as the big game goes, but it surpasses the beauty and serenity of the other parks, in my opinion. The park has about 4,560 Hectares and is located in Ezulwini. Mlilwane or in Siswati “Little Fire” got its name from all of the little fires that started from many lightning strikes that occur here.
Regardless of how you choose to spend your day in Mlilwane, I am sure you will agree that the scenery is absolutely stunning. I will admit that our first drive was disappointing, when we signed in and paid our entrance fee we were not given a map or any instructions so we got lost and drove into the wrong area and didn’t see many animals; we left very upset with the park. (So make sure you use your phone and take pictures of the map that is sitting on the desk.)
When we told our friends about the experience and how disappointed we were they kept telling us that we just didn’t take the right roads, so we decided to go back and try again. This time we seen that there was a map on the counter but you cannot remove it so we took pictures of it with our phones. That map saved the day! I know that money is an issue and they can’t print up maps for everyone but I wish they would explain to new visitors about the map sitting on the desk. So during our second drive we were able to get pictures of all of the animals and I don’t mean off in a distance, I mean up close. Actually having my longer lens was a waste because of the proximity we were with the animals, they are literally a few feet away. The mountain backdrop and the cool breeze make it a perfect trip to see these animals.
On our last trip we were able to capture the hippos in the water and at a fairly close (but safe) distance. For me this was amazing because I have tried to get photos of the hippos since I arrived in Swazi but they would never come out of the water, or get close enough for me to capture their size and beauty. So we would call them the elusive hippos but on this day we were so lucky to have seen them. We arrived at a location where you can park your car off of the roads and I kept hearing what sounded like a horse puffing, then I seen the water moving and we knew they were close but just didn’t know where. A few seconds later you could see a black form in the water maybe 20 feet away that was making ripples in the area. Before we knew it they were looking back at us. It was a pair and as they came up from the water every few seconds they would make a noise that is just hard to describe, almost a warning to move or maybe a warning to other hippos. These animals are both terrifying and beautiful. They kill people every year because of their size and territorial behavior. I also think people forget that they can move as fast as they can and misjudge how close is too close.
We have gone back several times since our first visit and will continue to visit the park, it is absolutely stunning. I am on a mission to capture some amazing photos of the hippos and the rest of the animals that live in the park.
They have a restaurant that is located in a serene part of the park, it is shaded by the tree’s and situated right off of a little lake. I must say they have delicious food as well, so if you go to the park you must try the restaurant.
Mlilwane was previously a private farm owned by Ted Reilly, who is considered by Swaziland as one of the founding fathers for the conservation efforts in the country. In the 60’s Mr. Reilly approached the King at the time about creating a national park. After the approval from the King they begin the process of moving the animals from Hlane, which at the time was the Royal Hunting Grounds to their new home in Mlilwane. Years later Reilly was asked to help turn Hlane into a nature reserve and game park as well. The park is one of 3 owned by Big Game Parks of Swaziland and is the headquarters of Big Game.
At the park they have many options for your stay:
A rest came where you can rent a beehive hut. There’s also a restaurant here that overlooks a watering hole/lake that is frequented by crocodiles, birds and hippos. They also have Sondzela’s backpackers lodge, Reilly’s rock hilltop lodge.
Hiking either guided or self
Self guided game drives
Mountain bike that you can rent hourly
Guided horse back riding
Animals that you might see:
• Hippos (remember they stay in the water most of the day so they are hard to see at times).
• Many antelope species
• Several species of birds
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