The Spinning Compass | Hlane


February 15, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

We have gone to Hlane 3 times now. So far I would have to say it is one of my favorite places in Swaziland.

Why you ask?.....

Well, Hlane is our “go to” place on our Sunday adventure days, along with Mlilwane. If we do not have anything planned or we want to see the big game then we will always go to one of these locations, because Hlane just never ceases to amaze me. Well first off the guide (I think his name is Johannes – if I am wrong I apologize) is absolutely amazing at tracking the animals, as well as telling you tons of information about the animals and area. Every time that we went to Hlane we had the same guide; and every single time he never failed to impress me with his skills. I am sure you are still wondering but why do we keep going back to this one park; well I will try to answer that for you because the answer is easy.

In Siswati, Hlane means wilderness and that is exactly what this park is. Hlane was the private hunting grounds before it became a public viewing park. It also has the largest herds of game in the Kingdom sitting on 22,000 hectares (roughly 54,340 acres). They offer several self drives as well as guided safaris. We usually go with the guide because we want to see the Lions (if they are out) and you cannot get to this part of the park in a private vehicle.

Hlane is in the flatlands of Swazi which makes viewing of the animals very easy (if they are out and about) but having the mountains in the backgrounds make the park picture perfect. The guides will get you as close to the animals as humanly possible without putting you into any danger. They will give you time to take photos as well and they do not rush you during any of the sightings.

It seems like each time that we venture out to Hlane we get to experience something new. On our first trip we we’re really close to the elephants and got to watch them as a family unit. On our second trip we seen more rhino’s and elephants then we could count but the funniest part of this trip or even the best part was that a huge storm came in with thunder and lightning and a downpour of rain; because of how bad the storm was the guide high tailed it back to the entrance and when I say high tailed it I mean we were basically mudding and getting drenched but he asked if we minded or if we wanted him to slow down and we said NO because it was a blast.

On our most recent trip we got to take the safari alone and had one on one time with the guide who asked us what we wanted to see most and he didn’t fail to show them to us. We got to hear one of the many venison do his fighting call, challenging another buck right at the beginning of the trip. We were so close to a family of giraffe, and a few bull elephants that we could have touched them. But the kicker was that Johannes was watching a couple of vultures and listening to the birds and explained to us what he was doing and before we knew it we pulled up to about 5 or 6 lions; it was a family that had just killed a prey for dinner and Johannes got us in positions to get some amazing photos. I was in just awe because the vultures and the lions are two of my favorites (Okay I have a lot of favorites). After we left there it was time to head back and the guide must have overheard us talking about the birds so he made sure we seen some of the beautiful birds in Hlane and we even found a Monitor Lizard by accident. I am telling you this man is very good at his job!

Near the reception area they have a restaurant that has an amazing view of a fairly massive lack that usually is occupied by a pair of Hippos, along with elephants and rhino’s basking in the sun and kudu running about. We have never stayed late but I bet having dinner with that view at dusk is absolutely stunning!

If you are ever in the area please make a trip to Hlane it is well worth it, it may not be as big as the famous Krueger but it is less crowded and has a large amount of game for viewing.

Side Note:

I almost considered not to write this blog because of the concern for the animals, poaching is a serious situation and a serious crime in some areas. In the states I had heard about poaching but it wasn’t really a big concern for me because it didn’t hit home. But being in South Africa and Swaziland, hearing the stories and seeing the lengths that the conservationist are going through to try to protect these animals I have realized that this does affect me. These animals are beautiful and majestic. And we do not need to let the poachers win!!!

In 2011 a war broke out against poachers in South Africa and yes it was a war. It is stated that 30 suspected poachers died during a shoot out against the anti poachers unit. Two rhinos were poached in Hlane after South Africa stepped up it’s forces against poaching. In Swaziland if you are caught poaching a rhino you could get a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years in jail; traffickers of the products from poaching could get a mandatory sentence of 7 years and then the criminals MUST replace the animal or get another 2 years mandatory time added to their sentence.

Some things that we have learned by the guide:

  • Follow the vultures when doing safari’s because vultures equal dead animals which could equal a recent hunt.
  • Some of the birds will “talk” or “sing” when animals are close.
  • Usually in a group of elephants it is about 15 animals per “family” usually related and almost always led by the oldest in the group. The female will usually decide where and when they move and rest, day-to-day and season to season.
  • Elephants will topple over trees for several reasons: to clear out for the ground vegetation (for better growth and eating), to get to the roots of the tree and all lingering leaves or to get to the leaves up high (but usually not the case a lot of times because an elephant can reach higher than a giraffe – how you ask; well they can stand up on their hind legs and use their trunks to extend their reach).
  • Rhinos look for several things to be “comfortable” in their resting periods (after they haven eaten)– water, shade (thick brush) and “scratching post”.

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