When a friend comes to Swaziland with a car, it is time to visit somewhere less accessible by khumbi. We chose Mbuluzi and Mlawula wildlife areas in the Lubombo mountains. These reserves are located in the northeastern part of Swaziland, near Simunye and Siteki.
The reserves are home to many smaller animals and have a few species of antelope and giraffe. Mbuluzi is a private game reserve and Mlawula is run by the Swaziland National Trust Commission.
My group went on a couple hikes in Mlawula. The scenery is nice and it was great seeings watering holes with water. There was a scary moment on one of the hikes when we were nearing the supposed waterfall and all of a sudden, we heard a huge swarm of bees. We all froze terrified. We never saw the bees but we hurried back to the car real fast.
We stayed at the Maphelephele cottage in Mlawula that is many steps up from camping and only slightly more expensive than the campgrounds. It was self-catering with kitchenware provided. The cottage was incredibly spacious, had one bathroom with a bathtub, and sleeps seven. Two of the beds are located on baboon-proofed balconies, which means you can truly fall asleep to the sounds of the wild and wake up to the terrifying sounds of the baboons. There is also a braai (grill) area outside, with one night’s worth of firewood included in the price of the cottage.
Neither of the parks is truly khumbi accessible. You can get to the entrance gates, but there is no way to see either of the reserves without your own transportation. It is possible to arrange for staff at Mlawula to transport your group to the cottage, but then you would need to tour the parks on foot.
Both parks have an agreement that if you pay to get into one, you can visit the other on the same ticket, so you have no reason not to visit both. Both parks also have decently maintained dirt roads that were accessible by small car. More clearance is better, though, because some parts of the roads were quite rocky.
If you go:
- Entrance: E30 per person at Mlawula and E40 per person at Mbuluzi.
- Maphelephele cottage per night: E570 for four people.
- Food for three days: E200 per person.
- Travel time from Manzini: about 1 hour.
- Animal sightings: dung beetle, warthogs, impala, nyala, kudu, wildebeest, giraffe, neon green grasshoppers, red dragonflies, baboons, zebra, and a few birds.