Introducing Imvelo 2017!

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Following an exciting Imvelo 2016, we bring you the annual Imvelo MTB Classic 2017 at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary! The race date is set for 3rd June 2017 with online entries opening on 11th April 2017. You can also enter manually by visiting either Big Game Parks Central Reservations Office;Hlane Royal National Park or at Swaziland’s Adventure Sport and Cycle shops in Mbabane or Manzini.

FAST FACTS

Online entry: 11th April 2017
Race Date: 3rd June 2017
Venue: Mlilwane
Distance & Start Time:
64km – 8.00am (Classic)
35km – 9.15am (Challenge)
22km – 9.45am (Family Fun)
12km – 9.55am (Hoglets)
Register: 02/06/17 Gables

ACCOMMODATION

Limited accommodation available at Mlilwane Rest Camp or Reilly’s Rock Hilltop Lodge or Sondzela Backpackers. BOOK NOW!!

Watch this space for more updates! Get training!!

 

 

 

 

World Wildlife Day 2017

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The starting point of the Clean Up Campaign

World Wildlife Day is a time to celebrate our African Wildlife, and globally the 3rd March 2017 embraced the theme, “Listen to the Young Voices.”

 

It has been said that almost one quarter of the world’s population is aged between 10 and 24, continued efforts need to be made to encourage young people, as the future leaders and decision makers of the world, to act on both local and global levels to protect wildlife. It is our mission to open up Swaziland Youth and the likes to realistic conservation.

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Pupils from Esitjeni Primary School

World Wildlife Day encourages people around the world to come together to address ongoing major threats to wildlife including habitat change, over-exploitation or illicit trafficking. This year World Wildlife Day proposed the challenge, “Do one thing to help the world’s wildlife.” Big Game Parks teamed up with the Manzini Rhinos Rugby Club and worked with pupils from Lobamba National High School and Esitjeni Primary School to do our bit by running a “Clean-Up Campaign” from Esitjeni Road to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary main gate. The event started at the two schools’ morning assembly, 07h45 at Lobamba National High and at 08h00 at Esitjeni Primary School. Our team split up into 2 groups- 1 group addressed Esitjeni Primary and the other addressed Lobamba National High. Each group was joined a mix of Rhino Rugby Club players and Big Game Parks staff.

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Rhinos Rugby Club

A quick presentation was given, with the hope of inspiring young people to take action and conserve our wildlife and natural environments.  We discussed the threat of devaluing wildlife by substituting Conservation, (wise and sustainable utilization of self-renewing natural resources) with preservation and protectionist philosophies. Good conservation produces surpluses and available habitat is finite; so what must we do with surpluses?   Spiritually, culturally and consumptively the growing trend of towards protectionist is a  greater threat to the continued existence of Africa’s Wildlife.  If wildlife has no practical value to people, what are the chances of it maintaining priority, or even being sustained?  Nature itself subscribes to conservation rather than the stagnation preservation prescribes.

The purpose of the “Clean-Up” Campaign was to highlight how doing something so small, such as picking up litter, can make such a difference. Sometimes it’s a lot of little things adding up that make a big difference!

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Wondering what you can still do? Why not join us on one of our next “Clean-Up Campaigns”? Watch this space for more details! Why not make a donation to wildlife? Or even better… Why not visit one of the beautiful parks our Kingdom has to offer? Did you know, just by paying your entrance fee, YOU are helping wildlife and actively funding Nature Conservation!

 

Our collective conservation actions can be the difference between wildlife surviving or disappearing. Let’s all come together and do our part!  Even though World Wildlife Day is over, lets do a little something for our wildlife and environment every day.

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Lobamba National High

 

 

 

#ResolutionRun 2017 – a roaring success!

Total Swaziland’s #ResolutionRun

4th February 2017, Hlane Royal National Park

her-dt-17-1341Swaziland’s third #ResolutionRun, sponsored by Total Swaziland and organized by Big Game Parks, was our best year yet, with a growth in numbers and support. This year we had 207 runners, a growth of 146% from our first event in 2015 (84 runners).

Two lovely tweets received this week are testament to positive growth (personal handles left out):

“Heard good reviews about this year’s #ResolutionRun, great improvement on last year. Next year we join”

“Yes, (Mr X) only had good things to share. Am in next year 100%”

Held at Hlane Royal National Park, the event aims to promote visitation to north-east Swaziland and to promote healthy outdoor living. These objectives were well met, with Hlane being fully booked for the event, and other parks in the Lebombo Conservancy seeing a rise in occupancy over this particular weekend. Further to this, the turnout from across Swaziland, and the Lowveld residents specifically, was astounding – fantastic to see! We will keep this annual spotlight on this region and continue to give you all a lot to run for.

Big Game Parks encourages time spent in Nature and wild places, and to this end, we create fun events throughout the year, giving our locals and regional guests reason to ‘get out there.’  Our parks are for people as much as they are for wildlife.  And nature is our heritage, to be nurtured and enjoyed – always with respect.  It is heart-warming when our events are well attended and the resulting photos show fun was had!  It has been a founding belief that we only conserve that which we love – and to love something, we have to know it.  So here’s to more time spent in the wild, building a love for the great outdoors, healthy living and sense of pride n our environment!

A big shout out to our sponsors – Total Swaziland, Swaziland Milling, Parmalat, Galitos, Black Mamba Chilli, Ice Co, Buffalo Soldiers, African Alliance, International Tool Hire, DHL, Dixies and Big Game Parks. Thank you to all our sponsors for making our #ResolutionRun possible and for assisting in it’s positive growth.

Particular mention is made of AM Consultancy, RSSC, Swazi Trails and Tongaat-Hulett for their strong corporate support of our event – thank you! It is great to see corporates promoting health and outdoor life in such a positive and tangible manner.

Results:

Congratulations to those who come in up front:

  10 Km 5 Km
MENS 1st Sifiso Sibandze

2nd Celumusa Maziya

3rd Ntokozo Mhlabane

1st Melusi Mkhabela

2nd Sibusiso Mbingo

3rd Musa Mcongwane

LADIES 1st Tenele Maziya

2nd Tokky Hou

3rd Xoli Shongwe

1st Nothando Masilela

2nd Leonie Piek

3rd Nomvula Gulwako

And of course, a big commendation to all those who both entered and crossed the finish line. May you hold your outdoor fitness resolution strong this year, now that you are all off to a fantastic start!

See you all at Hlane next year!

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Safari Specials 10th January – 31st March

Safari Specials  10th January – 31st March

With the crazy festive season behind us, life returns to normal, kids return to school and we all traipse back to the office, unwittingly falling back into the same old rut.

But there is hope! Big Game Parks aims to build and encourage an ethic of healthy outdoor living and conservation consciousness. To this end, we invite you to make the most of our Quiet Season Specials, a chance to retreat into nature at a very affordable rate. All our parks – Hlane Royal National Park, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Mkhaya Game Reserve – offer up to 30% discount on a minimum 2-night stay on fixed accommodation. For our more discerning guests, Reilly’s Rock Hilltop Lodge is the perfect quiet retreat surrounded by birds and the Royal Botanical Garden.  Our camping on Hlane and Mlilwane is so reasonable, it’s almost constantly on special.

With accommodation rates so affordable, there is plenty left in the kitty for the actual holiday – the mountain biking, game walks, game drives, birding and horse riding.

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Guided Game Walk on Hlane Royal National Park

Better still, if you choose Mlilwane and bring your own bike, you can cycle or walk without a guide at no extra cost.  Mlilwane has up to 20km of hiking trail, and many km of dirt roads which wind through our ever-changing habitats providing an awesome adventure.

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Walking Trails on Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary – the Donga Route

It is time to pack those hiking boots, mountain bike, bird book and bino’s… book your weekend adventure while our rates are simply irresistible!  Your family will love you for it…. reservations@biggameparks.org

It’s Baby Season!

Summer season in Swaziland is full of exciting game viewing with animals of all shapes and sizes.  Many of our mammals subscribe to breeding seasons, producing their young from October through to March each year.  Wildebeest, impala and blesbuck are among the summer births.  In fact, according to Ted Reilly, you will not see a blesbuck lamb before 5th October.  Amazingly, since I heard this, I kept an eye out every year to prove him wrong, and almost every year, the first sightings of a lamb was on the 5th or 6th of October!

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Probably the most endearing of the babies are the warthogs… the ‘hoglets’.  Mothers quietly graze around the camp, while these cheeky minions bounce, race, do excited 360 degree turns as if someone pulls an invisible handbrake and off they go again….or suddenly drop onto their tummies in an angelic, non-plussed manner.  One hog brings her babies to the camp fire on a chilly day, and generation after generation are learning to do this.  They are quite happy to share half the fire with our guests, as long as they get to roast themselves.

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It has been an extremely hard year in the lowveld though, with a drought spanning 3 long years.  This past winter saw nature reducing stock at an alarming and gut-wrenching rate. In days of old, animals could simply migrate, but there is nowhere to go to now.  The parks have hard perimeters – or the animals face becoming a welcome meal  beyond the fence.  It has not been a good year for rhino calves, but the giraffe have managed to keep their populations expanding.

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RHINO CRISIS

MKSMR-KC-16DSC_9330RHINO CRISIS BY TED REILLY.

The Kingdom of Swaziland has submitted a proposal to CITES CoP17 to allow a controlled trade in rhino horn accruing from natural deaths, harvesting, and her own poached rhinos.

It is appropriate here to mention what can be described as one of – if not the greatest African conservation success story of all time – the saving of the Southern White Rhino by Ezemvelo KZN, formerly known as the Natal Parks Board. In the early 20th century, this species had been reduced to less than 50 animals.

At the instance of the likes of Col Peter Potter and a few others, this small isolated population (some state it to have been as few as 12 individuals) remained discretely located at the junction of the White and Black Umfolozi Rivers in Zululand. When Ian Player arrived on the scene as a young game ranger, this population had grown to some 600-odd animals, protected under what was to become one of the finest conservation agencies in Africa, if not the world – the Natal Parks Board (previously termed the Natal Parks, Game and Fish Preservation Board) under the direction of Colonel Jack Vincent.

It was Ian Player whose vision it was in the early 1960s to distribute the species widely – even to other countries – to spread the risk against extinction, and safeguard white rhinos for posterity.

It is less than likely that the small nucleus of rhinos, whose numbers were finitely limited to the carrying capacity of the Mfolozi Game Reserve at the time, could possibly have withstood the current onslaught in rhino poaching which now annually equates to approximately twice the original number of animals in the nucleus Player started with. So, had it not been for Ian Player’s vision to spread rhinos far and wide, the world would not have been privileged with the white rhino legacy he left us.

Ian Player died in 2014. Before he died, he was distraught at the escalating plight of rhinos and advocated strongly for the ban in trade in horn to be lifted in time to save them. Though Player was a strongly spiritual man, he was also pragmatic and strongly believed in the commercialization of game to enhance its material value in order to attract financial investment in it. He had seen this work over 40 years in southern Africa where, in that time wild animals had more than trebled in number, while in East Africa they had declined by 80% over the same period of time after consumptive utilization had been outlawed.

There is more game in South Africa today than there was in 1960, and this can be attributed to its commercialisation. There is, in fact, more game in private ownership in southern Africa now than there is collectively in all national and provincial parks, for no other reason than its legal commercialization. Dr Anton Rupert once said “the government will not get up at 2 in the morning to tend a sick cow, but its owner will!” And there is nothing like ownership to protect what one owns and recover what is stolen from one, especially if it has added commercial value.

After 39 years of the futile ban in rhino horn trade being in place, it is time to try something new. Open the Trade! Farm rhinos! Explore all options. No domestic animal has ever gone extinct!

Rhinos are now no longer considered an asset. They are a liability. It is simply too costly and too risky for custodians to continue conserving rhinos without the material returns which rhino horn sales could bring. Privately owned habitats in South Africa currently support approximately 30% of all white rhinos, which would, without any doubt, grow with a legal trade. We simply cannot afford the loss of any more rhino habitat, and opening the trade would likely expand rhino range 10 fold.

Measures to control rhino poaching on a continental scale are clearly not working. We have seen 70 of the 300 rhino owners in South Africa disinvest in rhinos last year, withdrawing some 200 000ha of habitat from rhino conservation. 200 000ha equates to a carrying capacity of some 2 000 white rhinos, plus a variety of other grazing species. (Reference: Rhino Owners’ Association).

South Africa has always been a strong proponent for lifting the ban, and several countries fully expected her to submit a proposal to CITES CoP17 to do so. Swaziland was standing by to support such a proposal. For whatever reason South Africa didn’t submit the expected proposal, the deadline was upon us, so Swaziland, to keep a foot in the door and keep options open, worked through the night to produce its proposal and submitted it with only hours to spare in the late afternoon of the last day.

If between now and the CITES CoP17, there is insufficient support and encouragement for it, the proposal can always be withdrawn. To be successful, such a proposal to CITES requires a 66% – 2/3 majority vote in favour of it. It is almost certain that this will NOT be achieved because custodians have been preoccupied defending their rhinos and themselves at the poaching coalface while donor dependent animal rights activists have been targeting Hollywood and other international iconic figureheads to continue with the ban in trade.

The world follows Hollywood, so the marketing skills of these donor dependant activists have totally outclassed those of the custodians, and they have built up an international stigma against the legal trade and those who support it. At least Swaziland’s proposal will provide the first step to a much needed platform for debate at CoP17 where the majority of African rhino custodians and their supporters will be afforded the opportunity to voice their views on an international forum.

CITES happens every 3 years. Had this proposal not materialized now, we would have had to wait another 3 years before taking the first step, and at the current rate of plunder, rhinos may not have the time to survive further delays in trying something new. At least now, at CoP18 in three years time, the second step at advocating the lifting of the ban can be taken when the pro consumptive message can be fortified and lobbied for at international level.

Currently criminals take 100% of the profits, and custodians pay all the costs of protection. This disparity will lessen with a legal trade. It is common sense that a legal trade will immediately compete with the illegal trade and any revenue it attracts will not be available to the black market criminals.

This is the rationale around the Swazi proposal which hopefully will gain momentum. Ian Player said before he died that the iconic figures of the world, had been misinformed by the animal rights activists who advocate for the continuation of a 39 year old ban which is still not working for the rhinos.

The ban is, however, working for the criminals and for those activists who raise donor money by supporting it. The question has to be asked: “Is it in the financial interests of donor dependant animal rights activists to find a solution to the plight of the rhinos when finding one would remove a very fertile platform for raising donor funding?”! In this respect, we hastily acknowledge that some activists are sincere and cannot be placed in this bracket.

The other question to be asked is, Is there one single ban with a lucrative commercial black market alternative, which has ever worked?

And for how much longer than 39 years do we need, to realize that the current ban is not working?

Ted Reilly. Big Game Parks, Swaziland.

10 Reasons to visit Hlane

Hlane Royal National Park, encompassing 22 000 hectares dominated by ancient hardwood vegetation. Home to the largest herds of game in the Kingdom of Swaziland, including Lion, Elephant, Rhino and Giraffe to name but a few. Hlane is also home to an abundant bird life.

Here are our top 10 reasons why you should consider visiting Hlane on your next trip to Swaziland.

  1. Pristine, unspoiled natural area. The name ‘Hlane’ in siSwati means ‘Wilderness’, Big Game Parks have done well to preserve Hlane and keep it, exactly that, a beautiful wilderness.#Grasslands & #Wetlands
  2. Perfect getaway from stressed urban living- Hlane offers two peaceful camps, Bhubesi and Ndlovu which are both tucked away from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of everyday life.
  3. With family and group cottages at both Ndlovu and Bhubesi-Hlane is the ideal park to spend quality time with family and loved ones.HTFW-JM-15-4341.jpg
  4. Situated 55 KM away from the Goba border post- making Hlane a great place to take a break either on your way to or from Mozambique.
  5. If it’s a taste of Swazi culture you’re after then Hlane is a must- home to some of the best traditional dancers in Swaziland, you don’t want to miss out on this experience!Mlilwane Mbuso and Kids.jpg
  6. Host to the annual Marula Festival-a festival of “fruits fit for the king!”
  7. The Royal Hunt (Butimba)- A cultural event culminating the hunting season in Swaziland whereby the King and Regiments hunt antelope using traditional weapons.events%20and%20traditions%20royals%20bf%20(13).jpg
  8. Home of the Swazi Lions- Hlane is the only place within Swaziland to view these magnificent animals.Hlane Mick's Lion.jpg
  9. Hlane is also host 4 to the big 5- having Lions, Elephants, Rhino and Leopard. The only park within Swaziland where you will get to see them all!Morning Mist
  10. For the bird and nature enthusiasts, Hlane hosts the southernmost nesting site of the marabou stork- a sight in itself to behold.Storks

Book now! reservations@biggameparks.org /+268 2523943