Swaziland in Spring: Birding & Botany Blooms.

Birds at Reilly's Rock Hilltop Lodge

As Swaziland springs into life; local, regional and international visitors flock to its game studded plains to experience some of Southern Africa’s best birding and botany bloom.

 

 

 

BGP Birding & Botany Attractions

Hlane Royal National Park

Home to the largest herds of game in Swaziland with four of the Big 5 including Lion, Hlane also boasts a wide range of flora and fauna which attracts avitourists and botanists alike.

For budding botanists, the park has been rated as having one of the best examples of Knobthorn Acacia nigresens in Southern Africa which still blooms into spring while the bright yellow variety of Gloriosa Spinosadoes and Fireball Lily Scadoxis multiflorus light up the skies later in the season.

Hlane also has the highest density of tree-nesting vultures in Southern Africa, according to Ara Monadjem, who also recorded that White-backed Vulture nesting sites are very specific to protected areas such as Hlane, literally ending along the fence line.  Avitourists often spot vultures nesting throughout spring on top of Hlane’s Acacia trees or whilst bathing in the Mbuluzi River.

Mkhaya Game Reserve

Game viewing tracks between indigenous trees allow intimate encounters with Elephant, White and Black Rhino, and a rich diversity of flora and fauna in this superb refuge for endangered animals – widely renowned as an exciting conservation success. Local guides share their knowledge on open Land Rover drives and walking safaris, providing superb photographic opportunities which attract bush, birding and botany enthusiasts.

Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary

Mlilwane is the Kingdom’s most popular eco-tourism destination with 24-hour gate access and a wide range of accommodation and dining options to suit every pocket and palate. Visitors are able to enjoy nature on horseback, mountain bikes, hiking trails and open 4×4 drives. Fantastic birding walks are offered where Black, Crowned and Fish eagles as well asSwaziland’s National Bird; the Purple-crested Turaco are often spotted. Aquatic species such as the Finfoot, White-fronted Bee-eater and around six species of Kingfisher can also be seen.

Recommended Accommodation for Birding & Botany Enthusiasts

 Reilly’s Rock Hilltop Lodge

This stunning lodge located within Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is steeped in history and attracts photographers-in-the-know from across the world keen to capture the birding and botany gem for themselves. Up-close encounters with rare and endangered small antelope such as Blue Duiker and Suni, a vast array of exquisite birdlife and regular nocturnal visits from Bush Babies keen to be fed a banana or two on the rooftop, provide the perfect subjects against a canvas of mature Royal Botanical Gardens featuring rare aloes and cycads and spectacular elevated views of the game-studded plains. The lodge’s beautiful rooms, famous Swazi hospitality and roaring log fires also add to the appeal.

Best for Bush Fanatics: Stone Camp

Swazi hospitality is a feature of Mkhaya Game Reserve’s Stone Camp, where traditional meals and dancing are enjoyed beneath a giant sausage tree before visitors retire along lantern-lit paths to their own semi-open stone and thatch cottages. Simple African Luxury at its very best.

Recommended Dining  for Birding & Botany Enthusiasts

 Hippo Haunt Restaurant at Mlilwane

The Hippo Haunt Restaurant at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary overlooks a beautiful hippo pool surrounded by stunning vegetation and an abundance of aquatic birds and wildlife. Visitors can savour delicious meals including game while gazing at the resident hippos and crocs on the terrace or on cooler days cozy up on a comfortable couch next to a fireplace indoors.

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The Nation’s Park Reigns

Stick Fighting - BGP Dance Competition 2011

15 May 2011 – D-Day for reigning BGP Dance Competition Champion: Mlilwane. Would they once again take the coveted and highly-priced position of Big Game Parks’ Champion?

The annual inter-park dance competition promotes culture and competition amongst the parks’ staff at Hlane Royal National Park, Mkhaya Game Reserve and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Held at a different park each year since 2003; the cultural competition has steadily been gaining momentum and friendly rivalry ever since. This year the much sought-after title was up for grabs in the majestic Hlane Royal National Park.

His Majesty King Mswati III, INgwenyama of Swaziland, holds Hlane Royal National Park in trust for his nation, making it a fitting location for such a cultural explosion.

The Royal National Park is home to 4 of the Big 5 including the majestic Lion, Rhino, Elephant and Leopard; some of which even graced the event watching from the nearby watering hole.

The festivities began at 10.00am with song and dance from Big Game Parks’ children. The sound of drums amidst the picturesque backdrop of the Lowveld bush, nearby curious animals and traditional Swazi dancing seemed to harmoniously unite man and animal.

The contested categories that would set the battlefield for BGP Staff were: Sibhaca; a vigorous dance performed by men, Ingadla; a true test of the strength of young women’s legs!, Umbholoho; a form of traditional singing and dance reminiscent of traditional Swazi choirs and Stick Fighting; an ancient method of settling scores in the fields performed by herdsmen. These would ultimately decide Big Game Parks’ Champions of 2011.

Jabulisa; a traditional Sangoma Dance alongside Ummiso and Sibhaca performed by Big Game Parks’ children helped set the tone for the competition.

However, the people with perhaps the toughest job on the day were the judges: Inkhosikati Make ULaMtsetfwa from Esitjeni Umphakatsi, Chief Ndabenkulu from Mkhaya Umphakatsi and Babe Sibandze from Hlane Community.

On home turf and excelling in Sibhaca and Umbholoho, Hlane Royal National Park was crowned Best Big Game Park overall scooping five of the six trophies.

Mkhaya Game Reserve took home Best Stick-Fighting trophy , earning them second place in the Competition, while last year’s champion Mlilwane went home empty-handed vowing to come back on fighting form next year.

Mr. Ted ‘Machobane’ Reilly told the story of how Hlane Royal National Park came to be. He thanked their Majesties King Mswati III INgwenyama of Swaziland and Her Royal Highness INdlovukazi for playing a vital role in the conservation of nature and wildlife in the Kingdom. Game rangers were also thanked for fearlessly protecting the wildlife to enable future generations an opportunity to experience them.

In a world where ancient traditions and cultural events are all to often consigned to history books, it is a modern-day pleasure to experience traditional Swazi culture as alive today as it was centuries back at events like this one, or even at an ATM queue where your neighbour may well be a Swazi warrior or woman clad in full traditional attire.

The exciting Sibhaca dance performed at Big Game Parks’ annual dance competition is also often enjoyed at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary’s infamous Hippo Haunt Restaurant, where one can also spot Hippos while enjoying an impala stew or a sundowner. Big Game Parks also organises authentic cultural trips to visit the Umphakatsi Swazi community at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Hlane Royal National Park.

Guests who visit The Kingdom of Swaziland or “ESwatini” as it is locally known during its traditional cultural ceremonies; namely the Umhlanga Reed Dance and the sacred Incwala “First Fruits” Ceremony can also experience true Swazi living by staying in a traditional Swazi beehive within Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.

For further information about Big Game Parks and Swazi culture visitwww.biggameparks.org or contact reservations@biggameparks.org.