In the vast bushveld expanse of eastern Swaziland where the hot, still sun of Africa beats on the dry but life-giving soils as it has for thousands of years, and the rumbling roars of the lions are heard in the cool dusky evenings, lies Swaziland’s largest protected area, Hlane Royal National Park, home to the largest herds of game in the Kingdom.
Hlane, named by King Sobhuza II, with its adjacent dispersal areas covers 30,000 hectares of Swazi bushveld, dominated by ancient hardwood vegetation. Hlane is home to lion, elephant and white rhino, with an abundant and diverse bird life, including the highest density of nesting white backed vultures inAfrica.
A network of self-drive game-viewing roads criss-cross the park’s flat terrain, weaving between the 1,000 year old hardwood vegetation and shallow pans which attract great herds of animals during the dry winter months. Guided walking safaris, mountain biking and game drives in Hlane’s open Land Rovers are also available. Head for the bush and experience the sights and sounds of Hlane against the roar of Hlane’s magnificent lions – the symbol of royalty and the pride of Swaziland.
ACCOMMODATION AT HLANE
Ndlovu Camp is found immediately inside the Hlane main gate, off the main tarred Simunye road. The camp overlooks a waterhole, which, especially in winter, attracts a wide variety of game including white rhino, elephant and giraffe.The camp is open and has no electricity, and is reminiscent of the old Kruger National Park rest camps, with abundant bird life and a relaxed communal atmosphere.
Ndlovu camp has thatched family rondavels, and smaller cottages all equipped for self-catering. The option of a large open air restaurant also provides delectable bushveld cuisine.
Hlane’s Ndlovu Camp also boasts spacious camping grounds. There is a communal kitchen/laundry and ablution block with hot running water. There is no electricity at Ndlovu Camp – candles and lanterns provide lighting and wood is provided for campfires and braai areas.
Bhubesi camp is found in the northwest corner of the park, and can be reached by internal park roads from the main gate. The camp overlooks the Umbuluzana River, with its reed beds and dense riverine vegetation.
Bhubesi Camp has six self-contained stone cottages with all the comforts of home, including electricity, in a pristine and private riverine setting.
ACTIVITIES AT HLANE
Try your hand at tracking the spoor of waterbuck or even elephant or rhino on a guided walking safari with a Swazi field guide, and an inquisitive ostrich or two to accompany you! These are conducted from Ndlovu camp and often bring the walker into close contact with elephant and white rhino as well as a variety of other game.
Bhubesi camp patrons have access to a self-guided walking trail alongside the Umbuluzana River. The trail is about 20 km long.
Mountain Bike Safaris
Pedal amongst wildlife and in between giant trees. Guided mountain bike trails are available for visitors to Hlane. The mountain bikes can be hired on an hourly basis. Guests with private bikes are also welcome, both accompanied by a Swazi field guide.
Leisure and Culture
At Ndlovu Camp, there is an open-air restaurant and a game-viewing deck where one can sit back and enjoy the view of the waterhole – a perfect place for sundowners, tasty meals and relaxation. Sibhaca Dancing is the traditional Swazi dance performed by teams of men (and sometimes even women) at a vigorous pace. The ‘headman’ of the Sibhaca dance may personally invite you to an evening of Sibhaca entertainment so be sure to take along your drinks and gather around the main campfire for an hour or so of good traditional Swazi entertainment.
Sundowners and Sunrise Drives
Sunset and sunrise game drives are available at Hlane where you can spot 4 of the big 5 including lion and a whole host of other wildlife with the expertise of an expert Swazi guide.
Self-Drive Cultural Tour at Hlane
Hlane is nearby a local traditional Swazi village, about 20km from the main gate at Ndlovu Camp, which you can visit having pre-booked at the gate. You will be accompanied by a Hlane field guide, but will use your own transport to make your way to the village. On arrival the field guide will give the women in the group traditional Swazi attire, (a wrap known as Emahiya), which, in respect of the Swazi culture, the women will wrap around them as a skirt – it is not correct to show your legs. This Umphakatsi Chief Village is a real living homestead – a real hands-on experience – and so worth a visit! You will be invited into their homestead where you will learn about the Swazi life style. The iNkhosikati, (the mother of the Chief), of the village will welcome you. You will be shown a kraal where meetings are held, (often with libutfo (Regiments)). You’ll be taken to a hut where you must take of your shoes – women enter to the left and the men to the right. You’ll find mats on the ground for you to sit on and there you can try your hand at grinding maize, perhaps carrying a calabash on your head and plating grass (making ropes which they use for thatching their homes) while singing some traditional songs. You may also sample some traditional brew whilst watching the entertainment put on by the local boys and some of the women, the Sibhaca dance. This is a fantastic experience and you will gain knowledge of some traditional Swazi cultural events like the Umhlanga Dance (reed dance) and lusekwane (cutting of sickle bush for the King to make the Royal Kraal). A trip not to be missed where you will be enlightened to the Swazi way of life!
CONSERVATION / WILDLIFE AND BIRDS
His people know the King of Swaziland as ‘iNgwenyama’, the Lion, and this very creature can be seen and heard at Hlane with its majestic stance and mighty roar.
Hlane supports four of the Big Five: Lion, leopard, elephant and rhino. Lion were reintroduced to Swaziland after an absence of 30 years on the 9th of February 1994. During the course of 1995, leopard and cheetah joined the lion at Hlane. A herd of young elephant were re-introduced to Hlane and are often seen close to Ndlovu Camp. These are significant events for the conservation of the Kingdom’s wildlife.
Fantastic sightings of white rhino can often be seen – especially at the waterhole at Ndlovu Camp. There are small populations of rhino, giraffe, hippo, crocodile, hyena, as well as large populations of zebra, wildebeest, impala, kudu, warthog, and duiker. Also to be seen are many smaller mammals, baboon, vervet monkey, ostrich, steenbok, nyala, bushbuck and waterbuck. Jackals and hyenas also play their very important role in the ecology of the park.
Bird life is prolific with large red-billed quelea nesting colonies during season and the densest populations of birds of prey in the Kingdom, including bateleur and martial eagle and no less than five vulture species. The nesting density for the white-backed vulture is the highest in the whole of Africa! The most southerly nesting colony of marabou stork is also found at Hlane.
Supporting Hlane’s abundant wildlife is the fascinatingly diverse fauna and flora, including some of Africa’s finest Knobthorn (Acacia Nigrescens) parkland and prime Swazi bushveld, dominated by ancient hardwood vegetation in the form of giant Leadwoods and Tambotis.