In the southeast of Swaziland, the heart of the lowveld, lies an unspoilt wilderness, haven to endangered species which roam the magnificent African bush.
For the animals that once roamed wild and free, uninhibited by fences and boundaries, they faced and still face an uncertain future with man’s compulsion towards maximum yield, poaching and ignorance towards nature conservation and protection of our natural heritage. These once abundant animals that could be seen for miles around were, and some still are, close to extinction. It became clear to the Reilly Family, Swaziland’s foremost nature conservationists that these animals needed a place of refuge and tranquility, and Mkhaya was the perfect place.
Mkhaya was established in 1979 to save the pure Nguni breed of cattle from extinction and is a proclaimed Nature Reserve. Its focus has expanded over the years to include other endangered species such as black rhino, roan & sable antelope, tsessebe, white rhino, elephant and other locally endangered species.
Mkhaya Game Reserve, named after the Acacia nigrescens tree, comprises of acacia-dominated thornveld in the south and broadleaf sandveld in the north. Unique, intimate encounters with Mkhaya’s wildlife are almost guaranteed as all travel within the reserve is solely by Big Game Parks’ open Land Rovers or on foot (all guided). The reserve is criss-crossed with dry riverbeds, dotted with waterholes and has a network of intertwined game-viewing roads.
After a day out in the hot African bush, come back to the camp that is sited in bird-rich riverine forests and enjoy an ice-cold drink under the giant sausage tree or retire to the unique stone and semi-open thatched en-suite cottages and sit back to enjoy real nature and simple African luxury at its very best.
Mkhaya is staffed and patrolled entirely by Swazis from neighbouring communities and is totally self-financing through visitor revenues. Your support is greatly appreciated as a means of sustaining this unique international conservation effort.
A trip to Mkhaya is a trip into Real Africa – a soul enriching, quality experience you’ll never forget!
Please Note: All visits to Mkhaya require pre-bookings through our Central Reservations office. Due to logistical limitations, pick up times are strictly 10h00 or 16h00, as arranged.
ACCOMMODATION AT MKHAYA
Laid out along the banks of a dry river bed, is Stone Camp where the vegetation comprises of tall fig, leadwood, sausage and knobthorn trees, with a lush under-canopy giving it a year-round subtropical appearance.
Bird life in the camp is a special feature with many species of robin, purple-crested lourie, narina trogan and pink-throated twinspots among the special treats. Smaller game, such as warthog, visits the camp whilst the big game, such as elephant, is kept at bay outside the camp by a three-strand electric cordon. The camp is comfortable, quiet and relaxing and a welcome retreat after a day out in the burning sun.
The camp is known as ‘Stone Camp’ due to the dolerite rocks used in the construction of the semi-open stone and thatch cottages. This unique style accommodation in its primeval setting offers visitors the opportunity of really getting back to nature whilst enjoying en-suite facilities.
All twelve units are laid out individually in the riverine forest overlooking the dry riverbed, linked by central and branch pathways surfaced with riversand and lit romantically at night by paraffin lanterns as the camp has no electricity. Each unit is totally private due to the thick vegetation, though some units are close enough together for use as an extended family unit.
ACTIVITIES AT MKHAYA
Day Safari Tours
Mkhaya offers Land Rover day tours – a popular activity for people not staying overnight at Mkhaya and within reach of all the major hotels in Swaziland. The tour begins from the Phuzamoya meeting point at 10h00 and includes safaris in the open game vehicles and a delicious lunch, finishing at 16h00.
Sibhaca Dancing at Mkhaya
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 will 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.
CONSERVATION / WILDLIFE & BIRDS AT MKHAYA
As a refuge for endangered species with an intensive breeding project for re-establishing scarce species in Swaziland, Mkhaya offers superb photographic opportunities to game enthusiasts.
Mkhaya currently supports four of the Big Five; with leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino being present on the reserve. Giraffe, hippo, crocodile, roan and sable antelope, tsessebe, eland, kudu, waterbuck, nyala, zebra, wildebeest, impala, warthog, grey duiker, steenbok, ostrich, bushbaby and vervet monkey are also seen daily whereas species such as red duiker, genet, lynx, baboon, serval, mongoose and jackal are seen less frequently and leopard, hyena, honey badger and pangolin occasionally.
Mkhaya is alive with many species of smaller mammal, reptiles, insects and a rich diversity of bird life, with the climax vegetation of ancient leadwoods, knobthorns and Tamboti being particularly valuable from both a conservation and an aesthetic perspective.
During 1995 Mkhaya hit world headlines when it received 6 black rhino fromSouth Africa, a project funded by the Taiwanese Government and heralded as a turning point in international efforts to protect endangered species. During 1997 the first two baby elephant to be born in Swaziland in one hundred years were born at Mkhaya.
Mkhaya has been assisted with generous grants from HRH Prince Bernhard of theNetherlands, the Prettejohn family of Ngwenya Glass, the European Union and Rhino Rescue of Great Britain.
The Nguni Cattle at Mkhaya
The term “Nguni” describes the African tribes that migrated down the eastern shores of southern Africa, including the Swazi people. This name extended to the livestock they brought, although it was only in the 1980’s, through constant battle, that the breeds were recognised. Due to the environmental challenges the traditional livestock had to endure over time in Africa, a natural resistance to disease and a certain level of adaptability was built up. The conservation and commercial value of the Nguni cattle was first realised by the Reilly family, who prompted the formation of the Southern African Nguni Breed Society. Once on the verge of extinction, the Nguni Cattle now thrive on the lush vegetation at Mkhaya and graze compatibly with zebra and wildebeest as they did 1 200 years ago.
It was the plight of the Nguni that led to the development of Mkhaya – the protection of the breed was the sole reason the original Mkhaya land was purchased in order to preserve the integrity of the pure Nguni, and thus all the traits which make it potentially the most economic domestic bovine on the Southern African veld today. It is the centuries of adaptation that makes the Nguni outclass its competitors. In recent times, contamination by developed breeds that have lost their natural resistance to environmental constraints through man’s interference has diluted the attributes the Nguni used to have. Being totally committed to the development of the Nguni as a purebred, Mkhaya protects these unique cattle and lets them roam freely and naturally in selected areas of the reserve. Ancient traditions, where African herdsmen still muster them through the bush with the music of impala and reedbuck horns, live on compatibly with nature at Mkhaya.