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.