[click to enlarge image] [click to enlarge image] Swaziland  and   Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.

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Taken in Kruger Park

One our way back from Kruger we decided to return home via Swaziland and visit Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.
We had not made a booking and would just arrive hoping that there would be a campsite avaiable. As it was Friday I was rather short on hope.

We entered Swaziland at Jeppes Reef border post. Being Friday we expected that the customs of both RSA and Swaziland would be busy, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that we were the only travellers. The customs offices on both sides were spotlessly clean and the officials friendly, polite and efficient. Went through into Swaziland within 10 minutes without even a cursory inspection of the Hilux and contents.
Three months ago, at the Golel border post, on the South African side, all vehicles were searched and all vegetative matter was confiscated. There was a notice in the SA customs office stating that it was prohibited to take any plant material into South Africa. The fact that you were in-transit and had bought your bananas or tomatoes, whatever in South Africa was of no conesequence. A rediculous regulation but on this trip I had as no such problem, obviously the smaller, less used, border posts are more lax and do not have at Dept. of Agriculture official looking for cheap vegetables.
Swazi road tax R50 has been so for many years.

It is a pleasure driving in Swaziland. The roads are excellent with little traffic and intimidating behemoth rigs. We encountered one road block and expecting to be stopped I started to slow down but the police waved me though with a friendly wave and a broad smile. The country was clean with very little litter, although the same can't be said for the the road betweenm Manzini and Mbabane.   Most noticeable of all was NO POTHOLES.
I lie, I counted six, but by our standards they hardly qualify as potholes.

The overall ambience of Swaziland felt good and we agreed it could be a nice country to live in. BUT, all is not well as there is growing discontentment with the extravagant, polygamous King Mswati lll who is the absolute ruler of an impoverished Swaziland. He has 15 wives but three have fled his kingdom in recent years citing emotional and physical abuse. The household budget is reputed to be $61 million.
Political parties and Trade Unions are banned and the country has been teetering on bankruptcy for some years. Not a happy scenario!

Good news for South Africans motoring in Swzalind is cheaper petrol, R12.05/litre. [click to enlarge image]

Next time round we plan on exploring more of Swaziland - there is much to see and do. We visited a Candle factory near Manzini. A multitude of candles of every discription, colour and design. They also made cosmetic soaps with a variety of different names, Mango, Lavender, Rooibos, Thekwini, and others. Would hate to meet some sweet lady that smelt of Rooivos tea, with or without sugar!
The overall layout was excellent with attractive product display. Before a visit here be sure to hide your wife's purse and credit cards. Allow only a small amount of petty cash!

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Adjacent to the candle shop were other shops with fabrics and clothing, a restaurant and open air stalls with a variety of curios. Everything was neat, tidy and clean and joyfully peaceful with no thumping music.
Best of all was deli in a caravan made of tin called 'Black Mamba' chilly den. No wonder it was made of metal, some of the concoctions on display were hot enough to be a serious fire risk.

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When only a few kilometres away from Mlilwane we began to puzzle over where it could be as all we could see were farm lands, mostly grass lands with exotic pine and gum plantations towards the mountains; - and that my friends is precisely what Mlilwane consists of!
It was once a farm belonging to the King and he handed it over to the 'Big Game Parks' Department to be used as a Wild Life Sanctuary.   There is no bushveld to speak of, such as one would expect.
The area is well stocked with game but it is weird to have Impala, Zebra, Nyala, Warthog, etc wondering in pine, gum and scrub wattle plantations. But mostly it is grasslands of which some had recently been mowed, presumably to make hay.

They have a serious problem with wild guava {Careya arborea}, which is highly invasive and spreading throughout the reserve with no visible sign of it being eradicated.   There are notices saying that no plants may be removed. I would have thought they would be pleased to see folk getting rid of the exotics.

[click to enlarge image] [click to enlarge image] Within the reserve there is an fenced area where a 'Breeding and Propagation Programme' is underway to restore the Roan antelope {Hippotragus squinus} to the game parks in Swaziland. They became locally extinct in 1961. Roan have been obtained from Marwell Wildlife near Winchester in England and the Dvur Kralova Zoo in the Czech Republic. Onderstepoort Veterinary Facility have also been involved in controlling the dreaded Theileriosis, a tick borne disease and major killer of Roan and Sable antelope.

They have a small herd with young and we can only wish them well in their efforts.
            Wonder if there is a similar programme in South Africa?

Everything about the reception, offices and lodges at Mlilwane is quaint; very African a tad run down but clean and the staff friendly and helpful.   The wildlife have right-of-way and as there are no fences. Impala, Nyala, Warthog and Zebra roam freely around the office and accommodation area.

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Accommodation consists of; Camping, Beehive Villages, Rest camp Huts, Self-catering cottages and the Sondzela Backpackers.
The bee hives villiges are unique but would not be my choice as the entrance is low and there are no windows. The back of two hives is attached to a shared ablution facility.

[click to enlarge image] [click to enlarge image] There are two camping areas, one with and the other without electricity. As I wanted to keep my Engel fridge running we choose a site with electricity. (No extra charge.)
In spite of it been a Friday there were only two sites occupied of the 16 sites available and no one else arrived.
Thankfully there are no lights in the campsite other than your own and the camp was quiet being far enough away from the bar.

A notice that amused me stated that, as bar facilities were available, no liqour was allowed in the reserve. How they hope to implement this would be well-neigh impossible.

They accept Wildcard but it still cost R80 to enter; camping R90p.p. Our total=R260

Mlilwane would be a great getaway for active families. There is a sparkling swimming pool that had a few shapely bodies languishing about. [click to enlarge image]
The variety of wildlife is of the peaceful kind so hiking or cycling around the reserve is allowed. There is a rack of mountain bikes at the reception in case you forgot yours at home or feel energetic enough to try one out. Not sure if they also have protective helmets available, but for a gentle pedal around the sanctruary it is pobably not compulsory.
They do have a few Hippo and you are warned to be careful at night if you go up to, or return from, the restaurant or pub.
There is also a dam but fishing is NOT allowed and it does have crocodile. The one I saw would make and easy meal of a hiker cooling his blistered feet in the water.

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Next morning we set off for home taking the route to Piet Retief via Sicunusa border post. Once upon-a-time the RSA side was called Houtkop grenspos.
Again we were through in a flash without any hassles. Then within 100 meters of the gate the potholes began, nasty, destructive potholes. There was one section of about 5 kilometres that was horrendous, the worst I have ever encountered. Impossible to dodge the pits; travel in first gear and almost zero speed.
Possibly made by the SADF to slow down an invasion by the Swazi army?
  More likely to prevent the SADF escaping to Swaziland!


June 2014