Biking in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
During our trip through South Africa, we chose to cross the small country of Eswatini and visit Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. It was founded by Ted and Liz Reilly, who turned their 4.500-hectare family farm into a sanctuary after witnessing the disappearance of the area’s wildlife in recent years. Its 4.500 hectares are divided into the southern and northern sections. The southern section is mainly open grasslands and plains stretching up to the beautiful Nyonyane Mountain, which has a breathtaking granite peak known as the “Rock of Execution”, while there is one of the northern sections in the northern section highest points of Mlilwane, Luphohlo.
The Mlilwane southern section offers an array of activities and adventures in the picturesque Ezulwini Valley. Here the freedom to explore the sanctuary is unique, and you can easily get amongst zebra, warthog, wildebeest, nyala, blesbuck, crocodile and different species of bird. Once at the Mlilwane Rest Camp reception, you can choose your activity among walking trails (the most beautiful is Hippo trail, 6.8 km, around 2.30 hours), mountain biking, horse riding, guided walks and games drive with 4×4 open vehicle or self-drive. The best way to enjoy Mlilwane Sanctuary is to have a night stay in one of the accommodations inside the park.
Since we are not into riding horses, we chose to have a 3-hour bike ride through the gravel road of the park. No worry, it’s not dangerous, there are no felines in the Park, and the path is nothing so challenging; in fact, it basically follows the dusty and quite flat red coloured road (just undulating in some part). Starting from the reception, we made a loop passing by the big lake with its crocodiles and throughout the wide-open grass field plenty of Zebras, wildebeest, nyala, blesbuck and warthogs. Once back at the reception, it was fun to see two big warthogs resting beside the campfire without fear of tourists sitting nearby. Obviously, Mlilwane is not like the other famous African Parks, but it’s really nice to spend a wonderful bike ride in the middle of nature surrounded by wild animals!
Need to Know
How to get there: Mlilwane is about 230 km from Nelspruit (3.30-hour drive). We crossed the ”Jeppes Reef” border post.
Where to sleep: Mlilwane Rest Camp is the only accommodation inside the Park and the base of all the activities (gate opening time 6 am to 6 pm). Another cheaper accommodation is Sondzela Backpackers (the one we booked), just a few minutes outside the park but with access through Mlilwane’s main Sangweni Gate (take in mind the gate opening time 6 am to 6 pm). All the other accommodations are outside the Park in the nearby Lobamba town. If you want to book the accommodation inside the park, you need to use the official site of the Big Game Parks.