Mkhaya Game Reserve is situated in the central Swaziland lowveld. It offers accommodation in a marvellous bush camp lodge, that is tucked away in a rich riverine forest alive with birds and wildlife. However Mkhaya is best known, or should we say, famous for, its unparalled wildlife viewing. Species like black rhino, white rhino, elephant, buffalo, hippo, tsessebe and sable antelope can be seen here more reliably than anywhere else in Southern Africa. That's not a marketing pitch from the establishment, that's the honest opinion of your local connection and its founded on many many breath-taking encounters with Mkhaya's big game species.
What more can we tell you... ?
Stone Camp is where guests are accommodated. This lodge has to be seen and experienced to be fully appreciated. Situated almost in the centre of the reserve on a dry riverbed that tells a daily story of wildlife passage, the camp is shaded by ancient fig, leadwood, knobthorn and giant sausage trees. A heavily vegetated under-canopy gives the camp a year-round subtropical appearance. The camp has central thatch-covered areas which serves as the lodge reception, bar, lounge, curio shop and undercover dining... although in all truth, nothing is doneundercover at Mkhaya unless it is pelting with rain. The Mkhaya experience is all about being outdoors either under the trees, or under the stars and constantly incontact with friendly birds, small animal species and the non-stop melody of birdsong by day and night. Wow...I didn't think we were capable of such flowery language on this website...but hey...we really like this place!
Most of the Mkhaya camp accommodation is situated upstream and downstream of the central lodge area. There are 11 stone and thatch cottages, with a variety of layouts. These can be surveyed under the Rooms/Rates & Booking tab. All are hidden in the bushguaranteeing privacy and an altogether exclusive one-on-one experience with the surrounding forest.
But to really get to grips with the value of a visit to Mkhaya, you need to appreciate a little bit about its background...
Mkhaya Game Reserve has a veryrich and interesting history. The reserve incorporates what used to be the Red Tiger Cattle Ranch, itself a sub-division of the famous Bar-R Ranch established during the First World War. The vast expanse of Red Tiger grass gave Red Tiger Ranch its name. Today that same rich grass veld which supports a great diversity of game.
It was the near extinction of local indigenous Nguni cattle that initially gave rise to the Mkhaya project in 1979. The protection of any resources at this time was a difficult and controversial battle, as it impacted on the local Swazi's previous free reign over natural resources. Nature conservation was an entirely new concept to the Swazi Nation. But, as the Mkhaya conservation success story unfolded, the concept slowly took root. The fact that Mkhaya focused not just on wildlife but on pure Nguni cattle was a feature that struck a chord with not only the Swazi Nation, but even the neighbouring Zulu monarchy as well.
Miracles still do happen and it is the Nguni breed of cattle, which was at the threshold of extinction only a few decades ago that is largely responsible for financing the conservation efforts surrounding rhino, elephant and many otherendangered species at Mkhaya. But we'll leave this particular tale right here...visit Mkhaya to hear the full story for yourself.
With regards to Mkhaya's prolific game population, these animals are largely descendants of wildlife introductions to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary back in the 1960's, which in turn re-populated Mkhaya Game Reserve which had had most of its wildlife poached and hunted out of existence in the early free-for-all colonial era.
Mkhaya and in fact Swaziland's entire warthog population eminated from the introduction of 8 animals in 1963; white rhino bounced back came back from less than 20 animals and the black wildebeest, now mostly situated at Malolotja Nature Reserve, from just 40 animals. Most species at Mkhaya have been re-established after their total extinction in Swaziland.
Mkhaya Game Reserve has been central to wildlife conservation efforts in Swaziland and has been officially recognised as Swaziland's refuge forendangered lowveld species. It has been the aim to produce surplus animals and to re-establish breeding nuclei in other suitably protected wildlife areas within the Kingdom and even across borders with neighbouring states.
Mkhaya is staffed and patrolled entirely by local Swazi game rangers from neighbouring communities and has for many years boasted what is arguably Africa's most effective anti-poaching unit. The stories of their heroics and exploits are very much a part of every visit to Mkhaya and there and manyinteresting exhibits of poachers weapons, snares and effects that can be explored by the interested visitor.
Mkhaya is a proclaimed Nature Reserve, privately owned, largely privately financed by the pioneering Reilly family. Mkhaya has also been assisted with generous grants and support from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the SANature Foundation, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Dr Anton Rupert, HRH PrinceBernhard of the Netherlands, the Prettejohn family of Ngwenya Glass, the European Union, Rhino Rescue Trust of Great Britain, the Netherlands Rhino Foundation and many others. Their efforts have greatly appreciated and have clearly borne fruit in that today Mkhaya is totally self-financing through visitorrevenues, Nguni cattle and its is producing meaningful surpluses of endangered species.
A popular day activity for people not staying overnight at Mkhaya is the Landrover Daytour. These tours are offered on a daily basis and run from 10h00 until16h00. The day tour comprises of an open Land rover safari before lunch, a buffet lunch at Stone Camp Lodge and then an afternoon zig-zag gamedrive back to your vehicle.
Private vehicles are unable to reach the lodge. Safe parking is provided either at the mainroad turn-off or within the reserve at the main ranger base station. A landrover shuttle is provided to the lodge which is approximately 30min away deep in the bush.
Landrover tours and guided walking safaris are included in your booking and are an integral part of your stay. Walking safaris are an excellent way to get close to wildlife, as they promote an affinity with nature and a kinship with all life, no matter whether big or small. So don't be surprised if you are regularly encouraged, at your own discretion and risk, to periodically disembark from the game-viewing vehicle to approach wildlife on foot. This, of course, is under the guidance of the experienced tour guides.
Longer walks for those who prefer them can be arranged. No night drives are available at Mkhaya. Most game drives or walks are approximately two hours in length and are generally conducted before meals: early morning. midday and late afternoon.
What to expect in summer season (September to April)
Wake up call by housekeepers with tea & coffee at 05h30 and a game drive departure at 06h00. Return from the game drive at 08h00 for a delicious fire-cooked breakfast. Guests checking out need to do so by 09h00, with a landrover departure at 09h15 to the main Ranger base station. Guests will exit the reserve in convoy at 10h00.
Guests staying on longer are offered a gamedrive or walking safari at 11h00. Lunch is served at 13h00 for all guests. Those departing at 16h00, are shuttled to the rangerbase and parking at 15h00, with the departing vehicle convoy arriving back on the main road at 16h00.
The afternoon gamedrive departs at 16h00 and returns at 18h30. Dinner is served at 19h00.
What to expect in winter months (May to August)
A slightly later wake up call with tea & coffee at 06h00. The game drive departure is at 06h30, returning at 08h30 for breakfast. Guests check out for current day at 09h15 to depart at 09h30 for the main Ranger base station. The main road at Phuzamoya is reached in convoy by 10h00.
Guests staying for another night further are offered a walking safari or gamedrive at 11h00. The lodge lunch is served at 13h00 for all guests. The afternoon safari drive departs at 15h00 and returns at 17h30. The lodge dinner is served at 18h30.