Mlawula Nature Reserve
Lonely Planet review
This tranquil reserve, where the lowveld plains meet the Lebombo Mountains, boasts antelope species and hyenas, among others, plus rewarding birdwatching. You can bring your own mountain bike. Walking (from two- to nine-hour treks) along plateaus, or to caves and a waterfall is a highlight here.
For accommodation, there’s Sara Camp, with self-catering double safari-style tents. While the tents are looking a little long in the tooth, the location and the fun washing experience under paraffin-heated outdoor showers, perched over a rock ledge, are awesome. There is a basic shared kitchen under a lapa (circular building with low walls and a thatched roof, used for cooking, partying etc). At the basic Siphiso camping ground, you can pitch your own tent. The self-catering Mapelepele Cottage has a gas stove and fridge. Over the past few years, 20 new chalets were built in the southern part of the reserve, courtesy of aid money. Alas, no one seemed to take account of the lack of adequate water sources; the chalets are sitting dormant. Accommodation can be booked through the National Trust Commission.
The turn-off for the entrance gates to the reserve is about 10km north of Simunye, from where it’s another 4km from the main road. Minibus taxis will drop you at the junction (E17, 1¼ hours from Manzini). There is no transport from the junction to the reserve but if you call in advance a lift may be possible if there’s a reserve vehicle available. Ask for the Trails and Day Walks flier (E20).