Malolotja Nature Reserve

sights / Other

Lonely Planet review

This beautiful middleveld and highveld nature reserve is a true wilderness area that’s rugged and in the most part unspoiled. Recently it’s been declared a Transfrontier Park with Songimvelo in neighbouring South Africa. Malolotja is an excellent walking destination, with around 200km of hiking trails, and an ornithologist’s paradise, with over 280 species of birds, including several rare species. Wildflowers and rare plants are added attractions, with several (including the Woolly, Barberton and Kaapschehoop cycads) found only in this region of Africa.

Various antelope species make Malolotja their home, as do herds of zebras, elands and wildebeest. The terrain ranges from mountainous and high-altitude grassland to forest and lower-lying bushveld. The reserve is laced by streams and cut by three rivers, including the Komati River, which flows east through a gorge in a series of falls and rapids until it meets the lowveld.

Basic brochures outlining hiking trails are available for free at reception. Hiking trails range from short walks to a week-long jaunt that extends from Ngwenya in the south to the Mgwayiza Range in the north. For all longer walks, you have to bring whatever food you’ll need, as well as a camp stove, as fires are not permitted outside the base camp. You’ll also need to arrange an overnight permit with the reserve office at the entrance gate. Wildlife drives can be arranged with advance notice.

In addition to the Ngwenya mine, it’s also possible to visit Forbes Reef gold mine in Forbes Reef Forest towards the centre of the reserve.

Accommodation consists of camping, either at the well-equipped (but infrequently used) main site, with ablutions and braai area, or along the overnight trails (no facilities). There are also pleasant, fully equipped self-catering wooden cabins, each of which sleeps a maximum of six persons. At the time of research, Hawane Resort had formed a joint venture project with Swazi National Trust. There are plans to upgrade the accommodation and construct a restaurant; prices may have increased on those quoted here. Book through the National Trust Commission, both in Ezulwini Valley. The entrance gate for Malolotja is about 35km northwest of Mbabane, along the Piggs Peak road (MR1); minibus taxis will drop you here.