Bird-watching at Mlawula is particularly rewarding and the reserve is renowned for its high bird diversity. The reserve of 16 500 hectares comprises the Lubombo Mountains and adjacent lowveld plains, and is bounded by Mozambique to the East, Shewula Game Reserve to the north, and Mbuluzi and Hlane reserves to the west. It boasts a bird list of over 350 species including a number of 'specials' difficult to see elsewhere in the country. A stay of two to three days is recommended to experience all that Mlawula can offer. A list of around 100 species is easily attainable in a day in spring and early summer. Birding is best from November to January.
SpecialsThese include White-backed Night-Heron, White-backed Vulture, Martial Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, African Finfoot, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Eastern Nicator, Purple-banded Sunbird, Bearded Scrub-Robin and a number of species restricted to the East Coast Littoral such as African Broadbill, Grey Sunbird and Pink-throated Twinspot.
HabitatsAcacia savanna covers most of the flat Siphiso Valley where game species concentrate in high densities. To the east of the Siphiso Valley lies the Lubombo Mountains. The slopes of these mountains are covered by broadleaved woodland, while the drainage lines support moist thickets and ironwood forest. Woodland gives way to open grassland and rocky outcrops on the plateau.
FacilitiesThere is 33 km network of good gravel roads open to tourists for game driving. Guided day and night drives are offered in an open vehicle.
SARA Bush Camp consists of four fully furnished luxury safari tents on wooden decks with amazing views over the reserve. Each tent accommodates two people and has a unique open-air bath/shower (with hot water) on the cliff edge. An experience not to be missed! There is a well-equipped communal kitchen and lounge area and communal toilets with a view.
Siphiso Campsite caters for campers and is beautifully located near the ephemeral Siphiso River. A thatched ablution building with hot water and two thatched gazebos are present. Large indigenous trees provide lots of shade.
Mbuzi Picnic Site is situated next to the Mlawula River, and is beautiful shaded area with braai facilities. There are various other attractive sites within the reserve that can be used for picnicking. Ask at the entrance gate for details.
The Environmental Education Centre is fully equipped to cater for school groups interested in learning about nature. Qualified staff teach groups about various aspects of environmental conservation. Groups are welcome to stay overnight in dormitories at the centre.
BirdingThe best birding opportunities are on the extensive trail network. There are seven self-guided walking trails that vary in length from 1½ hours to a full day.
The main road from the entrance gate to Siphiso Camp passes through ideal Acacia nigrescens habitat where more than 50 species can easily be seen within an hour. Expect to see typical woodland species such as Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Black-headed Oriole, White-crested Helmet-Shrike and Little Sparrowhawk. A pair of Bateleur has bred here in the recent past. Bushveld Pipit and Stierling's Wren-Warbler are present at low densities. Look out for White-backed Night-Heron at the bridge across the Mlawula River (at the entrance gate). Single birds are regularly seen here at night. By day, look out for Half-collared Kingfisher and African Finfoot.
The Ndzindza, Leopard and Siphiso trails all leave from the Siphiso campsite. The Wide Siphiso Valley hosts Retz's Helmet-Shrikes and their brood parasite, Thick-billed Cuckoo. The cuckoos are highly elusive but may be seen flying above the woodland in the early morning. Crested Guineafowl, Eastern Nicator and Bearded Scrub-Robin are just a few of the birds that can be seen on these walks. Grey-headed Kingfisher is occasionally spotted at the campsite.
Python Pool is a short walk from the car park. It is scoured out of a spectacular rocky gorge and visitors can swim here, but beware of crocodiles which have occasionally been spotted in this pool. The Khabane Cave is reached after a stiff climb, but you will be rewarded by a spectacular view of the Siphiso Valley. Look out for Barn Owl which roost at Khabane as well as Striped Pipit and Mocking Cliff-Chat. African Crowned Eagle breed in the area and can be located by call when displaying. The walk to Waterfall Cave passes through a remote area of Mlawula. Look out for Black-bellied Starling, Pink-throated Twinspot and Cape Batis in the vegetation along the ephemeral stream leading up to Waterfall Cave.
A number of poorly marked tracks lead through Ndzindza in the Lubombo Mountains. The trail leading from the remains of Blue Jay cottage (which burnt down a few years ago) down to the Mbuluzi Gorge passes through an impressive ironwood forest. Search this forest and adjoining riverine vegetation for African Broadbill and African Barred Owlet. Both species are best located by call. Also present are Pink-throated Twinspot, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Cape Batis, Black-bellied Starling, Purple-banded Sunbird, Bearded Scrub-Robin and various other forest-edge species. Further details of these trails can be obtained from the entrance gate.
A recently built bird and game hide is situated at the far end of the Siphiso campsite. There are plans to develop a vulture restaurant to be viewed from this hide.
GeneralThe entrance to the reserve lies just 4 km off the Manzini-Lomahasha road, 10km north of Simunye.
As this area is typical lowveld, the summers are very hot and the mildly cooler months are April to September. This is also a malaria area and the necessary precautions should be taken.
Guided day and night drives are offered in an open vehicle. This provides a chance to see some interesting nocturnal animals and birds and will take you to special parts of the reserve.
One may visit some interesting caves, One of which is famous for its stone-age archaeological diggings.
Fishing in the Mbuluzi and Mlawula rivers is a popular pastime. Ask at the gate about permits and suitable sites.
Accommodation is available in the area.
For more information contact Mlawula Nature Reserve directly on Tel: (+268)3838885
An entry fee is payable for day visitors.
he gates open at 06h00 and close at 18h00, but these times are not strictly enforced and late-comers are usually welcome.
All entries into Swaziland require a valid passport.
Ara Monadjem 2007.