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This private game reserve is primarily a refuge for endangered species of mammals. Black and white rhino, elephant, buffalo and a range of other species such as roan, sable and tsessebe are its main attraction, and its birding potential is largely untapped. Over 7 000 ha in extent, travel in the reserve is limited to guided game drives by open landrover, and guided walks. Visitors may walk unescorted in the proximity of the overnight camp. The weather here is hot and humid in summer but cooler in winter. This is also a malaria area and the necessary precautions should be taken. Expect to see around 80 species in a day during spring and early summer.

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Specials

African Crowned Eagle, Black Sparrowhawk, Crested Guineafowl, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, African Wood-Owl, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Eastern Nicator, Bearded Scrub-Robin, Pink-throated Twinspot, Green Twinspot.

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Habitats

Mkhaya comprises largely of mixed acacia woodland, but broadleaved woodland predominates in the north-western portion of the reserve. Beautiful examples of pristine riverine vegetation are protected at Mkhaya including along the Mgwenyane River (site of the overnight tourist camp) and the Tingatane River.

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Facilities

There is an extensive network of roads within Mkhaya, but visitors are required to leave their vehicles at Mkhaya House (near the entrance gate). All travel within Mkhaya is under the guidance of highly trained guides, either by open landrover or on foot. Game drives are centred around the main section of the reserve where the large game are contained by an electric fence. But guides will take visitors to other parts of the reserve on request.

Stone Camp is a beautifully situated, upmarket camp and the only one open to the public. Although very comfortable, the accommodation is rustic, and three sumptuous meals are served per day.

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Birding

1. Stone camp is situated in riverine vegetation along the seasonal Mgwenyane River, and offers some of the best birding in the park. Narina Trogon is resident here but is more often heard than seen. Abundant here is Pink-throated Twinspot, Eastern Nicator, Southern Boubou, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Bearded Scrub-Robin and Red-capped Robin-Chat, Purple-crested Turaco and Grey-headed Bush-Shrike. In summer, look out for African Pygmy-Kingfisher. Crested Guineafowl are often seen in the camp. Flocks of Retz's Helmet-Shrike and Green Twinspot are occasionally observed here. Several pairs of White-backed Vulture as well as a pair of African Crowned Eagle breed along the Mgwenyane River. Verreaux's Eagle-Owl and African Wood-Owl occur and may be heard at night. An early morning walk along this river can be very productive.

2. Game drives reveal a variety of bushveld species including Green-winged Pytilia, White-bellied Sunbird, Red-billed Oxpecker, Pale Flycatcher, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and Puffback. Be sure to advise the guide of your interest in birds and do not be shy to stop the vehicle whenever you need time to observe.

3. A visit to the broadleaved woodland in the north-western section of Mkhaya can easily be arranged. Although bird species diversity is lower here than in other parts of the reserve, it is a good place to find Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Neddicky and Bushveld Pipit. The first two species are easily located by call, but beware of the similarity of their calls.

4. Open bodies of water are scarce at Mkhaya, and hence waterbirds are not a feature here. However, water is permanently present at the quarry. As a result some waterbirds such as African Jacana, Grey Heron, Green-backed Heron and Three-banded Plover may be seen. But beware of the large crocodiles. The quarry can be visited by arrangement.

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General

Reservations can be made through Central Reservations at (+268) 5283944 and fax: 5283924. Mkhaya is 20 km from Big Bend on the Manzini road. Accommodation, meals and all guided activities are included in the overnight rate. The reserve can also be visited on a day tour from 10h00 to 16h00, but here options are limited for birding enthusiasts and an overnight stay is recommended to allow time for walking. The main gate can be reached from Mbabane in less than 1.5 hours.

Ara Monadjem - 2007


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