Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary (main entrance gate S 26 28.768 E 031 11.665, 6am-6pm, day visitors E25) was the fi rst private reserve established in Swaziland by conservationist Ted Reilly, who donated his 460-hectare farm to establish the wildlife sanctuary in 1961 out of concern for the disappearing wildlife in the area. Once established, the reserve was stocked with animals – partially from His Majesty’s wildlife stock in Hlane. The reserve’s name means “little fi re” which is derived from numerous area fi res started by lightning strikes. Mlilwane is known for its variety of bird life, and sightings of fi sh eagle, purple-crested lourie and at least three species of robins are common. But the reserve isn’t just for bird lovers - there are also plenty of ostrich, warthog and even hippos and giraffe.
All activities in the reserve can be booked at the activity center in the main rest camp.
Game Viewing can be done either in your own vehicle or on a guided open-top Land Rover tour. The guided tour offers two-hour day drives as well as night drives.
Mountain Bikes can be rented on an hourly basis (E85/hr) for either self-guided tours or excursions accompanied by a field guide. Guided Bird and Wildlife Walks (E95/hr) can also be booked at the activity center.
Chubeka Trails offers Horseback Rides for day trips as well as fully catered one or two-day overnight camping rides where you can get up close to the wildlife.
All accommodation in the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary can be booked through Big Game Parks.
Sondzela Backpackers Lodge is a backpackers paradise situated in the middle of the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary where you can lounge in hammocks by the swimming pool or sit around the large fire pit and braai in the evening. Breakfast and traditional Swazi dinners are available. While this setting is tough to beat, however Sondzela is run by Big Game Parks staff that tend to be a bit less friendly than what you would usually find at a backpackers. Fortunately, there is generally a good mix of guests staying here, which makes for an enjoyable atmosphere.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary Main Camp is a large facility with "villages" of beehive huts surrounding the main camp, where animals from the reserve roam free. There are a number of picnic and braai areas as well as a large swimming pool.
Reilly's Rock Hilltop Lodge is the Reilly family's original six-room family home and the first house in Swaziland to have electricity. It is a flawlessly kept lodge situated atop a hill in a fenced off part of the reserve that has animals not found in the rest of the reserve. Guests can walk around this area of the reserve freely to view the wildlife and feed the bush babies that run across the roof in the evening.
All of the lodges in the reserve offer breakfast and dinner and an in-house bar.
The Hippo Haunt Restaurant is built on stilts and extends over a small lake where you can watch hippos wading and occasionally lumbering out of the water for feeding.