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Magical Mkhaya

Posted on: Friday, April 08, 2016
Blog Category: Wildlife

'Magical Mkhaya', by Jenny Bowen (Sense Africa)

They say that first impressions count, unfortunately the first impression of Mkhaya does not really count in this particular game reserve’s favour. It is only after leaving the meeting point (where there is a graveyard of old vehicles, a dilapidated shop and a toilet that I would seriously advise you not to use) that you can begin to understand why this is a gem of a place to stay. So when waiting for the guides at the meeting point, do not judge this book by its cover.

Entrance into Mkhaya is by invitation only and the pickup times are 10.00 and 16.00.  You can not just pitch up and hope to get into the reserve, so make sure you book in advance!

You are accompanied into the reserve and immediately you can see the massive amount of security that surrounds this particular reserve, the reason being the protection for the endangered black rhino. Mkhaya is Swaziland’s centre for the breeding of endangered species which include the black rhino, roan and sable antelope. The first port of call in the reserve is an area where you leave your car, can use a decent toilet and then transfer into the open land Rovers. There is also a disheartening collection of rhinos skulls, which have been collected over the years, which are a direct result of poaching. So it is nice to know that your visit to the reserve directly assists with the conservation of not only rhino but all the species in Mkhaya.

It is then that your real safari begins, with an experienced Swazi guide who is not only knowledgeable about the wildlife but also will impart cultural stories about particular species. The open Land Rover allows you to have fantastic views across the bush – do not relax as you not only need to keep an eye out for the wildlife but also for the thorny bushes! Mkhaya has a plethora of wildlife including black and white rhino elephant elephant, buffalo, giraffe, hippos and very large crocodiles. The birding is also spectacular so make sure you let you guide know your interest in our feathered friends. The safaris are so memorable and you will be surprised at how close you can get to the wildlife. Your photos will amaze your friends.

But I have to say the best thing about Mkhaya is Stone Camp – the accommodation that is set in the heart of the reserve. Every time I visit there I am already thinking of the great nights sleep out in the bush that I am going to get. The accommodation is set along a dry river bed and each room is actually a small cottage discretely set in the bush.  The cottages are open to the elements with walls that are about mid thigh high and then open with a thatch roof over the top. The beds each have a veil of mosquito netting that is arranged for you whilst you have supper.  And the loos are certainly a loo with a view – open to the bush you can watch the antelope meander past whilst sitting on your throne! And each cottage can not be seen from the path so you have privacy as well. Truly immerse yourself into the Mkhaya experience.

Supper is served out under the stars and as there is no electricity here the beautiful star lit sky can be seen without any light pollution. A great way to end the day.

I always recommend 2 nights as usually the first night for new guests can be so exciting and a little unnerving that they may not get a full nights sleep, by the second night some of the novelty has worn off and you sleep like a baby.

I cannot wait until my next visit to Mkhaya…

Original Article at Jenny's Blog - Sense Africa

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