eSwatini’s (Swaziland) Mbuluzi Game Reserve is a small, privately owned reserve located close to both the Mozambique and South African borders. Known for being as a picturesque stop-over for visitors exploring a combination of countries, Mbuluzi certainly holds its own as a wilderness destination.
Undulating landscapes comprising chiefly of acacia bushveld, open savanna grasslands and riparian vegetation provide a diverse habitat for wildlife. Although not a big five destination, the reserve does support notable safari-bucket list species such as crocodile, honey badger, zebra and hyena. Two rivers meander their way through the hilly terrain, surrounded by impressive forests of the sky-scraping date palm and sycamore trees. Sweeping scenes of typical open savannah flowing down to lush, dense forest is not uncommon.
Flanked by the fascinating Lubombo Mountains, the Mbuluzi River has a series of breathtaking rapids worth exploring. The Mlawula River flows gently through the reserve and has several walking trails cutting across the landscape. There’s plenty to do in the reserve for the avid adventure lover.
There is plenty of access to water in the reserve, which means sightings of water-loving species are common. Both crocodile and hippo are well supported, and so are dense populations of Cape clawless otters. The drier inland is where visitors will spot abundant giraffe, zebra, hyena, wildebeest, impala, waterbuck, kudu, nyala and other herbivores.
In total, there are 300 species of bird to spot. There are quite a few notable species for birders wanting to spot a few lifers. These species include the African finfoot, dwarf bittern, Narina trogon and the grey-headed kingfisher.
The best time to visit is during the drier winter season, as this is when the bushveld thins out due to lack of rain, making it easier to spot wildlife. Animals flock to available water sources, making their whereabouts predictable. The winter months are from June to September. The country is a summer rainfall region, during which time the landscape becomes lush with greenery. Temperatures do soar during the summer.
Mbuluzi Game Reserve is a do-it-yourself wilderness experience. There is a well-maintained network of roads and jeep tracks crisscrossing through the reserve, making the terrain easily navigable for self-drivers. This mosaic of jeep tracks holds great appeal for mountain bikers, who enjoy game viewing while biking through the pristine wilderness.
The two perennial rivers in the reserve support a variety of fish species, making it ideal for fishing activities. Visitors who stay at the lodges are allowed to fish but must bring their gear.
Game viewing on foot is a popular safari activity. The exquisite landscape and craggy mountains are ideal for both gentle strolls and challenging hikes. Many of the hiking trails set out from the doorstep of the lodge accommodation, making them easy to access.
Visitors are encouraged to head down to the water's edge for rewarding game viewing opportunities. Whether biking, driving or walking, visitors should stop and spend time at the many bird hides dotted across the reserve. The hides provide a sheltered place to observe the game and rare birds.
There are three luxury lodges located along the banks of the Mlawula River, all ideal for small groups and families travelling. Lodge accommodation is either in tented camps, thatched stone cottages or typical bush lodges. There is also a campsite area located close to the tumbling rapids of the Mbuluzi River.