Hlane Royal National Park was proclaimed as a National Park in 1967, following Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary (1961), under instruction of King Sobhuza ll. "Hlane" is the siSwati name for 'wilderness'.
Hlane is an affordable lowveld destination with exciting species lists including impressive ancient hardwood habitats, big game and rich birdlife.This 22,000 ha park, once the region’s rich hunting grounds, still boasts the largest herds of game in the Kingdom with speciality species being lion, elephant, vultures and marabou stork.
Affordable Accommodation is available in Ndlovu Camp and Bhubesi Camp. The camps are 16km apart, Ndlovu Camp being the heart of activity within the big game area, while Bhubesi Camp is a quiet self-catering camp outside the endangered species area.
Note: all visitors must be in camp by sunset and movement between camps or into / out of the Park after dark is not permitted. Gates close at 18h00 daily.
Hlane is managed for the species inhabiting it, with both self-drive and limited access areas. The Lion are in a separate limited-access area, only accessible by guided game drives.
All activities are guided and depart from Ndlovu Camp, with exception of self-drive in select areas. Day Visitors are welcome to self-drive and picnic, visit the restaurant or take part in activities. Sunset and sunrise activities are not possible for guests staying at Bhubesi Camp, unless a full group booking and prearranged with Management to depart from Bhubesi Camp.
Essential Information: Please note gates are open from Sunrise to Sunset.
Hlane is Eswatini’s(formerly Swaziland) largest single conservation area, although not entirely open to visitation. The park incorporates roughly 22000 Ha, but with additional buffer zones covers up to 33,000 Ha with an altitude range of 210m – 330m above sea level. The vast majority is classified as lowveld, with the eastern fringes spreading onto the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains. Annual rainfall is typically 890mm (25").
Based largely on basalt (50%), Hlane is blessed with dark, fertile soils associated with small-leafed trees (Vachellia/Senegalia spp - was Acacia). Approximately 40% of Hlane sits on sandstones and shales, characterized by broad-leaved plants (e.g. Terminalia spp.) and the last 10% includes dolerite intrusions occurring across the park, with a thin strip of ryalite along the Lebombo’s. The range of rock brings with it very diverse soils, high biodiversity and provides an extremely important comparison base for lowveld ranching areas into the future.
Supporting Hlane’s abundant wildlife is the fascinatingly diverse flora. Hlane’s low-lying flat land, and temperate climate support a strong thornveld savanna biome with prime sweet veld interspersed with thickets and dry riverine forests.The flat lands are dominated by Senegalia (Acacia) nigrescens, reputedly the most remarkable community in existence. Basalt-based S. nigrescens savanna is considered to be the most biologically productive vegetation type in the country, and is particularly important for hole-nesting birds and a wide range of birds of prey.
Many of the Dichrostachys and Vachellia (Acacia) nilotica thickets are considered successional, relatively short-lived (30 years) encroachment thickets, which have developed in response to overgrazing or high-impact grazing. Within the elephant areas, the trees have been reduced, transforming the areas to grassland accompanied by a change in bird species compared to the intact woodland areas alongside.The extent of modification has consciously been limited to ensure the conservation of biodiversity on the greater Hlane.
Mixed Broadleaf veld (trees & shrubs with large leaves e.g. Combretum, Grewia, Terminalia spp.) is evident along the basalt ridges, changing in character along the Lebombo’s ryalite rock base. Narrow bands of deciduous and semi-deciduous forests (not true forests) follow the drainage lines, rivers and streams in the west, where Ficus, Scotia, Mahongany and Combretum imberbe trees are abundant. Riverine thicket along the Mbuluzi River is dominated by Phoenix reclinata, Euclea, Scotia and Nuxia spp.
In truth, Hlane provides only a relic example of country which formerly supported the densest populations of wild ungulates historically recorded in Eswatini and still provides Eswatini with its only opportunity of preserving the large bushveld herds which were formerly a feature of the Swazi landscape.
Hlane’s flagship species include lion, elephant, black & white rhino, giraffe and hippo, with good populations of kudu, zebra, blue wildebeest, waterbuck, warthog, duiker and impala and a host of lesser-seen mammals. Jackals and hyenas play their very important role in the ecology of the park. Reptiles are well represented, especially snakes, with a number of lizards, two species of tortoise and the Nile crocodile. Insect and arachnid life is abundant, providing an incredible food source for other species. Birds are listed separately.
Hlane's lion population is in a separate large area, with special lion-proof fencing to prevent human-wildlife conflict situations. Hlane has chosen to have a small pride for educational reasons - the Lion is one of Eswatini's Royal Symbols, and as the only local population, they provide Swazi's with the only chance of seeing these beasts in real life.
Successful conservation has enabled the revival of the age-old traditional Butimba hunt on a buffer (peripheral) area of Hlane. Managed as a conservation area, surplus common game overflows from the protected core areas onto Malahleni, which is then available for the hunt without reducing core breeding stock. Butimba is regulated by strict conduct and conservation ethos, while simultaneously being an excellent example of the value of conservation to the Swazi people.
The Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) lowveld supports over 250 bird species, including forest, woodland, aquatic and rock birds. The basalt-based Senegalia (Acacia) nigrescens savanna is considered particularly important for hole-nesting birds and a wide range of birds of prey, including Martial Eagles and Vultures. A notable species of hole-nesting bird is the red-billed oxpecker, which was extinct throughout most of Eswatini in the 1970’s and 1980’s and now represented in healthy populations on Hlane.
Birdlife is prolific with large red-billed quelea nesting colonies during season and the densest populations of birds of prey in the Kingdom, including bateleur and martial eagle and no less than five vulture species.
Until recent years, Hlane supported the most southerly recorded nesting site of Marabou stork in Africa, with the only known nesting sites of Marabou stork and Ground hornbill in the Kingdom. Hlane sustains the highest density of tree-nesting vultures in southern Africa, esp White-Backed Vulture and including the internationally endangered Cape vulture. Nesting sites are very specific to protected areas – literally only within the fenced areas, excluding the elephant-impact areas.
Hlane provides habitats for wetland dependent bird species along rivers, with artificial wetlands (Mahlindza Dam) possibly serving as a potentially important staging and moulting point for migratory waterbirds.
Easily accessed about 1km from the Simunye road, self-catering cottages, group accommodation and camping are on offer.
|Self-catering Double Cottages||Sleeps 2||From ZAR 561|
|Wisteria Village Rondavels||Sleeps 2||From ZAR 531|
|Family Self-catering Cottage (Big Hut)||Sleeps 8||From ZAR 572|
|Group Self-catering Cottages||Sleeps 8||From ZAR 596|
|Camping||From ZAR 135|
Easily accessed about 1km from the Simunye road, self-catering cottages, group accommodation and camping are on offer. Ndlovu Camp is the administration centre of Hlane, with a large restaurant, activities centre and curio shop, as well as large summerhouses and braai areas for day visitors.
The highlights of Ndlovu Camp include the busy birdlife, lack of electricity which enhances the bush experience and the busy waterhole, with resident hippo and crocodile. The waterhole is frequented by elephant, rhino, giraffe and other species providing photographic opportunities throughout the day without leaving camp.
Ndlovu Camping Grounds comprises a large informal area spread under ancient Senegalia (Acacia) nigresens trees, with a number of braai stands, large ablutions and a communal kitchen area.
2 Self-catering double cottages are available with gas stove, gas fridge, a self-contained kitchen and a private braai area. In the absence of electricity, water is heated by gas geyser and lanterns are provided.
24 twin en-suite huts with gas geyser; lanterns provided. No electricity. Perfect for group accommodation or individual travellers.
Big Hut is an adapted rondavel with a double room, a twin room and 4 single beds in the loft. A shared bathroom with gas geyser, adequate kitchen and lounge area and a small veranda make for a comfortable unit. No electricity, lanterns are provided.
2 Group Cottages with 2 double rooms and 2 twin rooms, large kitchen, large lounge/dining area, shared bathroom, open-air shower and private braai area.
Our Campsite is an informal area under mature Knobthorn trees. Braai stands and bench tables are provided on some stands. Ablutions are spacious, with a donkey-boiler system. Campers have use of a communal kitchen and wash up area. There is no electricity at Ndlovu Camp.
Bhubesi is a comfortable self-catering camp with 6 cottages located approx 16km from Ndlovu Camp in the northwest corner of Hlane Royal National Park.
|Family Self-catering Cottages||Sleeps 4||From ZAR 572|
Bhubesi is a comfortable self-catering camp with 6 cottages located approx 16km from Ndlovu Camp in the northwest corner of Hlane Royal National Park. Set along the densely vegetated banks of the Mbuluzane River, outside the endangered species area, Bhubesi is a wonderful quiet bush retreat for small groups, self-drive guests, perfect for birders and R&R. Bhubesi cottages are spacious, fully equipped and powered by electricity. Guests are required to check in at Ndlovu Camp with ample time to drive to Bhubesi Camp (at least 30 minutes). Movement to/from Bhubesi Camp after dark is not permitted.
Each identical family cottage has two twin en-suite rooms, a large lounge and kitchen area, and outside private braai area.
Ndlovu Camp Restaurant
Ndlovu Camp’s large restaurant seats 100 people in the semi-open area, with a expansive deck and self-service bar. The restaurant is literally in the heart of Ndlovu Camp, overlooking a busy waterhole with resident hippo and frequented by many species. Wholesome meals are served to the serenade of birdsong by day and enhanced with lantern ambiance by night.
Ndlovu Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, with an assortment of light lunches to full meals accompanied by a small bar. All refridgeration is run on gas and solar, which limits ice stocks. The restaurant facilities are open to overnight guests, campers and day visitors.
Day Visitors Facilities
Day visitors are welcome to enjoy the restaurant, summerhouses and communal braai areas within Ndlovu Camp as well as book guided activities at the Activity Centre. The private fireplaces in front of self-catering units are not available to day visitors. Group functions are available with prior booking through Big Game Parks Central Reservations. Day visitors are required to leave the park by sunset.
Three large communal campfires are available in Ndlovu Camp, lit by camp attendants when requested or on busy days. Each of these have a large braai grid, a stone table, a low stone wall perimeter and a number of chairs. These areas provide for the perfect bushveld story sharing and meeting other like-minded people.
All activities are booked at the Activities Centre in Ndlovu Camp, or prearranged through Big Game Parks Central Reservations. Activities depart from the Activities Centre. Our guides are all trained in-house, take pride in knowing the area and animals well and enjoy imparting their knowledge with and learning from our guests. Activities are conducted in the different segments of Hlane, with only selected guided game drives visiting the Lion Area for safety reasons.
Game drives are the traditional leisurely African Safari, winding along bush roads in Land Cruisers and Land Rovers with canvas roofs. More of the park is seen in this manner, with keen eyes spotting wildlife and birds en-route, and time is taken for capturing those memorable moments.
All Game Walks on Hlane are guided and conducted outside the endangered species area, along roads and game paths, or simply through the bush. 2 hours of quiet walking in nature heightens all the senses and the slow pace allows for interpretation of the signs of the wild, making the experience truly memorable. Your preference of either a Game Walk or a Birding Walk will dictate the area chosen for the walk.
Our recently introduced Mahlindza Dam Walk circumnavigates the largest and busiest water source on Hlane, amid mature trees rich with birdlife. Transfers to and from Mahlindza can be pre-arranged.
* Bottled water is included in our Guided Walks. Minimum age 13 years.
Possibly the best way to begin the day is by hopping on a mountain bike and pedalling out to Mahlindza Dam for coffee and rusks. Our 2 hour pre-breakfast SunUp Cycle offers a fun outdoor activity in the African Bushveld. This activity is suitable for beginners with relative fitness, following flat sandy roads on sturdy well-maintained mountain bikes. If a cycle is in order later in the day, a bottle of refreshing water will be provided.
Hlane’s main game areas have numerous dirt roads suitable for self-drive game viewing. Care must be taken in rainy season, when the clay-rich soils become tricky. Guests are requested to treat all animals with respect quietly observing from a fair distance. Maps are available in the shop and at Reception.
The Hlane Umphakatsi (Chief Village) is an intriguing group outing which embraces the rural Swazi way of life and shares the benefits of tourism. The experience includes a tour of the authentic living homestead, explanation of and adherence to traditional culture, trying your hand at day-to-day activities and engaging with residents. The Swazi people are proud of their rich cultural heritage, which is transmitted by word of mouth from one generation to the next.
The Umphakatsi Experience is a 2,5 hour external self-drive activity, for which we provide a guide. The duration includes a 25-minute drive either way from Hlane’s Ndlovu Camp. Due to the logistics and in respect for the community and chief, this activity is available to groups only, pre-booked through Central Reservations.
Ehlatsini Bush Trails offer full days of walking and fully catered camping in an overnight rustic trail camp, perfect for small groups keen to engage fully with the bush. Moving through climax savanna giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, kudu and nyala are often spotted. Marabou and vultures watch the group from their nests atop the ancient Acacias and the opportunity for surprise encounters with exciting wildlife, including unusual invertebrates and insects, abound. Dropping down towards Sundwini Camp on the Mlawula River, woodland birds give way to colourful forest species, with the ever present possibility of baboon sightings.
Sundwini Camp is set up with open gazebos and bed rolls laid out on ground sheets. Meals are cooked on and served around the open fire. Water and personal bags are transported with the supply vehicle. A cold bush shower and long-drop latrine provide basic ablutions.
1 Night Ehlatsini Bush Trail departs Ndlovu just after breakfast and returns the following day on a slightly different route. Includes packed lunches, dinner and breakfast on the second day. Walking 5-7 hours per day.
2 Night Ehlatsini Bush Trail is an extension of the 1-night trail, providing a day of exploring the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains. Due to lowveld heat, trails are seasonal, running from 1 April – 30 September. Age restrictions and group sizes apply.
Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) has 12 borders, making access easy from almost anywhere along our boundry with either South Africa or Mozambique. To assist, we have created a "Suggested Borders" document for you.
From Eswatini Border Posts
From Eswatini Border Posts
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is the perfect extention to a Hlane holiday with self catering, group accommodation and camping in the middleveld.