Mkhaya is all about intimate encounters with some of Africa's icons. All travel within the reserve is solely guided, by open Land Rovers or on foot, providing superb photographic opportunities and probably the best chance of seeing Black Rhino in the wild in Africa today.
Mkhaya has been assisted with generous grants and support from the World Wide Fund for Nature, the SA Nature Foundation, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Dr Anton Rupert, HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, the Prettejohn family of Ngwenya Glass, The European Union, Rhino Rescue Trust of Great Britain, Netherlands Rhino Foundation, Corrine Itten, Lowry Park Zoo, San Diego Zoo and many others. Their efforts are greatly appreciated and it is their support that has helped Mkhaya survive. Besides this generous assistance, Mkhaya's operations are totally self-financed through visitor revenues, conservation revenues, Nguni cattle and other self-sustaining resources.
Named after the Senegalia (Acacia) nigrescens tree once prolific across the lowveld, ‘Mkhaya’ also aptly means ‘home’ derived from the fact that this valuable hardwood is the chosen tree for structural building in Eswatini. Knobthorn trunks have been incorporated in some of Stone Camp’s structures.
With a somewhat different history beginning with the conservation of Eswatini's (formerly Swaziland) beautiful indigenous Nguni cattle, Mkhaya took on the vision of nurturing and propagating locally threatened and endangered species. With very stringent conservation security, Mkhaya is now home to Eswatini’s only buffalo, sable antelope, Livingstone’s eland and tsessebe populations. Along with special species such as b;ack & white rhino, giraffe and roan antelope, these animals are often sighted at close range on safari. Birding is an additional highlight.
Mkhaya has a number of fenced areas to enable intense species management and the high security necessary for endangered species. As and when population numbers grow, nuclei are released into the bigger game sections, which to date include sable, black and white rhino, tsessebe to name a few.
Mkhaya is an award winning reserve, having received the AA's 'Travellers Value Award for Top-End Leisure Travellers' & 'AA Highly Recommended Accommodation' while the rhino viewing has been quoted as being '...on par with a mountain gorilla encounter in Central Africa', by photo-journalist Stephen Cunliffe in Wild Magazine.
Mkhaya is staffed and patrolled entirely by Swazis from neighbouring communities and currently boasts what is arguably Africa's most effective anti-poaching unit. It is totally self-financed through visitor revenues and your support is greatly appreciated as a means of sustaining this unique international conservation effort.
A trip to Mkhaya is a trip into Real Africa - a soul enriching, quality experience you'll never forget.
Essential Information: Please note pre-booking is essential; No children under 10 years; There are fixed entry and exit times of either 10am or 4pm depending on your chosen package. The meeting point is not staffed and guests are met by prior arrangement only.
Mkhaya lies in the lowlands, at an altitude of 200m – 355m above sea level. This area is historically drought-prone, with an average rainfall of just 600mm (50”). Dolerite intrusions through sandstone is characteristic of Mkhaya, with associated Acacia savanna on sandy soils. The sandstone itself produces sandy soils prone to leaching, which supports more broad-leaved vegetation (e.g. Terminalia spp.), with large-leafed plants (Grewia spp) occurring in the higher regions of granite in the north-west. A number of saline pans exist on the reserve, which are calcrete based.
Mkhaya sits within the savanna biome, with thickets and linear semi-deciduous forests following the water courses. Mkhaya is the only known protected location with endemic Aloe species Drimiopsis reillyana, named after Liz Reilly.
With the range of base rock, Mkhaya’s grass types include sweetveld on the Dolerite, sour/mixed veld on the granite and sandstone. During the cattle ranching years, certain areas were heavily overgrazed, resulting in strong Dichrostachys thickets below mature Acacia nigresens, A. nilotica and other Acacias. Elephant impact has been restricted to certain areas to safeguard substantial loss of biodiversity on the greater Mkhaya. The elephant opened up the bush to such an extent that the ancient trees have all but died, replaced by successional Uclear, Dichrostachys, Senegalia (Acacia) senegalensis and Vachellia (Acacia) nilotica thickets or open sour/mixed grassveld savanna. The western area is populated with Combretum, Terminalia, Sclerocaria and Pterocarpus spp.
Mkhaya has a few essential, mostly dry rivers crossing the park, each fringed with tall, dry, semi-deciduous forests filled with Scotia, Sclerocaria, Phoenix reclinata and Combretum imberbe and features large Mhlume, Ficus & Red Ivory trees or dry Olea europaea subsp. africana (Wild Olive) forests.
Numerous wild flower species add stunning colour to the bush in spring and summer, including Gloriosa, Scadoxis and Hibiscus spp.
Although the outward focus is often on the larger mammal species, the little ones are as important as they play a fundamental role in maintaining the balance in the environment. Mkhaya presently supports the only tsessebe, sable, buffalo and Livingstone’s eland populations in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), as well as being home to roan antelope, black & white rhino, leopard, hyena and many other species. Smaller game frequents the camp often and is fairly relaxed around guests. These include Warthog, Nyala, Suni (Livingstone’s Antelope), Grey and Red Duiker.
During 1995 Mkhaya hit world headlines when it received 6 black rhino from South Africa, a project funded by the Taiwanese Government and heralded as a turning point in international efforts to protect endangered species. During 1997 the first two baby elephant to be born in Eswatini in one hundred years were born at Mkhaya. In 2015 the decision was taken to remove elephant from Mkhaya due to the extensive habitat modification and threat to greater bio-divesity.
The Nguni breed of cattle, which was at the threshold of extinction in the1980’S, was almost wholly responsible for financing original land purchases and the establishment of rhino and elephant and the other endangered species at Mkhaya. Mkhaya’s game populations are largely descendants of animal introductions to Mlilwane in the 60’s including Eswatini’s only warthog introductions of 8 animals in 1963; the white rhino came back from less than 20 animals and the blue wildebeest from approximately 40 animals. Most species have been re-established after their total extinction in Eswatini.
Mkhaya’s reptiles include a wide variety of snakes, a healthy range of lizards, two tortoises, terrapin and crocodiles. Just before rain, the many pans became a deafening chorus of frog song, including painted reed frog, kassinas, bullfrog, platana and grey tree frogs. Any amount of time spent studying the undergrowth will reveal a rich diversity of insect and invertebrate life. In fact, game drives often stop to witness the amazing life in heaving rhino middens.
Mkhaya is home to some spectacular birdlife. Along the forested rivers, including Stone Camp, special features include seven species of Robin-chat & scrub-robin, Purple-crested Touraco, Crested Guinea Fowl, Narina Trogan, Green- & Pink-Throated Twinspots and Yellow Nicator.
The various woodland areas sport tchagras, woodland kingfisher, drongos and shrikes with a healthy population of vultures nesting on Mkhaya. Around the dams (all man-made) hammerkops and thick-knees are seen and grassland birds are moving into the elephant areas with the veld modification by the elephant.
Stone Camp is a unique camp, imaginatively laid out in a riverine forest along a dry riverbed. Units sleep 2-6 people, depending on configuration.
|Dinner, Bed & Breakfast (DBB)||Sleeps 6||From ZAR 2405|
|24 Hour Package||Sleeps 6||From ZAR 2987|
|24hr+ package||Sleeps 6||From ZAR 3530|
|Multi-night Stays (FROM - 2 nights)||Sleeps 6||From ZAR 5392|
Stone Camp is the creation of Ted Reilly, named for the dolerite stones used in the construction of our unique architecture. Stone Camp is about returning to the basics in comfort, reducing the barriers to the bush and encouraging guests to immerse themselves in nature. Electricity is replaced by candles and paraffin lanterns, creating a magical atmosphere at sundown. Gas geysers warm the water and solar provides limited logistical power. Our buildings have no doors or windows, but a simple “gate” prevents larger unwanted visitors.
At the heart of this little bush camp is a giant Sausage Tree, Kigelia africana, believed to be centuries old. The reception, curio shop, campfire and dining areas are discretely constructed alongside our sausage tree. From here sand paths lead to the 12 accommodation units, hidden in the riverine forest.
All accommodation units are semi-open with half walls and tall thatch roofs suspended on thick stone pillars. A full wall separates the living space from the bathroom, which has a shower, basin and toilet, all with views into the forest. The floors are simple concrete screed, which together with the thatch and stone, keep the units cool in hot summers. Our units have various room configurations, including twins, doubles, a triple and three family units sleeping 4-6 people.
Stone Camp is alive with life. Suni, nyala and warthog are regular guests. The regal crested guineafowl are a feature of camp, with special sightings including narina trogon, pink-throated twinspots, yellow nicator and purple-crested touraco.
Mkhaya offers set packages inclusive of Conservation fee, accommodation, meals and game drives as stipulated. Guests are met by Mkhaya Guides at the Phuzamoya Pick-up Point at either 10h00 or 16h00 as prearranged, and escourted to the park Head Quarters for registration and refreshments. Vehicles are left at the headquarters, or in secure parking outside the park if the river is up. From here, guests transfer into the open Land Rovers with their small overnight bags and enjoy a game drive en-route to Stone Camp. Overnight guests enjoy an early morning wake up call complete with coffee, tea and a small snack, ahead of an exciting sunrise game drive.
All packages are pre-booked through Big Game Parks Central Reservations. Sunhats, sun cream, a warm top and cameras should be kept close at hand.
DBB Package begins with arrival at 16h00, game drive to Stone Camp, dinner and accommodation, early morning game drive, breakfast and transfer out for 10h00.
Game Drives provide for intimate encounters with wildlife, spotting stunning birds and receiving interpretation of the environment. Dinner is a delicious 3-course bush dinner around the camp fire and breakfast is a scrumcious buffet.
Stone Camp has no electricity. Gas geysers provide warm showers and lanterns transform the camp into a magical fairyland in the evenings.
Our 12 units have various room configurations including Doubles, Twins, one Triple, 5-sleepers and one 6-sleeper.
Mkhaya's 24-hour package begins at either 10h00 or 16h00.
10h00 arrival sets off on a mid-morning game drive arriving at Stone Camp for lunch. An evening game drive returns at the magical hour, with time to prepare for dinner. Rise early for the morning game drive returning to Stone Camp for breakfast, before transfer out of Mkhaya for 10h00. This package includes mid-morning game drive, lunch, afternoon game drive, dinner, early morning game drive, breakfast and transfer game drive. (3 Game Drives + transfer out).
16h00 arrival follows the DBB package, with the option of a mid-morning game walk or a game drive the following day and lunch at Stone Camp before transfer out at 16h00. This package includes afternoon game drive, dinner, early morning game drive, breakfast, mid-morning game drive/walk, lunch and transfer game drive. (2 Game Drives + game walk/drive + transfer out)
The 24hr+ package begins at 10h00 and ends at 16h00 the following day.
Extra time in the bush is always rewarded, and our 24hr PLUS gives you the opportunity of embracing walking safaris and game drives as well as some quiet R&R in Stone Camp. The 24-hour+ is an extension of the 24-hour 10h00 – 10h00 stay, including lunch, a little quiet time to reflect and transfer out at 16h00.
Multi-night stays are the best way to immerse yourself in nature.
The rates depend on arrival and departure times, with the options of:
Nature’s simplicity is best experienced in quiet time and through observation, both highly recommended.
Mkhaya dining focuses on the campfire and hearty bush meals, including fresh salads and vegetables, game meat, local ‘phutu’ and freshly home-baked bread. Depending on the size of the group, some meals are prepared on the fire. Breakfast and dinner are served around the fire, while lunch is often set up under the giant Sausage Tree. In inclement weather, dining is moved under our large thatch roof, suspended on hardwood tree trunks, planted in the sand.
Just across the riverbed from Stone Camp a short path leads to Kirky’s Hide, a solid building with viewing windows overlooking a busy pan. For the patient observer it can provide hours of pleasure whether you are interested in birds, mammals, reptiles, insects or amphibians. Time spent here is about what is happening outside and respect is requested for those who may have travelled some distance for their daily water. Waterholes are obvious places for predator ambush, causing wildlife visitors to be extra alert - a sudden movement may result in the bush exploding with a surprising number of nyala, kudu and other wildlife… and a day without water for the scattered.
Kirky’s Hide takes its name in honour of a precious friendship with a wonderful man, whose love of, and commitment to Nature in all its magnificent glory, was unlimited. “Kirky” was a man of great compassion. He practiced respect for trees and worms and decent people and beetles and birds… all creatures and all things natural. He was the gentlest and the most honourable man and one of Africa’s greatest naturalists – and for those who did not know this, it was because he was so modest.
Howard Douglas Kirk was a gifted wildlife documentary film-maker, tragically killed in a car accident on his way to film a documentary on St Lucia’s wetlands. His talent and bravery are evident in the successful documentary “Jezebel” recording the beginnings of Nature conservation in Eswatini, produced by Anglia TV as part of its Survival series. Other documentaries include ‘The Year of the Dragons’, ‘Miniature Monsters’ and ‘Rhino Ride’. As a young ranger in Kruger Park, Ted Reilly met Howard busy filming beetles. A firm friendship developed and years later Howard married Ted’s sister Roma. Of Howard, Ted always said: “He was the finest naturalist I ever knew, and easily the most modest.”
For the consideration of the animals and the enjoyment of all guests we ask that you please remain still and quiet.
In typical Ted speak: "the golden rule: sit still and shut up!"
Fashioned in the same architectural style, the cool Executive Lounge has a solid stone wall along one side, sloping down each side to a low wall in front. Settle down quietly with a book or binoculars on comfortable furniture, aware of the nyala, suni and guineafowl passing by.
Our Executive Lounge was also developed with Bush Think Tanks (conferences) in mind. Stone Camp is perfect retreat for uninterrupted strategy sessions for small executive teams. Solar power is set up for laptops and projectors, and sketchy cell reception negates pesky interruptions.
Reception, Bar & Curio Shop
Stone Camp’s Reception area doubles as a bar, offering a selection of drinks kept cool in gas fridges. Alongside, a small curio shop sells bush-related curios and high quality branded merchandise.
All activities at Mkhaya are guided and form part of the various packages, both Day Tours and Overnight. Whether on foot or Land Rover, guests encounter a myriad of species, including endangered mammals, colourful birdlife, interesting insects and the all-important vegetation. These fascinating creatures and life forms are woven into your Swazi safari. But yes, the highlights of Mkhaya are definitely the Black Rhino, Narina Trogon and Crested Guineafowl.
Mkhaya has a handful of knowledgeable Field Guides who enjoy hosting small groups, weaving our history and ethos into interpretation of the environment. Local knowledge allows them discretion with individual animals, some of which are incredibly tolerant, while others are best viewed from further away.
Activities take place pre-breakfast, mid-morning and mid-afternoon into the evening, and are built into packages as appropriate.
Please note child restrictions: 10+ years generally and 13+ for walking safaris.
Mkhaya’s Day Tour is a great alternative for groups and those short on time. Our guides and Land Rovers meet guests at the Mkhaya Pick up Point at 10h00 and transfer to our Head quarters. Depart on a game drive exploring the endangered species section, providing incredible photo opportunities, before arriving at Stone Camp for a hearty bush lunch and chance to refresh. A second game drive after lunch ends at your vehicle at 16h00.
Please note children under 10 years old are not permitted on game drives.
Open Land Rover Game Drives wind along bush tracks, revealing special species and sharing the cultural significance of our natural world. Low hanging branches bring an ever-present element of adventure. Guests are requested to bring sunblock and sunhats, preferably broad-brimmed, and a sarong or light long-sleeved cotton shirt in summer. Bottled water is always available on the drive.
Walking slows the pace, getting you closer to the environment and making your safari more personal.
Guests are led through pockets of bushveld thickets and stunning climax Knobthorn (Acacia nigresens) Veld, with common sightings including black & white rhino, giraffe, nyala, an abundance of smaller invertebrates and birdlife including riverine, bushveld, forest and woodland species. Good closed walking shoes with solid soles to prevent thorn penetration, sun hats, insect repellant, long sleeve and long cotton trousers are recommended. Binoculars and cameras are always an advantage. Walking Safaris are offered on the 24 hour and 24hr PLUS packages.
Please note minimum age is 13 years.
Mkhaya Bush Trails are a fabulous way for small groups (4-8 people) to really embrace the bush between 1 April – 30 September. An option of 1 and 2-night trails are on offer, with improved chances of seeing giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, white and black rhino and kudu on the longer trail. Moving on foot brings to life the smaller intriguing species such as bagworms and processionary worms.
Bush Trails are fully catered in Jubela's Camp, a rustic tented camp with rudimentary ablutions and facilities.
More civilized Luxury Walking Safaris are based at Stone Camp. Please note minimum age is 13 years.
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 Swaziland Border Posts
From within Swaziland
The reviews shown here are taken directly from TripAdvisor. We encourage potential guests to visit the pages and read what our guests have said!
Please feel free to post your own review on Tripadvisor:
12 December 2016
This lodge is so different to the norm. One leaves one's car in secure parking near the entrance and boards a safari vehicle. The first safari has started! A short stop for welcome, paperwork and refreshments and our ranger drives into the park in search of animals, the stars being the rhino, both black and white which we were privileged to see. Interestingly the usually solitary black rhino was trailing behind the white group. We were told this sometimes happened when the white females were in estrus. The camp with its private, open roundels, friendly and helpful staff and enjoyable meals is well documented. I will only add that the beds surrounded by a large mosquito net were very comfortable and cosy. We had heavy rain while there and were privileged to see water gradually flow along the normally dry river bed. Our drive that evening was a display of highly skilled 4x4 driving over very wet roads. That, together with the sightings and the information from our ranger, made it an excellent drive. Stone Camp and Mkhaya Reserve are special. It is not 5* luxury but offers so much more of a 'real' bush experience.
"the luxury is simplicity" (Google translation)
7 Nov 2016 A TripAdvisor Member
We spent 2 nights and it was a highlight of our trip. The meeting point is easy to find (our Polo was parked in a secure area) and then it was in the first game drive to camp bring so charged camera battery / cell phone (no electricity). For lighting are in the camp and in the chalets Petroleum lamps. Very beautiful! Food and service are impeccable. On the first night there was also a small dance performance around the campfire. The morning walk was rhino technically brilliant! Although there is no electricity is a hot shower and with a credit card but pay no problem. A pool does not exist. Guinea fowl, bush babies and nyala are constant companions. Great little park!
"A true wildlife experience"
29 November 2016
We did the 24 hour stay...4pm to 4 pm. This includes 3 game drives and a bush walk as well as full board. The accommodation in an open fronted, stone rondeval, was very private and extremely comfortable. The staff were friendly and helpful, and the Game Rangers ( especially Maxwell) were very knowledgeable. This is a totally different experience and is highly recommended.