Where do you find a backpackers INSIDE a game reserve? Sondzela is an easy, safe and peaceful launch pad to Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), located at the southern tip of Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. A super relaxing base to chill and meet other like-minded travellers, guests can get active in Nature or simply enjoy the swimming pool, games room, Hog ‘n Wart Bar and Mlilwane Rest Camp’s facilities just 2km from Sondzela Backpackers.
Accommodation is varied, and guests are encouraged to get out and about participating in Mlilwane’s activities and the many exciting options Eswatini has to offer. DSTV, laundry and large kitchens and communal braai area are available making this a social hub of note. Sondzela has a large safe parking area for self-drive guests.
Situated between Mbabane and Manzini, with 24-hour access to the Sanctuary, guests are free to enjoy the neighbouring tourist hubs of Ezulwini and Malkerns, with their many unique attractions and craft shops. A free Shuttle to and from Malandela's Restaurant & Internet Cafe is available daily at specified times, or guests can walk out to Malkerns and catch taxis.
Sondzela is an international facility reserved for budget travellers visiting Eswatini. Sondzela is not available to locals and is reserved for overnight guests only, no day visitors. We have chosen this route to safeguard the purpose of international travel, with the resulting contribution to the GDP of Eswatini. Big Game Parks caters for local market within the greater range of our products and parks.
Essential Information: Please note gates are open for check-in from Sunrise to Sunset, otherwise 24 hour access. All access is through Mlilwane’s main Sangweni Gate on the Esitjeni road, near Lobamba.
Sondzela has a small fence around the perimeter beyond which nyala, warthog, impala, blesbuck, zebra and wildebeest are a constant presence, seen from the gardens and rondavels. Another likely sighting is the little slender mongoose, darting along trails and between bushes. Mlilwane Conservation provides information on the species that inhabit the sanctuary.
Sondzela is a transient place, where guests meet and mingle with other like-minded travellers. Much socializing is done, friends and memories made. Watch out for the inquisitive warthogs – they are keen to share your lunch! Please don’t feed the animals. Sondzela guests are welcome to make use of Mlilwane’s Rest Camp facilities just 1km walk or 2,5 km drive away.
Hog 'n Wart Bar
The old double carport was converted into this social space, with a manned bar providing an assortment of local and South African beers, ciders and wine. Sporting events viewed on the elevated TV always gets the crowd active. Playing a game of poole is an easy way to break the ice.
This one is a must on hot summer days – simply irresistible after a morning activity. Besides, its holiday! Cool off, and slither onto the paving for a little African sun, just like a good ol’ croc!
Meals & Braais
Breakfast and dinner is served daily, prepared and served under the trees around the large communal fire. Bookings are made with the ladies at Reception.
A light continental breakfast includes eggs, toast, and cereals. Guests wanting to experience Swazi culture can try out the indengane, a thin porridge mealie meal.
Dinners ranging from Swazi bush braais to venison potjies (stews) are prepared on the open fire in a very sociable setting.
Lunch is not served at Sondzela. Mlilwane's Hippo Haunt Restaurant is highly recommended with a great A La Carte Menu, or our ladies can suggest alternatives while you are exploring the Malkerns and Ezulwini Valleys close by.
Our large kitchens are well equipped, making self-catering easy and pleasurable. Comprehensive supermarkets are available in Malkerns, Ezulwini and Matsapha. Mahlanya fresh produce market at the Malkerns junction is a must-do Swazi market experience.
Large concrete basins with hot and cold water are available for hand washing. Alongside these are washing lines for drying clothes.
A FREE Shuttle to and from Malandela's Restaurant & Internet Cafe is available daily, leaving in the morning around 07h00 and in the evening around 16h00.
Mlilwane’s activities are what stand this experience apart – horse ride, mountain bike, or simply walk among many tolerant wildlife species. The best part is that you don’t even need a guide, except on the horses. The self-guided trails and mountain biking can keep you busy for hours. Spend a few days and top up on your fitness, running or hiking along the trails before travelling further. It is not often such opportunity presents itself – stunning scenery, wildlife and trails!
Horse Riding & Game Drives
These activities depart from Mlilwane Rest Camp, a quick 15 min walk from Sondzela Backpackers, or a 15 minute drive by internal roads.
Self-drive & Mountain Biking
These activities are available from Sondzela. Mlilwane maps are on sale at Reception.
The Umphakatsi Cultural Experience & the Esitjeni Village Walk
Two wonderful group activities for 4 or more people provide an insight into traditional Swazi life.
Unforgettable Big Game experiences are on offer at Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve (1h15 – 1h30 drive). Guests get there on their own steam. Self-drive and guided safaris are available at Hlane, and prebooked guided Day Tours at Mkhaya include conservation fee, game drives and lunch.
Beyond Mlilwane, Eswatini offers days of activity and adventure – book through our Reception for White Water Rafting, Caving, Quad Biking, Tubing, Malolotja Canopy Tour and various cultural tours.
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
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:
26 Sep 2016
A fantastic option for travellers on a budget to stay inside a game reserve. Having travelled through South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia there are few options to stay on a game reserve at this price range. Both rondavels and the private rooms in the main building are cheap comfy and clean. Whilst you won't see big cats, the abundance of hippos, crocs, zebra, warthog and impala- the latter two all around the accommodation itself - make sondzela a must visit if you're passing through Swazi. Food is also offered at very reasonable rates and its social, as good backpackers should be, without being over bearing. The pool could do with a clean though!
25 Sep 2016
Fun loft dorm room Cleaner than most hostels Great sleep - super quiet HUGE bathroom to spread out in when you shower Great pool Reasonably priced dinning room - nothing fancy Also self catering kitchen If you wake up early enough - the front yard will be filled with grazing Zebra's and Kudu! FYI - You also get charged for entrance to the reserve!
19 Sep 2016
We stayed in rondavels which only had a sink but no shower or toilet. Everything was great and for a backpackers quite nice actually. But why don't you simply put in a toilet and shower into these rondavels? This would certainly add a lot of value. Otherwise there is a braai area, bar, lounge, kitchen, lots of large trees, a pool, large garden and all in all in a very beautiful setting. Would stay there any time!
Extend your Swaziland holiday - Upgrade to Hlane or Mlilwane, or book a night on trail with Chubeka Trails!