A great adventure in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary was followed by a visit to Hlane Royal National Park. On our trip through Swaziland this was the second park we visited. To get to the park in the Northeast of Swaziland we drove about 100 kilometers on a way with more speed bumps than cars. Therefore we enjoyed our wonderful lunch at Malandela’s multiple times. Talking about value for money ;)!
From gate to gate
Hlane is a royal park, hence the name. While you’ll find green plains and mountains in Mlilwane, Hlane is more a ‘bushveld’ type of vegetation. Low bushes, plants and here and there a lost tree. Where it also differs from Mlilwane is the amount of gates you have to pass. There are several separated areas in the park so that they can split the game living in a specific area. The Ndlovu (Swazi for elephant) Campsite where we slept is situated in the center of the park. In this part there are mainly antelopes, elephants and rhinos. We sure experienced the latter!
My first Sibebe with a rhino
After checking in and setting up camp we decided to go for a short drive towards the waterhole. After a pretty route but without that much wildlife we headed back to camp. At the main area of the camp there is a waterhole behind a small fence. A number of lovely chairs and benches make sure that you really feel like a king (hint) while waiting to see what animals come around to drink. While I was ordering some drinks, and learned that Sibebe is a beer from Swaziland, Jolene saw a couple of rhinos taking a mud bath!
Attack of the rhinos
If the rhinos are relaxing so can we. That’s what we did behind the previous mentioned small fence with only two ‘wires’ (at about 1 meter high) separating these big mammals from us. I did learn the hard way that there was some electricity on these wires but not that much more than your average sheep field.
When the rhinos were done with their mud bath and felt ‘clean’ they rubbed themselves on a broken tree. Since this was still quite close to the fence we walked along with them. They then decided to walk a bit further and so did we up until the point where there was no more than 4 meters in between the rhinos and us. After a couple of photos they’ve had enough of us. One of the rhinos charged right at us and stopped only centimeters from the fence! We then decided it was a good time to leave and ran away (what you shouldn’t do). Luckily it was ‘just a mock charge’. With a slightly heightened adrenaline level we finished our drinks and went back to our tent.
After a rainy but warm night we drove our car through a muddy Hlane. We thought it wouldn’t get any better than the day before but we were wrong. A couple of meters further we saw even more rhinos than the day before. We didn’t see that many of them together before. When we spend a bit of time with them we met our ‘friend’ from the day before (we recognised his weird ear). He gave us another warning by running towards us again.
We left the rhinos, drove a bit through the park and decided to wait at the waterhole in the afternoon. This time they were much more polite and approached the fence in a gentle way. I reckon they must have been at a 2 meter (!) distance from us. This definitely was one of the highlights from our trip so far. It was so amazing, exciting and scary at the same time. I’m sure we won’t forget this anytime soon!