Mkhaya Game reserve eSwatini Courtesy of eSwatini Tourist Board© Courtesy of eSwatini Tourist Board

As well as campfire nights beneath the stars, the country’s most exclusive game reserve offers close-up viewing of elephant, rhino and hippo.

This private reserve is the crowning glory of Big Game Parks and eSwatini’s most exclusive safari retreat. Here you will be escorted around the bush by expert guides in search of big game, then return to your private camp to dine beneath the stars, before drifting off to sleep in your chalet to the noises of the night. The ambience is pure bush, the wildlife in-your-face and your creature comforts fully taken care of.

The reserve comprises around 10,000ha of undulating bush to the north of the Umzimphofu River. Its habitats are chiefly acacia thornveld in the south – mkhaya being the siSwati name for the knobthorn tree (Acacia nigrescens), which flourishes on these lowveld soils – and broadleaved woodland in the north, with magnificent stands of riverine forest along the watercourses, notably in the vicinity of Stone Camp. Big Game Parks acquired the reserve in 1979. The idea then was to protect eSwatini’s last herd of indigenous Nguni cattle but as the reserve expanded so did its ambitions. Today Mkhaya is a sanctuary for endangered species such as black rhino and sable antelope, and home to other large mammals that once roamed eSwatini freely. Most were translocated from elsewhere in eSwatini or South Africa, and have since established self-supporting breeding populations. Security was a priority from the outset and by the late 1980s, when an onslaught of poaching swept eSwatini, the heavily fortified Mkhaya became the last refuge for many of these animals, notably rhinos.

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