Jenny's Blog

Mkhaya – step back in time to safaris of old29th October '13

Mkhaya Game Reserve is situated in the lowveld of Swaziland and was set up as an endangered breeding programme for the black rhino, it has since expanded to help preserve a number of other rare animals such as roan antelope. With this in mind you cannot just pitch up at Mkhaya and expect to go on safari, it is on a booking only basis. This is not surprising considering the protection that the black rhino require and booked clients are much easier to monitor.

And this is what makes Mkhaya so special. It has that exclusive feel about it as you are very unlikely to meet other vehicles in the reserve and your name is on the list to allow you in. I remembered the first time I stayed at Mkhaya and I wasn’t overly impressed to begin with. There is a meeting point outside the reserve next to a rundown little shop and a graveyard of broken vehicles. It’s not the sort of place you imagine a deluxe game reserve to have as a meeting point. But once I was met by one of the Mkhaya guides and ushered into the reserve, I realised what is a special place this is.

After about a 10 min drive through a number of secure gates we arrived at the ‘official’ entrance to Mkhaya. We were warmly welcomed with a delicious fruit juice and as my luggage was loaded onto one of the game viewing land rovers I had a chance to look around. There were rows and rows and rows of rhino skulls, skulls of rhinos that had been poached during the rhino wars. It was a sobering spectacle which gave me any inkling of the passion for conservation that the people of Mkhaya have. The main reason for Mkhaya is to continue with the breeding and protection of rhino and other species in Swaziland. And my staying at Mkhaya contributed towards this.

I got into the Land Rover and we had a wonderful drive through riverine and bushveld, driving over dam walls and watching hippo lounging in the water, travelling through dry riverbeds listening to the calls of kingfishers and then onto the wide open plains where white rhino and zebra wandered. It was a haven for wildlife and a pleasure to be there.

But this was only the beginning. After our game drive where we saw numerous white rhino, a herd of elephants, giraffe, zebra and also a couple of buffalo wallowing in a mud bath we arrived at Stone Camp. Stone Camp is where I felt as if I stepped back in time; the peace and tranquillity of the dining area under the sausage trees was delightful, nyala antelope daintily manoeuvred passed me and we were welcomed by the managers and ladies of the camp. I had stepped back in time.

I followed my luggage, which was balanced on a Nomsa’s head, to my accommodation. And what a breathtaking sight my accommodation was. Each ‘room’ was actually a stone cottage cleverly situated in the bush, along a dry riverbed, which could not be seen by anyone else. The walls of the cottage reached mid-thigh high so that your room was open to the elements, the loo had a view out into the bush, the bed had mosquito netting that could be pulled down at night and I even had my own dressing table.

The cottage was inspiring. I couldn’t wait to go to sleep that night.

But before that there was a delicious lunch in the shade of the sausage tree, another exhilarating safari where we actually saw black rhino which we tracked on foot, a wonderfully hot shower after a day’s dusty drive, a sumptuous three course supper around the campfire followed by traditional dancing under a starlit African sky.

I then excused myself and walked back to my cottage in the bush with growing anticipation and excitement. The path to my cottage was lit by paraffin lamps, there is no electricity here which gives the camp more charm and takes you back to colonial times when luxury safaris had a personal feel to them. I eventually arrived at my bedroom, it had taken longer than I had anticipated, giving me a real sense of privacy and exclusivity. My bed had been turned down, the mosquito net had been arranged around it, a number of lamps were cleverly placed around the room and later on I discovered a hot water bottle in my bed.

I must point out at this juncture that where the cottages are situated there is very little chance of dangerous wildlife walking near your open room, let alone coming in at night to say hello! I have been to Mkhaya many times and have had a shower whilst a herd of impala walked by, had a monkey sit on the wall and heard a warthog rustling through the undergrowth outside my room at night.

That night was one of the best nights sleep I have had. I snuggled into my bed and was lulled to sleep by the sounds of the african bush. Mkhaya is real Africa with a personal touch.

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