Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary Safari Guide

safarigo   Swaziland  

Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is located just outside the hustle and bustle of the Ezulwini Valley. There are many places to stay within the small reserve, but it is also a popular day-visitor destination for locals and tourists alike. No dangerous animals reside on the property, and there are lots of activities available.

Pros & Cons

Low-key, affordable family-friendly destination
Several accommodation options, including self-catering and camping
Restaurant and barbeque areas for overnight and day visitors
Self-drive allowed
Safari drives, guided walks, horse riding and mountain biking available
Not many large safari animals present
All animals have been introduced
Small reserve with small game-drive circuit
The environment is compromised by invasive vegetation
Lack of wilderness appeal
Busy with day visitors

Wildlife & Animals

The small size of the sanctuary doesn’t support many big safari animals. Wildlife to be seen include hippo, crocodile, Burchell's zebra, blue wildebeest, kudu, nyala, bushbuck, impala, blesbok, reedbuck, warthog, grey duiker and three species of mongoose. Seldom seen but present are some nocturnal species such as leopard, aardvark, genet, porcupine, honey badger and civet.

Wildlife Highlights

Mlilwane Hill has been fenced off for the breeding of locally rare and threatened species. These include roan antelope, oribi, red hartebeest and grey rhebok.This area is not accessible to self-drive visitors. Some other interesting small antelope species include the rare suni, as well as blue and red duiker. Klipspringer are often found in pairs on Reilly’s Rock and greater galago are regular visitors at Reilly’s Rock hilltop lodge.


Mlilwane offers good bird watching with over 240 species recorded. Mountain birds such as boulder chats, jackal buzzards and swifts can be found on Nyonyane Mountain. The grassland area supports pipets, long-claws, bustards and stone chats. Waders and several kingfisher species, as well as fish eagles, can be found around the waterholes and rivers. Forest patches deliver rare species such as the Narina trogon, and there are some reed beds with breeding bishops, whydahs and weavers. Even the eucalyptus forests provide a breeding site for crowned eagles and black sparrow hawks. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

Best Time to Visit

Mlilwane is not a prime wildlife-viewing destination, but animals can be seen year-round. The reserve is small with some of the more interesting species kept in enclosures, making them easy to find. The dry months of June to September might be best for seeing some of the smaller creatures. August to September is recommended as wildlife watching is excellent at this time and temperatures are higher than in mid-winter.

May to September – Dry Season

Wildlife gathers around water and vegetation thins, making viewing easy
Sunny skies and no rain
It is very dry and dusty
Early morning game drives in open vehicles are cold

October to April – Wet Season

Scenery is green and fresh
Wildlife viewing is still good
There are many baby animals to fawn over
Birding is excellent, and the migratory birds are present
Wildlife viewing is not as good as during the Dry season
It can rain anytime, particularly in the late afternoon

Weather & Climate

In Mlilwane, winter and summer correspond to the Dry and Wet seasons respectively. Here, winter and summer are at the opposite times as Europe and North America. The wet summer months (October to April) are warm and often humid. Dry winters (May to September) are mild.

Dry Season – May to September – Winter

There is little rainfall during the winter months and the humidity is low. Animals are attracted to permanent water sources as water becomes scarce in the bush.

May – Marking the end of summer, May is a transitional month. Temperatures are typically dropping to a shivery 8°C/46°F in the morning and 21°C/70°F in the afternoon.
June, July & August – Morning game drives in open vehicles will be very cold, so it's advisable to pack warm clothing. The average morning temperature is a paltry 6°C/43°F. Afternoons will warm up nicely with temperatures around 19°C/66°F, and cloudless skies.

September – It eventually warms up to about 22°C/82°F in the afternoon, and the first rains bring relief from very dry conditions. Don’t forget your jacket in the early mornings when the mercury only struggles up to 9°C/48°F.

Wet Season – October to April – Summer

It rarely gets hot in summer, although it is fairly warm. Average temperatures during the day reach 25°C/77°F with high humidity. Storms crash through in the afternoon.

October & November – Expect more heat and more rain during these months. Temperatures range between 12°C/54°F in the morning and 24°C/75°F in the afternoon.
December, January & February – Known as the wettest and warmest months, characterized by torrential downpours in the afternoon (the humidity can be stifling). Afternoon temperatures are usually around 25°C/77°F but peak temperatures shoot much higher.
March & April – Rainfall drops off and it gets colder. April is generally fine. The nights get a bit chilly at about 11°C/52°F, but daytime temperatures peak at around 23°C/73°F, with the humidity dropping off.

Getting There

Swaziland has Mozambique on its eastern border but is otherwise almost completely surrounded by South Africa.

Most people visiting Mlilwane fly into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) near Johannesburg to start their South Africa-Swaziland tour. In most cases, your tour operator will organize pick-up from the airport and any further transportation as part of your package.

Alternatively, you can hire a car in Johannesburg and visit Mlilwane on a self-drive package. The distance from Johannesburg is about 370km/230mi and the driving time is about four hours.

You could also fly from Johannesburg to King Mswati III International Airport (SHO) in Manzini and hire a car to Mlilwane. The distance is about 60km/37mi and the drive takes about an hour.