Mlilwane, Swaziland‘s pioneer conservation area, is a beautiful, secluded sanctuary situated in Swaziland’s “Valley of Heaven”, the Ezulwini Valley, in between Mbabane and Manzini. With 24-hour access to the Sanctuary, guests are free to enjoy the neighboring tourist hubs of Ezulwini and Malkerns, with their many unique attractions and craft shops. From the western boundary, the huge Usutu Forest provides a dramatic backdrop stretching into the distant hills.
The Sanctuary covers 4,560 hectares and comprises of a southern and northern section. The southern section is predominately open grassland plains with middleveld vegetation, stretching up onto the striking Nyonyane Mountain with its exposed granite peak known as the “Rock of Execution”. Nyonyane is where ancient San once lived and where Swazi Royal graves are situated giving historical significance. Behind these mountains, the stunning Mantenga waterfall and beautiful Usushwana Valley form the divide, before stretching up to northern section, which includes one of the highest surrounding points at Luphohlo. Tourist activities are concentrated in the southern section, with only guided trails entering the pristine mountains of the north.
Mlilwane means Little Fire, being derived from the numerous fires started by lightning strikes on the Mlilwane Hill. Many a colorful tale can be told about the Reilly Family, with special relevance to the early pioneer Mickey Reilly, whose family still manages and lives on the Sanctuary.
Mlilwane is Swaziland’s oldest protected area, owned and managed by a non-profit making trust. Mlilwane serves as a headquarters for the Big Game Parks including Mlilwane’s sister reserves Hlane and Mkhaya. Formerly a productive mixed farming operation, with extensive tin mining in the low foothills of the Nyonyane Mountains, the Sanctuary has been rehabilitated and is now Swaziland’s most frequently visited reserve where one can enjoy the beauty of the surroundings and the abundant wildlife that grace the plains.
Visitors can explore the southern portion of the Sanctuary by foot, vehicle, on horseback and on mountain bikes. Those who simply want to relax can sit back in the camps and enjoy the tranquility of Nature. Mlilwane has an outside function area Inkhundla, about 200 meters from the Hippo Haunt restaurant which is suitable for private functions, such as weddings, graduation parties and so on and is often used by members of the Royal Family. It consists of a reed and semi-tin roof, riversand floor, railway sleeper benches, a bar area and has an ablution nearby.