Big Game Parks

The Kingdom of Swaziland's Big Game Parks is a non-profit trust which manages three game reserves in Swaziland: Hlane Royal National Park, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuaryand Mkhaya Game Reserve.



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The title Big Game Parks is a marketing title. It has nothing to do with the importance of larger species over smaller species. All creatures – great and small – are important, as are the habitats that support them. Bemvelo and ka Msholo are names synonymous with Big Game Parks. Bemvelo simply means “”the people of our natural heritage”. Msholo is the name given to Ted Reilly by the Bushveld Swazis in the 1960s and through association, all protected areas became nationally known as ka Msholo (of Msholo).

Big Game Parks is the delegated authority on the Game Act and CITES and operates a highly effective anti-poaching unit, all directly answerable to the King’s Office.

Big Game Parks is self-sustaining without financial subsidy from the Government. We subscribe to the philosophy of sustainable use of natural resources – conservation rather than preservation. We prefer to place and translocate animals alive to expand the kingdom’s wildlife estate, but what cannot be placed alive, we harvest. We pride ourselves in having achieved economic viability through gate, accommodation and trading receipts, which includes the sale of wild animals. We do this without compromising the Conservation ethic, simultaneously contributing to the kingdom in meaningful ways. We provide a substantial number of jobs and by necessity, we practice the strictest discipline in order to be self-sustaining.

We pride ourselves in offering value for money and being affordable to our local populace, providing an opportunity for participation in nature. Over 50% of our visitation is by local Swazis, which for a private conservation organization is almost unheard of. Many Cabinet Ministers and others who hold positions of power and influence today saw their first impala at Hlane or Mlilwane when they visited us on an organized school group. We are very proud to continue to provide the opportunity and privilege to engage with nature and we will persist for future generations.

The three Parks and Reserves under Big Game Parks/ Bemvelo/ ka Msholo are all privately owned, but each is proclaimed and gazetted in law for perpetuity under conservation. They carry the highest levels of legal protection available in Swaziland. Their land use is therefore predetermined by law and they may not be used for purposes other than those laid down by the Act, which confines their usage to Nature Conservation and related purposes.

We invite you to visit, support and enjoy our Parks and their clean and healthy environments – and you simultaneously contribute to the conservation of species and the growth of Swaziland and our people. NATIONAL ROLE

The Game Act and CITES are officially positioned under the office and portfolio of the Head of State, giving wildlife elevated status in the Kingdom. The Head of State has delegated the administration and responsibility of the Game Act to Big Game Parks through the King’s Office, whose mandate includes permitting, representing Swaziland on wildlife issues, CITES and law enforcement. All of this is funded from the self-generated revenues of Big Game Parks, making it essential for this institution to be self-sustaining.

Brief History of Environmental Legislation

The colonial government established various environmental laws in the mid-1900s, some of which have been updated from time to time. The responsibility for environmental legislation rests with the Ministries of Tourism & Environment and Agriculture. In 1990, amid Swaziland’s Rhino War (1988-1992), King Mswati lll ordered a new draft of the Game Act. The draft included advice from other countries and experts in the field, and finally, it was submitted to the King, with the extensive explanation. From there, it was taken to the Minister of Agriculture to proceed through the system as a matter of urgency.

More than a year followed while the draft stuck in Parliament until in desperation, Reilly loaded yet another poached rhino’s carcass and delivered it to the King. The reaction was the draft being expedited.

The Game Act was eventually removed from the Ministry of Tourism and placed in the King’s Office and, in an unprecedented move, the administration thereof was delegated to Big Game Parks based on track record. This is an incredible honor and a tight rope. Big Game Parks recognizes the sensitivities and the need for integrity in all matters of administration.

Game Act (1953 as Amended)

The Game Act (1953 as Amended) applies to all wildlife in Swaziland. It relates to 3 different schedules – Common Game, Royal Game and Specially Protected Game.

The Game Act is often referred to as draconian, but it works and the harsh elements are the result of hard lessons learned. Salient points of the Game Act Amended include:

First Schedule – Specially Protected Game (rhino, elephant, lion) – 5 years minimum mandatory imprisonment, without the option of a fine PLUS replacement of the animal taken or its value, compensated, failing which an additional 2 years imprisonment;
Second Schedule – Royal Game – Mandatory minimum sentence of E4000,00 or 2 years imprisonment, PLUS replacement of the animal taken or its value compensated, with the provision that the fine imposed may not be less than the value of the animal taken;
Third Schedule – Common Game – Minimum of E600,00 or 6 months imprisonment, PLUS replacement value of the animal taken;
Values of each species are gazetted for each Schedule;
Section 28 reads – “No sentence or part of any sentence may be suspended by the court” and “No vehicle, gun or other apparatus can be released by the court unless the accused is acquitted”
The mandatory minimum prison sentence of 12 months without the option of a fine for any official convicted of defeating the ends of justice;
Rangers may search and arrest without a warrant; may use all force necessary to affect arrest; may bear arms and use them in life-threatening circumstances; and in doing any of the above in the course of duty, rangers are immune to prosecution;
Non-Bailable Offences Act – Offenders of First & Second Schedule of the Game Act may not be granted bail by the court. (The Non-Bailable Offences Act has since been deemed unconstitutional and removed from laws in Swaziland.)

Hlane Royal National Park was proclaimed as a National Park in 1967, following Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary (1961), under the instruction of King Sobhuza ll. “”Hlane”” is the siSwati name for ‘wilderness’.

Hlane is an affordable lowveld destination with exciting species lists including impressive ancient hardwood habitats, big game, and rich birdlife. This 22,000 ha park, once the region’s rich hunting grounds, still boasts the largest herds of game in the Kingdom with specialty species being lion, elephant, vultures and marabou stork.

Affordable Accommodation is available in Ndlovu Camp and Bhubesi Camp. The camps are 16km apart, Ndlovu Camp is the heart of activity within the big game area, while Bhubesi Camp is a quiet self-catering camp outside the endangered species area.

Note: all visitors must be in camp by sunset and movement between camps or into/out of the Park after dark is not permitted. Gates close at 18h00 daily.

Hlane is managed for the species inhabiting it, with both self-drive and limited access areas. The Lion is in a separate limited-access area, only accessible by guided game drives.

All activities are guided and depart from Ndlovu Camp, with the exception of self-drive in select areas. Day Visitors are welcome to self-drive and picnic, visit the restaurant or take part in activities. Sunset and sunrise activities are not possible for guests staying at Bhubesi Camp, unless a full group booking and prearranged with Management to depart from Bhubesi Camp.

Essential Information: Please note gates are open from Sunrise to Sunset.

Mkhaya is all about intimate encounters with some of Africa’s icons. All travel within the reserve is solely guided, by open Land Rovers or on foot, providing superb photographic opportunities and probably the best chance of seeing Black Rhino in the wild in Africa today.

Mkhaya has been assisted with generous grants and support from the World Wide Fund for Nature, the SA Nature Foundation, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Dr Anton Rupert, HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, the Prettejohn family of Ngwenya Glass, The European Union, Rhino Rescue Trust of Great Britain, Netherlands Rhino Foundation, Corrine Itten, Lowry Park Zoo, San Diego Zoo and many others. Their efforts are greatly appreciated and it is their support that has helped Mkhaya survive. Besides this generous assistance, Mkhaya’s operations are totally self-financed through visitor revenues, conservation revenues, Nguni cattle, and other self-sustaining resources.

Named after the Senegalia (Acacia) nigrescens tree once prolific across the lowveld, ‘Mkhaya’ also aptly means ‘home’ derived from the fact that this valuable hardwood is the chosen tree for structural building in Swaziland. Knobthorn trunks have been incorporated in some of Stone Camp’s structures.

With a somewhat different history beginning with the conservation of Swaziland’s beautiful indigenous Nguni cattle, Mkhaya took on the vision of nurturing and propagating locally threatened and endangered species. With very stringent conservation security, Mkhaya is now home to Swaziland’s only buffalo, black rhino, sable antelope, Livingstone’s eland, and tsessebe populations. Along with special species such as white rhino, giraffe and roan antelope, these animals are often sighted at close range on safari. Birding is an additional highlight.

Mkhaya has a number of fenced areas to enable intense species management and the high security necessary for endangered species. As and when population numbers grow, nuclei are released into the bigger game sections, which to date include sable, black and white rhino, tsessebe to name a few.

Mkhaya is an award-winning reserve, having received the AA’s ‘Travellers Value Award for Top-End Leisure Travellers’ & ‘AA Highly Recommended Accommodation’ while the rhino viewing has been quoted as being ‘…on par with a mountain gorilla encounter in Central Africa’, by photo-journalist Stephen Cunliffe in Wild Magazine.

Mkhaya is staffed and patrolled entirely by Swazis from neighboring communities and currently boasts what is arguably Africa’s most effective anti-poaching unit. It is totally self-financed through visitor revenues and your support is greatly appreciated as a means of sustaining this unique international conservation effort.

A trip to Mkhaya is a trip into Real Africa – a soul-enriching, quality experience you’ll never forget.

Essential Information:
Please note pre-booking is essential; No children under 10 years; There are fixed entry and exit times of either 10 am or 4 pm depending on your chosen package. The meeting point is not staffed and guests are met by prior arrangement only.

Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is Swaziland’s pioneer conservation area, a shining example of what is possible if passion, vision and action fuse. Once a highly profitable multi-purpose farm, and being labeled an “impossible dream”, Mlilwane was proclaimed in 1961 and is now the kingdom’s most popular eco-destination for locals and internationals alike.

The name ‘Mlilwane’ (‘Little Fire’ in siSwati) was derived from the numerous fires started by lightning strikes on the Mlilwane Hill but now holds significance as the little fire that ignited the conservation movement in Swaziland.

Mlilwane’s diverse habitats support a surprisingly extensive species list. Endless hours of guided or self-guided exploration within the small 4560 Ha sanctuary are possible due to the relative absence of dangerous game. The southern plains stretch to the striking Nyonyane Mountain (Execution Rock) with its exposed granite peak. Tourism is concentrated in this southern section of the park, while guided Chubeka Trails explore the northern section, as far as Luphohlo Peak.

Mlilwane’s Rest Camp offers a range of affordable accommodation with self-catering and catered options available. Alternatives within Mlilwane include Sondzela Backpackers 2 km to the south, luxurious Reilly’s Rock Hilltop Lodge and Down Gran’s Self-Catering Cottage a short 3km to the north of Rest Camp.

All Activities depart from our Activities Centre at Reception, with detailed maps on sale. The Hippo Haunt Restaurant and Swimming pool with summerhouses provide the opportunity for true relaxation. Day Visitors are welcome to self-drive and picnic at Rest Camp, visit the restaurant or take part in activities until 18h00.

Situated 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.

Essential Information:
Please note gates are open for check-in from Sunrise to Sunset, otherwise 24-hour access on the designated Night Route.”

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