Hlane Royal National Park was a beautiful welcome back to  well-managed game areas after the chaos and neglect of Mozambique.  The park was formed in 1967 and has just about all the wildlife you’d expect to see in Africa.  Of the big 5, they’re missing the African buffalo, but by the time we got here, we’d just about had our fill of those anyway.

Cutting thru Swaziland on the way back to J’berg was something I wasn’t expecting at all, but turned out as one of the highlights of this trip.  Crossing over the border, the difference between the third world conditions of Mozambique and the more developed Swaziland was immediately clear.   The roads were in better condition, the street signs were in good repair, and there were modern irrigated fields of sugar cane, instead of scraggly patches of subsistence farms where one single family would try to grow their own food supply, supplemented by food aid.

Swaziland is a small country, but it has a remarkably  well-developed  parks system.  They’ve done a great job of developing the park infrastructure for a range of tourist types; everything from grungy overlanders (like us!) to luxury and family friendly places.   Hlane Royal National Park is the overland one,  so we stopped in for an overnight visit.  This place was fantastic compared to some of the previous campsites we’d stayed in!  We stayed in the Ndlovu Camp area, where they treated us to hot showers, electricity for charging our camera batteries, and even a very well put together cultural show in the evening, asking for only tips at the end.

Hlane has their wildlife fenced into two areas.  They’ve got one area that is for game driving where the big cats can wander around freely.  It was at this area that we got our first up close lion sighting of the trip.  We’d  seen a lion or two in the distance,  or hiding under trees, but this was the first time we’d spotted one up close, and walking around.

The other half of the park has relocated all the dangerous cats elsewhere, and guests get to walk with a guide.  The big attraction to this is the opportunity to get up close with rhinos.  We were not disappointed!   We found several groups of animals, one with a small baby that were happy to stand still and be photographed for a while.  Our guide was great at teaching us to read the wind, and sneak up on the animals so they didn’t detect our scent.  As long as they weren’t disturbed by our smell, their eyesight was so poor that we could get right up to them!


Hlane Royal National Park website:  http://biggameparks.org/properties/hlane-royal-national-park-1



28 Responses

  1. Natasha Haley

    It looks awesome here. My partner loves Africa but I have never been. It is awesome you got to get up close with the Rhinos, I would be so scared!

  2. Mariza

    I have many fond memories growing up in the Lowveld. Our family took frequent trips to the Kruger National Park, Swaziland and Mozambique. Although I haven’t been to Moz & Swaziland in years, I would love to revisit oneday. The Hlane Royal National Park sounds like a wonderful place to take in nature and watch the game.

    • Henry

      Growing up there had to be amazing! I spent a week or so in Moz…loved it, although the civil-war history of the country is tragic. The people were amazingly friendly, and the beaches were some of the best I’ve seen. Thanks for stopping by and providing a personal touch!

  3. Joan Narciso

    The lion and the rhino are quite terrifying but this really looks like an awesome experience! I’m not a fan of zoos, though.. but I guess Africas has it different, with the wildlife exploring massive lands.

  4. Only By Land

    Hlane Royal National Park looks perfect for Wildlife Photography. I have been to Mozambique but never to Swaziland so I am envious of your overland journey. You took some wonderful images of the wildlife and of the guys in the bus in the park.

  5. Yukti

    I have been to Gir Forest Reserve in India for seeing those huge cats. I have heard that in Mozambique also has those kind of lions in their national parks. Your closeups pictures of lions are wonderful. They look real lions

  6. andamanbnbnation

    It is obvious that the successive generations will reap the benefits of saving the wildlife today. In that context, it is heartening to see that Swaziland has preserved its natural heritage so well!
    (Ambuj Saxena)

  7. SindhuMurthy

    The pictures of the animals looks so beautiful. I really like how the guides taught you to sneak up to the animals by avoiding your smells from reaching them. Isn’t it thrilling to try it with the rhinos? Oh, I so want to try this 🙂

  8. Marge Gavan

    Oh my Swaziland. I am very impressed. I don’t think I have read any blog that featured this country. Is that the jeep you took to tour the park? Am I seeing it right, it has no barrier on the front? Or is there a glass there that is just not evident on the photo. Damn that looks scary. I haven’t tried going to a zoo where animals freely roam and to be honest, I’m not sure what I’d feel about it. Kind of scared of the lions lol.

  9. Ami Bhat

    This must have been one of your most memorable experiences. Seeing these beasts up so close. It is fun when your guide teaches you stuff – like reading the wind. I remember one of our safaris, the guy taught us how to listen for foot steps and monkey cries.

  10. wheninmyjourneys

    Stunning photos! One of my biggest dreams in traveling is to visit one of the African National Parks and Game Reserves. It must have felt terrifying and exciting at the same time seeing those huge wild animals up close.

  11. neha

    Seems like you had such close encounters with the wildlife here. It’s an enriching experience. I would love to take my daughter on this safari. She would absolutely love it

  12. Sandy N Vyjay

    The pictures bring alive the adventure that is Africa. It is so lovely to watch the animals in their natural environs. Just returned from an amazing adventure in East Africa, Rwanda. Surely an experience to cherish for a lifetime.

  13. Siddharth and Shruti

    Looks like a wonderful experience. Africa is really something else. We would love to know more about the rhino experience. Didnt know much about Swaziland before this post. Thanks for the introduction.

  14. Iza (@IzaAbao)

    I have not experienced a safari tour. Hlane Royal National Park looks like a great place to see the wildlife and take a lot of photos. I do not think that I would like to get close with rhinos. I will just take photos. = )

  15. Kim @ Those Who Wandr

    Glad to hear Swaziland has a great park system! Hlane Royal National Park seems like a great place to see it all, would love to go and beautifully capture the animals as you did in your photos. Thanks for the information!

  16. Taiss

    This is really cool! What an experience! I also appreciate the description and details on the two countries as I have never been to either, so it’s good to know. I hope to get up close to such beautiful creature like this, but it’s also great that they have their space and can live their lives the way they are meant to.

  17. Reshma

    I loved those close up shots of those majestic looking beasts! Safaris are a great way to see wildlife closely and also it’s fun learning new things about spotting animals!

  18. Cathy

    To see the wilds is definitely a dream for me! Would really love to go here and see these amazing creatures! Would be much happier if I could see a giraffe! Xx

  19. neha

    Sounds like a great experience. The elephant particularly looks so huge and a rare breed. This kind of wildlife safari is high on my bucket list.

  20. Bruce Schinkel

    What an amazing experience! I’ll have to add Swaziland to my list when I plan to tour that region. That rhino encounter sounds epic! I think you just exploded my bucket list 🙂

  21. Anna

    I haven’t been to this beautiful place yet but will definitely use your tips when I’m heading there. Loved your pictures too. Thanks for sharing 🙂


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