Hlane Royal National Park: The Perfect Way to Experience Swaziland

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I had an almost perfect day in Hlane Royal National Park – I saw elephants hanging out at a local watering hole, observed lions for the first time and the only wild lions in Swaziland!  

But being the local celebrities that they are in the Hlane Royal National Park, they had no intention of disturbing their beauty sleep for a non-VIP like me. 

The icing on the cake was observing four rhinos in the wild, including a baby rhino and his mother.   It was incredible to observe such a critically endangered animal in their natural habitat, just hanging out. I must say that the best part of an African Safari is getting to see these beautiful giants up close.

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hlane royal park rhino baby

Hlane Royal National Park: An African Adventure

So why wasn’t my day perfect?  I wasn’t in Hlane Royal National Park for long enough and had to leave long before I was ready to!  Yes, I know, poor me, but as a result, I have designed my perfect day in Hlane Royal Park.

This way other visitors can experience all the park has to offer and not miss out on anything.  I also hope it will serve as my future itinerary for when I hopefully return.

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hlane royal park giraffes I would start the day off with an early morning bike ride through the Hlane Royal National Park. Can you imagine cycling through the savannah?  If cycling is not your thing, guided hikes are also offered.  Sonnyboy, the park manager recommends doing it first thing in the morning before it gets too hot.  

It would be such a different way to experience the park and you never know who you’re going to bump into – perhaps an impala?  Or maybe one of the “Ugly Five” like a hyena or a warthog – both of who which I find adorable and definitely don’t think either belong on the “Ugly Five”.  

Ever wanted to try and out-cycle a lion? Or weave your bike through a herd of elephants?   No chance of it here, luckily, since they’re in a separate (gated) area of the park.

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Hlane Royal Park lion

African Safari’s in Swaziland

Next, I would do the Game Drive at 11:00 am.  This is what I went on and I loved it.  Our guide Napoleon had incredible eyes and could spot a sleeping camouflaged lion from 10 meters away.

Something I didn’t see until we were much closer and he pointed straight at it.  It’s also your chance to observe African elephants, something that is only safe to do with a safari jeep.
hlane royal park elephants

 I would then have lunch in the Ndlovu Restaurant where you can observe giraffes or even rhinos at the watering hole.  Talk about some incredible company!

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rhino in Hlane Royal Park, Swaziland

The Magnificent Rhino

Belly full, I would hop on the safari jeep for the rhino drive at 3:00 pm.  The rhino drive consists of driving around in a safari jeep with a guide looking for….you guessed it… rhinos. No African Safari is complete without trying to spot rhinos. 

But not only do you drive around, if the rhinos are relaxed your guide may even let you get out of the jeep and slowly move closer to the rhinos to get a better glimpse of these endangered animals poached for their horns. 

I was incredibly jealous when I saw a group of people out of their jeep getting a closer look at the rhinos. Most of the rhinos are white rhino’s which are much calmer and less violent than black rhinos.

This option was not available on the Game Drive that I was on, only on the Rhino Drive – I would chew off my right leg (well maybe my left leg) to get closer to such a remarkable animal!  Thankfully, I didn’t have to chew off any legs and the rhinos decided to come near the jeep path so I could get a good view. This was one of the highlights of my visit to Hlane Royal National Park.

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hlane royal park accommodation

A Touch of African Royalty

Finally, I would end my day by staying at Ndlovu Camp, the main camp at Hlane Royal National Park, a self-catered cottage that Mswati III, the King of Swaziland stays at when he visits.  Fortunately, it’s also available for non-royalty as well so you can feel like royalty!

There’s no electricity, (the appliances are run by gas) and lighting is by kerosene lamps so it’s rustic but spacious and appears very comfortable.  Guests can either eat at the nearby restaurant or use their own private Braai (BBQ) area while observing animals around the watering hole. 

I didn’t stay there but was told by a guest that the sounds you hear at night make for an entertaining guessing game as you try and guess which animal is making which sound.  There’s an electric fence separating you from the animals so you can sleep safe and sound. 

I don’t know how good I would be at differentiating a hyena from a monkey, but I think it would be fun to give it a shot!

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Hlane Royal National Park Visitor Info

  • Guided cycling and hiking tours can be arranged with as few as 1-2 people and at any time throughout the day with advance notice.
  • The best time to visit Hlane Royal National Park is between June to early September, because its winter and the watering holes are more limited, increasing your chances of seeing more animals.
  • In addition to the Hlane Royal National Park there is also Mkhaya which is home to Swaziland’s only black rhino population and Mlilwane, which offers lots of family friendly activities.  I didn’t have time to visit either of these parks, but would like to.
  • All revenues from the park are redirected towards a private non-profit conservation trust.
  • Hlane Royal National Park is located just over 100 km from Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland.
  • Click here to visit the website for more information

Where to Stay

Hlane Royal National Park has 2 camps one of which is the Ndlovu Camp and the Bhubesi Camp. As mentioned above I would have loved to stay at the Ndlovu Camp. After all, it is favoured by royalty.

The camp offers you anything from 2 bedroom units to 4 bedroom units that are perfect if you’re bringing the whole family along. The Bhubesi Camp is 30km away from Ndlovu and offers 2 bedroom units that are perfect for 4 adults or a family. 

Hlane Royal National Park is a treasure trove of beauty and wilderness. Next time I’ll surely enjoy everything it has to offer.

Thank you to Hlane Royal National Park for making my visit possible.  As always all opinions expressed are my own.

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11 thoughts on “Hlane Royal National Park: The Perfect Way to Experience Swaziland”

  1. I remember those nighttime sounds. I was surprised to learn that what I thought was a lion, wasn’t. I’d become so used to that Hollywood lion roar, that I though that was how a lion sounded until I heard the real one.

  2. I don’t know if I could go the wild just riding the safari jeep…
    I’m kinda terrified doing such things. I am afraid being attacked by the wild animals.

  3. @InsideJourneys – I’m jealous, would have loved to hear a lion!

    @Zhu – Thank you and I agree, I was very lucky!

    @Shane – I felt safe in the jeep, but on another trip when the lions were active there was one lady covering herself with a blanket on the floor.

  4. This sounds amazing, and great shots of the rhinos, too! Hmm maybe I’ll have to have a look at Swaziland in the future. Planning on doing my first safari in Zambia next year – hopefully I’ll get as lucky as you did with the sightings! 🙂

  5. Wow. This reminds me of my safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, but I didn’t get anywhere near as close to the rhinos. Very jealous!

    • @Arianwen – I would love to go to the Serengeti, that must be incredible. I was so lucky in that I had a few really good rhino sightings, definitely one of the highlights of my trip.


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