Established as a national park in 1967, the Hlane Royal National Park is eSwatini’s largest protectorate encompassing 300 square kilometres of typically low-lying Swazi bushveld. Dotted throughout the region is a series of pans providing water sources to wildlife during the dry season. Around the pans, there are general antelope, elephant and variety of large birds that can be spotted.
There are guaranteed sightings of lions that roam within the confines of a fenced off and protected area. The park is home to four of the Big Five, which makes it a major drawcard for a variety of safari seekers. From game drives to mountain biking, picnic sites and game viewing at the hide, Hlane offers a range of thrilling activities. Getting to the park is straightforward—located in the east of eSwatini close to the Mozambique border, and a scenic two-hour drive from the capital city of Mbabane.
The protectorate is a Big Five destination, and the flagship species to spot on safari is the lion. Because the big cats are kept in a massive enclosure, lion sightings are almost guaranteed. There are also prolific populations of elephant, white rhino and hippo, however, the Cape Buffalo is not present. General species of game are well-supported and include giraffe, wildebeest, nyala, kudu, waterbuck, bushbuck and duiker. The park is a haven for wildlife, and there are plenty of other species to spot while exploring the area.
Birders have the opportunity to spot an excess of 250 species of bird, with the most notable species being the martial eagle, marabou stork, lesser jacana and the rare Pel’s fishing-owl.
eSwatini suffers from extreme temperatures during the summer months, but the rains provide respite from the heat. The best time of year for a safari is during the drier winter months when wildlife flocks to the readily available water sources. The winter months are from June to August and can get bitterly cold. May and September, the in-between seasons, are ideal times of year to visit because the weather is mild. September brings in a colourful array of flowers in bloom.
The incredible tract of bushveld terrain is ideal for an array of activities synonymous with southern Africa safaris. The park has limited opening time for day visitors but is open to self-drive visitors and privately guided tours. Those staying inside the park have more opportunities for safari activities which are organised by their chosen lodge.
Activities within the park centre around game viewing and include everything from professionally guided walking safaris to adventurous mountain biking trails, quad biking excursions and game drives. A slower safari experience is the game-viewing deck from the open-air restaurant in the heart of the park. It’s here where visitors can spot wildlife at the waterhole in front of the deck and soak up the sunset.
The main types of accommodation available are cottages and thatched huts in various locations throughout the park. Most accommodation options are considered in the comfortable range and offer plenty of amenities expected from mid-range game lodges. There are also self-catering options within the park and camping facilities just outside the park.