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Swazi Culture & Scenery

Overview

The Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) is a new and exciting destination for horse riders - with its diverse terrain, accommodation and Swazi culture, you'll be immersed in the real Africa. Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is spread across a transition zone between middle-veld (grassl…

Highlights

  • Ride through varied, ever-changing landscapes
  • Ride amongst wildebeest, zebra, antelope and warthogs
  • Discover the unique Swazi culture
  • Non-riding options on centre based Mlilwane ride
  • Stay in a diverse mix of accommodation along the trail

Essential Facts

  • 2 itineraries available
  • Max 10 riders per group
  • Average of 5 - 6 hours riding per day
  • Weight limit: 85 kg / 187 lbs / 13 stone 5 lbs

Description

The Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) is a new and exciting destination for horse riders - with its diverse terrain, accommodation and Swazi culture, you'll be immersed in the real Africa.

Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is spread across a transition zone between middle-veld (grassland savannah) and high-veld (mountains) providing an ever-changing landscape. Along the water courses you may see hippo, crocodile, fish eagle and many more water birds. Across the plains you'll get close to wildebeest, zebra, nyala, roan antelope, blesbuck and impala as well as the ever-entertaining warthogs. Originally a commercial farm and tin mine, Mlilwane was the first conservation area in Eswatini and has many intriguing historical points of interest, from the tin mines themselves to Bushman Caves. On horseback you will be able to appreciate how nature has reclaimed the land once utilised by humans.

Moving between these parks you will get a fantastic overview of the country. High up in the mountains of Mlilwane North you will get never-ending views across Eswatini, South Africa and Mozambique, putting the whole of life into perspective.

There are two main options on offer - a fully mobile trail with many nights of camping which offers capable riders a wonderful opportunity to fully explore this wonderful country; or a mainly two-centre based ride which is more flexible and can accommodate families and groups of mixed abilities or non-riders.

You are hosted by a family-run team of horse lovers and conservationists. Please note that this is a remote area with many nights without electricity or cell phone signal.

Horses & Riding

Tack

Liversage enduro saddles (trail saddles) with simple snaffle bridles and rope halters. There are small saddle bags in the numnahs to carry water and your lunch. They recommend that you bring your own water bottle to reduce waste.

Horses

Your horses have been carefully selected and bred for comfort as well as easy and happy riding. There is a herd of 50 horses comprised mainly of crossbreeds from a foundation stock of Arab, Warmblood, Boerperd and Thoroughbred with some recent additions of Percheron, Friesian, Clydesdale and Shire crosses.

The rides take you across technical terrain where you will cross rivers on horseback and may have to dismount and lead your horse over tricky paths. You will be expected to tack up your own horse and mount independently from the ground (with the help of a mountain rock if required).

Riding

There are 2 itineraries:

  • Swazi Culture & Scenery Trail is a trail ride
  • Mlilwane Ride is a based ride

Ages

Riders must be 16 years or older for the trail. Riders of 8 years or older can join the centre based Mlilwane ride

Health

You need to be fit for long hours in the saddle and able to dismount and lead your horse on foot. Some of the camps are remote so you need to have good general health.

Weight

85 kg / 187 lbs / 13 stone 5 lbs

Food & Accommodation

Food

Meals on the trail are all prepared over an open fire and supplies are brought in on the support truck. Vegetarians can be accommodated and some special diets but please check with us first as sourcing some food stuffs can be difficult. Vegans cannot be catered for.

For the centre based ride you dine in the restaurants at the two lodges/camps. Hippo Haunt at Rest Camp and Trading Post at KaMsholo provide a buffet breakfast and dinner with a la carte lunches. Saddlebag lunches are provided on full day rides with snacks or sandwiches with fruit and juice. If you opt for the two nights fly camping then meals are cooked over the open fire. Vegetarian meals can be provided on request but other special diets are difficult - please check with us.

Accommodation

You can stay in a diverse mixture of accommodation, depending on the itinerary chosen - please see individual itineraries for more details.

On the Swazi Culture and Scenery trail there are a number of nights camping, where you sleep in bell tents with stretcher beds, long drop toilets and bucket showers. Other nights are spent in a mixture of different lodgings, from quirky rondavels to a luxury country hotel.

On the Mlilwane Ride you stay on two different reserves and in two different sets of rondavels. A couple of nights fly camping in bell tents is also possible.

Single rooms are limited and extra cost.

Itineraries

Swazi Culture & Scenery Trail Tented / Standard accommodation.

Mlilwane Ride Tented / Standard accommodation.

Other Activities

On the mobile trail the days are filled with horse riding and there is little time for anything else. There are some nice hiking trails if you wish to use different muscles occasionally. On the last couple of days you experience both game walks and game drives to allow you the chance to view the Big Five. Non-riders cannot be accommodated.

However, on the centre based Mlilwane Ride, non-riders are welcomed and you can opt to as much or as little riding as you like. This is a much more flexible itinerary which is suited to families and mixed groups. The itinerary can be adapted to suit your groups needs.

Travel

Eswatini is less than 400km from Johannesburg airport, so we recommend a road shuttle which is more affordable and takes the same amount of time.

The daily shuttle departs Johannesburg's OR Tambo airport at c. 09:00am on your arrival day, and departs Ezulwini at c. 10:00am on your departure day. Your guides will transfer you the final 10km between Ezulwini and the reserve.

You MUST book flights which arrive c. 7am to allow time for passport control and to collect your luggage before making your way to the shuttle. The journey to Eswatini takes c. 4 hours from the airport to the border, plus 30-60 mins for passport formalities and another c. 30mins to your destination.

Itinerary & Pricing

Day 1

Riding: No riding.

Arrival day. If you are arriving on the shuttle from Johannesburg then you will be collected and transferred to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary to overnight in their rest camp. You stay in beehive shaped huts, which are traditional grass dome huts built on a frame of bent saplings with en-suite toilet and shower.

There will be time to meet the horses but there is no riding today, however there are a number of hiking trails if you wish to stretch your legs.

Day 2

Riding: 4 - 6 hours

After breakfast you'll set off on your first ride on the reserve with hopefully plenty of game viewing whilst you get to know your mount. Along the water course there are hippo, crocodile, fish eagles and many water birds. On the plains you could spot wildebeest, zebra, nyala, roan antelope, blesbuck and impala. Return for lunch at the Hippo Haunt restaurant and then set out on an afternoon ride. Return to the rest camp for dinner and to overnight. The local warthogs often provide the entertainment around camp!

Day 3

Riding: 4 hours

Today you set off on your trail on horseback. You'll ride for c. 4 hours until reaching Mlilwane North Klipspringer camp. The afternoon is free to relax in camp and enjoy the bush. Dinner and overnight camping in bell tents with stretcher beds, long drop toilets and bucket showers. There is no electricity here and each tent has a solar lamp, but you'll need your own head torch.

Day 4

Riding: 6 - 7 hours

Breakfast in camp and then set off on a full days ride through commercial pine plantations, stopping for a saddlebag lunch along the way. Eventually you'll reach the Forester's Arms Country hotel where you'll have dinner and overnight in this wonderful guesthouse.

Day 5

Riding: 6 - 7 hours

Another full day of riding through commercial pine plantations. Today you'll have to dismount for a short scramble before remounting to ride through a rural Swazi community and back onto Mlilwane North. Another saddle bag lunch before reaching your new camp at EmaSomini for dinner.

Day 6

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

Today is split into morning and afternoon rides as you explore the mountains, returning to camp for lunch and dinner. Second night at EmaSomini camp.

Day 7

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

Another long ride back to Mlilwane Rest Camp, aiming to arrive in time for lunch. In the afternoon you are transferred to Hlane, arriving at c. 4.30pm. Dinner and accommodation in Ndlovu camp where you stay in rondavels which are basic, clean and comfortable. The rondavels are semi-open with no doors or windows. There is no electricity and camp is lit with paraffin lamps. All beds have mosquito nets..

Day 8

Riding: No riding.

An early breakfast before heading out on a game drive in search of elephant, white rhino, lion and giraffe. There are also a high number of tree-nesting vultures recorded in this area. Return to camp for lunch. In the afternoon you take another game drive whilst transferring to Mkhaya and Stone Camp for dinner. Mkhaya is Eswatini's Refuge for Endangered Species and here you may spot white and black rhino, giraffe, tsessebe, sable antelope and buffalo. You may also be lucky enough to spot the bushbabies around camp.

Day 9

Riding: No riding.

A sunrise game drive at c. 6am before breakfast and then a game walk through the park before lunch. The game walk is part of the Mkhaya experience, where you can learn more about the signs of the wild. Another game drive is scheduled for the afternoon. Second night at Stone Camp.

Day 10

Riding: No riding.

An early breakfast and transfer to meet the shuttle back to Johannesburg airport.

Accommodation

Two nights Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, one night Klipspringer camp, one night Forester Arms hotel, two nights Emasomini camp, one night Ndlovu camp, two nights Stone Camp.

Experience Experienced

You need to be a capable rider in all paces across a variety of terrain. You also need to feel confident leading your horse across uneven paths and feel able to ride across rivers and technical ground. You should be able to mount unaided from the ground (rocks may be present) and be fit enough for long days in the saddle.

Minimum group size 6
Maximum group size 8
Departure windows

May 2, 2022 - May 11, 2022

May 25, 2022 - June 3, 2022

July 2, 2022 - July 11, 2022

May 14, 2023 - May 23, 2023

June 20, 2023 - June 29, 2023

July 6, 2023 - July 15, 2023

Pricing

2022
Rider, sharing
£1910 $2130 €2175
2022
Rider, single
£2140 $2390 €2435
2023
Rider, sharing
£2065 $2305 €2350
2023
Rider, Single
£2240 $2495 €2550
Included 9 nights accommodation in shared rooms/tents, all meals from dinner on arrival day until breakfast on departure day, drinks with meals whilst in fly camps, 6 days of riding, reserve conservation fees & other activities as mentioned in the itinerary
Not included Flights, travel insurance, visas, transfers to Eswatini, drinks other than in the fly camp, tips & other personal expenses.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.

Day 1

Riding: No riding.

Arrival day. If you are arriving on the shuttle from Johannesburg then you can be collected and transferred to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary to overnight. There will be time to meet the horses, but the shuttle doesn't arrive in time for a ride. However, there are a number of hiking trails if you wish to stretch your legs.

If you are self driving and can arrive early enough then it's possible to have a short 1 hour sundowner ride this evening.

Day 2

Riding: 5 hours

After breakfast you'll set off on your first ride on the reserve with hopefully plenty of game viewing whilst you get to know your mount. Along the water course there are hippo, crocodile, fish eagles and many water birds. On the eastern plains you could spot wildebeest, zebra, nyala, roan antelope, blesbuck and impala. Return for lunch in camp and then set out on an afternoon ride to explore the western plains. Return to the rest camp for dinner and to overnight. The local warthogs often provide the entertainment around camp!

Day 3

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

Camp-Out Option: Set off on a full days ride to EmaSomini Fly Camp in the northern reaches of Mlilwane reserve. You'll have needed to pack a small overnight bag and the rest of your belongings with remain at main camp. You'll stop for lunch during the day before reaching camp in the late afternoon. Fly camp is fully equipped but has no electricity.

Centre Based Option: Full day ride along the Usushwana River, returning to the lodge for dinner.

Day 4

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

Camp-Out Option: A full days ride into the mountains of Mlilwane North with a saddle bag lunch, or a separate morning and afternoon ride with lunch at camp.

Centre Based Option: A four hour speciality ride in the morning. Speciality rides might include a Poachers Breakfast, Hunt Ride or ride to a Community or Craft centre. Afternoon at leisure before joining a sunset drive.

Day 5

Riding: 4 hours

Camp-Out Option: Another long day of riding as you head back from Fly Camp to Mlilwane Rest Camp, stopping for a picnic lunch along the way.

Centre Based Option: The morning offers a 3 hour Manenga Viewpoint ride whilst the afternoon includes a lovely one hour sundowner ride.

Day 6

Riding: 3 - 4 hours

Set off on a 2 hour morning ride before transferring 2 hours to KaMsholo for lunch (transfer is additional cost). KaMsholo is a small, pristine lowveld reserve tucked under the Lubombo Mountain. This area offers a totally different landscape and spectacular views and the chance to see giraffe. Take a sunset ride in the late afternoon to get to know your new horse.

Day 7

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

In the morning you can try your hand at mustering the local Ngunyi cattle for 2-3 hours, whilst in the afternoon your ride is focused on seeking giraffe. If you don't fancy riding then you can opt for a different activity, a swim or to simply relax in camp.

Day 8

Riding: No riding.

Depart after breakfast

Accommodation

3 nights Mlilwane Rest Camp, 2 nights EmaSomini Fly Camp and 2 nights KaMsholo Tinsele camp.

Experience Beginner / Intermediate / Experienced

You should be at least an intermediate rider who is fit for some long hours in the saddle and confident to ride at all paces in open spaces. Shorter stays or totally centre based stays with less hours in the saddle are also possible for novice riders, but all riders should be of a similar ability within the group as it's not possible to split the ride.

Minimum group size 2
Maximum group size 10
Departure windows

At any time during: Jan. 1, 2023 - Dec. 31, 2023  (Dates to suit, subject to availability. Camp-Out Option not possible Oct - April due to rains.)

Jan. 6, 2023 - Jan. 11, 2023  (5 night ride)

Jan. 20, 2023 - Jan. 27, 2023  (7 night ride - Centre Based)

Feb. 3, 2023 - Feb. 10, 2023  (7 night ride - Centre Based)

Feb. 17, 2023 - Feb. 22, 2023  (5 night ride)

Feb. 25, 2023 - March 2, 2023  (5 night ride)

March 4, 2023 - March 9, 2023  (5 night ride)

March 19, 2023 - March 26, 2023  (7 night ride - Centre Based)

April 6, 2023 - April 13, 2023  (7 night ride - Centre Based)

April 14, 2023 - April 19, 2023  (5 night ride)

April 30, 2023 - May 7, 2023  (7 night ride - Camp-Out)

May 5, 2023 - May 10, 2023  (5 night ride)

June 1, 2023 - June 6, 2023  (5 night ride)

Sept. 1, 2023 - Sept. 8, 2023  (7 night ride - Camp-Out)

Pricing

2023
Rider, 5 nights, Centre Based Option, Sharing
£875 $975 €995
Excludes days 3 and 4 of itinerary (camp out nights).
2023
Rider, 5 nights, Centre Based option, Single
£935 $1040 €1065
Excludes days 3 and 4 of itinerary (camp out nights).
2023
Rider, 7 nights, Camp-Out Option, sharing
£1205 $1345 €1375
2023
Rider, 7 nights, Camp-Out option, Single
£1285 $1430 €1460
2023
Rider, 7 nights, Centre Based option, Sharing
£1180 $1315 €1345
2023
Rider, 7 nights, Centre-Based Option, Single
£1265 $1410 €1440
Included Accommodation, all meals, riding
Not included Flights, transfers to Mlilwane, transfers within Mlilwane, conservation fee, drinks, insurance, personal expenses, tips
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.