Tag Archives: Game Park

Back to Mlilwane

One of Mlilwane's resident springboks.

This week was busy…and tiring. We had a very inspiring Gender Consortium meeting on Friday at SWAGAA — in November is a global initiative called 16 Days of Activism Against Abuse and all the Swazi gender-based NGOs have a hand in raising awareness about what abuse is and how it can be stopped throughout the country. The weekend promised some much deserved R&R. Saturday I spent doing chores, grocery shopping and cleaning. Barbara Sibbald, a journalist visiting from Ottawa to do a story about MSF for the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and I planned to go to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Saturday night I awoke around 4 am to the crashing of thunder and lightning. God was bowling 10-pin right above my head, but by 7 am, the noise and rain had subsided. Instead, the country was covered in a Scotch mist. Barbara and I decided to chance it since Barbara was heading back to Canada in a few days. We headed out to the sanctuary with our intrepid taxi driver, Gift, the only female taxi driver in Manzini.  Gift, had never been inside the part before, so the three of us decided to head in, Gift at the wheel.

Love those markings!

We all had our cameras out, Gift snapping shots with her cell phone to show her three kids when she got home. Despite the weather, we saw blue wildebeests, bushbucks, blesbuck, impala and zebra. Although we hung round the hippo pool hopefully, none of the big beasts showed themselves. I was especially disappointed, wanting to check up on the poor fellow I had seen a couple of week ago who was covered in war wounds after a nasty fight with another big male. Oh well, we had a really great time, driving around the 4500 ha park, checking out the original homestead, Reilly’s Rock lodge, where a lovely attendant pointed us in the right direction after we had gone in circles for about half an hour. “I’m sure they don’t put signs up so that tourists have to hire guides,” Gift said indignantly. On the way home, we learned a bit about her life. She was originally from South African, but married a Swazi who paid 17 cattle as the “bride price” to her father. Not only did she drive cab, but she had various business diplomas and was learning sign language to expand her opportunities. Swaziland has a large deaf population because a side effect of the antiretroviral drugs for HIV is loss of hearing. She also had worked at the textile factories in Matsapha and told us she’d never go back. “They pay E840 a month and you get fired if you talk!” she said indignantly. That’s around $100 a month. Many of the women have to supplement this meager amount by selling their bodies, Gift told us. Swaziland is quite modernized, but also extremely impoverished. Just to get to work, feed themselves and put some sort of roof over their heads is extremely taxing for textile workers earning that wage. It is a beautiful country, but there is much going on that bubbles disturbingly below the surface.



Swaziland’s Smallest Wildlife Sanctuary


At the park entrance

A lovely lunch, a horribly injured hippo, and beehive huts – it was hot and sunny day in Mlilwane Park today, Swaziland’s smallest wildlife sanctuary (4,560 hectares). After taking a kombi (mini van transpiration – maximum 15 people, usually with around 17 stuffed in) to the turnoff from the main highway, Camille, Haley and I walked for around 4 km to get to the park entrance. Camille and Haley are also volunteers, and like me are thirsty to explore this beautiful country.

Haley (L) and Camille (R).

We paid our E40 admission fee ($5) and were told we could walk to the base camp. “It’s just over the hill, at the hippo pond,” the guard told us. Another 1 km on the bright red, muddy path, passing springbok and warthogs, and we were there.

Hot, exhausted and ready to sit. Entering the camp area, we passed lovely looking beehive huts, where you can stay overnight. Peeking inside, they looked lovely, double bed, and ensuite bathroom. Very civilized.

We continued to a campfire area but were stopped in our tracks by a huge, slow hippo, which waddled in front of us. Hippos can be very dangerous. Usually during the day they keep submerged in cool ponds and rivers. Only at night do they venture out of the water to forage. If you get in the path of a hippo and the water, they will charge. Humans don’t stand a chance against this hurtling tonnage. So it was with much trepidation we skirted past this fellow to the restaurant. As we passed him, we noticed his back was badly scratched and bleeding. Ugh.

Warrior hippo.

Was this a skin condition? Was he poorly cared for? I had been reading all about Marineland in Ontario and was feeling very cautious about this situation. Sitting down for lunch, we gazed at other hippos in the pond, as well as a crocodile and much noisy waterfowl. Lunch was delightful, a grilled chicken salad, and as we ate, the injured hippo came to one side of the restaurant deck. “What has happened to him?” I asked the waiter. “Oh, he was in a fight a few days ago. He was trying to protect a female and a small one from another bull. The bull tried to kill him,” the waiter told me. The hippo was staying out of the water because it irritated the gashes, he said. Nature is cruel, nothing sentimental or sappy about it. I don’t know if the environment in the reserve exacerbated the situation or not. All I can hope for is this magnificent creature will heal. I’ll definitely be going back to check.

Not sure if this was the one he was fighting, or protecting.