Mkhaya Game Reserve in Swaziland

Mkhaya Game Reserve is one of the best places to view wildlife in Swaziland. The reserve boasts the only black rhino and sable antelope in the country and is home to a vibrant checklist of bird species. Walking along game trails through forests, along riverbanks and in woodlands filled with bird life, provides visitors with a more intimate safari, and overnight camping will allow the beauty of Mkhaya to truly sink into your soul. 

  • Best Time to Go

    May - September

  • Average Safari Cost

    $550 - $900 pp/day

  • Highlights

    White rhino, black rhino, sable antelope, roan antelope, bush trails over-night fully-catered camping (1-2 nights), game walks, game drives, almost 250 birds

Why Visit Mkhaya Game Reserve

Mkhaya offers excellent wildlife viewing and bird watching. With both the white rhino, and the country’s only black rhino, as well as sable and roan antelope, visitors are sure to have an unforgettable experience. Birdlife is vibrant as well, with notable species such as Verreauxs’ Eagle, African Pygmy-Kingfisher, White-crested Helmet-Shrike and the Blue Crane.

Game drives are the traditional way to view wildlife, and offer visitors excellent viewing opportunities, however, game walks provide a more personal feel to any safari. Walking along trails and discovering the African wilderness on foot is an experience not to be missed.

Mkhaya also has Bush Trails and Luxury Walking Safaris, which provide a fully catered camp for 1-2 nights. The bush trails guarantee improved chances of seeing more wildlife, including black rhino, white rhino and kudu. You will likely get the chance to see more giraffes, wildebeests and zebras as well, and the overnight stay provides the opportunity to see nocturnal animals such the bushbaby and porcupine.

Pros and Cons

  • Excellent wildlife viewing
  • Both the white and the black rhino are present
  • Sable and roan antelope
  • Hikes provide fully-catered camping for up to two nights, with improved wildlife sightings
  • The guides are great
  • Locals are friendly
  • The minimum age restriction is generally 10 years old, although no children under 13 years old are permitted on game walks
  • There are no lions in the reserve

Best Time to Go

Swaziland’s temperatures are generally mild all year. It never gets uncomfortably hot or humid, nor too cold, although the rainfall can be a little inconvenient from October to April.

For wildlife viewing, it is best to visit Swaziland during the dry season, from May to September. The vegetation will be thinner, making animals easier to find. The weather will also be more comfortable without the rain. During this season, walking safaris are possible, which will provide a more intimate safari experience.

The rains begin in October and last until April. This is the best season for bird watching, although it would be best to bring along wet-weather gear. Migratory birds are present during this time, and many resident birds will either be nesting, or in their spectacular breeding plumage. There is also a chance to see baby animals during these months.

For more information when to visit see our Swaziland Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

Start your African Adventure

Wildlife and Birds

Mhkaya Game Reserve is home to a wonderful selection of wildlife which includes elephants, black and white rhinos, leopards and buffalo. There are, unfortunately, no lions in the reserve. Several antelope species are present here, including the roan antelope and the sable antelope.

Bird watching in Mkhaya is great as well, with a checklist of almost 250 recorded species. Notable birds include Tambourine Dove, Golden-breasted Bunting and Violet-backed Starling.

List of Animals
  • Elephant
  • Leopard
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Hyena
  • Giraffe
  • Black Rhino
  • White Rhino
  • Kudu
  • Warthog
  • Wildebeest
  • Zebra
  • Baboon

Wildlife viewing in the reserve is great, with Mkhaya being home to the white rhino and the only black rhino in Swaziland. It also supports the only sable antelope, Livingstone’s eland and buffalo populations in the small country. Elephant, leopard, hyena and roan antelope are also present here. There is a wide variety of reptiles as well, including crocodiles and snakes.

Rare Animals

  • Civet, wild cat, caracal, genet, kudu, mongoose, nyala, oribi, black rhino, sable antelope, serval, suni

Infrequently Seen Animals

  • Chacma baboon, bushbaby, bushpig, red duicker, Livingstone’s eland, red hartebeest, honey badger, hyena, jackal, klipspringer, leopard, vervet monkey, white rhino, roan antelope, warthog, waterbuck, blue wildebeest

FrequentlySeen Animals

  • Buffalo, bushbuck, common duiker, elephant, giraffe, hippo, impala, reedbuck, steenbok, zebra

Avid birdwatchirs are in for a treat at Mkhaya, with almost 250 recorded species in the reserve. The forested rivers support Crested Guinea Fowl, Purple-crested Touraco and several species of Robin-Chat, while the woodlands support Drongos, Shrikes and the Woodland Kingfisher. Other notable species include the African Crowned Eagle and Shelley’s Francolin.

Endangered Birds

For a complete list of endangered birds in Swaziland see here.

Endemic and Near Endemic Birds

  • White-eared Barbet, Golden-breasted Bunting, Denham’s Bustard, Buff-streaked Chat, Blue Crane, Grey Crowned Crane, Tambourine Dove, African Crowned Eagle, Verreauxs’ Eagle, African Finfoot, Shelley’s Francolin, African Grass-Owl, Southern Ground-Hornbill, Crested Guineafowl, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Southern Bald Ibis, African Pygmy-Kingfisher, Senegal Lapwing, Narina Trogon, White-backed Night-Heron, Square-tailed Nightjar, Greater Painted-Snipe, Buffy Pipit, Short-tailed Pipit, Chorister Robin-Chat, Violet-backed Starling, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Golden Weaver

Getting There and Safety

Swaziland only has one available airport: King Mswati the Third International Airport, which can only be reached from Johannesburg on Swaziland Airlink.

Alternatively, you could drive to Swaziland from South Africa. You will be required to have certain documentation before you can enter Swaziland, and there is no way to exchange currency at the gate. However, South African currency is acceptable: an entrance fee of R50.00 is required for a car/truck, and a fee of R80.00 is required for company vehicles.

You could also take a bus from South Africa to Swaziland. The fares are R450.00 for a one-way trip and R950 for a return trip with a luxury minibus service, from Johannesburg to Mbabane and back.

If you are travelling with children from and to South Africa, an unabridged birth certificate is required, along with both parent’s ID’s. If only one parent is accompanying the child, an affidavit providing proof of parental consent from the absent parent is required, along with a copy of their ID. If the child is travelling with a guardian, all this documentation will also be required, with parental consent from both parents, and copies of both parents’ ID’s.


For the flights to Swaziland via South Africa, it is advised to check Skyscanner (for multiple destination flights), to see which airlines can take you there and compare various ticket prices.

If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights.

If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights.


For more information on visas see our Swaziland Safari - Complete Country Guide.

Vaccinations and Malaria

There is a slight concern for malaria, and it may be best to speak to your healthcare provider about appropriate preventative medication for your trip to Swaziland. For protection against mosquitoes, use a good insect repellent (30% DEET or more) and keep your arms and legs covered at night.

Check your local travel health authority for more information:


Fortunately, Swaziland does not have South Africa’s high crime rate, and the people of Swaziland are, by nature, very welcoming and friendly.

However, the crime from South Africa can affect border crossings, and those driving from South Africa should remain vigilant and avoid stopping on the side of the road. Do not stop to pick up hitchhikers or help people with ‘broken down cars’, as these are usually ploys used by hijackers. Do not drive to Swaziland at night.

You should follow basic safety guidelines, irrespective of where you are travelling. Valuables should be in a safe in your hotel room (or better yet, leave them at home), and avoid carrying copious amounts of cash. Avoid walking around night and try not to wander around alone. Practice caution when walking in Mbabane and Manzini, as petty theft is common in these busy areas.

Drinking Water
While the main restaurants and hotels have safe drinking water, it would be best to use bottled water when in rural areas. This applies to parks and reserves as well; however, many of them provide bottled water during park activities, and Mkhaya is no exception.
Travel Insurance

Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Swaziland. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

Check World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.

What to Pack


  • A good insect repellent may be needed for Mkhaya.
  • Camera
  • Spare rechargeable batteries
  • Battery charger
  • Spare memory card for camera
  • General clothing
  • Trail shoes and hiking boots
  • Personal medication
  • Small backpack (for game drives)
  • Toiletries

If you are visiting from April – May and October – November, wet-weather gear is necessary:

  • Waterproof backpack
  • Waterproof rain jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Waterproof hiking boots

If you are visiting in the dry season from December – March and June - September, you will need:

  • Sunscreen
  • Wide-brimmed sunhat
  • Warm clothing – nights and early mornings are chilly.

For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.