Malolotja Nature Reserve
Near Mbabane, Swaziland
Malolotja is one of those areas that, once visited and experienced from a hikers perspective, one will never forget and will always be the subject of conversation as far as trails are concerned. It is not an easy area to hike and hikers need to be properly equipped, have a good degree of fitness and be lead by experienced hikers who have map reading skills, qualified in First Aid, knowledge of survival techniques and have done trails in other wilderness areas such as the Drakensberg. It is relatively close to Gauteng, the distance being just over 400km, all on national tarred roads.
The best way to travel to Malolotja is by way of Carolina (Mpumalanga) and then through the Oshoek border post. Travelers need to bear in mind that Passports are needed (no visa is required for RSA citizens), car registration documents, a copy of which must be obtained from the financial institution if the car is financed (this can take a few days), a RSA sticker, Swaziland road fund levy for vehicle and if applicable, trailer, obtainable at the border crossing (R50 at time of writing). South African currency is readily accepted in Swaziland and the exchange rate is on a par with the Rand. Petrol is available inside the border and is often cheaper than in RSA. The Oshoek border post is open to 10pm and maybe open to midnight over long weekends (check with AA). The office at the reserve closes at 6pm but if you have booked a campsite at the main camp, the night watchman will allow you to enter and direct you to the camping area.
Once in Swaziland, follow the main highway towards Mbabane and keep a look out for the signed board to the left indicating Malolotja and Piggs Peak. Follow this road for some distance until you reach the main gate to the reserve. If you arrive after the office has closed, report to the office before you start your hike. Here you will obtain your permit and map. Backpackers will also be asked to affirm that they are carrying a small trowel for toilet use. If they don't they will be required to hire one from the reserve.
Malolotja has been in existence since the Swaziland National Trust commission was founded in the 70's. It is certainly a credit to the Kingdom of Swaziland that such a well managed reserve exists. On the way to the reserve much exotic vegetation is evident but inside the reserve only indigenous vegetation is clearly visible. There is also remarkably little evidence of human litter and care should be taken to keep it that way. Backpackers need to be aware of the ecologically sensitivity of the area and are required to carry out all rubbish with them.
Main gate/office: S26.08.819 E31.08.307
Main Campsite: S26.08.656 E31.07.890
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