This blog is one of several written by one of our “Eswateam” group of students from St Helen and St Katharine School, chronicling their experiences in Eswatini. For the previous blog in the series, click here.
After our 24-hour journey from St Helen and St Katharine (SHSK) to Eswatini and our early sighting of monkeys, we arrived at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. We had an unexpected evening safari after going a tad ‘off piste’ when trying to find our camp, but no complaints were made when zebra appeared outside the bus.
We then arrived at Sonzelas Backpackers Lodge where we were greeted by the lovely Jenny. Enthusiastically, we rose to the mission of BBQing foot-long sausages and chips (al dente) as soon as we had settled. The next morning, we woke up to the sounds of birds chirping and warthogs snorting. With Jenny leading the way, we embarked on the hippo trail (misleading name) around Mlilwane. We were lucky enough to spot basking crocs and a whole family of warthogs. We used the afternoon to reorganise our tents cooking equipment and materials.
Tuesday morning, we awoke to house music, directed by Harriet, and freshly flipped pancakes cresated by Immy, Emily and Peony. They went down a treat. After packing, we went to the ‘crazy market’ where we bought fresh fruit and vegetables from the most welcoming members of the community. Following the market, we drove to the nearby supermarket to buy our food for the next few days. Upon arrival at the supermarket, a frenzied search for snacks ensued: many people opting for the packs of freshly baked doughnuts. We also stocked up our food supplies for the next few days.
Conservation work at Mbuluzi
After arriving at Mbuluzi Game Reserve, we were greeted by Tal, the conservation manager. We were lucky enough to have the whole campsite to ourselves, and after familiarising ourselves with the beautiful surroundings, Eswateam went on a walk to Sunset Point. Here, we were able to watch the sun go down whilst the river flowed by.
On our first day, we got up at around 6am and joined the rangers at 7.15am in their work of clearing invasive plants called Chromalaena across different areas in the reserve. We thoroughly enjoyed the truck drive to work – clinging onto each other’s backpacks as we were flung around the corners, and spotting giraffe as we drove by. This work took place during the morning, and we all worked in teams of twos and threes uprooting the plants to clear the land nearest to the tracks. Without the rangers’ guidance, advice and strength we could have been in a bit of a pickle! Especially with the fact that we were let loose with slashers and pick-axes!
Game Drives in Mbuluzi
Over the next three days, we also took it in turns to go on game drives to count the wildlife on the reserve. One group would go out in the mornings and another in the evening hours, each group competing to see who saw more giraffe, zebra and baboons.
Our afternoons were incredibly peaceful. We went on walks, sat by the rocks on the river and read. We enjoyed the views from the outdoor showers, gazing into the bush as we washed out encrusted mud from our hair. The more motivated amongst us attempted some communal clothes washing.
We are writing this now all packed up and ready to go on our well-deserved supermarket trip. Next stop is our project at Mhlumeni. Really looking forward to the next phase. Watch this space!