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“Most awsome experience ever!!”

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Stone Camp in Mkhaya Game Reserve
Certificate of Excellence
Groningen, The Netherlands
Level Contributor
21 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Most awsome experience ever!!”
Reviewed September 22, 2013

Last august we went on a walking safari in Mkhaya Game Reserve. Normaly with the walking safari you stay in the basic camp. But we coundn't because the elephants ruend it completely in their search for water. So we got this great upgrade. Thankyou so much Mkhaya ( and elephants) ! The walking safari was so amazing! When you do anwalking safari like this you realize even more how fascinating and impressive all the animals really are. We had a great guide! Who was with us for three day! He knew so much! The other staff were also really nice people!

After Mkhaya we went to kruger, big difference!! It was really hard to stay in the car because we were used to walk like we were in Mkhaya.

I would defenitely recomment the walking safari, it's a totally different expierence!

  • Stayed August 2013
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Thank Fitah
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
Great Ayton, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
43 reviews
28 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
Reviewed September 3, 2013

First of all the getting to and from Mkhaya. We drove from Reilly's Rock Hilltop Lodge in Milwane game reserve and it took way longer than the official 80 mins stated on the Big Game Park's directions - I would allow a minimum of 1.5 hrs (important because you have to be there by a set time). Also be aware that there are traffic police on the last 10 kms of road to the reserve. We got stopped for overtaking but after politely asking if we might be let off and after exchanging some chit chat we were allowed to go on our way. After leaving Mkhaya we headed to Kruger via the Mananga border post. Note that the road from Mkhaya is full of potholes so factor in more time for your journey. If taking this route to Kruger you might like to know that there is a petrol station about 4 kms from Mkhaya in the Big Bend direction (management incorrectly informed us that there was no petrol in that direction so we had to go back on ourselves to get fuel).

We were very pleasantly surprised by the camp; it was an authentic bush experience in a delightful sylvan setting with a large sausage tree in the centre. Nyala and guinea fowl roamed freely through the camp. The open-sided rooms were charming and enabled you to hear the sounds of the bush. We were not cold despite it being winter (hottie bottles are provided). One abiding memory was the lady arriving with the morning tea with the tray perfectly balanced on her head. The absence of electricity means you must bring a torch with you and have enough camera batteries fully charged to cover your stay and the day of your departure. It is very atmospheric with the paraffin lamps lining the walkways and in your room. Dinner is served in the boma and you sit at separate tables. There was no dancing or bush walk when we stayed. In terms of the safari experience the vehicles are quite old but adequate and our ranger was knowledgeable and informative. Yes, you do go and pick up the new arrivals on each game drive but you are game watching all the time so we didn't find that to be an inconvenience, like some previous reviewers who commented on the change-over of vehicles. What we did notice was that some guests had not heeded the instructions on the booking notice which asks you to bring a small overnight bag and had brought great big holdalls instead which take up a lot of space on the vehicle and would have to be carried by the guest at the other end (bear in mind you might have to walk some distance depending upon which room you get allocated). There is an inner and outer area to the game reserve which is gated off. We saw a good selection of game including buffalo, elephant, zebra, hippo, giraffe, wildebeest, crocodile, warthog, various species of antelope and many interesting birds. However the greatest highlight was undoubtably the white rhino sightings. We saw more white rhino here than we did in Kruger and the two lodges we stayed at in Sabi Sands put together and the sightings were very up, close and personal. During our stay at Mkhaya there was a film crew in camp making a documentary called "The Price" (they had also been at Reilly's when we were there) about the escalating rhino poaching problem. If you google it you can find out more about this film which is made in conjuction with Ted Reilly, the pioneer of nature conservation in Swaziland and is due to be released later this year. It is a frightening statistic that around 60 rhino per MONTH (in South Africa) have been killed this year and if poaching is not brought under control this majestic species will be extinct within 10 years. A pile of rhino skulls in camp served to remind us of this crisis. Unfortunately with rhino horn worth more than gold on the black market poaching has become organised crime and we were impressed by the efforts being made in Swaziland to safeguard the species.

In my opinion too many people believe that a safari is all about the Big Five but Mkhaya proves that this is not the case. There may not be predators here but don't let that put you off. I would recommend a minimum 24 hour stay and ideally 2 nights to appreciate the experience in full. I also think it was reasonably priced and represented good value for money.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with family
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1 Thank Ladylumpa
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Newbury, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed August 27, 2013

Keen to educate, there was a very powerful reminder of the poaching problem in many parts of Africa, as towers of confiscated wire snares, made a macabre art scape at the entrance to the Park. Once inside the camp the ronduvals are beautiful, with paraffin hurricane lamps, lighting them after dark. Amazing sights at the Camp's waterhole: Rhinos, Hippos, herds of Elephants. Nature walks with a park ranger were a real treat; opportunities to learn so much about life in the bush; reading the 'bush newspaper' i.e. tracks/evidence in the environment, and sitting quietly, whilst a giraffe came closer and closer, was breathtaking. A great open-air cooking facility, listening to Hippos grunting in the nearby waterhole and excellent entertainment provided by a group of local 'high kicking' dancers.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with family
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Helpful?
Thank Amanda B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, UK
Level Contributor
30 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
Reviewed June 4, 2013

I waited a few weeks to write this review to let it all sink in. Mkhaya Stone Camp was a great experience for game viewing, and we saw many white rhinos on the game drives as well as the midday walks. Sabolo was our guide, and he has a great level of knowledge as well as a good disposition and personality. We didn't see a black rhino the entire time we were there, but that's the luck of the draw and not for lack of trying. Many of the other reviews on here cover what to expect in the camp, so I'm going to divide this review into strengths and weaknesses of Mkhaya as it compares to other game viewing reserves I've visited.

Strengths:
-Rhinos (both white and black) and their conservation. There are many gates around this reserve for a reason. It's likely the best place I've seen white rhinos in the wild. The Reilly family have worked with the Swazi government and royal family to create something really special considering the tragedy that's happening to rhino populations elsewhere.
-The game walk. Sabolo made the two game walks I was on spectacular. It wasn't just about rhinos, but also ethno-botany and conservation. It was really interesting and worthwhile. Plus, seeing rhinos from the ground is an incredible vantage point!
-Solitude - I felt like I was somewhere special and off the beaten path, and I liked that my mobile did not have reception.
-The staff is very genuinely friendly and did much to accommodate our needs.
-Locals visit here. It was really great to see the camp supported and frequented by several local guests from Swaziland. It was really interesting to hear their impressions and learn more about the country, It speaks volumes that local people come to Mkhaya to relax and enjoy their own country!

Weaknesses:
-The transfer from the pickup point to the camp. If you arrive for the 16:00 pick-up, do not think this is going to be a legitimate game drive. You are going to be shuttled from vehicle to vehicle with your luggage. Depending upon how much luggage shows up, people will be crammed together in the vehicles for the "game drive" with their luggage. This was shambolic and could so easily be resolved by using an old bakkie/pickup to shuttle the luggage separately to the camp and send the guests on the drive. The reasoning they use is rather lame and hides behind "conservation funds". Dear Reilly family, please step up on this. It really creates a bad first impression and diminishes from the afternoon game drive each day. If it's a matter of money, charge a little bit more. This is the only reason I'm not giving it 5 stars.
-Short game drives, especially the morning one. I'm not sure why they are not longer as they are elsewhere.
-The food. It's very basic camp food which is fine and to be expected.. However, there were a few people with stomach issues during our short stay there, and that seemed more than a coincidence. I would recommend sticking to only the well-cooked items and passing on salads and anything raw. The people cooking are also the people cleaning and entertaining.

Mkhaya is a great experience for those who have already gone on other safaris and game drive experiences and want to focus on rhinos or stay at a unique camp. The lack of walls is really quite cool. You can lie in your bed and watch nyalla just meters away.. If you're looking for the Big 5 or large predators, you will be disappointed. I would recommend three nights as the perfect length of stay. This will give you two full days with the fantastic game walk. Arrivals in the late afternoon and departures in the morning are a bit chaotic, so I wouldn't factor them into the quality time you want to spend at Mkhaya.

I'm an avid photographer, but I wouldn't call Mkhaya as really focused on the photographic experience. That's fine because they have to appeal to all types of guests. Sabolo was more than willing to reposition the vehicle for different viewing points (if possible), not just for photos but so that people in the front, middle and back could all see. Make sure you speak up and communicate what you want though.

I would definitely visit again, especially in order to see a black rhino...fingers crossed.

Also, try to avoid coming here directly after the Indaba Tourism marketing event. It was held in Durban this year, and the camp was filled with travel agents on complimentary tours, many of whom seemed bored and jaded with the experience. This sucks a bit considering we paid full price and really wanted to be there for the experience. It felt like being at a used-car salesperson convention at times. We stayed four nights, and it was nice once they were all gone after the second night.

Sabolo is an incredible guide, one of the best I've ever had. He is very focused on creating a fantastic experience for the client. I'm biased of course, and I'm sure the other guides are fine too!

Room Tip: We stayed in both room 6 and 8. Both have equally good facilities, but room 8 is in a higher locat...
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  • Stayed May 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank MondoTrek
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
East coast
Level Contributor
234 reviews
177 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 272 helpful votes
Reviewed April 17, 2013

We stayed one night at Stone Camp in Mkhaya Nature Reserve. Mkhaya is known for all the rhinos they have, and we were not dissapointed by the number we saw. You have to meet near the entrance at a certain time, to be driven into the reseve. That's because you have to ford a sizeable river to reach the park, and there are electric fences enclosing the park.

The Stone Camp has no electricity, so charge up whatever you normally charge daily, ahead of time. We enjoyed the rooms without walls, and because it was summer, we didn't have any problem with the cold, that people who come in winter have. Since there are no predator cats around, you don't need an escort at night, which is unusual for safari camps.

After the evening meal, the women [most of the staff were women, BTW] put on a dance show, which was quite energetic, and one of the women was even kicking her legs as high as her head, while wearing an ankle length skirt. Amazing!

Our game drives were with Timba (sp.?), who was very knowledgeable about everything we saw. He is soft spoken, so if you are hard of hearing (as I am) try to sit close to him. He is also not a photographer, so he often stopped to view animals where we were looking right into the sun, too. Not good for picture taking.

The number of rhinos (all white rhinos, during our drives) was incredible. We also saw a golden wildebeest, and a tree which must have had 50 weaver bird nests. This tree was noisy one of the times we passed it, as all the males were there busily building nests -- quite a sight.

We didn't see any elephants, as Timba told us they had broken through a gate in the electric fence which surrounds the place, recently, and the whole herd had "escaped" to the other side. We did seem to spend a lot of time stopping to open and close electric fence gates.

I think one night is sufficient to see Mkhaya, as it is a small game reserve. We were impressed with all the measures they were taking to stop poaching, including guards who walked around the reserve on foot.

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Hedo-goer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
73 reviews
51 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 70 helpful votes
Reviewed April 8, 2013

This was a delightful experience from start to finish. Florence's organisation was impeccable, Isabel and the team's care and attention at the lodge was excellent and Themba's (the guide's) knowledge about and care for the wellbeing of the animals was inspirational. The food was delicious and the dancing fun. The accommodation is different from anywhere i've stayed before and I really enjoyed the bush experience. I saw a wide range of exciting animals - large and small - and the 2 hour bush walk was really exciting. I also met some really interesting guests. I admire the work you are all doing at Mkhaya and wish you all, the incredible animals - and Swaziland - happiness and success for the future.

  • Stayed April 2013, traveled solo
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Helpful?
1 Thank Steve M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London
Level Contributor
127 reviews
76 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 84 helpful votes
Reviewed March 12, 2013 via mobile

An amazing location with "open" round thatched huts - but still with showers and flush toilets! Very atmospheric, both during the day when the nyala, wild boars roam and the yellow butterflies fill the sky; and during the night with the lamps lighting the way. They do need to work on ensuring the bug nets over the beds are more effectively sealed around the bed, rather than just draping down to the floor (hence getting bugs inside), but other than that it is great listening to the sounds of the bush at night - including the unmistakeable cry of the bush babies. The game drives were fantastic, with a great guide, and the reserve itself was more interesting than the larger one at Hlane. Highly recommended!

Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
Helpful?
1 Thank prippit
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Stone Camp in Mkhaya Game Reserve

Property: Stone Camp in Mkhaya Game Reserve
Address: Phuzamoya, Mkhaya Game Reserve, Swaziland
Location: Swaziland > Lubombo District > Mkhaya Game Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Specialty Lodging in Mkhaya Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:2.5 star — Stone Camp in Mkhaya Game Reserve 2.5*
Number of rooms: 12
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