Malolotja Nature Reserve – Swaziland

Malolotja Nature Reserve

Malolotja Nature Reserve includes over 18 000 hectares of mountain wilderness in the north-west of Swaziland. The reserve provides protected wetland, woodland, highveld grassland and mistbelt forest habitats for a wide variety of plant and animal life.

Malolotja’s hiking trails rank among Southern Africa’s finest as they offer not only the solace of true wilderness with magnificent rugged country, but also a fascinating variety of fauna and flora and much to interest the amateur geologist. There are approximately 200 km of hiking trails and seventeen backpacking camps which allow hikers to undertake wilderness trails from two to seven days in duration.

Malolotja is known for its wild flowers, including showy Brunsvigias, threatened species such as the Barberton and Kaapsehoop cycads, unusual species like Streptocarpus dunnii, and almost forty species of orchids. A visit in springtime offers the opportunity to see the display of spring flowers.

Malolotja has been recognised as one of southern Africa’s important bird areas, based on the significant number of threatened species recorded here. The reserve is particularly important for breeding groups of endangered species such as blue swallow, blue crane, bald ibis and Stanley’s bustard, and more than 280 species of birds have been recorded from the reserve, over half the number for Swaziland as a whole. You can download a comprehensive list of species living in the reserve by clicking here.

The reserve also provides important protected habitat for a variety of freshwater fish, including several regionally important species, such as the Incomati Rock Catlet, Pongola Rock Catlet, Southern Mouthbrooder and the Stargazer Mountain Catfish. The reserve is home to 25 species of amphibians and 66 species of reptiles, including the Swaziland endemic lizard, the Swazi thick-tailed rock gecko and two near endemics, the Barberton girdled lizard and the Swazi rock snake.

Malolotja has a great variety of small mammals, from rock hyraxes to shrews, and larger mammals include species such as serval and white-tailed mongoose, and antelope such as grey rhebok and oribi, as well as the more familiar zebras, blesbok, eland and wildebeest. The invertebrates are not well studied, but the area is rewarding to those with an interest in animals such as butterflies, moths and dragonflies.

Malolotja Cabins

The cabins at Malolotja are situated near the main entrance gate to the reserve, with views over a small valley in open sourveld grassland, with the more dramatic mountains of the reserve in the distance.

Malolotja offers 10 self-catering cabins, fully equipped, including bedding and towels. Two cabins accommodate five people in each (two bedrooms, one with two single beds, one with a single and a bunk bed), the rest accommodating four people in each (two bedrooms with two single beds in each). The cabins each have an outdoor area set up for braais. There is also a restaurant and bar located next to the cabins, open from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm for breakfast and light meals.


The main campsite at Malolotja is situated near the main entrance, tucked into rock outcrops in a rocky ridge running through open grassland. The campsite includes 15 sites each with braai facilities, plus a communal braai area for larger groups and an ablution block including baths and showers, with hot water provided. The sites are of varying sizes, some more appropriate for larger groups.

There is also a restaurant and bar located next to the log cabins, a few minutes walk from the campsite, open from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm for breakfast and light meals.

For the more adventurous hikers there are 19 backpacking camps, each one consisting of a clearing situated near water.