Malolotja in Swaziland

22 Jun 2017 08:26 #71775 by AfricaBen1
Replied by AfricaBen1 on topic Malolotja in Swaziland
Rudivs, Thank you so much for the detailed information and GPS track. This forum is a mine of information.

How long did it take you to hike from the main camp to your first camp, wondering if we could make it their in half a day and avoid camping at the main camp. I guess i'm wondering how accurate the time estimates on the park's map are?

Cheers,
AfricaBen

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23 Jun 2017 09:37 - 23 Jun 2017 09:38 #71777 by rudivs
Replied by rudivs on topic Malolotja in Swaziland
AfricaBen, if you open the GPX file in a text editor you can see the times so you can probably work out our pace from that. I only started the gps logging when we were already well on our way on day 1, so I missed logging the start time - I think it was around 7am. We got there at 3pm, so that's about 8 hours of hiking - not sure how that compares with the estimated times? We were probably an average group in terms of hiking fitness.

I think we did pass an earlier camp about halfway along the river (check the map, it was a while ago and I might not be remembering it too accurately), so you might consider staying there if you want to get a fast start on the first day.
Last edit: 23 Jun 2017 09:38 by rudivs.

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23 Jul 2017 16:13 #71916 by AdrianT
Replied by AdrianT on topic Malolotja in Swaziland

Stijn wrote:


For the kayakers, this drop, and others, runs in summer. Ask Darren Raw from Swazi Trails for info :thumbsup:

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05 Dec 2017 08:42 - 05 Dec 2017 08:43 #72449 by Croco
Replied by Croco on topic Malolotja in Swaziland
Ahhh. Good old Malolotja. The past 3 years i have been slack in returning to my spot there.
Give or take 65 nights worth of camping there over the years.

Some of those nights i was doing solo hikes from Malolotja Falls all the way down to Nkomati.
I have seen leopards and the occasional black mamba. And for some or other odd reason a cow in the middle of a deep ravine.

My favorite being "26° 5'58.49"S 31° 5'35.54"E"
It is no easy task getting into the dome. Being surrounded be sheer cliffs with a a very high waterfall. Only accessible via 1 route not marked on any map.

Another personal favorite "26° 4'20.30"S 31° 5'50.17"E" Access from the top. We entered from the bottom following the gorge. The climb up the cliff using nothing but tree roots is not very safe.

Going in 2 weeks. Cant wait.

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Last edit: 05 Dec 2017 08:43 by Croco.
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06 Dec 2017 08:11 #72457 by Croco
Replied by Croco on topic Malolotja in Swaziland
I forgot to mention. With careful planning and some good negotiations it is possible to get a drop off at your preferred starting location. For a small fee of course.
When heading to the potholes we arrange a drop off at Nkomati viewpoint.

Our schedule generally looks likes this.
7am Oshoek Border Post
8am Malolotja Office
9am Loaded in back of transport
9h30am At nkomati Viewpoint or alternative drop off location (16km from office)
12h30pm Chilling at the upper potholes

Busy weekends drop off negotiations becomes a lot harder. Usually met with a lot of moans and groans.
If the office is not keen you still have two alternatives.

1. Get hold of SNTC guys on duty. They do not charge but i generally tip them a lot more than what we would have paid for a drop off with the Malolotja office.
2. Get hold of a local with a vehicle capable of traversing the terrain. Once we were transported in the back of a small cargo truck by a guy we found outside Malolotja on the road. Paid him R500. R500 vs 5 hour hike before the hike?

Due to the terrible road conditions to the Nkomati viewpoint i would strongly recommend a high clearance vehicle.a few years ago a normal sedan could do it. But with the erosion exposing massive rocks and deep ruts it is no longer advisable.

And then one last note on a campsite.
At Nkomati there is a large sand bank. Best campsite in the world. Not sure if it is an official campsite or not.

-26.053800, 31.128913

The hike from here to lower potholes is by far one of the best in the park in my opinion.
It follows the Nkomati river with magnificent views. Once it reaches Malolotja river the trails starts disappearing a little.

It is also on this route that we spotted leopard on two occasions.
This area however is also used by poachers. I am reminded of this every time we do this route and wild camp in that area.
Apart from seeing them walking past us at night we have not had any issues with them. But it is worth mentioning.

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19 Dec 2017 08:23 #72503 by Croco
Replied by Croco on topic Malolotja in Swaziland
Hi everyone.
Just want to give a quick trip report.
We just came back from Malolotja and sadly they have started maintaining the trails.

Usually it takes us 3 hours to reach campsite 7 due to the thick vegetation. This time it took us 30 minutes.
The trails were all clearly visible and the sections going through forest has been cut open, eliminating the need to crawl on your tummy through rough sections as we did in the past.

"26° 5'58.49"S 31° 5'35.54"E" is no longer recommended. We found the route but due to the erosion it has become extremely dangerous traversing the route. With some sections as small as 30 cm edges with a 30 meter drop at your back and only 1 tree root to hold on to while climbing a 2 meter high rock peaking out over the 30 meter drop.

We opted to not push our luck as we already used various tree roots and vines to climb up the 30 meters where we found ourselves weighing the risk / reward ratio.

There were clear signs of elephants and surprisingly not where i would have imagined them being. The area around campsite 7 had multiple trees covered in mud from scratching their backs against them and uprooted. Also big piles of elephant dung was visible throughout the entire area. We followed their trail up a extremely steep hillside. With a gradient of 1:1 if not steeper.

The office was also on time for our pickup on sunday morning. We walked out at majolomba viewpoint at an easy pace.
This short but sweet trip was a reminder why this area remains on my top pick for short or long hiking trips.
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04 Jan 2018 09:34 #72561 by Redshift3
Replied by Redshift3 on topic Malolotja in Swaziland
Myself and regular hiking Buddy are off to Malalotja this weekend. Being resident in Nelspruit its around the corner.
Any last minute advice, tracks or info welceome.

I will submit a hike report on my return.

Regards,
Redshift3

“You need special shoes for hiking — and a bit of a special soul as well.”
Terri Guillemets
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15 Jan 2018 13:13 #72641 by Redshift3
Replied by Redshift3 on topic Malolotja in Swaziland
As mentioned in the thread, we have returned form our Malolotja hike, below is the mini hike report:

Malolotja Hike Report

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.

Friday 12th January 2018
Being resident in Nelspruit we were able to leave home by 13H30. We travelled through the Oshoek Border post, although it’s normal for the border to be busy on a Friday afternoon everything went well and it was a pleasant experience at both border posts. Don’t forget to ensure you have R50 or 50 Elangeni cash to pay your Swazi road tax. They do accept cards but it takes longer to process.
Once in Swaziland we headed for the Malolotja reserve main camp (26° 8'25.67"S. 31° 8'8.87"E). We never made prior arrangements as we were not using the local accommodation and intended to hit the trail as soon as we arrived.
Once at the main camp we were greeted in the typical friendly Swazi fashion. We booked and paid for our two nights in the reserve. Make sure you have your own printed or electronic map of the reserve and trails as they no longer supply maps at reception.
We left the main camp by 16H00 and headed past the campsite via Mortimas Dam in a Northwesterly direction towards Logwala lookout. This is mostly well-defined trail and road network, the real hike starts after the lookout.
Our target before dark was camp #6 next to the river. We made it with enough time to pitch our tents. We enjoyed an awesome starlight night and banked a good night’s rest.



Saturday 13th January 2018
Early start, coffee, breakfast and we hit the trail. We had two options to get to camp #7 a short way and a long way. The weekend had turned out to be blistering hot with “heatwave warnings” so we opted for the short route.



We climbed out the valley to an awesome site. In the far distance was Silotwane Peak, the entire valley below was covered in mist and in the foreground not far from us were no less than five different antelope species.
The Eland, Hartebeest, Black Wildebeest, Zebra and Blesbok were grazing in the early morning light. The soaring of a Steppe Buzzard and Black Saw-wing (Swallow) and most importantly a glimpse of the endangered Blue Swallow. All were aware of our presence but not spooked, we simply sucked in the beauty and took time to remember how privileged we were!




Once we set off again we found the landmark “zig zag” or cut back path, which would lead us rapidly down into the riverine forest. While descending the environment changed from Montane Grassland to rather dense Riverine forest. With this change, the sight and sounds also changed. The summer screamers or Cicadas (cicadas are a superfamily, the Cicadoidea, of insects in the order Hemiptera) were ear defining and the birdcalls increased. The elusive Eatern Nicator clearly calling but impossible to see.



Once down along the river it was an easy trail to camp #7. For the first time ever on a trail, we had reached our destination before lunch. 11H00 to be exact! We pitched tents and had a swim in the ice-cold river, feeling fresh again after lunch and a swim we decided Silotwane Peak was do-able. Without our backpacks, just water and sun protection we decided at 12H00 to summit Silowane!
We set out bushwhacking the shortest route out of the riverine forest and back onto the grasslands. There is no problem identifying the correct peak, it is simply the highest one you can see. We knew that the peak was about 4km to the top and allowed a maximum of three hours before we had to turn and head for camp before nightfall.
We found a stream half way up, and I must add that water was never an issue on this trail; however, careful planning in the less plentiful months would be essential. We filled our water bottles and pushed up the last section.
We peaked shortly after 15H00, (1666m, 26° 5'13.34"S 31° 4'28.84"E) an absolute awesome view, looking to the West was South Africa and the rest was the beautiful Malolotja. Time being tight we started our decent. Tough on the knees and legs we travelled the same path and were back in camp with plenty light to spare. We soaked our feet in the cold river water, had dinner and hit the sack!





Sunday 14th January 2018
Again an early start was easy; we had breakfast, coffee and packed up. We planned to head back along the river on the marked trail to camp #8 and then ascend out the valley back to the Logwala lookout. All was good until the path disappeared. We bumbled around in the bush for over a half an hour looking for the path. We noticed definite Elephant dung, old, but all the same it was unnerving to know that these giants could be about in the very confined bush.



We eventually found a stone cairn across the river and picked up the trail again. We found Camp #8, which confirmed our position. Shortly thereafter, the trail dried up again. Know where the track was heading we decided to tackle the thick riverine forest and take the shortest route up. This proved to be a grueling exercise; we persisted, all be at a snail’s pace and eventually intersected the correct path.



Although we were back on the track the gradient was no less as we climbed out the valley. The view of the Malolotja Waterfall was a good reason to stop, catch your breath and take a pic.
As we approached the lookout, we were hoping to hitch a lift back to main camp, our luck not a vehicle in site. Miday push of 4km back to main camp.
We reported back, bought an ice cold Sibebe. We ordered a late lunch and drove doen to the camp site for a nice long shower, clean cloths and ready to for lunch.
After lunch we headed back to Nelspruit, again both border post were a pleasant experience. We were back in Nelspruit buy 18H00.

All in all Malolotja Swaziland was an awesome hiking experience. Great place, great people and great value for money. I would encourage all who can to experience the grandeur and beauty of the Malolotja Reserve.
We enjoy the path less travelled; Malolotja is up there with the Drakensberg and Wolkberg.
Should anyone need our tracks or any information pertaining to the Malolotja reserve please don’t hesitate to contact me.

“You need special shoes for hiking — and a bit of a special soul as well.”
Terri Guillemets

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14 Dec 2018 12:38 - 14 Dec 2018 13:03 #74380 by Redshift3
Replied by Redshift3 on topic Malolotja in Swaziland
Malolotja Hike Report – December 2018   

Malolotja Nature Reserve includes over 18 000 hectares of mountain wilderness in the north-west of
Swaziland. The reserve provides protected wetland, woodland, high veld grassland
and mist belt forest habitats for a wide variety of plant and animal life. 
Beauty: 4.5(of 5)
Difficulty (fitness): 6/10
Technical rating of trail: 6 (walking), No flat areas, either steep up or steep down. Path can disappear,                                                                                                                                            GPS
or map reading skills essential.

Friday 7th of December 2018 
We traveled through the Oshoek Border post, and, although it is normal for the border to be busy on a
Friday afternoon, everything went well and it was a pleasant experience at both
border posts. Do not forget to ensure you have R50 or 50 Elangeni cash to pay
your Swazi road tax. They do accept cards but it takes longer to process.Once in Swaziland we headed for the Malolotja Reserve Main Camp (26° 8'25.67"S.  31° 8'8.87"E). We had made prior arrangements
with the Malalotja management for a transfer to the northern lookout point
called Nkomati Lookout.As usual, we were greeted in the typical friendly Swazi fashion y receptionist Nomsipho. We booked and
paid for our two nights in the reserve. We met Musa, one of the Park senior Rangers,
who was to drop us off and collect us at a designated point and time. I took
some time to go through our intended route on the map with Musa, this turned
out to be wise as he was kind enough to warn us of a few areas that were
impassable at present and where the best campsites were.We had an awesome half an hour drive to the drop off point, seeing herds of Eland, Zebra and Blesbok with
this season’s youngsters in tow. The grasslands are green after some early rain,
and the park is looking beautiful.



We arrived, jumped off and started our first day hike of approximately 6km. As mentioned above, Malalotja
has very little or no flat areas, either hectic down or hectic up. We made our
way down the valley from the Nkomati Lookout, past the rangers hut, old
farmhouse ruin and over the Malalotja River. The path was well marked and not
too difficult to follow. We arrived at Camp 11 in good time and decided to push
onto Camp 12. This was a brilliant decision as Camp 12 was simply awesome! Next
to the river, under trees and 50m from the most beautiful “pot holes”. Although
bigger than I imagined, these natural swimming pools were mind blowing.



We had a swim, set up camp and enjoyed the evening chorus.  We had
kept an eye on the weather and had come prepared. As darkness fell, lightning
shattered the darkness, followed by thunder. We were well prepared and snug in
our tents by the time the storm broke. No better way to fall asleep than to
sound of a storm.

Saturday 8th December 2018
Up at first light as the cicadas and Red Chested Cuckoo made sure you do not miss sunrise. We had
decided to head out along the Malalotja Valley, past Camp 13. We were looking
for the Nkomati River junction. If we found this junction, we would head East
along the Komati River to Camp 15 and 16.All was going well until the path disappeared and we were surrounded by thick riverine forest. We
paused, considered what Musa had said and opted to return to Camp 12 next to
the river.We returned to Camp 12 and set up camp. We spent the rest of the day swimming, bird watching and trying to
identify the many different butterflies, damsels and Dragon Flies. 

 

Sunday 9th December  2018
Having arranged with Musa for a 12H00 sharp pick-up, we had early start. We trekked back up and out the valley the same way we entered.

We arrived 30 minutes early and relaxed while we recovered from the climb. Musa was early, and we caught our lift back to camp.



After lunch we headed back to Nelspruit, again both border posts were a pleasant
experience. We were back in Nelspruit buy 17H00.

Conclusion
I must mention that all photo credits, most Bird and Butterfly Identifications must
be credited to my hiking buddy Heinrich Human.Again,we cannot stress enough that Malolotja was an awesome hiking experience. Great
place, great people and great value for money. I would encourage all who can to
experience the grandeur and beauty of the Malolotja Reserve to do so. Should anyone need our tracks or any information pertaining to the Malolotja Reserve,
please do not hesitate to contact me. Some special birds by sighting and some identified by call:·       Birds seen and identified    Cape Longclawo   Yellow-throatedLongclawo   Fan-tailedWidowbirdo   Red-collaredWidowbirdo   Long-tailedWidowbirdo   Yellow Bishopo   MountainWagtailo   GiantKingfishero   Half-CollaredKingfishero   Lanner Falcono   Burchell’sCoucal·       Birdsidentified by callo   Black Cuckooo   Red-ChestedCuckooo   White StarredRobino   Red-CappedRobin Chat (highlight was this guy mimicking a Fiery Necked Nightjar)o   Knysna Turacoo   Eastern Nicatoro   Narina Trogan 

“You need special shoes for hiking — and a bit of a special soul as well.”
Terri Guillemets

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Last edit: 14 Dec 2018 13:03 by Redshift3.

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14 Jan 2019 13:59 - 14 Jan 2019 14:05 #74535 by Croco
Replied by Croco on topic Malolotja in Swaziland
Why did i never think of taking a photo of the lower potholes alligned with the stream at the bottom :(
Awesome shot. Love it.

I didnt get to go last year due to newborn stuff. Perhaps April me and the misses can get away for a bit.
Campsite 12 is definitly the best campsite. Followed closely by 7.

Going down to nkomati is not impassible. You just need to let go of the notion that you need to see where it is you are going. :p
Last edit: 14 Jan 2019 14:05 by Croco.
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