Swaziland- 21st August: Hlane Royal NP

Our initial itinerary included a trip to the Kruger but since we were a bit behind schedule we decided to go to a national park in Swaziland and from there straight to Maputo.

On my new trusted iOverlander app I found a favourble review of Hlane Royal National Park. They guy who wrote it however felt the need to end it with: “Unfortunately there were 4 groups of South African – need I say more”. Absolutely outraged by such an unnecessary attack on South Africans I prepared for a full out cyber war. However, unfortunately for me but luckily for him I needed to have a reliable internet connection to be able to launch my attack. He was save for another couple of days until I get a sim-card or proper wi-fi connection.

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We arrived at Hlane in the early afternoon and I was pleased to see a group of South Africans that set up camp right in the middle of the campgrounds. Not only because I will 

then be able to observe these so called terrible South African camping habits but also because we’ve been the only ones camping since Sodwana and it gets lonely. There were a few other campers scattered about and you could see by the standard white Toyota Hilux and roof top tent that they were all overseas travelers in their rented 4×4 expedition vehicles.

Since it takes about 10 minutes max for us to set up camp we decided to take a quick game drive through the park. It did not take us long to realize that the beetle was not the best vehicle to do a game drive with – apparently the animals do not appreciate the sound of a working beetle engine. After we rudely disturbed a rhino from his afternoon nap we decided to head back to camp to put Bertus in stealth mode (i.e. tune the idling so that it is lower and therefore softer). Stealth mode did the trick and we saw a couple more rhinos (could be the same one that we were following because the third time we saw a rhino he seemed rather irked), a few kudus, nyala and the inevitable 100 impalas.

We found a nearly empty watering hole with the only patrons a couple of very skittish impalas and massive birds. It took the one poor impala almost 30 minutes to work up the courage to take a sip of water (yes, I watched an impala for 30 minutes… the things you do when you have nothing else to do!).

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Back at camp a second group of South Africans had set up camp with their off-road caravans. This group pulled their cars in the old oxwagon camp style right in front of the ablution block and in doing so blocked it off to everybody else. This slightly annoyed me but I was still determined to see the best in South African campers.

The Hlane camp and restaurant was built directly next to the largest waterhole in the park, making it the best place to do some game watching while sipping on a cold one. We made our way there just before sunset with a pack of cards, ready to keep ourselves entertained while we waited for 4 of the big 5 to arrive (the lions were kept in a separate encolusre, only accessable if you take a Game Drive that cost R350pp).

We did not have to wait long before our rhino made his appearance, followed by 6 others soon thereafter (thereby contradicting our theory of the 1 lone rhino). The group did not seem to get along with one another and the one kept picking a fight with all the others. This seemed to irritate the hippos (which we were convinced were rocks up to that point) and they loudly made themselves heard. The message was clear: stop your crap or get out of here! The rhinos made a quick exit after that and the hippos grunted victoriously.

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The impalas made their appearance, soon followed by the nyalas. We played a couple round of cards (which I won – not that I was counting or anything). Just when we thought the show was over the elephants made their appearance. It seemed slightly rehearsed as they entered stage right, proceeded to walk infront of the waterhole, stopped for a photo op, continued walking to the top of dam wall, stopped for another photo op, and exit stage right again. It took about 10 minutes for the 2 elephants to do their act, thereby ending the show for the day.

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While we ate stir-fry next to our bonfire we listened to the lions roaring in the distance while the hippos grunted in response. The first group of South Africans (who we learned has been there for 4 days already, leaving the next day) came back from their later afternoon game drive in very good spirits, destroying the peaceful ambiance created by the animals and crackling sound of the firewood burning.

I lasted about 1 hour before they irritated me so I went to bed where I still had to listened to all their drunken stories of when they were drunk. The lions, which previously sounded nearby, could not be heard and the hippos soon realized that they too cannot compete with the cacophony created by the group.  

By some miracle I managed to fall asleep only to wake up a couple of hours later (approximately 12:30 am) by the same group, still laughing and chatting away with no attempt to even lower their voices. The absolute inconsiderate behaviour had me steaming and I was forced to agree with my fellow overlander: South African campers are the worst! When we packed up the next morning I was less than pleased and ready to give them a piece of my mind. Clayton hates it when  I cause a scene so I settled with giving them the Look but they were so oblivious that I do not think they even noticed.

If, by some miracle, the group reads this post: You guys give us all a bad reputation and should be ashamed of yourselves! Go read a book on camping etiquette!

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