Swaziland is a small independent mountain kingdom sharing borders with South Africa and Mozambique, situated between the Kruger National Park and the province of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. It is a charming and popular destination for its authentic tribal culture that it is more widely practiced than the countries that surround it, its scenically diverse landscapes and relaxed atmosphere. Many visitors are attracted to Swazi craft markets and cultural experiences and there are several game and nature reserves.
There are also many superb hiking trails and adventure activities such as rafting, mountain biking and zip lining.
As one of the few remaining monarchies in Africa, culture and heritage are a fundamental part of life for the Swazi people. You will be made to feel very welcome by the friendliness of the people and will enjoy the stunning scenery of the mountains and valleys, forests and plains, and several game reserves across the country. In Swaziland you will find a fascinating mix of modern and traditional festivals, ceremonies and events.
Swaziland is a popular destination for its colourful cultural traditions and history. Cultural excursions in Swaziland are generally more authentic as the people still practise their tribal traditions to a large extent.
Cultural tours can include a visit to a Swazi village at Mantenga or Mlilwane to see how the people live, taste their food and see wonderful displays of singing and dancing. Other tours will take you into the heart of Swazi culture to buy fruit, muffin or mielie-bread snacks at a local market, taste Swazi food, taste Swazi beer or Maganu (Marula wine in season), visit Swazi homesteads, see how food is prepared in homesteads and lend a hand to mill the staple maizemeal, collect water from the river, herd cattle or goats with Swazi herd boys, till fields with a span of oxen, weed maize fields, watch a local soccer match, visit a Swazi school, watch the daily tasks of washing clothing in the river… and experience Swaziland as it happens every day.
What most visitors love is to visit the range of Swazi craft markets which offer a large range of beautifully crafted and original items.
Swaziland has several game and nature reserves which are mostly located in the low-lying parts of the country. Although the savanna landcapes and habitats are scenic and offer wonderful bush escapes, gameviewing is not on a par with wildlife sanctuaries in other parts of Africa.
The birdlife however is excellent and combined with the variety of natural habitats and scenic landscapes, a visit to these parks is definitely recommended.
Hlane Royal National Park does have the Big Five though there are different areas for wildlife – lions and elephant are in separated areas. Self drive is permitted in select areas and Hlane also offers guided safari activities.
Mkhaya Game Reserve has some of the best gameviewing in Swaziland with all large game present except lion. It is a refuge for endangered wildlife species. Mkhaya is home to Swaziland’s only buffalo, sable antelope, Livingstone’s eland and tsessebe populations. Along with special species such as black & white rhino, giraffe and roan antelope, these animals are often sighted at close range on safari.
The Mbuluzi / Mlawula Conservancy has a diversity of habitats with a reasonable complement of plains game. The reserve is a botanical hotspot and has some wonderful walking trails.
Malalotja Nature Reserve is located in the mountainous western part of Swaziland with a network of fantastic hiking trails and spectacular landscapes. The reserve has a variety of antelope species as well as brown hyena.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is located just outside the capital of Mbabane and has a variety of plains game as well as hippo and crocodile.
Visitors to Swaziland are welcome to watch some of the celebrations of the country’s two main festivals. Umhlanga, the animated Reed Dance ceremony, is Swaziland’s most famous festival. It takes place during the last week of August or first week of September when young women from around the country come here to participate in a joyful song and dance performance.
In December and January, Incwala is an impressive kingship ritual lasting about three weeks. At the beginning of the celebrations, representatives of the Bemanti people bring water from all the main rivers of Swaziland, gathered at the new moon. Young men then build a royal kraal at Lobamba from branches of the lusekwane tree and other plants. The climax is reached on the “great day,” when the king, clad in his finest robes, symbolically tastes the first fruits of the harvest followed by cheerful song and dance.
Swaziland offers a wide range of adventure activities for lovers of nature and the outdoors. The country’s most popular adventure is white water rafting on the Great Usutu River.
Mountain biking is an excellent way to see Swaziland. Swazi Trails offers a number of guided mountain bike tours in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and in the Ezulwini/ Lobamba area where you can visit rural homesteads.
Swaziland’s newest adrenaline adventure is a Canopy Tour that runs in and above the Majolomba River Gorge in Malolotja Nature Reserve. This area for canopy tours was recently rated as one of the best in Southern Africa and the only way to explore this gorge is from the air.
Other activities include adventure caving in the Gobholo Cave system, just east of Mbabane, and quad biking at “The Devil’s Cauldron Quad Trail” adjacent to the Royal Swazi Spa Hotel. You can also spend a night in Maguga Dam houseboat which sleeps 4 people and is an awesome opportunity for some quiet time and relaxation.
Swaziland is a wonderful addition to a self drive between the Kruger National Park and the range of awesome destinations in the province of KwaZulu Natal. And for a real adventure, why not combine a 4×4 self drive to the kingdom of Lesotho with the kingdom of Swaziland.