Kingdom of Swaziland
Swaziland, Swasiland, Kingdom of Swaziland or as the Swazis refer to it themselves: “eSwatini”, this tiny and vibrant country is a must-stop for any vacation to South Africa. Swaziland is also a firm holiday favourite for South Africans looking for a cheap and affordable weekend break.
Swaziland travel has matured and the country is now a diverse and hassle-free African destination. Apart from the wide choice of Swaziland hotels the existence of top quality national parks in Swaziland and exciting adventure activities makes the country more than just a quick stop-over.
When compared to hotels in South Africa and Mozambique, Swaziland hotels are cheaper and often more intimate and interesting, such as Foresters Arms Hotel, famed for its 9-course dinners, or the Mountain Inn Hotel, which has an unsurpassed view from the mountainous outskirts of Mbabane. Resorts in Swaziland provide a range of family and corporate activities. The Royal Swazi Sun Hotel, now known as the Royal Swazi Spa, together with its sister hotels, the Lugogo Sun and Ezulwini Sun offer guest access to the championship-grade Royal Swazi Golf Course, a health and beauty spa, as well as a large convention centre and casino. On smaller scale the Hawane Resort uses natural materials and local building styles for its unique Swazi-style accommodation options.
The Swazi people are friendly, welcoming and genuinely interested in visitors, which is why the smaller lodges, guesthouses and bed and breakfasts in Swaziland are a hit with travellers craving interaction with local residents.
Regions in Swaziland include:
Located south of the capital of Mbabane, is the awesome Ezulwini Valley. It is no wonder that the siSwati word for paradise or heaven is Ezulwini. This is one of Swaziland’s most beautiful valleys flanked by the sacred Mdzimba Mountain to the east and the Luphohlo and Lugogo Mountain faces the west.
The western flank is proclaimed as a nature reserve and is managed by Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, whose horse and walking trails reach right up from the main visitor areas of the park in the south, up to these northern highveld heights. Although settled with homesteads in some areas, the eastern flank is also protected by Swazi culture in that it is the resting place of Swazi Kings and members of royalty, who are entombed in granite caves.
The valley floor itself, through which the main arterial route the MR3 runs and its older predecessor the MR103 road, is developing rapidly as a suburban area, with housing estates and shopping centres. The valley however is still home to the largest concentration of tourism facilities in Swaziland. The 18-hole Royal Swazi Sun Championship Golf Course is a feature, whilst the Cuddle Puddle hot spring, the Royal Swazi Casino and Conference Centre, the 500 m long Ezulwini roadside market and a number of top quality restaurants are all features to be explored.
The rural town of Malkerns
Malkerns is named after Malcolm Kerns, a trader who ran a trading store here at the beginning of the 1900’s. Today the area is well known for its art and crafts, pineapple growing and the sheer beauty of the surrounding hills and nature reserves. Make a visit to Malandela’s Homestead, which is a fascinating collection of buildings that include a craft shop, a pub and restaurant, a theatre and an internet café. If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, then the craft shops that line the Malkerns-Manzini road are bound to have that special African something.
Malkerns is a small town, yet there is a lot of activity to keep visitors entertained. The climate here is very conducive to outdoor sporting activities, and hence it is a launching pad for hiking, mountain-biking and horseback trails, golf, Adventure caving and quad / ATV trails. White-water rafting on the Great Usutu River is a must-do for the adrenaline cravers.
Mbabane – the capital
The capital city of the Kingdom of Swaziland is Mbabane. This a mountainous area, hence development has been constrained resulting in a small and very scenic city. Visitors to Mbabane can walk freely through its streets, with the Mbabane Market, The Plaza and The Hub shopping areas providing a nice introduction to modern urban culture in Swaziland. Your local connection…would hesitate a guess (there must be a statistical record somewhere !) that Mbabane is the safest capital city in Africa from a tourist perspective.
In many ways it is a sleepy capital, nightlife is next to non-existent, but Ezulwini is close enough for a detour in search of fun, if that is to your liking.
Just outside Mbabane is Pine valley which offers access to Sibebe Rock, one of Swaziland’s iconic natural features. This huge dome-shaped granite pluton is rumoured to have one of the largest unbroken sheets of rock in the world. It is well worth a visit and can be explored via a community-run walking and hiking trail network. An entrance gate can be found right at the end of Pine Valley.
Manzini – an industrial centre, southeast of Mbabane
This city of Manzini is the busy and bustling commercial centre of Swaziland. Its city centre is dominated by many retail outlets servicing the outlying rural areas of Swaziland. Nearby the industrial area of Matsapha boasts most of Swaziland’s major manufacturing enterprises.
The Manzini market is probably the city’s best known tourist attraction. Open Monday to Saturday this is a vibrant place selling almost anything from small owner-run stalls. Its a real opportunity to mix with local people and experience African commerce at work.
Visitors to The Bhunu Mall, a shopping mall, will find a bit more sophistication, and it together with The Hub, are the more upmarket shopping venues.
Stop by at the original Catholic mission, an elegant stone building opposite the new cathedral on Sandlane Street, or check out a number of early Swaziland churches, where if you are passing when a service is on, you will no doubt be invited in, in typical friendly Swazi fashion.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
This place is a true outdoor lover’s paradise. It is located in the aptly named Ezulwini ‘Valley of Heaven’, one of the many great nature spots in Swaziland. The gate is open day and night, and can be visited at any time by travelers. Activities include horse-riding, mountain-biking, walking trails, landrover gamedrives, a swimming pool and restaurant.
The sanctuary has been a leader in Swazi nature conservation and is home to the head quarters of the Big Game Parks organisation. It is located roughly between Manzini and the capital, Mbabane, so is a popular day visit for guests at most surrounding accommodation venues.
Walking trails include the Macobane Trail, the Nyonyane Mountain Trail and the Hippo Trail. The latter is ideal for family walks, as it is circular (6.3km), relatively flat and very diverse in its scenery.
Great Usutu River
The Great Usutu River is the largest waterway in the Kingdom of Swaziland. It is of prime importance to the country for water supply, hydroelectric power, agricultural irrigation schemes and white water rafting.
The Great Usutu originates from South Africa close to the town of Ermelo, drops down from the highveld in Swaziland where it is joined by its major tributaries, the Lusushwana (Little Usutu), Ngwempisi and Mkhondvo Rivers, then exits into Mozambique where it finally reaches the sea in the Bay of Maputo. In Mozambique it is referred to as the Rio Maputo.
The Great Usutu is the river on which Swaziland’s number # 1 adventure activity takes place – white water rafting.
Hlane Royal National Park
Hlane covers an extended area of over 30,000 hectares, with an abundance of 1000 year old hardwood foliage. The park was named by King Sobhuza II, and visitors will find a lot of wildlife including many bird species (including the highest concentration of nesting white backed vultures in Africa), as well as elephants, lions, and white rhinos.
The most popular methods to see Hlane is by guided walking safaris, open Land Rover, or even by mountain bike. It is a true experience when you hear the tremendous roar of Hlane’s magnificent lions – the symbol of royalty and the pride of Swaziland.
You can drive yourself through much of the park, with a myriad of inter-connecting roads and paths. In the drier winter months, you can see great concentrations of animals in some of the shallow pans throughout the park.
Mkhaya Game Reserve
Mkhaya serves as a nature sanctuary for local elephant, black rhino, white rhino, roan and sable antelope, tsessebe, and many other endangered indigenous species. Mkhaya takes it’s name from the Acacia nigrescens tree. Although it helps in the preservation of many kinds of animals presently, it was actually created in 1979 to save a particular breed of cattle (the Nguni) from extinction.
You will discover this abundance of wildlife through the open Land Rovers, or by a guided walking tour. There are many watering holes which serve as excellent game viewing points, all linked by a series of inter connecting roads and trails.