The Kingdom of Swaziland: A Royal Experience
Pocket-sized Africa. Swaziland is unchartered territory just waiting to be discovered. Nestled between South Africa to the west, Mozambique to the east and Kruger National Park to the north, this tiny nation and one of Africa's only remaining monarchies offers an extraordinary variety of culture and adventure. Be one of the first to take a thrilling game drive through Hlane National Park and find yourself literally feet away from rhino and elephant, zip line through the forests of Malolotja, attend tribal dances at Mantenga's cultural village, horseback ride up the mountains and sleep outside under the breathtaking milky way, relax from natural thermal spas and pools, shop the craft markets and so much more. Swaziland is uknown, it's unexpected, it's a little corner of Africa with a big heart, it's one of those places you should see before the rest of the world finds out about it.
WHAT WE LOVE
- Swazi Safari: Experience Swaziland's national parks, game drives and wildlife sanctuaries by 4x4, bike or foot. The Kingdom of Swaziland believes that how they treat their animals unveils their nation's character and they are very proud to host a variety of parks dedicated to wildlife preservation. Rhino, elephant, hippo, buffalo, blesbok, wharthog, zebra, giraffe and lion roam freely and fearlessly, allowing you truly unparalleled proximity to some of the most extraordinary species on the planet. So share your campfire with a family of wharhog, fall asleep to the sounds of impala and baboon and feel the beat of your heart as you come face-to-face with The Big 5, literally.
- So. Many. Rhino.: Whether you've stopped for gas or you're driving through one of Swazi's beautiful nature reserves, you will undoubtedly see an astonishing number of rhino. The waterhole beside the gas station surrounded by rhino, ostrich and zebra is mindblowing as is the ability to see mother and calf walk within feet of your 4X4. As one of the most endangered species on Earth, the rhino's overwhelming presence in Swaziland is heartwarming.
- Mantenga Cultural Village: At the heart of the Mantenga nature reserve and set against the scenic backdrop of the Nyonyane mountain, sits the Mantenga Cultural Village - a replica of a mid-19th century Swazi village. Constructed from authentic materials and offering live traditional shows comprised of vigorous dancing, drumming and singing, the Mantenga Village is a true insight into Swaziland's diverse culture and fascinating heritage.
- Craft Craze: From grassweaving, woodcarving and beadwork to glass blowing and candle making, you won't be short of memorabilia to bring home. Visit the Manzini market, the Ngwenya Glass factory and innumerable roadside stands, watch the artists in action and learn about their techniques and traditions.
- Tree Top Canopy Tour: An exhilirating must. Zip line across 12 different platforms, the Majolomba river and through the lush green forest of the expansive nature reserve. Spot a variety of mammals and birdlife as you glide along, including canary, ground woodpecker, blesbok, jackal and baboon.
- Outdoor Lover's Paradise: Swaziland hosts one of the most scenic golf courses in Southern Africa, world-class white water rafting and an abundance of hiking and biking trails. Experience outdoor thermal spas, horseback riding, bird watching, panoramic tea plantations, swim Phophonyane's natural pools, explore San Bushmen's cave paintings, and while you're getting your adventure fill make sure to take in the dramatic surrounding landscape and iconic African sunset.
- Umhlanga Festival: Swaziland's biggest cultural event, pronounced a public holiday, and attended by the King, the royal family and all of Swaziland in its' entirety. Even rural farmers and moutain villagers will make their way to this yearly celebration dressed in their finer traditional clothing to partake in local dance and song.
REST & REJUVENATE
- Summerfield Botanical Garden: Considered the most luxurious resort in all of Swaziland. Summerfield is an 'integrated botanical conservancy and leisure resort' in which the preservation of nature remains the 'raison d'être', resulting in a beautiful property situated near the Bobokazi river and the Nokwane valley, against the backdrop of rolling fertile agricultural lands. The feel of this idyllic setting is truly splendid and the experience is nothing short of luxurious, peaceful and enchanting.
- The Mantenga Cultural Village Lodge: The Mantenga lodge is situated within the same nature reserve as the Mantenga Cultural Village, featured above as a 'what we love' bullet. The property boasts 26 thatched chalets with en suite bathrooms and private verandas, some with terrific views of the bushveld and others so nestled within the natural surroundings that you almost feel as though you're staying in a little tree house community. Admire the organic decor, try some of Swazi's traditional foods and make sure to take a short morning hike down to the waterfalls.
- Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary: Literally stay within a nature reserve, where wharthog feed on the grass outside your front door, monkeys casually walk about and nightly campfires attract visitors and residents (animals) alike. As you drive in, you will pass zebra and impala left and right not to mention the Hippo Haunt restaurant that hovers above a picturesque hippo pool where floor-to-ceiling open windows let you observe hippos and crocs while enjoying a hearty breakfast - the image alone is out of this world. When it comes to accommodation, we recommend either the traditional beehive huts for a full Swazi experience or Reilly's Rock Hilltop Lodge which offers secluded luxury, though still surrounded by aloe gardens, antelope and abundant birdlife. Less opulent and exclusive as most of the properties we typically use, but the charm and proximity to wildlife are extraordinary. Mlilwane is a truly magical property.
WHAT TO KNOW
- When To Go: December-April hosts green lush vegetation and full rivers for those wishing to take advantage of the outdoors; February-March is known as Buganu Season where you can enjoy home-brew wines and May-September sees cooler days, which is great for game viewing as animals seek refuge from the sun on hot days, making them very difficult to spot while on safari. The Umhlanga festival also takes place during these months.
- Weather: Small perhaps, but Swaziland is divided into 4 climatic regions: the Highveld, Middleveld, Lowveld and Lumombo plateau. Similar to South Africa and other southern African countries, the seaons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere, with December being summer and June, winter. Most of the rainfall occurs during the summer months during which one can expect decently large thunderstorms.
- Other: While you're in the area, we recommend a trip incorporating a visit to Mozambique and Kruger National Park in South Africa.
MORE ON SWAZILAND & SAFARIS
- 25 Experiences by Epic Road
- Seeing the Big Five on a Luxury Safari in Africa - the African Lion, the African Elephant, the African Leopard, the Cape Buffalo and the Rhino
- Vamizi Island, Mozambique: Castaway Chic
- When is the Best Time to go on an African Safari?