Swaziland is a small and undeveloped nation that is completely surrounded by two countries- South Africa and Mozambique. Central regions of rolling grassland make this country a cattle farming nation, with cash crops of sugarcane, cotton, and tobacco. It also has rich reserves of coal, iron ore, gold, and tin, although large numbers of Swazis work in gold mines over the border in South Africa. Britain ruled Swaziland from 1902 until its independence in 1968.
Here the top ten not to be missed places in Swaziland.
Mantenga Nature Reserve
The best way to immerse oneself and understand the Swazi culture is to visit a tribal village in the slopes of the Mantenga Nature Reserve. It is a Swazi village complete with traditional huts where the inhabitants offer and delight guests with a show of singing and dancing. In this well executed show, women surge forward in a traditional folk dance choreography. The Swaziland native tribes maintain pride in its ancient customs and ceremonies. Costumes include brightly colored textiles, animal skins and intricate bead work. During this tour you will have an appreciation of the most interesting things about the Swazi culture, their way of life, religion, the function of their individual huts, family life and cultural hierarchies.
The village is surrounded by greenery with the river flowing next to the wooden houses with thatched roofs. This thriving community is located within a natural reserve tropical forest which you can explore all around and take a ride up to the scenic falls of Mantenga. The cultural shows are held twice a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The visit to the Swazi Cultural Village is an excellent starting point to visit the rest of the attractions in Swaziland.
Hlane Royal National Park
The Hlane Royal National Park in Swaziland is a game reserve park filled with white hippos and other animals. The relatively small park offers 2 types of camps for an overnight stay; the Ndlovu and the Bhubesi Camp. The former offers chalets with a water hole and a restaurant but with no electricity. The Bhubesi Camp however, has electricity but no restaurant and no water hole. Where you intend to stay depends solely on your preference. The chalet experience offers the unique chance of enjoying a picnic by the private patio along with the rhinos, elephants, lions, and much more. It is illuminated in the evening by kerosene lamps and candles. It is equipped with a kitchen with gas stove and gas powered fridge, plus a double bed, wardrobe closet and a small bathroom.
You have the opportunity to ride in a jeep through the park or to do game drives or game walks. The evening tour by jeep through the park is another highlight of the tour. Some of the animals come very close to the jeep, which can be a scary experience especially with the lions but the guide leads the tour with a lot of caution and shared information about the behavior of the animals. The reserve is a genuine place that is not too touristy and the best opportunity to se game animals up close.
Mkhaya Endangered Species Reserve
All safaris are gathered within the park for a tour on board a 4×4 vehicle which is included in the price of the stay or visit. The Mkhaya Endangered Species Reserve
is a small but interesting park. Even without the big 5 (no lions or leopards), they have unique wildlife species which are worth seeing like; the white wildebeest and the black rhino. A knowledgeable guide named Thulani can help answer all your questions and continually share added information about every animal you will see in the park.
During a safari tour you will constantly come across a large herd of white wildebeest and close up encounters with the rhinos with great caution. You can catch them in their natural habitat walking in steady gaits and scratching their own stumps or while promenading along a wide gorge and drinking along the small water holes within the reserve. The park is still sparsely populated and all efforts to save the endangered game animals are highly commendable.
A visit in this market is the best way to catch a glimpse of the local life and how creative and enterprising the local community is. The Mbabane Market the most convenient place to buy souvenirs. It has many stalls that offer freshly harvested fruits and vegetables. Handmade wood crafts and tribal costumes are well laid out and sold at a better price than any other curio shops all over Swaziland. The small market is still something special. There are many local things and a food market that offers everything and highlights the local produce from the countryside.
The area devoted to Swazi art and craft is actually very pretty and there are nice items with a wide selection to choose from. There are lots of decorative pieces, jewelry, key chains, and pen holders, from the most exquisite up to a simple token of remembrance of a trip to Swaziland. Right next door is a shop about candles and a candle factory that also offers many great things.
Swaziland National Museum
The National Museum of Swaziland gives a good insight into the history of this African from prehistoric times up to the modern day. The collection is clearly exhibited in various themes. There is much attention to the culture and traditions. The guide tells passionate anecdotes about his country and gives good explanations of the various showcased exhibits. The museum tells the story of how the British and Dutch settlers tricked the Swazi tribes into signing away their mining rights and the country was ruled by the colonizers.
The life and times of its greatest king and ruler Mswati are also vividly detailed but more focused on the year 1986, the time when he was faced with a land so divided between the minority of the white people who wanted to retain control and majority over the local black tribes who were eager to have total independence and restoration of their rights. The museum leaves a good impression and every corner shows how life use to be simple from; the style of clothing for every tribe, videos of the traditional dances and national hymns and the ancient preserved artifacts of the country. A replica of an ethnic village is shown like a small diorama inside the museum.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
The visit to the park in Mlilwane is certainly pleasant and relaxing but do not expect large expanses of African wildlife. The Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is small but well run and maintained. You can see many animals up close but no big five. The field interiors are comfortable and equipped with everything you need, there is the possibility to make excursions on foot, by bike, and horse. This extraordinary reserve is nestled in the beautiful hills of Swaziland. It is a peaceful location and has everything that you need to spend a bit of time in full contact with nature with a hippo wandering quietly out in the field. This park is very different to the other reserves of South Africa. The animals around here are much less “nervous” and easy to approach and photograph.
Furthermore, the views are beautiful because the scenes are composed of red colored grounds, yellow grass and the trees of a lush green background with some beautiful peaks. The camps for rent (overnight or whole day) provide a comfortable and relaxing stay. The bungalows are not attached to each other, but there is enough space with table and BBQ place, the camp is very relaxing. The promenade area in the park is very nice and even if the trails are not marked very well it is very difficult to get lost. There is an obvious shortage of predators, so you can walk around. Most of the animals are herbivores and the landscape is particularly pleasant especially at night.
Myxo’s Woza Nawe Cultural Day Tours
Myxo’s and the cultural tour in Swaziland will definitely make your stay in Africa an unforgettable experience. Together with his brother they will guide you to an immersion adventure at the Eco tourism village in Swaziland. This tour can be arranged in advance online. Everything about the tour is well organized, from the places to visit up to the food and accommodation; Myxo’s ensure everything will run smoothly. They will bring you to their village ruled by one of his brothers. From there you can observe their typical way of life that begins with a long hike to another community that has a very welcoming tribe.
There is a brief tour of the school, church, the local market, and an excellent meal of fresh vegetables, fruits and meat with a local host family. The entire compound is a beauty on its own, with a great view of the mountains of Mozambique and the wild animals that freely roam the area (giraffe, lion cubs, zebras, and pumas).
Mbuluzi Game Reserves
Prepare for a back to basic lifestyle when you visit the Mbuluzi Game Reserves camps. Although the reception was really friendly and everything was ready, every sign of modern comforts life can bring are totally absent within the camping grounds. There is no power, no fence and water heater and cooking, eating taking a bath must be done directly beside a river with real potholes. Giraffe always sneaks in and around the camp and private game reserve.
Tents can be set up and fireplace areas are situated all around along with a designated toilet that is open for use by guests who spends an overnight or two day stay in the park that has limited accommodation and amenities. At sunset and with perfect light, you can observe the passing hippos, rhinos, zebras and giraffe impalas. It’s great to enjoy the atmosphere towards the evening while enjoying a crackling campfire on the ground.
On the motorway linking the capital of South Africa and Swaziland, 40 minutes after crossing the border you will pass the small town of Ngwenya. It is famous for three landmarks – the oldest mine in the world; the iron reserve site called the “Malolotya” that exists for more than 43,000 years ago, and the Ngwenya Glass
manufacturing company. This glass factory opened in this town 43 years ago, but has experienced a Renaissance in 1987 when it became a local landmark. Its main feature is to produce only products from recycled glass. The factory takes the bottle from the entire population, collected from across the country and melted down to become utensils or small works of art.
Moreover, several years ago the factory took over the social mission of environmental awareness and began to carry out educating the youth about how to collect and return the bottle from any receiving channels all over Swaziland. It is from this recycled raw material that they produce various utensils, souvenirs and other products. If you stop for a visit here on weekdays you can see all the rooms involved in the production of recycled glass craft works which can be made and purchased at a moderate price. The crafts are all original products and truly highlights the people of Swaziland’s knack for ingenuity such as the wine jug with a special built-in capacity to hold ice, cold food and beverages. The most in demand item are the various figures of animals (elephants, lions, giraffes, etc.) that come in different sizes of decorative greenish glass.
It is located within the famous Komati River and symbolizes as one of the modern accomplishment of the government to encourage and support the impressive progress of the agricultural livelihood of Maguga.
The scenic roadside views that lead to this dam is fast becoming a tourist hub for foreigners who want to enjoy the landscape and the water sports attractions offered by the locals. There are shops around the dam that also sells local woodwork and craftsmanship products. The banks of the river are being developed for more tourism endeavors and business opportunities.