Swaziland Travel Guide

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"Swaziland is a Mountain Kingdom surrounded by South Africa and has long been thought of, and rightly so, as one of the most beautiful countries in the whole of Africa. Thick hardwood forests, granite mountains, rushing streams slowly turn to fertile valleys and then to African savannah, giving the country a fascinating range of landscapes. Its laid-back attitude makes for a relaxing holiday, in a climate full of African sun but with a refreshing cut of mountain air. Popular with South Africans for its casinos, you can also enjoy safari, hiking, rafting, caving and a host of other activities."

Swaziland Holiday Highlights:

There are several National Parks in Swaziland, offering a diversity of habitats, flora and fauna. Hlane Royal National Park actually belongs to the King, held in trust for the nation. It covers 30,000 hectares of African savannah and contains the most game of all the countries parks, including Lion, Elephant and White Rhino. It is possible to self-drive, walk and mountain-bike within the Park, as well as the more traditional game-drives with qualified guides.
The country's oldest park is Mlilwane, a picturesque sanctuary of some 4,500 hectares situated in the countries north, in the aptly names Valley of Heaven. The Park is divided between grasslands in the south to mountain forest in the North. As well as the flora and fauna, there are also cultural attractions, such as the "Rock of Execution" on peak Nyonyane and the Swazi Royal Graves.
The last of Swaziland Game Reserves is Mkhaya, which specialises in endangered species. It is home to White and Black Rhino, elephant, sable antelope and other indigenous species. You game-view here on foot or in the reserves own vehicles, in a landscape of arid plain criss-crossed by dry river beds.

White Water Rafting
For the thrill seeker, looking for something a little unusual, why not try rafting on the Usutu River. Offering a variety of levels, you can enjoy a choice of durations.

There are plenty of walking opportunities in Swaziland. They vary from the Sibebe Challenge, a walk up this imposing granite dome and probably the steepest day walk around, to more gentle ambles around the countries beauty spots. In Mlilwane, you can walk in the Mdzimba mountains, visiting the Rock of Execution, Lobamba Royal Village and the Breasts of Sheba,.
The Ezulwini Valley offers beautiful countryside ( as well as one of the country's top hotels and casinos) and hot springs.
Many agencies can organise a holiday for you that takes in the whole country with specialist walks in the many different areas.

Being a small mountain kingdom, Swaziland has maintained its cultural identity well and is one of the few countries in the world still governed by an absolute monarch. There are many tribal rituals associated with this, the two most important being the "Incwala" in December and the "Umhlanga in August-September. The first is a celebration of harvest, with much dancing. The second when unmarried girls dance for the King in a traditional "reed dance" and he sometime chooses another wife for his household. Both are colourful and visitors are welcome.

When to go

You can visit Swaziland year-round. Being in the Southern hemisphere, their summer is between Nov -March. This is the hottest time of year, although because of the altitude of much of the country, temperatures rarely get uncomfortably hot. These months are also the wettest as the mountains catch the summer storms but rarely enough to badly disrupt a visit.

Top Tips

  • Always ask before taking a photo as some old tribal beliefs are very wary of cameras.
  • If you wish to stay in a village for any length of time or overnight, you must ask the permission of the Head Man first.
  • Take a strong sun-block. Because of the altitude and cold air the sun may not seem as strong as it really is.
  • Bring a good telephoto lens for your camera - in the National Parks is useful for getting the best shots of the animals and birds.

Classic Itineraries

  • Staying in the Valley of Heaven: Game-viewing in Mlilwane, Trekking in the Mdzimba mountains and visiting the Capital Mbabane.
  • Safari: Visit the three parks for a range of flora, fauna and terrain: Hlane, Mlilwane and Mkhaya.
  • Swaziland Adventure. Why not do a combination trip, with hiking and safari, then throw in the rafting on the Usutu River and caving at Gobholo in the Mdzimba Mountains.

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