These are important to know before you travel to Swaziland. Mbabane is the administrative capital. Manzini is the hub, situated next to Matsapha Industrial Estate. Lombamba is the legislative capital.
Lying in the northern end of the Ezulwini Valley, the capital city, Mbababane, an easy, attractive and safe place to walk around. There are large modern complexes that offer banking facilities, excellent shopping and the Swaziland Tourist Information Office. The Mbabane Market is nearby and has very reasonably priced authentic crafts. The fruit and vegetable halls next to it offer fresh fruit and vegetables and traditional Swazi medicines for sale. The largest granite rock in the world, Sibebe Rock, is on the outskirts of Mbabane. There are spectacular views of Pine Valley from here, and it is also an excellent picnic spot. It is an absolute must during your Swaziland holiday.
Hlane Royal National Park
Covering some 30 000 ha in north-eastern Swaziland on the western border of the Lebombo Mountains, Hlane National Park is the largest conservation area in the kingdom, and definitely worth including in your Swaziland tour. It also flanks the site of the annual Butimba - a week long royal hunt led by the monarch, after which slaughtered game is presented to him. ‘Hlane’ means wilderness and that’s what it is, a vast expanse of acacia and broadleaf savannah plains, peppered with bushveld of knobthorn, stunted thickets and dry riverine forests. Looking down on the wilderness today from the peaks of Lebombo Mountains in the east, the landscape stretches out in a tapestry of undulating greens and yellows, intersected by the Black Mbuluzi and Mbuluzana rivers.
It is difficult to imagine that amid the pristine beauty and seemingly timeless tranquillity of this lowland animals died in their thousands in poachers’ snares; or that game rangers risked their lives trying to prevent the wholesale destruction of game. Between 1950 and 1960, during the laying of the railroad to Maputo to improve Swaziland travel, poaching started in earnest and Hlane’s once teeming herds were either drastically reduced or eliminated altogether. Sensing total destruction, the owner of Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary, prevailed on King Sobhuza to intervene and was appointed official custodian of the park before it was proclaimed in 1967 - a position he holds to this day.
Malolotja Nature Reserve
If you enjoy hiking or have great appreciation for spectacular scenery, then this should be included as part of your Swaziland tour. Hikers who have ventured deep into the heart of Malolotja Nature Reserve get starry-eyed and breathless when they try to describe its hidden treasures. This pristine mountain wilderness is ranked among the most scenically beautiful places of Southern Africa. Here soaring peaks surge skywards above a cloak of undulating, flower-covered mountains whose folds conceal kloofs, ravines and gorges fringed with rich, riverine forests. The valleys and gorges were eroded in the dawn of time by scores of rivers and their tributaries racing down the enigmatic mountains of Malolotja. In their rampant journey to the low ground such rivers as the Malolotja, Nkomati and Yingayingeeni have laced this mountain wilderness with ribbons of white water cascading down 27 different waterfalls. For visitors to Malolotja the waterfalls and their magical pools, surrounded in some places by amphitheatres of rock, tree ferns and secret forest glades, represent the very tabernacles of contentment - the closest man can come to true tranquillity in the wild. For this reason you must include time to view some of these stunning natural sights while on your Swaziland holiday.
Malolotja Nature Reserve itself is relatively close to civilisation, just 15 km from Oshoek-Ngwenya border post between Swaziland and South Africa, and 35 km north of Mbabane, and the country’s capital. It covers 18 000 ha of Afro-montane forest, riverine scrub, bushveld and short grassveld. The highveld terrain ascends two of Swaziland’s highest places: Ngwenya Peak (1 829 m) in the south and Silotfwane Peak (1 680 m) in the west.
Sometimes shrouded in morning mists, at other times sweltering in the summer sun, this landscape is garlanded by a profusion of wildflowers and plants throughout the year. No less than 1 000 plant species - cycad (including the woolly cycad and Kaapsehoop cycad), aloe, protea, red-hot poker, orchid, amarylid, disa and Barberton daisy. They bring extravagant colour combinations to the mountain slopes and grasslands, which lie between 615 m and 800 m above sea level. The reserve was named after Swaziland’s highest waterfall, the Malolotja Falls, which plummet 90 m into the Nkomati River gorge, and should be visited during your Swaziland holiday.
Mkhaya Game Reserve
Bone-jarring thuds reverberate through your body as the open Land Rover bumps through the bush of Mkhaya Game Reserve. You hang on grimly and duck as the branches of acacia trees and sickle-bushes swing towards you with their needle-sharp spikes seeking soft skin. The vehicle dips down into a donga, hurtles up the other side, surmounts the crest and brings you face-to-face with two tons of raw menace. The black rhino right in front of you snorts, shakes its head and veers off at a canter into the undergrowth.
This is the heart of Mkhaya Game Reserve, an unforgettable bushveld paradise in eastern Swaziland, where you can get so close to the large mammals that you can literally touch them. More importantly, however, Mkhaya is one of Africa’s great refuges for endangered species - a sanctuary where you are more likely to see black rhino than anywhere else in the world. This alone is enough of a reason to travel to Swaziland.
The reserve is the brainchild of world-renowned conservationist Ted Reilly, who started it in 1979 as a sanctuary for purebred Nguni cattle, which were threatened with extinction because of crossbreeding. The programme was so successful that Reilly, backed by the Swaziland Monarchy, the South African World Wildlife Foundation and other foreign bodies, decided to develop Mkhaya into a fully-fledged game sanctuary. A visit to this reserve should definitely be included as part of your Swaziland tour.
The Tea Road
The Tea Road winds its way to the top of the Mdzimba Mountain -the burial place of the Kings - from where you will see, hundreds of metres below, the magnificent panorama of the Ezulwini Valley spread out beneath the twin peaks of Sheba’s Breasts, referred to in Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines.
Mantenga Nature Reserve and Swazi Cultural Village
This is a small, protected area of natural bush vegetation in a secluded corner of the Ezulwini Valley. It is thickly forested with indigenous varieties such as the Waterberry and Kiaat. The Swazi Cultural Village nestles next to the little Usutu River in a clearing below the Mantenga Falls. Authentic Swazi beehive huts have been constructed as they would have been 150 years ago - where visitors can experience true Swazi culture. Traditional Swazi dances are performed twice a day.
The official figure of population occupying Swaziland is 985 000 - approximately 53,54 people per square kilometre. Swaziland is landlocked in the east by Mozambique and on the other borders by South Africa.
It is something of a topographical jumble, which can hamper Swaziland travel. Within a roughly oval shape only 193km (121 miles) long from north to south and much less east to west, God has contrived there to be everything from peaks and upland plateaux, through rolling grassland in the middleveld to the hot, arid bush of the lowveld on the Natal border. Wherever you venture in the country’s 17,364 sq km (6,783 sq miles) your Swaziland tour will expose you to something different. Swaziland is divided into four distinct regions, which are easily explored without the need to travel great distances: the eastern Lubombo plateau; the low bush country of the lowveld; the hilly middleveld or grasslands; and the mountains, forests and waterfalls of the highveld in the west. The vegetation varies according to the regions, from the high summer rainfall area of the highveld in the west to the drier lowveld areas in the east. The altitude also varies from an average of 1 800m in the highveld to around 400m in the lowveld. Summers are very hot in the lowveld eastern areas but temperate in the highveld. Winters in the highveld are typically beautiful and sunny during the day, with chilly mornings and evenings, while the lowveld winters are always warm. Keep this in mind when planning your Swaziland holiday.
Sugar, soft drink concentrates, citrus products and wood pulp are the major exports, mainly to South Africa from which Swaziland receives almost all (90 percent) of its imports. Tourism Travel is one of Swaziland’s biggest industries, so bear this in mind while on your Swaziland holiday.
Whilst African Travel Gateway does not arrange visas, the following information has been provided to assist you in finding out the visa requirements for the passport that you are holding. While every effort is made to keep this information updated, it is subject to change.
No visas are required by South African, Namibian, British, USA or Zimbabwe passport holders. Citizens of numerous other countries are also exempt.
Below are the issuing authorities in the Southern Africa region. One should first however, check if there is a Swazi Consulate in your country of residence. This will make the process of applying for a visa a lot simpler:
a) The Swaziland High Commission
715, Government Avenue, Arcadia, 0083
P.O Box 14294, Hatfield, 0028
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Fax: (+27 12) 343 0455
b) Swaziland Consulate
P.O Box 8030, Johannesburg, 2000
23 Jorissen Street
Tel: (+27 11) 403 2050 / 36
Fax: (+27 11) 403 747
Office hours: Mon-Fri 09h30 to 12h30
c) The Chief Immigration Officer
P.O Box 372, Mbabane, Swaziland
Tel: (+268) 404 2941 / 2
Fax: (+268) 404 4303
These offices will be closed on all South African public holidays as well as Swaziland public holidays.
Malaria is a risk in the Lowveld areas, but don’t let this spoil your African holiday. Avoid swimming in still or slow-moving dams and rivers as bilharzia is also a risk, as are crocodiles. Yellow fever and cholera certificates are only required if you have come from an area where those diseases are endemic, but yellow fever inoculation is advisable anyway.
Medical services are available and doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services. There are six main hospitals, including ones at Mbabane and Piggs Peak.
Swaziland has a subtropical climate with summer temperatures of 15 degrees to 25 degrees Celsius and 5 to 19 degrees Celsius in winter, making Swaziland travel pleasant whatever the season. The rainfall at higher altitudes varies from 1 000 to 1 600mm, while in the lower areas it is between 500 and 600mm. The country’s highest point is Emlembe at 1 862m and the lowest at the Usutu River at 21m. The country has a wide range of habitats and great variations in flora and fauna.
Consider, when planning to travel to Swaziland, that the best game-viewing months are in winter (May-August), when the vegetation is less dense, and animals are more easily spotted. Bird watching, however, is best in summer November-April) when the migratory species are home.
There are four commercial banks operating in the country: First National Bank of Swaziland, Nedbank Swaziland, SwaziBank and Standard Bank Swaziland. In addition to the commercial banks there is one development bank, the Swaziland Development and Savings Bank. The Central Bank of Swaziland establishes and implements monetary policy in Swaziland. Banking hours are normally from 08H30 to 14H30 Monday to Friday, but on Wednesdays until 13H00, and 08H30 to 11H00 on Saturdays.
The unit of currency is the Lilangeni, plural Emalangeni, divided into 100 cents. (E1 = 100 cents). It is par with the South African Rand and Rands are freely accepted everywhere. It is, however, wise to change Swazi currency back into Rands before leaving.
Siswati and English are the official languages, although English is used extensively in government and business. Siswati is used every day by the majority of the population.
The majority (80 percent) of the people are Christian and the rest (20 percent) have indigenous beliefs.
During your Swaziland travel, you are likely to see many Swazis dressed in colourful costumes, featuring toga-like garments - the mahiya. The women sport the traditional ‘beehive’ hairstyles. Two major traditional ceremonies are held in Swaziland annually: the Incwala and the Umhlanga (Reed) Dance. Although viewing these is not really encouraged, if you are interested then you can factor these events into your Swaziland tour.
The Incwala is the sacred ceremony of Kingship, a mystical rite of powerful spiritual significance for the nation. The Incwala begins on the new moon closest to the longest day. A certain clan is sent to the sea to fetch water and on their return, rituals are performed, part of which involve the singing of sacred songs and performing ritual dances. Young men are dispatched by the king to fetch special branches, which are used to decorate the king’s private sanctuary where the secret parts of the Incwala are performed.
The sanctuary itself is within the enormous cattle kraal of the nation at Ludsidzini. The Incwala is the most sacred annual event and spectators are permitted, but not encouraged. The climax of the Incwala is the fourth day, during which the King ceremoniously eats the first of the new harvest. The Umhlanga Reed Dance is an occasion where all the unmarried maidens (tingabisa) of the country gather together to collect reeds (Umhlanga). The girls, in their teens and early twenties, wearing the colourful traditional costume of the unmarried maidens, walk long distances to collect reeds and bring them back to the residence of the Queen Mother who is known as the Indlovukazi, the ‘She Elephant’.
The final days are the most spectacular when thousands of girls return to the kraal. Refreshed after a night’s sleep, they arrive in the Royal enclosure the following morning, dancing, singing and ululating, to deliver their bundle of reeds. The reeds are used to rebuild the windbreaks of the Queen Mother’s residence, and symbolise the loyalty of the maidens. Photography is usually permitted but it is essential to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Information during your Swaziland tour.
There are a variety of local dishes, most of which are based on traditional recipes such as samp and meat. Sampling local cuisine should be included during your Swaziland tour.
Take home some memories of your Swaziland holiday, and support the locals while you’re at it. Dolls, kaftans and skirts, baskets, mats, soapstone carvings, tapestries, decorative glassware and even solitaire boards are among the products of Swazi craftsmen and women, whose work retains a skill now rare in more commercialised African countries. Among quite a number of craft centres (a few off the beaten track) are Tisheshwe Cottage Crafts in the Malkerns valley, Swaziland Tapestries at Phumalanga and Ngwenya Glass.