eSwatini, previously known as Swaziland is a small, landlocked kingdom, bordered in the North, West and South by the Republic of South Africa and by Mozambique in the East. Despite being the smallest landlocked country in the Southern hemisphere with a land area of 17,364 square kilometres, eSwatini punches well above its weight division when it comes to its diverse range of attractions and activities.
There’s nowhere we haven’t been and eSwatini is one of our backyard holiday favourites that we love for so many reasons. Here we list 10 reasons to visit the “Land of the Swazis”.
1.Safety and proximity
It is considered a very safe country to visit so why not take the one-hour air-hop or the five-hour road trip from Johannesburg (five and a half hours from Durban) to this country and see for yourself what one of South Africa’s nearest foreign countries has on offer to you as a valued tourist.
It is one of the best places on the African continent for rhino experiences which can be either the heart-pumping exercise of tracking the black and the white rhinos on foot or for watching them from the safety of a specially adapted game viewing vehicle. There is a wealth and variety of safari experiences on offer.
3.Friendly and welcoming people
The welcoming friendliness of the people makes all visitors feel truly welcome and the Swazis are super friendly people and warm to visitors; they don’t like small talk – politics, philosophy, and religion are top of mind. The friendliness of the Swazi people stays true throughout your stay in the kingdom.
Virtually every geographical feature of Africa’s terrain (but for oceans and deserts) is found within tiny eSwatini. This is a country of magnificent mountain scenery with rivers, waterfalls and gorges; rainforest; unique and ancient rock formations; lush and fertile valleys, and typical African bush.
5.Festivals, ceremonies and events
There is now a growing number of modern events taking place that are gaining excellent international reputations. Leading the way is the MTN Bushfire Festival which is an annual performing arts festival held over a long May weekend at House on Fire, Malandela’s.
It is arguably one of the biggest and best of its kind in Southern Africa as it caters to all tastes, from live music and theatre to film, workshops and, speaking of “tastes”’ even an international food fair. It’s not to be missed!
However, eSwatini is perhaps more widely recognised worldwide for hosting magnificent traditional festivals. Foremost amongst these is the Umhlanga (Reed Dance) held in August/September, the Incwala held in December/January and the Marula Festival in February/March. These are living cultural events that have hardly changed in two centuries. The main events take place at the royal parade grounds at Ludzidzini or other royal residencies.
6.Fauna and flora
eSwatini is proud of its natural heritage and has established several protected areas which include seven nature reserves, four frontier conservation areas and three wildlife or game reserves of which the Hlane Royal National Park and the Mkhaya Game Reserve are the best places to view a variety of big mammals, including elephant, hippo, giraffe, zebra and rhino. Mkhaya is one of the best places on the continent to see both black and white rhino. Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary has varied fauna (mostly smaller game species) which makes it a great place for the family and here you can enjoy horse riding, mountain biking, hiking and trekking.
Reserves boasting the “Big Five” are spread across eSwatini’s varying landscapes.
Safeguarding their future in this country are 11 globally threatened species (e.g. the critically endangered South-central black rhinoceros), and seven other endangered or vulnerable species.
It is also a birdwatcher’s paradise with nearly 510 bird species for the enthusiastic twitcher to identify.
Apart from some 25 endemic flora species, and because of its varied landscapes and wilderness areas, the country’s flora includes over 3500 indigenous species of plants.
7.Sporting and adrenaline pumping activities
The country plays host to many sporting events around the year, a series of challenging mountain bike races for instance but of particular interest are the various stunning golf courses, some of which host Sunshine Tour events like the Royal Swazi Sun Open and the Lombard Insurance Classic.
For the more adventurous traveller, there are adrenaline-inducing activities like caving, white-water rafting, quad biking; cycling; climbing or abseiling. Top of the list is an epic zip-line canopy tour at Malolotja Nature Reserve.
For the keen angler, several dams within the Usutu Forest offer excellent trout fly fishing opportunities. Fishing is also available on other dams and rivers within the country, including within Malolotja Nature Reserve and Hawane Dam in the northwest, and at Van Eck Dam near Big Bend on the Usutu River in the southeast. The rivers are home to indigenous fish, like yellow fish, bream and barbel. Tigerfish may be caught in the Lowveld areas during the hot season.
9.Resorts and casinos
Five licenced casinos, ranging from laid back country retreats to bustling urban complexes, have been a feature of eSwatini for very many years. There are many resorts that offer spas, golfing and gambling, while there is also a wide range of family-friendly, and also some very reasonably priced, accommodations to choose from.
The remarkable and varied natural playground that is eSwatini, its wealth of cultural festivals, sporting events, adventure options and wide range of accommodations make it an ideal and nearby travel destination for South Africans in particular. Don’t give it a second thought, visit this incredible kingdom as soon as you can.
eSwatini has a very rich culture that would be difficult for the visitor to fully experience during a short visit. However, to immerse oneself in Swati culture, a visit is recommended to the Mantenga Cultural Village because it gives an experience of all the intricacies of traditional Swati life as well as an outstanding display by a group of dancers that tours the world. The village is a first-rate working reconstruction of a traditional homestead from around the 1850s.
Fascinating museums and historical sites are dotted around the country, telling the story of the country’s past and present and are well worth a visit.