Africa in a nutshell. It may be a cliché but there is no better way to describe Eswatini (Swaziland). This tiny nation – one of Africa’s last monarchies – packs in an extraordinary variety of rich experiences and activities. Nature lovers can track down rhinos in the wild lowveld or seek out rare birds in the rugged highveld. Historians can visit the world’s oldest known mine or follow the colonial trail of the early settlers. And culture vultures can thrill to the Umhlanga and other festivals, as Eswatini celebrates its ancient traditions in spectacular style. Activities ranging from horse riding and river rafting to golf and thermal spas offer excitement and relaxation in equal measure. What’s more, Eswatini is friendly, safe and so compact that nowhere is more than two hours’ easy drive from the capital. So what are you waiting for? Africa’s most perfectly formed nation offers you a warm Swazi welcome.
Eswatini’s traditional culture fascinates visitors. The appeal is self-evident: this tiny Kingdom has managed to retain traditions that date back to pre-colonial times and that, despite all the challenges of modernity, remain fundamental to its cultural life. At its heart lies the monarchy, which binds the nation together in festivals and celebration. The kingdom is not a living museum, of course, but what you will see – the colour, costume and pageantry – is the real deal, not some contrivance for the tourist industry. And such ritual ceremonies as the Umhlanga, or Reed Dance, are among the most spectacular of their kind on the continent. Look out for the red feathers of the ligwalagwala, or purple-crested turaco, which denote the royal status of the wearer.
Eswatini’s rich variety of landscapes and habitats gives it a profusion of fauna and flora, with the sheer number of species mind-boggling by most European standards. The country is not large enough to offer lots of big game experiences, but it has some 17 protected areas which are home to a very wide range of species, including the sought after ‘Big 5’. As well as being one of the best places on the continent to see rhinos (on foot as well as by 4×4 and to see both black and white rhinos), Eswatini is also the perfect place to get to grips with many smaller creatures often overlooked on safari elsewhere, and it is a bird-watcher’s paradise.
Eswatini is a small land with very big horizons. From the muscular uplands of the western highveld to the wild ridges of the eastern Lubombos, there is no bend in the road that does not offer another impressive vista. And with statuesque rock formations, picturesque villages and wide meandering rivers to fill the viewfinder, the photographer is spoilt for choice. The light is constantly changing, especially during the rainy season, when towering thunderheads pile up into menacing storm clouds, and then after the downpour, leave the sky a pristine blue. Any visitor to the Kingdom could do worse than simply wander the hills and valleys and enjoy the ever-changing views of beautiful scenery and genuine wilderness. But such a natural canvas also allows for a very wide range of activities and different ways to explore and experience the varied landscapes.
Eswatini is without doubt a Southern Africa adventure hot spot! Its varying landscapes provide the perfect opportunity for an impressively wide choice of activities. White-water rafting in the morning and a tree-top Canopy Tour in the afternoon – perhaps even with an evening game drive! Abseiling, rafting, caving, climbing, and even quad biking are all on offer for those seeking the fast-paced adrenaline-fuelled side of the country.
There are a number of well established tour and activity operators in Eswatini who can help you organise your adventures.
Eswatini’s traditional culture finds its most spectacular expression in a number of ritual ceremonies through the year conducted on an impressive scale. These are living cultural events that, bar the odd pair of sunglasses and mobile phone, have hardly changed in two centuries. Not to be outdone, the current generation has created a modern new, vibrant music and arts festival that has fast established an excellent international reputation. With a series of exciting mountain bike races and other sporting and cultural events dotted through the year, the Eswatini calendar is a rich and rewarding one for its visitors to experience.
Sports such as squash, tennis, swimming are available at hotels and lodges as well as the Country Clubs on the Sugar Estates. Royal Swazi Spa in the Ezulwini Valley and Nkonyeni to the south are home to the country’s best golf courses, both with 18 hole championship courses and scenic views for the golfer to take in as they traverse the course. Fishing is also available at a number of dams and rivers around the country, with trout, tiger fish and a number of native species to be found.
There are a number of organisations working in Eswatini that offer volunteering opportunities, whether that be working with wildlife and conservation, social volunteering, or sports volunteering. There are plenty of programmes you can get involved in to leave a positive mark on Eswatini.