Bulembu lies on the South Africa border at the end of a rough road west of Piggs Peak. The nearby mountains include the 1,862m summit of Emlembe, the kingdom’s highest peak. The town, nestled at the foot of the mountain, is surrounded by the natural beauty of lush green hills and eucalyptus forests.
Built during the 1930s to serve the Havelock asbestos mine – once the mainstay of Swaziland’s economy – this mining community was left a ghost town after the asbestos market collapsed and the mine closed. It has since received a new lease of life, however, courtesy of a pioneering charity project that has restored the community through a combination of social welfare – notably the rehousing of vulnerable children in old miners’ accommodation – and cottage industries including timber, honey production, spring water bottling, a dairy and a bakery. One achievement of Bulembu’s rebirth has been the preservation of its original 1930s structures. Today tourists can visit the fascinating and well-kept mining museum, wander the old colonial buildings, see the local enterprises in action, stay at the resurrected and charming Bulembu Country Lodge and hike high into the hills.
Local hiking routes range from a 300m walk to a nearby waterfall viewpoint to a five-hour hike up the summit of Emlembe. Trails are well signed, and guides are available at the Bulembu Country Lodge. The excellent local birdlife includes montane grassland and mistbelt forest species, such as malachite sunbird and Knysna turaco.
Phophonyane Nature Reserve