Great Usutu River & Big Bend
The Great Usuthu is the largest river in Eswatini (Swaziland). It enters the country on the western border with South Africa and leaves through the Lubombo mountains east of Big Bend for its final journey to the Indian Ocean. Its lower reaches are home to hippos, crocodiles and tiger fish, while its waters are the lifeline for Eswatini’s sugar estates. Swazi Trails in the Ezulwini Valley offers full-day and half-day river rafting trips on a remote stretch of the Usuthu, where the river thunders through wild gorges and meanders through rural communities. Rafters will see impressive rock stacks, riverbank life and a fair amount of wildlife – including the odd small crocodile. They will also get drenched: for most of the year this is a Grade III (medium difficulty) rafting river, but in full flow some sections can rise to Grade V and even VI.
Big Bend lies 80km south east of Manzini on the MR8. Built to serve the sugar industry, it is a regional centre for south east Swaziland. Emerald-green cane fields have supplanted the dusty bush, and visitors will find shops, services and a handful of places to stay. From Big Bend the road continues south over the Lavumisa border into South Africa and joins the main highway south to Durban.