Celebrate the vibrant and colourful culture, hike in the mountains, go on safari in search of rhino, and buy handcrafted souvenirs unique to eSwatini.
They said I was a bit of a pioneer in that I was doing a grand tour when most people whizz through in a couple of days, but the country has lots of big attractions in a small package, so here’s hoping I am pioneer!
eSwatini is unique, the last absolute monarchy in Africa with its own distinct culture, vitality and identity. No longer colonial Swaziland this is eSwatini, land of the Swazi. Festival sand ceremonies are very much part of modern life as well as tradition, as you’ll doubtless experience, and the craft markets are full of skilful creations. The mountains, valleys and forests are great walking terrain and you can even go on safari to spot rhino and more. eSwatini is special!
- Celebrate culture: Music and dance are at the heart of Swatini culture and key to the many ceremonies and festivals in day-to-day life and that mark significant events. Incwala is one of the best known of the latter. Also called ‘first fruits’, this six-day festival celebrates cleansing, renewal and monarchy. Umhlanga, the reed dance, takes place over eight days with up to 40,000 colourfully clad young girls offering their cut reeds to the Queen Mother amidst much dancing and celebration. Visitors are welcome to watch both events. Learn more about Swatini culture at Lobamba Museum and at Mantenga Cultural Village, a recreation of a 19th-century Swazi village where you can meet villagers and watch traditional song and dance performances.
- Watch wildlife: Mkhaya Game Reserve is one of the best places to see the rare black rhino in the wild as well as white rhino, the country’s only herd of buffalo, elephant and leopard (that’s four of the Big 5), giraffe, zebra and roan antelope. Lubombo Conservancy is made up of several game reserves with options for 4x4 safaris, guided walks and bike rides. Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is eSwatini’s oldest protected area where you can expect to see zebra, impala, kudu, wildebeest and hippos.
- Lovely landscapes: From the sweeping Ezulwini Valley, meaning valley of heaven, to tumbling Mantenga Falls and the mountains, rivers and forests of Mahamba Gorge, eSwatini has more than its fair share of enchanting scenery. Other scenic highlights include Phophonyane Nature Reserve with its waterfalls and viewpoints and Malolota Nature Reserve where you can explore forest, woodland, grassland and wetland habitats.
- Art & crafts: At Nsangwini you can view San rock paintings which may be up to 4,000 years old. Local guides point out different animals and men carrying spears and interpret the symbolic meanings of the ancient paintings. Return to the present day with a visit to craft centres at Pigg’s Peak and Malkerns, watch candles and batiks in the making at Swazi Candles and witness the skill of glassblowing at Ngwenya Glass.