Swaziland Travel Guide
Famed for its flamboyant monarchy and game parks, Swaziland is a tiny country wedged between South Africa and Mozambique, close to the eastern coast of the continent. Opportunities to see black rhinos, an endangered species, are said to be the best in Africa. The small main city of Mbabane offers modern shopping malls, but it’s the capital Lombaba that has more in the way of cultural heritage and no shortage of pomp during royal ceremonies in honor of the country’s absolute monarch, Mswati III, a man with a keen sense for the finer things in life and a wardrobe full of leopard print.
Like many parts of southern Africa, Swaziland offers a range of lodges at its reserves and parks at middle to upscale prices. Visitors can also stay in Zulu huts in Mlilane, which come at a much cheaper price. The Ezulwini Valley has the largest selection of accommodation, restaurants and entertainment including five-star hotels. Food catering to western tastes is available in the bigger towns alongside more exotic dishes such as ostrich, impala, crocodile and human head. Okay, we made the last one up.
When to Go
Swaziland has a subtropical climate which is cool at higher altitudes. Winter, from May to August, sees mild weather and is seldom cold, even in the mountains. The summer sees a lot of rain and can get fairly hot in the lowlands.
Getting There & Away
Getting in and out of the country is relatively straightforward by plane or train from neighboring South Africa or Mozambique. Rail inks from Durban and the port city of Maputo in Mozambique are among the most-travelled. Swazi Express Airways and Airlink Swaziland, the only two airlines that fly into the country, connect to a handful of international and domestic destinations. The most popular way to travel around the country is by private car or minibus, the latter often cramped and confusing but ultimately more rewarding.
Health & Safety
Sadly, Swaziland is considered the world’s worst HIV/AIDS epidemic, with more than 40 per cent of the country’s population infected. Safe sex is a must and travelers would also be well-advised to bring along sterilized syringes in case of emergency. Other hazards can be less predictable, not least the threat of a marauding hippopotamus—just don’t make these podgy quadrupeds angry. Otherwise, Swaziland is relatively safe, with one of the lowest crime rates in what is considered a dangerous region of the world.
Two days in Lobamba and Mbabane
Three days in Mlilwane Reserve
Two days in Malolotja Reserve
Three days in Phophonyane Falls
Two days in Mkhaya Reserve
Lobamba: royal decadence Swazi-style. The seat of the Swaziland throne sways to exotic dance and the beat of the African drum.
Mbabane: surprisingly plush shopping malls are the main attraction in Swaziland’s biggest city. For more traditional goods, there is a cultural village just outside the town.
Mlilwane Reserve: Swaziland’s most-visited game reserve and the best place in the country to get up close to zebras, giraffes and hippopotami.
Malolotja Reserve: takes its name from Swaziland’s tallest waterfall, this reserve protects 18,000 hectares of wilderness and is home to over 280 bird species, some rare.
Mkhaya Reserve: claims visitors are more likely to see the black rhino here than anywhere else in Africa.
Phophonyane Falls: Swaziland’s finest waterfalls on a private reserve that is abundant in wildlife; a great place to go trekking.
Safaris: given the country’s small scale, any of the parks and reserves can be reached in a day and there is plenty of wildlife on show, not least at Mlilwane Reserve.
Trekking: the Drakensberg Mountains and trails around Phophonyane Falls are among the best places to hit Swaziland’s walking trails.
Nightclubbing: discos in the Ezulwini Valley, between Mbabane and the second city Manzini, receive rave reviews, not least the enduring favorite Why Not? Indeed.
Shopping: modern shopping centers in Mbabane and the Ezulwini Valley, along with more traditional handicrafts in smaller towns, mean there are a number of options.