Kingdom of Eswatini,
during our visits it was known as Kingdom of Swaziland.
PART 1, GENERAL INFORMATION
Capital city: Mbabane
Population: 1.2 million
Currency: Swazi Lilangeni
Km travelled: 1140km
Days in: 26
Languages: Swati, English
Eswatini, officially Kingdom of Eswatini, previously called Kingdom of Swaziland, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa bordered by Mozambique to its North East and South Africa to its North, West and South. At no more than 200 kilometres north to south and 130 kilometres wide Eswatini is one of the smallest countries in Africa. Foreign aid is a major contributor to the capital or development budget, providing a buffer to help meet any deficit in revenue. The formal employment sector is unable to absorb the annual increment of new workers generated by the country’s high population growth rate. Many workers, mostly men, are forced to seek employment as migrant workers, predominantly in South Africa. The largest agro industry is the cultivation of sugarcane and the manufacture of sugar. Also, of major commercial importance are the extensive man-made forests of pine and eucalyptus (in the Highveld), which supply timber to a wood pulp mill and several sawmills. Unbleached wood pulp is the country’s second largest export after sugar. The area under timber plantations is about 6 percent of the country’s total area. Other important crops are citrus fruits and cotton (Lowveld), pineapples (Middleveld), rice, tobacco, and vegetables.
As one of the few remaining monarchies in Africa, culture and heritage are deeply engrained in all aspects of Swazi life, ensuring an unforgettable experience for all overlanders. Rich culture, overwhelming friendly people, stunning scenery of mountains and valleys, forests and plains, plus wildlife reserves across the country that are home to The Big Five are all on offer in one of the smallest countries in Africa. A tiny country with a big heart and warm, friendly people aptly describes Eswatini (Swaziland) – a country that is one of the few remaining monarchies in Africa and embraces and upholds its own unique and ancient traditions.
Also called the cultural hinterland. Although the smallest region, this is where the country’s capital city Mbabane, second largest city Manzini and main industrial area Matsapha are found. The two cities lie just 25 miles (40km) apart and are connected by a valley. The country most accessible wildlife reserve Mlilwane and Mantenga nature reserve are located here and so is the cultural village Mantenga.
MILWANE WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
It was here in 1961 that Ted Reilly first took action to save what remained of the kingdom’s wildlife, converting it into a sanctuary and rounding up animals from elsewhere around the country before they were hunted out. The reserve is not ‘Big Five’ country, and indeed the proximity of busy Ezulwini Valley, together with the stands of alien gum trees and old tin mine workings, mean that it cannot be considered a pristine wilderness. Nonetheless, it is a beautifully scenic and wonderful oasis for wildlife, with a lovely relaxed ambience.
MANTENGA RESERVE & VILLAGE
Touristy yes, but for those overlanders in a hurry (from Cape town to Europe in 6 or 12 months) this is a great place to stop to get a understanding of the Swazi history, culture and tradition. Learn from how the huts are built and what each is used for, to the role played by the sangoma, or traditional healer. Among the huts you will meet the villagers, including women preparing food, plaiting grass and making traditional beadwork, all for sale. At a small showground behind the village a dance troop performs traditional Sibhaca routines twice daily. It’s a lively show, comprising vigorous high-kicking, pulsating drumming and some rousing singing. As well as the Cultural Village, the reserve’s other attraction is Mantenga Falls, Swaziland’s largest waterfall by volume. The river tumbles over a rock shelf before cascading via a series of pools along the reserve’s southern boundary with Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.
NORTH WEST ESWATINI
The North West region of Eswatini (Swaziland) lies primarily in the highveld and is a beautiful landscape of dramatic rolling uplands. The impressive hills and winding river valleys form the eastern edge of South Africa’s Drakensberg escarpment and are topped by the country’s two highest peaks – Emlembe (1,862m) and Ngwenya (1,829m). Great way to enter Swaziland from South Africa coming from Nelspruit. The road winds steeply up and down into a spectacular valley, where the Nkomati river – Swaziland’s second largest – carves its winding way east across the top corner of the country towards the Indian Ocean. The small town of Pigss Peak sits among cool forestry plantations on the northern side, offering a convenient pit-stop between Nelspruit and Central Eswatini.
NORTH EAST ESWATINI
This region of Eswatini (Swaziland) is primarily lowveld with thorn bush, scattered mud-and- thatch villages, and blue hills lining the horizon. It seems a world away from the cool western highveld. There are few towns of any notable size, with the largest being Siteki on the western edge of the Lubombos, en route to the Mozambique border. Most overlanders come to this region of Eswatini because it is home to the country’s greatest number of nature/wildlife reserves including, Mlawula Nature reserve, Mbuluzi Game reserve and Hlane Royal National Park being the best known. All offer a wonderful wilderness and wildlife experiences including the Big Five
HLANE ROYAL NATIONAL PARK
This is Eswatini’s (Swaziland’s) largest protected area and extends either side of the main road. today the company Big Game Parks manages Hlane on behalf of the King. Among a wealth of wildlife reintroduced to its former home, elephant, white rhino, lion and leopard all occur. The rhino and elephant often visit the waterhole at Ndlovu (our favourite campsite), while lions – the emblem of royal Eswatini – occupy a separate fenced area, where you can see them while exploring the area. Leopards are more elusive, as are spotted hyenas, whose whooping calls blend with the roars of the lions at night. Giraffe, zebra and hippos are among the other large mammals, while antelope include abundant impala, plus kudu, wildebeest and waterbuck.
SOUTH EAST ESWATINI
As with the North East, this region of Eswatini (Swaziland) lies largely in the lowveld. There is only scattered settlement, with one large town of note, Big Bend. This corner of the country is home to two game reserves, one of which is widely regarded as Eswatini’s best named Mkhaya Game reserve.
MKHAYA GAME RESERVE
Mkhaya Game Reserve, a private reserve, located between Manzini and Big Bend, it is a sanctuary for endangered species and home to other large mammals that once roamed Eswatini freely. White rhinos are common and black rhinos, though more elusive, are still often seen. You should also find giraffe, zebra, hippo and warthog, plus Eswatini’s only herd of buffalo. Roan, sable and tsessebe are among the rarer antelope, with wildebeest, kudu, impala and nyala all abundant. Leopards are only occasional visitors, but you may hear spotted hyenas at night and crocodiles are often seen lounging around the main waterhole. For the not so fainthearted tracking rhinos on foot at Mkhaya is as thrilling as anywhere in Africa. White rhinos are generally approachable, and the guides may take you extremely close. Black rhinos are more nervous and aggressive, so tracking them can be an adrenaline-charged affair.
SOUTH WEST ESWATINI
The magnificent rolling highveld uplands of South West Eswatini (Swaziland) extend west over the border into South Africa and are cut by the Great Usuthu, the country’s largest river which flows east across the region. This region is perhaps the least visited region in Eswatini, much of its traffic being in transit. The region’s dramatic and beautiful scenery is truly stunning, wild and makes this an untouched wilderness area. And in the far south, Mahamba Gorge has trails through some impressive scenery.
NSANGWINI ROCK ART
This is a unique and historic site high above the Komati River, and the best preserved site of rock art by the ancient San people. The site is over 4,000 years old, and is run and maintained by the local Nsangwini community.
Located in Siteki. A fantastic community-based craft market where vendors compete good-naturedly to bring the very best in Swazi craftsmanship to visitors. It has become a flagship project for joint community entrepreneurship.
Eswatini is divided into four climatic regions: the Highveld, Middleveld, Lowveld and Lubombo plateau. The seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere with December being mid-summer and June mid-winter. Generally speaking, rain falls mostly during the summer months, often in the form of thunderstorms
Winter is the dry season. Annual rainfall is highest on the Highveld in the west, between 1,000 and 2,000 mm on average. The further east, the less rain, with the Lowveld recording 500 to 900 mm per annum.
Variations in temperature are also related to the altitude of the different regions. The Highveld temperature is temperate and seldom uncomfortably hot, while the Lowveld may record temperatures around 40 °C]
Summer: 15 degrees at night to 30 degrees during the day
Winter: 5 degrees at night to 23 degrees during the day.
Rainfall: Oct to March
SUMMER: 20 degrees at night to 35 degrees during the day
WINTER: 8 degrees at night to 30 degrees during the day
Rainfall: Nov to January
Summer: 22 degrees at night to 45 degrees during the day
Winter: 8 degrees at night to 33 degrees during the day
Rainfall: October to February
PART 2, BLOG, PICTURES & GALLERY 2016
Having spend a few weeks in Swaziland during our overland travel in 2010 this time we just concentrated at the highlights. Heavy rain continued just after we left Kruger national park. Overnight stop in Nelspruit for shopping. Before heading up the mountain from Barbeton to Pigg’s Peak in Swaziland via the small border-post Josefsdal. Second gear was all the truck managed most of the time. From the Swaziland border the road disappeared and we had to follow logging tracks as the main track was being build/upgraded. By now the rain was pelting down making the tracks very slippery. (some also very steep) The terrain we crossed on the logging tracks varied from 500 meters to 1600 meters hence some long steep and slippery climbs.
The Kingdom of Swaziland a tiny country that has unique and ancient traditions. The kingdom of Swaziland is one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies. The king rules by decree over his million subjects, most of whom live in the countryside and follow traditional ways of life. Many Swazis work in South Africa and send their earnings home. According to UNICEF Swaziland has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. The HIV-Aids virus has killed countless Swazis who have left behind thousands of orphans. Some 210,000 people, out of a population of 1.2 million, are estimated to be living with HIV.The Swazi people are a single ethnic group of several clans who are united under one monarch. Swaziland is the last country in Africa with a Monarch. 3 reasons for our visit
- Lively and colourful culture relaxed and friendly people
- Mlilwana Wild Life Sanctuary
- Hlana Royal National Park
PART 3, BLOG, PICTURES & GALLERY 2010
Early start for the drive to Mlilwane Nature Reserve in Swaziland. Quite a queue at the border but both South African and Swaziland side went quickly without any hassles. (Lavumisa/Golela border post) This time we did not get our Carnet stamped so we are hoping it will be okay. Reason 1: We will be entering South Africa again. Reason 2: No one asked for the Carnet at customs or police at the Swaziland border and we gather once we leave no one cares. Reason 3: We need the 25 pages of the Carnet to get to Europe so why waste pages?
If we are wrong, I suppose we will find out at the Mozambique border. Swaziland customs has no computers so you have to fill in all your details on an A4 sheet, and in a book. The counter was full with the personal details of the 100 people in front of me for all to see and copy! I wonder just what happens to all this information and paperwork. When we were 20km past the border, we came across a police road block. They were checking for vehicle defects. However all the police were more interested in where we were from. “Australia! That is a long way, how did you get here?” One of the police officers asked. “Can the truck also be used as a boat? Wow that is great” he said with a big smile. The conversation then went something like this. “Is this your license?” (International License) “Yes,” I replied. “Is this an Australian license?” “Yes,” I replied. “It is very big.” “Yes, Australia is big.” I Said. “Are your lights working?” With another yes from me he then said, “Okay, enjoy your stay in Swaziland.” By now, there were 15 police officers trying to work out how this thing (our truck) could float. However, as always, the people are nice, friendly and helpful. As we continued we traveled through rural Swaziland. It never stops to amaze us how the women can carry 25ltr of water on their heads, or a pile of wood? We turned left just past Big Bend on our way to Mliliwane Nat Reserve in Ezulwini. This is the oldest nature reserve in Swaziland. It has a wonderful atmosphere and offers camping. At night traditional dances are organized and it has a campsite very close to the Hippo Pool, that is loaded with crocodiles! This reserve does not have the big five but zebra, warthogs and nyala’s wander freely around the campsite. I organized some good fire wood to be delivered for the huge sum of $ 3.00. That includes chopping it up. Time for a beer. For those who never camp, it may not mean much, but after a day in the bush, to sit down with the camp fire roaring, a cold beer and while in Africa, sitting and staring at wild life, IT WON’T GET ANY BETTER! We were off to the village of Mantenga where the local people allow you to visit their homes and you really get involved in local life. We learned about traditional Medicine and met the Medicine man. We travelled through the Ezulwini Valley (Valley of Heaven) and saw many villagers going about their daily life. Like in Zulu Land and also in Lesotho, the women do all the hard work.
They even carry a crate of beer on their head from the shops! This area also has many roadside markets where we did cheap shopping. Like everywhere, the place has a real buzz. In the afternoon we drove the short distance to Hlane Royal Nat Park near Simunye. After getting the camp permit we were given a mud map and were off to find the BIG 4 (no buffalo). After 3 hours and getting ourselves lost on some very rough 4X4 tracks, we had only seen impala, nyala, wildebeest, zebra and hippos. Funny enough, on the way in we saw elephants along the highway, but never stopped as we were going to photograph them in the park, so we thought. We found our camp just on dark, (thank God for our good GPS which is loaded with 4X4 Tracks for Africa), lit a fire, had dinner, counted stars and satellites and quickly, all the hassles from the afternoon were forgotten. And while I am typing this blog, we are enjoying a huge storm with lots of lighting and thunder. It has been a very hot day and the storm has cooled things down.
Most people have Swaziland on the itinerary as a flying visit or a short cut to Kruger National park, but the country deserves a longer stay.
PART 4, VIDEO CLIPS
1. Swaziland now called Eswatini
2. Compilation Africa & The Middle East
- Swaziland, now called Eswatini
2. Compilation Africa & The Middle East