Eswatini, what to do and see
If you are travelling around the east side of South Africa, surely it’s worth visiting Eswatini. It is crossed by four major rivers, making it one of Africa’s most fertile countries. The Lubombo plateau is the main farming area, while rolling hills and pine forests cover much of the Highveld, Middleveld and Lowveld. Winter (June to August) is the best time to visit. Rain is most prevalent from October to May, but this can still be a pleasant time to visit as temperatures are mild and there’s plenty of sunshine.
During our 2 days trip throughout the country, we had a lovely stay visiting Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Manzini Market and Mkhaya Game Reserve.
1. Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
It was founded by Ted and Liz Reilly, who turned their 4.500-hectare family farm into a sanctuary after witnessing the disappearance of the area’s wildlife in recent years. It is 4.500 hectares divided into the southern and northern sections. The southern part is mainly open grasslands and plains stretching up to the beautiful Nyonyane Mountain, which has a breathtaking granite peak known as the “Rock of Execution”, while in the northern section, there is one of the highest points of Mlilwane, Luphohlo. The Mlilwane southern part offers an array of activities and adventures in the picturesque Ezulwini Valley. Here the freedom to explore the sanctuary is unique, and you can quickly get amongst zebra, warthog, wildebeest, nyala, blesbok, crocodile and different species of bird. Once at the Mlilwane Rest Camp reception, you can choose your activity among walking trails (the most beautiful is Hippo trail, 6.8 km, around 2.30 hours), mountain biking, horse riding, guided walks and games drive with 4×4 open vehicle or self-drive. The best way to enjoy Mlilwane Sanctuary is to have a night stay in one of the accommodations inside the park.
Website: click here
2. Mkhaya Game Reserve
It is an untouched wilderness in southeast Swaziland’s Lowveld region. Named after the Acacia nigrescens tree found in the Mkhaya Reserve, it is home to 4 of the Big 5, including Black Rhino. It’s possible to spot Swazi Nguni Breed of Cattle, Sable Antelope, Tsessebe, White Rhino, Elephant, Giraffe, Buffalo, Hippo, Crocodile, and different bird species. Mkhaya Reserve has some fenced areas to enable intense species management and the high security necessary for endangered species. Travelling inside the reserve is solely by open Land Rovers or on foot with guided walking safaris guaranteeing intimate encounters with wildlife. If you want to have an overnight or a day tour, it’s essential a prior reservation. You’ll meet your hosts at a pre-arranged pick-up point (pick up times are strictly around 10:00 and 16:00, usually at the gate or close to the main road), where you leave your car behind and jump in a jeep for the journey into the park. The unique semi-open accommodation inside the reserve is at Mkhaya Stone Camp.
Website: click here
3. Manzini Market
If you wish to get a real taste of an African market, it’s worth stopping in this colourful, authentic place with its many stalls selling fruit, vegetables, rice, roots, medicine, pots, tin stuff, clothes and others item. The upper section of a covered part, dated 1983, is packed with handicrafts from Swaziland and elsewhere in Africa. The market is along Manci Shane street in Manzini, and you can park your car there just by paying a small fee (there is a parking attendant along the road).
4. Hlane Royal National Park
If you have time, we highly recommend visiting the Hlane Royal National Park. Once the royal hunting ground, this fantastic park offers the great opportunity to see 4 of the “big five” (there’re no buffalos) and, nowadays, it’s one of the top parks for visitors to Eswatini. The wildlife in Hlane Royal NP includes lion, elephant, white rhino, giraffe and hippo, zebra, blue wildebeest, warthog and several species of antelopes.
Need to know about Eswatini
Where to sleep: around Ezulwini, you’ll find a wide range of accommodations. We slept at Sondzela Backpackers (they offer HB, and it’s inside Mlilwane Sanctuary. follow the sign once got the Rest Camp reception). You can also find several accommodations in Mbabane, the capital city.
Our itinerary: Driving through Swaziland is secure, and all the roads are in good condition.
Remember to check the opening time of the border posts. Usually, they open at 7.00 and close at 22.00.