Swaziland, what to do
If you are traveling around the east side of South Africa, surely it’s worth visiting Swaziland. 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 my 2 days trip throughout the country, I had a nice stay visiting Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Manzini Market and Mkhaya Game Reserve.
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 in southern and northern section. The southern section is mainly open grasslands and plains stretching up to the beautiful Nyonyane Mountain which has a breathtaking granite peak which is known as the “Rock of Execution”while in the northern section there is one of the highest points of Mlilwane, Luphohlo. The Mlilwane southern section offers an array of activities and adventures in the picturesque Ezulwini Valley. Here the freedom to explore the sanctuary is unique and you can easily get amongst zebra, warthog, wildebeest, nyala, blesbuk, crocodile and different species of bird. Once at the reception of the Mlilwane Rest Camp, 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
Mkhaya game reserve: it is an untouched wilderness in southeast Swaziland’s Lowveld region. Named after the Acacia nigrescens tree found in the reserve, 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 species of bird. Mkhaya Reserve has a number of fenced area to enable intense species management and the high security necessary for endangered species. Travel in 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
Manzini Market: if you wish to get a real taste of an African market, it’s worth stopping in this colorful 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 paying a small fee (there is a parking attendant along the street).
Where to sleep: around Ezulwini you’ll find a wide range of accommodations. I slept at Sondzela Backpackers (they offer HB and it’s inside Mlilwane Sanctuary. Just follow the sign once got the Rest Camp reception). You can also find several accommodations in Mbabane, the capital city.
My itinerary: Driving through Swaziland is easy and all the roads are in good condition.
- 1° day: Nelspruit – Jeppes Reef border – Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary (around 12.30)
- 2° day: Mlilwane – Manzini Market (7.45 am to 8.30 am) – Mkhaya game reserve (from 10.00 to 16.00) – Golela Border – Hluhluwe
Remember to check the opening time of the border posts , usually they open at 7.00 and close at 22.00.