KINGDOM OF ESWATINI
Population: 1.1 million people
Language: Swati, English
Currency: Lilangeni (SZL)
The Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) is one of the most underrated and least visited destinations in South Africa. This small state is full of attractions, adventures and legendary wildlife. Due to the variety of landscapes in parks and reserves, you experience one exciting revelation after another, whether it be a cable car, trekking, rafting or mind-blowing encounters with wild animals.
The world’s last absolute monarchy reigns in Eswatini. There are still many unchanging traditions here, dating back hundreds of years. The most revered are the sacred Inkwala ceremony and the Umhlanga reed dance.
You can witness them and show your respect for the Swazi culture.
This leisurely nation lacks the “big city bustle” felt in the neighboring states of South Africa.
Visiting national parks is the main holiday feature in the kingdom. Thanks to the continuous conservation of wildlife, meetings with representatives of the local fauna will be unforgettable. Mkhaya Nature Reserve has perhaps the best chance to spot a rhinoceros on the entire continent – some of them can even walk with you on foot. Another outstanding reserve is Mlywane, where you can ride a horse and, if you wish, get lost in a herd of antelopes, wildebeests and zebras.
How to get here
King Mswati III International Airport operates daily flights from neighboring South Africa (Johannesburg and Durban) and Mozambique (Maputo). The cost of a flight to Mbabane from Johannesburg is $ 140-160, from Durban – $ 80-100, from Maputo – $ 50-70 (one way).
Direct bus service is provided by Baz Bus. Regular flights to Mbabane operate from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban.
In addition to buses, Eswatini is connected to South Africa by numerous shuttle minibuses that run as they fill up with passengers. The fare from Johannesburg to Mbabane is $ 15 (4 hours on the way), to Maputo (Mozambique) – $ 4 (3 hours on the way). The main traffic flow between Eswatini and Mozambique goes through the Namaacha border crossing.
When crossing the border via Goba, 80 km south of Naamachi, keep in mind that there will be no public transport on the Mozambican side of the border. You will have to hitchhike to Maputo, which can take an unpredictable time.
Most people choose to travel with their rented cars through numerous border crossings from South Africa.
An unforgettable experience
- Freeze in a daze watching a dozen rhinos swim, relax and have a drink near one of the many secluded ponds in Mkaya Geim, where gold and silver coins are thrown.
- Spot zebras, eland antelopes, warthogs and many other animals on a short walk, day hike or challenging multi-day trail through the rugged mountainous terrain of the Malolotzha Nature Reserve (a 10-story cable car ride is a must).
- Become a spectator of the Umhlanga Dance Festival, one of the most significant cultural events, held at the normally no-entry royal residence of Elujigini, near Lobamba.
Duration: 1 week
- Take at least one day to explore the country’s largest conservation area, Lane’s Royal National Park, and watch lions, leopards, rhinos and elephants on your safari.
- Continue your adventure in the Mkaya Geim Nature Reserve.
- Fight the turbulent waters of the great Usuutu River while rafting.
- Search for handcrafted traditional Swazi jewelry at the Manzini Market or the Malkerns Valley.
- Enjoy a relaxing horseback ride or mountain bike safari at the Mlywane Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Go on foot or by cable car up the mountains to the Malolotzha Nature Reserve.
When to go
In the Kingdom of Eswatini, there are two seasons – dry: from April to October, and rainy: from December to April. Tourists most often come in August and September.
The main parks of the country operate all year round.
In September, the Umhlanga dance festival is held during which the king will choose another wife for himself. Every year this holiday gathers thousands of tourists from all over the world. It is almost impossible to book a hotel at this time.
The dry season (from May to September) is perfect for safaris. At this time, a drought sets in, accompanied by a minimum number of water sources that attract congregations of wild animals, and a decrease in deciduous cover, which is why the bushes are thinning.
Currency exchange in the kingdom does not present any difficulties – currency can be exchanged at banks, specialized exchange offices, hotels and at the airport. Some major banks accept travelers’ checks. Credit cards (Mastercard, Visa and American Express) can only be used in the capital.
The lilangeni course is tied to the South African rand, which is widespread and accepted for payment in almost all institutions. Moreover, the rand is also preferable in many cases as it is a freely convertible currency.
When leaving Eswatini, do not forget to exchange the remainder of the local currency, as it is almost impossible to exchange lilangeni outside the state.
You can familiarize yourself with the pricing policy below:
Useful phone numbers
General Directorate of Immigration: (268) 2404-29-41
Tourism Department: (268) 2416-21-80
Emergency call: (268) 2404-89-11
Ambulance: (268) 7606-09-11
Fire department: (268) 2404-33-33 or 93