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mapAfrica in a nutshell. It may be a cliché but there is no better way to describe

Swaziland. This tiny nation, one of Africa’s last monarchies, packs in an

extraordinary variety of riches. Nature lovers can track down rhinos in the wild

lowveld or seek out rare birds in the rugged highveld. Historians can visit the

world’s oldest known mine at Ngwenya or follow the colonial trail of the early

settlers. And culture vultures can thrill to the Umhlanga and other festivals, as

Swaziland celebrates its ancient traditions in spectacular style. Activities ranging

from horse riding and river rafting to golf and thermal spas offer excitement and


relaxation in equal measure. What’s more, Swaziland is friendly, safe and so

compact that nowhere is more than two hours’ easy drive from the capital. So

what are you waiting for? Africa’s most perfectly formed nation offers you a

warm Swazi welcome.



Swaziland’s landscapes take you by surprise. The kingdom appears a mere

postage stamp on the map, yet step inside and you’ll find vast, rugged

panoramas stretching away to every horizon. It owes this dramatic topography

to its location, perched on southern Africa’s eastern escarpment, where the

central plateau slopes away east towards the Indian Ocean. The country falls

into four distinct topographic regions. The western ‘highveld’ is a land of hills,

waterfalls and ancient rock, with a moist, temperate climate. Mbabane, the

capital, is located here, as is Swaziland’s most impressive nature reserve,

Malolotja. Descending eastwards, the undulating middleveld is Swaziland’s

agricultural and cultural heartland and home to Manzini, its second largest town.

Further east still, you reach the hot, dry lowveld, where the wild bush harbours

Swaziland’s major game reserves.



Finally, along the eastern border with Mozambique, stands a rugged line of

volcanic hills known as the Lubombos, home to remote communities and rare

wildlife. Swaziland’s rivers, including the Great Usuthu, the Nkomati and the

Mbuluzi, all flow east from the highlands towards the Indian Ocean. Their wild

gorges offer a siren call to any hiker who yearns to feel this wild land beneath

their feet.







Swaziland’s traditional culture fascinates visitors. The appeal is self-evident:

this tiny kingdom has managed to retain traditions that date back to

pre-colonial times and that, despite all the challenges of modernity, remain

fundamental to its cultural life. At its heart lies the monarchy, which binds the

nation together in festivals and celebration. The kingdom is not a living

museum, of course, but what you will see, the colour, costume and pageantry,

is the real deal, not some contrivance for the tourist industry. And such ritual

ceremonies as the Umhlanga, or reed dance, are among the most spectacular

of their kind on the continent. Look out for the red feathers of the ligwalala

or purple-crested turaco, which denote the royal status of the wearer.



swaziSwaziland’s cultural ceremonies are conducted on an impressive scale. The

most colourful is the Umhlanga, or reed dance, a sacred celebration of chastity

held in late August/early September at the royal kraal. Thousands of girls march

to collect reeds, which they present to the queen mother, and then join two days

of pageantry in front of the king. The Incwala, held in late December/early

January, celebrates kingship and the tasting of the first seasonal fruits. Royal

regiments collect water from the Indian Ocean while boys collect branches to

rebuild the royal kraal. The sacred rites take place in royal seclusion, while the

public joins the festivities outside. For a more modern celebration, Bushfire,

held every May at the unique performance venue House on Fire, is one of

southern Africa’s most exciting festivals of music and arts.




geldThe unit of currency in Swaziland is the Lilangeni - plural Emalangeni (E) - which is fixed to

the rand (1 Rand = 1 Lilangeni). South African Rands are accepted everywhere and there’s no

need to change them. In fact, some outside tourist areas will only accept the South African

notes. Emalangeni are difficult to exchange for other currencies outside Swaziland, so you

should reconvert before you leave



Pigg's Peak


The greater Pigg’s Peak is found in the Northern parts of the country. With a long and interesting history, the town

is most famous for it's gold deposits, first recorded in modern times in about 1872. Gold was mined until 1954 but

although initially successful, the venture never really took off. Pigg made his fortune not in bacon but gold,

after discovering a reef in the nearby hills in 1884. His ‘peak’ was the nearby summit of Emlembe, Swaziland’s

highest mountain. As mining developed in the region, first gold and then asbestos, so the intersection of the

Bulembu supply road with the Mbabane–Matsamo corridor became a local hub, offering services to settlers. This

was the origin of today’s town, and also it's entry route for tourists. 


The nearby Peak Fine Craft Centre has diverse and interesting shops that are well worth a visit. They offer high

quality locally produced craft items and there is a restaurant with spectacular views over the area. Located

midway between Mbabane and the Kruger, it makes a convenient pit stop, with shops, banks, and filling stations

and other basic amenities, and a good base from which to explore the northwest.


Today forestry is the main industry, but since the development of Maguga Dam, tourism has grown significantly in

the area. The road is the main route into Swaziland from the world-famous Kruger National Park, making the

hotels and lodges in the area ideal stopovers for visitors. Piggs Peak is located 65km north of Mbabane by road

and 40km south of the South Africa border at Matsamo, from either of which it is an easy straightforward drive on

the MR1.


Phophonyane Nature Reserve


swaziThe nature reserve is part of the 600 ha Phophonyane Conservancy in the

mountainous north-west of Swaziland. It falls within the Barberton Centre of

Endemism, an area of global biodiversity significance. It occurs in the

middleveld, where biodiversity is increasingly under risk from forestry and

smallholder agriculture. The central feature of the reserve is the

Phophonyane Falls, a series of cascades and waterfalls which stretches

for 3 kilometres and bisects the reserve along the geologically remarkable

Phophonyane Shear Zone. The shear zone is the boundary between two

continental blocks representing different environments within the earth’s

crust. The boundary runs parallel to the Phophonyane River and separates

the Barberton Greenstone Belt from the Ancient Gneiss complex.

These rocks are some of the oldest rocks in the world and range from 3.2 to 3.55 billion years old. The other main

features of the reserve are the dramatic python cliffs which are formed of a large granite outcrop and the Mbevane

Falls and stream which are flanked by an impressive riverine forest. There is a network of well-maintained trails

which lead to spectacular view points that sweep away to the Gobolondo and Makhonjwa mountain ranges and

the distant horizon.


The flora and fauna of the reserve are characterized by a high level of biodiversity. More than 400 species of trees

and 250 species of birds are found in the reserve and numerous species of mammals and reptiles. Among the

mammals found in the reserve are bushbuck, vervet monkey, bushbaby, red duiker, bush pig, cape clawless otter,

civet, caracal and serval.


The riverine forest is made up of large forest fever trees (Anthocleista), Matumi (Breonadia salicina), Waterberry

(syzygium cordatum), and the Natal and Transvaal milkplums. Eight orchid species have been identified in the

forest. The area is also abundant with many different types of wildlife, including birdlife. The waterfalls are flanked

by large stands of euphorbia, aloe aborescens and the strange copper stem corkwood (commiphora harveyi)

which grows on the steep shaded slopes.


Maguga Dam


damA short distance South of Piggs Peak is Maguga Dam, a major development on

the Komati River that has been responsible for the growth in the area’s

agricultural activity. The scenic loop road that leads to the dam also hosts a

community-initiated viewsite that provides fantastic views over the vast

expanse of water. The View Point restaurant is also a short distance away

providing a great vista of the spillway. Also at Maguga is the unique

community based Craft Outlet, where local crafters come to market their

goods, and is one of the best examples of local craftsmanship in the country.

The dam itself is becoming a tourist destination in its own right, with several

entrepreneurs gearing up for watersports and leisure developments on the

banks of the river. Maguga Dam Craft outlet is just one of the community tourism

projects in Swaziland.


Ezulwini Valley


swaziThe Ezulwini Valley is the Kingdom’s main tourist area offering a wealth of

attractions. Ezulwini means ‘place of heaven’, and the valley that bears this

name certainly has its share of hedonistic delights. This is where tourism in

Swaziland began, and today its attractions include hotels, restaurants, hot

springs, casinos, craft markets, art galleries, riding stables, a nature reserve,

a golf course and a cultural village. Most visitors pass this way, and those

who spend just one night in the kingdom will probably spend it here.

The valley has no convenient road signs to demarcate where it begins and

ends. It is generally understood to extend from the bottom of the Malagwane

Hill southeast along the MR103 as far as the Lusushwana River, where the latter

crosses the road just west of Lobamba, and is bordered by the Luphohlo/Lugogo Mountains to the west and the

Mdzimba Mountains to the east. Some extend this definition to encompass Lobamba, Mlilwane and indeed the

entire length of the MR103 as far as Matsapha. The valley road quickly became a quieter tributary, used more by

locals and visitors than truck drivers and commuters. This was good news for tourists, who can now explore it in

a more leisurely fashion.


Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary


mlilSome 132 species of mammal have been recorded in Swaziland. High on the wish

list of most visitors are such ‘charismatic megafauna’ as rhinos, giraffes and

elephants and you can certainly see many of these in Swaziland, alongside a

number of predators. Big cats are relatively rare in Swaziland. The only lions to be

seen are in an area of Hlane Royal National Park. Whilst there are leopard in the

country, they are as elusive here as anywhere and rarely seen. Likewise smaller cats

such as serval and caracal they are around but not often seen.



The most widespread predator is the jackal, with hyena’s also to be seen, and a variety of mongooses. Of the

largest mammals, rhino are Swaziland’s big draw, with Mkhaya Game Reserve offering some of the best black and

white rhino viewing in Africa. Elephants and hippos are easily seen in a few locations, as are giraffe, buffalo and

zebra. Antelope are numerous and varied across Swaziland and the country is home to everything from the

massive eland, through kudu, wildebeest, nyala and roan, to blesbok, tsessebe, reedbuck, oribi and duiker.

Primates are limited to the chacma baboon , two species of monkey, and the charming greater bushbaby which

pay nightly visits to Reilly’s Rock in Mlilwane.


For traditional African big game viewing, Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve are the best

places in Swaziland. Both are home to a variety of big mammals, including elephant, hippo, giraffe, zebra and

rhino. Mkhaya is one of the best places on the continent to see both black and white rhino and Hlane is also home

to everyone’s favourite big cat the lion. Numerous antelope, predators and smaller mammals are also found in

both places.


Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary has a similarly diverse offering of fauna, though without the biggest of the animals

except for hippos. The Swaziland National Trust Commission Reserves of Mlawula and Malolotja and the privately

run Mbuluzi are also generally without major predators and the largest of the mammals, although Mbuluzi has

giraffe and Malolotja the magnificent eland and all three have the usual diversity of antelope and smaller

mammals. This allows visitors to explore the reserves rich biodiversity often without being accompanied by a

guide, providing a unique wilderness experience.