The best must do Swaziland adventures
Swaziland’s terrain changes dramatically, from among the world’s most ancient fertile valleys, to sweeping hills, cascading waterfalls, and great buttresses of prehistoric rock. And, altogether it presents us with a stagy and emotional landscape equation!
Travelling through Swaziland, visitors continuously discover uninterrupted scenery along their journey. And although a tiny country, it has by contrast built a gigantic reputation. Notably, because of its grand adventures and warm affection received by locals!
However, the thrills on offer are not always for the faint-at-heart. Some visitors may truly need to up their level of ballsy attitude! But, if the chilling thrills are not for you, perhaps allow the neighbourly Swazi’s to take your hand through their captivating cultural heritage. This nation is all that’s best about Africa in one small but perfectly formed and welcoming country.
FIND THE THRILLS
- Adventure Caving
- White water rafting
- Fly with ziplining
- Hiking & 4×4 Trails
- Head into the hills horse back or MTB
FIND THE CULTURE
- Mantenga Nature Reserve
- Swazi Candles
- Sunday Lunch at Foresters Arms
- Ngwenya Glass
- Shewula Community Project
- Nsangwini Rock Art and Maguga Dam for lunch
GETTING TO KNOW SWAZILAND
Swaziland Reserves and Gorges:
- Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
- Hlane Royal National Park
- Mkhaya Game Reserve
- Phophoyane Nature Reserve
- Nyonyane Mountain
- Mahamba Gorge
- Ngwempisi Gorge
- Sibebe Rock
Find the thrills
Those who want to get beneath the surface of Swaziland – literally – could try adventure caving. It explores a unique cave system where you will walk, climb, crawl, slither, body-jam and scramble! And, bats, crickets, spiders and other endemic cave creatures light up in visitors headlamp beams. The granite cave system is 98% unexplored! Formed by the Kophola River that flows underground between Msunduza and Kophola Mountains, just off the Malagwane Hill between Mbabane and theEzulwini Valley.
White water Rafting
This is a remote and inspiring stretch of river. Its brown waters thunder through clefts and gorges, alternating with calmer stretches of bush and grazing land. You can expect fine views of rural Swaziland, with imposing rock formations, riverbank community life, and a fair amount of wildlife. Trips are run by Swazi Trails on the Bulungapoort section of the Usutu River, between Sidvokodvo and Siphofaneni, in the centre of Swaziland.
Fly with ziplining
Malolotaja Nature Reserve is home to Swaziland’s first Tree Top Canopy Tour. This is located in the Sihlotswane Gorge, where one 50m suspension bridge and 11 wooden platforms have been ingeniously affixed to the steep sides. Participants fly through the gorge by ziplining down on a steel cable from platform to platform high above over the forest. Some lines are more than 300m long.
Hiking & 4×4 Trails
There are paths and trails in many locations across the country allowing for hikes from a couple of hours to many days in duration. These give access to places and views that are inaccessible by vehicle.
Whenever a lodge or hotel in Swaziland offers a tour of a more rural area, or reserve, it will be by 4×4 due to the nature of the roads and tracks. For dedicated off-road enthusiasts, there are also several unofficial 4×4 routes around Swaziland that give wonderful opportunities to see the less accessible parts of the country. All off-road driving must follow standard environmental guidelines.
Head into the hills on horse back or MTB
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is Swaziland’s pioneer conservation area and a beautiful; secluded sanctuary situated in the Kingdom’s Ezulwini Valley, ‘Valley of Heavens’. Stay in one of their traditional beehive villages whilst enjoying the sancturary’s nature.
Take the dirt roads by horse or mountain bike from the plains into the scenic western mountains, with a side of gentle game viewing.
FIND THE CULTURE
Mantenga Nature Reserve
Situated in the Ezulwini Valley stay at Mantega Lodge where you can admire the reserve’s exquisite surroundings such as the majestic Mantenga Waterfall. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to partake in some of Swaziland’s key cultural activities. Take a visit to Mantenga Cultural Village where you can learn to dance like a local and explore a traditional Swaziland village.
Exquisitely crafted candles come from the Swazi Candle Factory, near Malkerns where craftsmen work their magic with coloured wax. This craft market is not only the location for Swazi Candles but also features a number of other arts and crafts shops, example:
- Baobab Batik (where wax is used to make patterns on fabrics used for clothing and other items),
- Rosecraft (hand-woven mohair items are for sale),
- Kwazi Swazi (various memorabilia and books are for sale) and
- Amarasti & Swazi Creations (locally produced bags, baskets and pillowcases are sold.)
Sunday Lunch at Foresters Arms
Cosy up by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate at Foresters Arms Luxury Country Lodge, situated a short distance from Swaziland’s Capital, Mbabane. Idyllically set, this lodge has all the warmth and charm of a European inspired getaway and is centrally located for all of the Kingdom’s top activities and adventures. Enjoy their infamous Sunday feast with a plethora of locals, South Africans on a day trip and international guests.
In operation for more than 23 years, the Ngwenya Glass factory has become one of the most popular tourist spots in Swaziland. On weekdays, visitors have the opportunity to witness the art of glassblowing first hand. A showroom, where the glass items can be purchased, is on the property. All of the items are made of 100% recycled glass. There is also a craft centre featuring a number of shops that sell locally made products and curios.
Shewula Community Project
The Shewula Mountain Camp is the first community eco-tourism project in Swaziland. And, it is also one of the most successful in the whole of southern Africa. The camp is fully owned and run by the community, meaning that all profits are shared by the community in an effort to continually develop and improve this impoverished area. The camp is a vital source of income and employment for the community and is a proud achievement for all.
The camp has been in operation since 2000 and is ideal for cultural tourists, families, nature lovers, backpackers and those simply looking for a getaway from the bustle of city life. While at the camp guests will:
- be enamored with the cultural music and dance,
- dazzled by the gorgeous sunsets,
- relaxed by the spectacular nature walks, and
- challenged by a mountain bike trip around the plateau.
Nsangwini Rock Art and Maguga Dam for lunch
The Nsangwini Rock Shelter is the largest example of San art in the country. It is said to provide the most comprehensive display in Swaziland. 4000 Years ago, the San people used this Highveld area for spiritual rituals and for recording iconic moments in their lives through etchings on the ancient rocks. The paintings are remarkably clear, and informative interpretations are given by members of the Nsangwini community, who manage and maintain the site.
GETTING TO KNOW SWAZILAND
Below is your guide to tall misty mountains to the west, and plains teeming with wildlife in the lowveld to the east — a true nature & cultural lover’s paradise.
The country has 17 protected areas and the Swaziland Game Reserves are home to a wide range of wildlife, including “Big 5”, “Little 5”, and everything in between.
Swaziland reserves and gorges:
Made up of the highveld, middleveld and lowveld. The middleveld is made up of the bush and the savannah. The lowveld is bush country sitting as low as 21m above sea level. Although much drier than the other areas, it is home to vast, heavily irrigated sugar estates.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Swaziland’s pioneer conservation area, is a beautiful and secluded sanctuary situated in Swaziland’s “Valley of Heaven”, the Ezulwini Valley. Visitors can explore the wildlife through the southern portion of the Sanctuary by foot, vehicle, on horseback, or on mountain bikes. Those who simply want to relax can sit back in the camps and enjoy the tranquility of nature.
Hlane Royal National Park is home to the largest herds of game in the Kingdom. Hlane covers 30 000 hectares of Swazi bushveld, dominated by ancient hardwood vegetation. This National Park is home to: lion, elephant and white rhino, with an abundant and diverse bird life, including the highest density of nesting white backed vultures in Africa.
In 1979, Mkhaya Game Reserve was established to save the pure Nguni breed of cattle from extinction and is a proclaimed Nature Reserve. Its focus has expanded over the years to include other endangered species such as black rhino, roan & sable antelope, tsessebe, white rhino, elephant and other locally endangered species.
In the north-west, near Piggs Peak, is the private Phophoyane Nature Reserve. Perched above the cascading Phophonyane Falls, this little reserve can rightly claim its title as Swaziland’s “Garden of Eden”.
Nyonyane Mountain is where ancient bushmen once lived. This is also where the Swazi royal graves are situated, which have an exposed granite peak known as the “Execution Rock.”
The Mahamba Gorge, which lies west of Nhlangano, offers excellent photographic opportunities, and no wonder. Giant hamerkop nests are found in the forest on the short, easy trail to the “beach” on the river banks.
Another beauty is the Ngwempisi River which has sliced its way through the sandstone and shale of the Ntfungulu Hills to create the Ngwempisi Gorge. Here flatlands and undulating hills range from a mere 50m to 800m above sea level.
One of Swaziland’s most amazing natural phenomenons is Sibebe Rock, the largest exposed granite pluton in the world. Although different in their geology, Sibebe Rock is second only to Ayers Rock in Australia as the largest freestanding rock in the world.
Along the eastern border, forming a natural barrier between Swaziland and Mozambique, is a line of rugged volcanic hills known as the Lubombos. These rise abruptly from the lowveld to about 600m. These hills are made up of a number of ridges broken by deep gorges where the Usutu, Ngwavuma and Mbuluzi rivers carve through to the Indian Ocean.