Swaziland April 29-30
1. Gas is about R2.50 cheaper in Swaziland.
2. The South African Wild Card is good for all the Swaziland national parks.
3. It is a frustrating place to drive. there are few directional signs at intersections. Like in South Africa, commercial signs replicate the National Park Signs which are very few. There are way too many speed bumps, often 5 in a row away form any pedestrian zones.
Motto: “We are a fortress”, “We are a mystery/riddle”, “We hide ourselves away”
Capital. Lobamba (royal / legislative), Mbabane (administrative) 26°19′S 31°8′E
Largest city. Mbabane
Official languages. Swazi, English
Government. Unitary parliamentaryabsolute diarchy, King Mswati III
Independence from the United Kingdom 6 September 1968
Area. Total 17,364 km2 (6,704 sq mi) (157th), Water (%) 0.9
Population. 2015 estimate 1,119,000 (154th), 2007 census 1,018,449; Density 68.2/km2 (176.6/sq mi) (135th)
GDP (PPP). 2016 estimate Total $11.061 billion, Per capita $9,768; GDP (nominal). 2016 estimate Total $3.430 billion. Per capita $3,029
Gini. (2015) 49.5 high
HDI. (2014) 0.53 low · 150th
Time zone. SAST (UTC+2)
Drives on the left
Money. South African rand, Swazi lilangeni (SZL) which is fixed at a value equal to the South Africa rand. Rand are accepted everywhere. Emalangeni are difficult to change for other currencies outside Swaziland.
Most ATMs accept credit and debit cards. Banks exchange money.
Tipping is done by rounding up the bill.
VISAS. Most people don’t need a visa to visit Swaziland. For those that do, obtain them in advance from the Swaziland High Commission in Pretoria.
Extensions are necessary if staying for longer than 30 days.
Entering Swaziland from South Africa or Mozambique is generally hassle free. Need a passport but no vaccination certificates unless you have recently been in a yellow fever area.
WHY GO? Wildlife, rafting, mountain biking, local culture, hiking, mountains. The last true monarchy in Africa. Excellent roads.
WHEN TO GO?
Jan-Apr. Hot, lush vegetation, full rivers.
Feb-Mar. Buganu season – home brew marula wine.
May-Sept. Cooler, winter foliage, good wildlife viewing in lowlands.
We elected to cut across to the Swaziland border from Volkrust and cross the border east of Piet Retief. The road from here to the border was full of potholes. There were no issues at either border. We were stopped at a police check right after the border – they checked for a driver’s license and that all the lights worked on the car. The road into Swaziland was excellent.
We arrived at 7:30 at Legend Backpackers in the Ezulwini Valley (just behind the Gables Shopping Center), SE of Mbabane. They had lots of dorm space, when none would have been available in South Africa, on this the last weekend of the holidays.
EZULWINI VALLEY. Begins outside Mbabane and extends past Lobamba.
Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Private Reserve near Lobamba. Easily accessible. Dominated by Nyonyane Peak. Good walks. Zebras, giraffes, warthogs, antelope, crocodiles, hippos, birds. Access was from a few kms west of the hostel. We drove through and saw wildebeest and various antelopes, but there was not much around. There were no hippos at the dam.
White water rafting on the Usutu River. Grade IV. A woman at the hostel did this and it was fairly tame.
Lobamba. Has Embo State Palace – British built royal palace. Royal Kraal – Incwala ceremony (sacred Swazi ceremony where king gives permission to eat the first crops of the New Year) and Umhiang (reed) dance (week-long ball fro marriageable young Swazi women and showcase of potential wives for the king – on 6th day, the young women perform the Umhiang dance wearing red feathers in their hair). National Museum.
Mantenga Nature Reserve. Living Swazi Cultural Village. Sibhaca dance, Mantega Falls.
MBABANE (pop 100,000, elev. 1247m)
Capital city. Nondescript without much to see or do. We drove through both ways on the way to and from Sibebe Rock.
Sibebe Rock. Massive, sheer granite dome, 8kms NE of Mbabane. Nontechnical climb. Largest granite dome in the world. Mark climbed up in about 35 minutes return. Fee R30.
Malolotja Nature Reserve. True wilderness midveld/highveld – mountains and high-altitude grassland to forest cut by 3 rivers. Excellent bird watching.
Bulembu. Originally an asbestos mine, by 2003 was a ghost town with 100 residents. Buildings being renovated. Climb Emiembe Peak (1863m), the highest peak in Swaziland.
Hlane Royal NP. Low-key wildlife – white rhinos, antelope, elephants, lions. After following the vague signs, we actually found the entrance. But contrary to being a paved through road on the map, it was a one-way return dirt road, it was raining and the ranger thought there would be little to see, so we drove onto the border crossing.
All the roads in Swaziland have been excellent.
Mlawula Nature Reserve. Antelope, hyenas and crocodiles. Birds. Walks along plateaus, caves and waterfall.
Mkhaya Game Reserve. Private reserve to breed Nguni breed of cattle and extended to include antelopes, elephants and white and black rhinos. Must book in advance and stay in Stone Camp (2210/night including wildlife drives, walking safaris – do as day trip so only pay for safaris?).
Cross border into S Africa at Mananga (close to Komatipoort, SA on Mozambique border. I had originally wanted to go into Mozambique to stay one night, but the visa costs and lack of time made it an easy decision to not go. We would have also had to find a secure place to store the car.