The tiny mountainous Kingdom of Swaziland, sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique, more than makes up for its lack of size, with a hugely diverse range of attractions and activities. African culture and traditions flourish here alongside some modern luxury hotels and excellent wildlife reserves across the country that are home to The Big-5.
Swaziland's absolute monarchy is one of only three remaining in Africa. The country is ruled by King Mswati III and his family, who preside over traditional ceremonies like the Reed Dance and First Fruits Ceremony. Swazi life is focused on tradition and centres on the homestead, many of which are polygamous and continue to observe traditional rites and customs.
Swaziland is also known for its exquisite arts and crafts and its breath-taking scenery, especially its western highlands.
USEFUL TRAVEL INFO
Best time to visit
A year-round treat, but the best time for wildlife viewing is from May to September, when dry winter conditions bring animals to the water holes.
Time: GMT +2.
Electricity: Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. The plug type used is a 15-amp round, three-pin plug as used in South Africa.
Language: The official languages are Siswati and English.
Money: The official currency is the Lilangeni (SZL), plural Emalangeni, which is equal to 100 cents. The South African Rand is also accepted as legal tender. American Express, Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted. Visa ATM machines are available in the main towns.
Communications: The country is covered by a GSM 900 mobile network, and an Internet service provider is active. Public telephones are well distributed through the towns and villages.
Health & Safety
Travellers arriving in Swaziland within six days of having been in a yellow fever infected area require a vaccination certificate. Hepatitis A, rabies, polio and typhoid vaccinations are recommended, as are malaria prevention measures for those visiting the lowland areas. Bilharzia exists in some rivers, and cholera outbreaks occur. There is an extremely high HIV/AIDS infection rate and all precautions should be taken. Mains water in hotels and towns is safe to drink and food, including dairy products, presents no risk. Medical facilities are poor in the country, but the tourist hotels offer private services for minor problems. Serious cases can be transported to South Africa for treatment. Medical insurance is recommended.
The crime rate is low, and most visits are trouble free. It is wise, however, to take precautions against theft, and avoid travelling by road at night as there is a danger of hijacking.
Visa & Passports
No visas are required, for touristic or business-related stays of up to 30 days for USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and South African Nationals.
All visitors require a passport, tickets and documents for return or onward travel, and sufficient funds to cover the stay. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after intended date of departure.
Airports in Swaziland
King Mswati III (SHO)
The airport is situated 31 miles (51km) north west of Manzini.
TOP REASONS TO VISIT
People & Culture
A tiny country with a big heart and warm, friendly people. Visitors can get a better idea of traditional African culture here than pretty much anywhere else in the region, and what is seen, including spectacular festivals and energetic dances, has not simply been resuscitated for the tourist dollar but is the real deal. The famous Umhlanga (Reed Dance) and Incwala are traditional ceremonies that involve tens of thousands of Swazis, and attract visitors from all over the world. But traditional attire, ceremonies and dancing are to be found throughout the country most times of the year.
The country is not large enough to offer lots of big game experiences, but it has some 17 protected areas which are home to a wide range of species, including the sought after Big-5. As well as being one of the best places on the continent for rhino safaris (on foot as well as by 4x4 and to see both black and white rhinos), Swaziland is also the perfect place to get to grips with many smaller creatures often overlooked on safari elsewhere, and it is a bird-watcher’s paradise.
Magnificent mountain scenery with rivers, waterfalls and gorges; unique rock formations which are among the world’s most ancient; lush and fertile valleys as well as typical African bush.
Arts & Crafts
See an impressive range of traditional arts and crafts with many of its products now found in trendy ethnic boutiques around world. Creative basket ware in vibrant colours, wood and stone carvings, glassware, exquisite candles, batik items and jewellery are all uniquely Swazi. There is also chance to see the craftspeople at work and marvel at their intricate skills. Many are socially responsible outlets which provide both income and empowerment for the poor rural communities.
Top Adventure Activities
Explore unique caves
Malolotaja Nature Reserve Tree Top Canopy Tours
Rock climbing & Abseiling
Tubing on the Ngwempisi river
White Water Rafting
Set in the lovely craggy Dlangeni Hills, Swaziland’s capital and second-largest city, Mbabane is a relaxed and functional place perched in the cool highveld. There’s a handful of good restaurants and places to stay, but for visitors the nearby Ezulwini and Malkerns Valleys have most of the attractions and, on the whole, a better choice of accommodation.
Where to Stay
Royal Swazi Spa
Set in the natural and tranquil Ezulwini Valley, the Royal Swazi Spa Valley Resort is made up of the elegant Royal Swazi Spa hotel and Lugogo Sun. The two hotels are a minute's drive apart when travelling by courtesy bus, which makes it the ideal venue for a host of special events, including large conferences, banquets and international golf championships.
Comfortable air-conditioned rooms and suites offer satellite TV and tea-and-coffee making facilities as well as en-suite bathrooms equipped with a hairdryer and complimentary toiletries.
Amenities include a Terrace, Restaurant and Bar, a fitness centre, steam baths, and a variety of treatments and massages.
One of the fine Swaziland hotels that make up the Royal Swazi Spa Valley resort. Located in the Ezulwini Valley, surrounded by mountains, with a host of activities and facilities available to make for a memorable holiday or business conference.
Air-conditioned rooms offer a flat-screen satellite TV, minibar and tea-and-coffee-making facilities, with en-suite bathroom, shower and free toiletries. Amenities include restaurant, Sportman’s Bar, casino, fitness centre and children’s playground. Nearby activities include golf and horse riding.
Set on a secluded estate, this upmarket Colonial style hotel is close to the village of Mhlambanyatsi and Usutu Forest Country Golf Club. The cosy rooms come with free Wi-Fi and satellite TV. Amenities include a pool, sauna and a gym, as well as tennis, croquet, squash and ping-pong. There's also a dam for fishing. Secure parking is available.
Overlooking the picturesque Ezulwini Valley, this informal hotel is 3km from Mbabane Golf Club and close to the Mantenga Nature Reserve. Air-conditioned rooms and suites provide valley views, complimentary Wi-Fi, satellite TV, and tea and coffeemaking facilities. Upgraded quarters add direct pool access. Amenities include a restaurant, gym and an art gallery, plus a putting green and croquet.
This award-winning hotel offers conference facilities and fine cuisine all year round. Set in a beautiful secure estate with stunning views of the Royal Mdzimba Mountains, close to the capital Mbabane. Each of the 57 luxury guest rooms are set within 14 Villas providing a haven of optimum comfort. Rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, heated towel rails, mini bars and Wi-Fi. Every Villa has a well-appointed lounge area, dining room and beautiful gardens. Amenities include a restaurant, wine cellar, cigar bar and much more!
Nature & Game Reserves
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
Swaziland’s pioneer conservation area, is a beautiful, secluded sanctuary in the Ezulwini Valley, between Mbabane and Manzini and the most frequently visited reserve where one can enjoy the beauty of the surroundings and the abundant wildlife that grace the plains.
Visitors can explore the southern portion by foot, vehicle, on horseback and on mountain bikes.
Next door to Mlilwane is the Mantenga Nature reserve, a small protected area, housing the Swazi Cultural Village and Mantenga Falls.
Hlane Royal National Park
Home to the largest herds of game in the Kingdom, with an abundant and diverse bird life, including the highest density of nesting white backed vultures in Africa. A network of self-drive game-viewing roads criss-cross the park and guided walking safaris, mountain biking and game drives in Hlane's open Land Rovers are also available.
Mkhaya Game Reserve
Established in 1979 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 and sable antelope, tsessebe, white rhino, elephant and other locally endangered species. The reserve comprises of acacia-dominated thornveld in the south and broadleaf sandveld in the north. Unique, intimate encounters with Mkhaya’s wildlife are almost guaranteed as all travel within the reserve is solely by open Land Rovers or guided, on foot.
Phophonyane Nature Reserve
Located, south of Kruger National Park, in north western Swaziland close to Pigg's Peak. This is a peaceful and enchanting park, also known as Swaziland's "Garden of Eden". The wildlife found here includes banded mongoose, the rare red duiker deer, cape clawless otter, vervet monkeys with over 230 recorded bird species.