The Kingdom of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland joined the African Tourism Board as its latest member.
The Honorable Minister of Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs Moses Vilakati will be attending and speaking at the official launch for the African Tourism Board at the World Travel Market Africa in Cape Town, South Africa on April 11.
Linda L. Nxumalo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Eswatini Tourism Authority will be attending.
As one of the few remaining monarchies in Africa, culture, and heritage are deeply ingrained in all aspects of Swazi life, ensuring an unforgettable experience for all who visit.
As well as the rich culture, the overwhelming friendliness of the people makes all visitors feel truly welcome and very safe.
Add to that a stunning landscape of mountains and valleys, forests and plains; plus wildlife reserves across the country that are home to The Big Five, and visitors have all that’s best about Africa in one small but perfectly formed and welcoming country.
Eswatini is Africa in a nutshell. It may be a cliché but there is no better way to describe Eswatini (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 or follow the colonial trail of the early settlers. And culture vultures can thrill to the Umhlanga and other festivals, as Eswatini 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, Eswatini 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.
Eswatini, previously known as Swaziland, has 4 administrative regions but for the purposes of tourism is more conveniently divided into 5 regions, each one offering a varied and different set of attractions and experiences. Taking the points of the compass for their titles, each of these tourism regions can also be characterised by the attractions & experiences found within – be that amazing scenery, rich cultural experiences or thrilling wildlife encounters. Whilst a focus on one particular region will allow a visitor to witness its individual character, the joy of Eswatini is that its compact size allows the regions to be ‘mixed & matched’ in any single visit, even in a single day!
There is no great secret to a great Eswatini itinerary – to experience the remarkable variety of the country, visit as many of the regions as possible (at least 3)! But with no individual attraction more than 2 hours away from any other, it’s very easy to visit them all in any order and create a tailor-made trip to your own personal requirements without encountering any long journeys.
Although the smallest of the tourism regions, Central Eswatini is where the country’s capital city, the second largest city, tourism hub and main industrial area are found. The two cities, Mbabane and Manzini, lie just 25 miles (40km) apart and between them is Ezulwini Valley that has become Eswatini’s tourism hub, and the traditional Royal heartland of Lobamba that’s also home to the Parliament. With the country’s most easily accessible wildlife sanctuary at Mlilwane and Mantenga Nature Reserve with its beautiful waterfall and cultural village thrown in for good measure, this is a region of great richness and a huge choice of attractions for any visitor. It’s central positioning also allows easy access to all of the other regions.
Eswatini’s North West region lies primarily in the highveld and is a stirring landscape of airy, panoramic uplands. The muscular hills and dramatic river valleys form the eastern edge of South Africa’s Drakensberg escarpment and are crowned by the nation’s two highest peaks – Emlembe (1,862m) and Ngwenya (1,829m). An area of outstanding natural beauty, visitors have a vast choice of things to do, including exploring the nature reserves of Malolotja and Phophonyane (on foot, horseback, mountain bike or even sailing through the treetops on zip-wires!), investigating Nsangwini’s ancient rock art, experiencing Bulembu – the re-born ghost town in a glorious mountain setting and taking a boat trip on the magnificent Maguga Dam. The region’s attractions conveniently line up along or not far off the MR1 road, which starts just 15km west of Mbabane and extends to the South Africa border at Matsamo (30-45mins from Kruger NP). It takes only around 1 ½ hours to drive the length of the MR1.
North East Eswatini lies in the lowveld – a great expanse of flat bushveld – with then the ridge of the Lubombo mountains rising to the east to form the border with Mozambique. It’s dominated by vast sugar estates which emerged from the 1950s and whose country clubs can be enjoyed by visitors. The wild bush areas (similar to Kruger Park in South Africa) make perfect safari country and the region is home to a number of reserves (all accessed from the MR3 road) which collectively make up the Lubombo Conservancy. Hlane Royal National Park is the largest and most game-rich, with Mlawaula and Mbuluzi Nature Reserves offering easy access to beautiful, untouched wilderness areas. The mountains are wild and beautiful with remote settlements, one of which, Shewula, offers a shining example of community tourism and access to another nature reserve.
This region lies largely in the lowveld. It is home to Eswatini’s primary safari location, the Mkhaya Game Reserve, known around the world for its rhino experiences, which rival any in Africa. There is only scattered settlement but a number of sugar estates are irrigated from the country’s main river, the Usuthu, where white water rafting is available. Nisela, in the far south-east offers further safari experiences.
Much of South West Eswatini lies in the highveld – magnificent scenery of rolling uplands cut by grand rivers that have created impressive valleys and gorges. Unsurprisingly, there is great hiking on offer in little-visited wilderness areas – Mahamba Gorge and the stunning Ngwempisi Wilderness. Nkonyeni Golf Estate offers a range of activities in an area of outstanding natural beauty as you enter the Grand Valley heading south from central Eswatini. It’s also a region with some interesting places of historical significance – the country’s first church (which can still be visited at Mahamba), and first ceremonial capital of Nhlangano.
Eswatini’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 ligwalagwala, or purple-crested turaco, which denote the royal status of the wearer.
Eswatini’s rich variety of landscapes and habitats gives it a profusion of fauna and flora, with the sheer number of species mind-boggling by most European standards. 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 very wide range of species, including the sought after ‘Big 5’. As well as being one of the best places on the continent to see rhinos (on foot as well as by 4×4 and to see both black and white rhinos), Eswatini 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.
Eswatini is a small land with very big horizons. From the muscular uplands of the western highveld to the wild ridges of the eastern Lubombos, there is no bend in the road that does not offer another impressive vista. And with statuesque rock formations, picturesque villages and wide meandering rivers to fill the viewfinder, the photographer is spoilt for choice. The light is constantly changing, especially during the rainy season, when towering thunderheads pile up into menacing storm clouds, and then after the downpour, leave the sky a pristine blue. Any visitor to the Kingdom could do worse than simply wander the hills and valleys and enjoy the ever-changing views of beautiful scenery and genuine wilderness.
Eswatini is, without doubt, a Southern Africa adventure hot spot! Its varying landscapes provide the perfect opportunity for an impressively wide choice of activities. White-water rafting in the morning and a tree-top Canopy Tour in the afternoon – perhaps even with an evening game drive! Abseiling, rafting, caving, climbing, and even quad biking are all things on offer in this fast-paced adrenaline fuelled country.
There are a number of well-established tour and activity operators in Eswatini who can help you organize your adventures.
Eswatini’s traditional culture finds its most spectacular expression in a number of ritual ceremonies through the year conducted on an impressive scale. These are living cultural events that, bar the odd pair of sunglasses and mobile phone, have hardly changed in two centuries. Not to be outdone, the current generation has created a modern new, vibrant music and arts festival that has fast established an excellent international reputation. With a series of exciting mountain bike races and other sporting and cultural events dotted through the year, the Eswatini calendar is a rich and rewarding one.
Sports such as squash, tennis, swimming are available at hotels and lodges as well as the Country Clubs on the Sugar Estates. Royal Swazi Spa in the Ezulwini Valley and Nkonyeni to the south are home to the country’s best golf courses, both with 18 hole championship courses and scenic views for the golfer to take in as they traverse the course. Fishing is also available at a number of dams and rivers around the country, with trout, tiger fish and a number of native species to be found.
There are a number of organizations working in Eswatini that offer volunteering opportunities, whether that be working with wildlife and conservation, social volunteering, or sports volunteering. There are plenty of programmes you can get involved in to leave a positive mark on Eswatini.
More information on Eswatini Tourism can be found at www.thekingdomofeswatini.com/
More information on African Tourism Board and its launch event can be found at www.africantourismboard.com