Established in the mid 18th Century under the leadership of Ngwane III, the Kingdom of Swaziland stands as one of the smallest countries in Africa, not more than 200 kilometres north to south and 130 kilometres east to west.
Swaziland is known for its rich cultural practices including the Reed Dance ceremony, an annual eight-day event that brings together unmarried and childless Swazi girls and women from various chiefdoms to Ludzidzini.
King Mswati III. [telegraph.co.uk]
Other than its culture, Swaziland also boosts well preserved wildlife and game parks, great weather and beautiful geographical formulation making it just one of those places in Africa you must visit.
The country, whose capital city is Mbabane, also stands as the last remaining absolute monarchy in Africa and is ruled by King Mswati III with majority of its population being the ethnic Swazis whose language is siSwati.
Your trip to Swaziland begins with arrival at King Mswati-III International Airport (or King Mswati the Third International Airport), originally known as Sikhuphe International Airport. The newly opened airport is part of King Mswati III’s $1billion investment project aimed at making Swaziland a favourable tourist destination.
King Mswati the Third International Airport is located 70km from Mbabane, the capital city of Swaziland and incorporates a 7,000 square metre passenger terminal designed to handle 300 passengers per hour. The terminal has a domestic and international passenger facilities, VIP lounge and air navigation services.
King Mswati-III International Airport. [photo/itravelnews.co.za]
The Matsapha Airport located near Mazini, a city in Manzini District of Swaziland used to be the country’s main airport but is reported to have been closed for renovation.
You can also connect to Swaziland from South Africa with Airlink and Swaziland Airlink being among the flights serving this route. You could also drive from South Africa to Swaziland giving you ample time to enjoy the scenic beauty and meet the hospitable natives.
Accommodation should not be an issue when visiting Swaziland, especially with the entry of accommodation marketplace SleepOut.com into its hospitality industry. SleepOut.com has several accommodations which you can book when visiting Swaziland.
You can book your stay at The Crisovik Guest House, located at No 521, Mbhilibhi Street, a 10-minute walk from the town’s mall and the bus rank. The Crisovik Guest House consists of three houses each with 3 bedrooms for guests on self catering or full board.
Where to visit
Swazi Village comprises of 16 beehive-shaped grass and reed huts all built with traditional materials. On arrival here, you will be welcome by a Swazi guide dressed in traditional costumes who will lead you through the villages where you’ll get a glimpse of the day to day life of the native Swazis.
You can learn ancient skills of weaving a traditional beehive hut and the culture and language of the Swazi.
Young Swazis participate in the Reed Dance. [photo/mobile.saharareporters.com]
This is one cultural dance that anyone from anywhere in the world should make a point to witness. The annual eight-day event brings together unmarried and childless Swazi girls and women from various chiefdoms who converge at Queen Mothers’ royal village which currently is Ludzidzini Royal Village.
The ceremony aims to preserve the women’s chastity and provide tribute labour for the Queen Mother as it also creates solidarity among the women through working together. The King’s many daughters and royal princesses also take part in the reed dance ceremony and are distinguished by the crown of red feathers in their hair.
As part of the ceremony, the girls dance bare-breasted with reeds in front of the King, the crowd, tourists and foreign dignitaries.
Hlane Royal National Park
Located 67 kilometres northeast of Manzini along the MR3 road, Hlane Royal National Park is one place you must visit during your trip to Swaziland. The park, whole native name means wilderness was named by King Siobhuza and is currently held in trust for the Nation by King Mswati III and managed by a privately-owned body, Big Game Parks.
Hlane royal National Park, Swaziland. [photo/sagr.co.za]
Hlane Royal National Park remains Swaziland’s largest protected area and the largest park in the county covering 30,000 hectares of Swazi bush. The park is home to lions, elephants and white rhinos with the wildebeests, zebras and impalas being spotted during dry winter months of June to September.
The Mantenga cultural village
Known by the SiSwati name of Ligugu Lemswati to mean the pride of the Swazi people the Mantenga Cultural village is one of the places you should visit if you wish to learn more about the Swazi culture.
The event is aimed at keeping the Swazis in touch with their cultural heritage and language and provide a forum to display Swazi customs, rituals, food, dance, music, art and craft.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary is Swaziland’s oldest protected area owned and managed by a non-profit trust. The sanctuary, which covers 4,560 hectares in the Ezulwini valley also called the “valley of heaven” serves as a headquarter for the Big Game Parks who manage Mlilwane’s sister reserves, Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve.
Beehive huts at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. [photo/modernoverland.com]
The sanctuary has abundant wildlife and stretches of open grassland plains that extend to Nyonyane Mountain, covered in vegetation.
Where to shop
Before you leave make sure to carry some souvenirs with you. You can do your shopping at Swazi Candles Craft Centre located 7km south of the MR103 in Malkerns Valley or Baobab Batik for beautiful wall hangings.
Alternatively, you can visit Likhweti Kraft for some handicrafts, sisal baskets, jewellery and many other Swazi crafts or check out African Fantasy for a selection of locally made t-shirts and cards.
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