Last year we set out to give you 50 reasons to visit Eswatini (Swaziland) in its exciting 50/50 year. But with so many to squeeze in, we didn’t quite manage to list them all before we hit the end of 2018. Thankfully, Eswatini is just as enticing this year and so we’re finishing off our 50 reasons now with an overview of all that’s great about this wonderful African Kingdom – a summary of its main attractions and fundamental reasons why it should now be in your travel plans for 2019 (if you didn’t make it in 2018)!
46. People, Culture & Festivals
A tiny country with a big heart and warm, friendly people aptly describes Eswatini (Swaziland) – a country that is one of the few remaining Monarchies in Africa and embraces and upholds its own unique and ancient traditions. Both the monarchy and the people of Eswatini actively maintain and preserve a remarkable cultural heritage that is probably unmatched anywhere in Africa and is easy for visitors to see and experience. The Swazis are a proud and extremely friendly people. They welcome visitors with a beaming smile and take pleasure in showing off their beautiful country. Culture, vibrancy, and tradition sweep through Eswatini throughout the year during its renowned festivals. The thrill of celebration grips the nation and bands of warriors & maidens adorned in full traditional regalia are often seen heading to these festivals. These deep-rooted traditions are balanced by internationally renowned modern festivals dedicated to the arts, music and even motorsport. Through festivals like the Reed Dance, Incwala, Marula & MTN Bushfire, visitors can see how tradition and progression sit side-by-side seamlessly in the country.
Eswatini’s rich variety of landscapes and habitats gives it a profusion of fauna and flora, with the sheer number of species being 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’. 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. For traditional African big game viewing, Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve are the best places in the country. Both are home to a variety of big mammals, including elephant, hippo, giraffe, zebra and rhino. Mkhaya is one of the best places on the continent to see both black and white rhino and Hlane is also home to everyone’s favourite big cat – the lion.
Stunning mountain scenery with rivers, waterfalls and gorges can be found across Eswatini. A variety of contrasting landscapes from unique rock formations, which are among the world’s most ancient, to lush greenery and fertile valleys that sit alongside. Visit Eswatini to see the most impressive and dramatic landscapes sit side-by-side with the African wilderness. Explore the rolling hills of the North-West Highlands, the 20km gorge created by the Ngwempisi river neighboured by the picturesque surroundings of Mhlambamyatsi that look like they have been taken straight out of a yesteryear tourist book of England, Sibebe Rock: the world’s largest granite dome rock, Lubombo Mountains made up of vast volcanic hills, not to mention the Ezulwini Valley coined the ‘Valley of Heaven.’
Eswatini’s mountains, valleys, rivers and other natural wonders make it the ideal choice for those seeking adrenaline activities. It has built a reputation for a variety of activities that once again belies its small size. You can experience tree top canopy tours where you walk along a 50m suspension bridge and descend the gorge by zip-lining down on a steel cable from platform to platform high above over the forest canopy and Majolomba river. Trek, mountain bike or horse ride through the stunning landscapes of the country or go white-water rafting in the centre of Eswatini and thunder through clefts and gorges, alternating with calmer stretches of bush and grazing land.
50. Arts and Crafts
High quality arts & crafts that support local communities have become a mainstay of Eswatini, offering some of the best Africa has to offer. Although tiny, this Kingdom has a rich heritage of stylish, high quality handicrafts, which grace boutique outlets around the world, yet are produced by community-focused ecologically and socially responsible organisations. Throughout the country men and women are at work creating the finest handicrafts that are so popular with visitors. Creative basket ware in vibrant colours, wood and stone carvings, glassware, exquisite candles, batik items, jewellery – all uniquely Swazi. In many places that they are on sale, there is also chance to see the craftspeople at work and marvel at their intricate skills, and some even offer visitors an opportunity to have a go for themselves. The country has a number of ‘hotspots’ that showcase its arts & crafts, including Ngwenya Glass, Swazi Candles Centre, and Malandelas.