Swaziland! It’s the tiny African country with a huge heart! The people are warm, fiercely proud and friendly. Swaziland itself is a stunning country and despite it’s small size, offers an array of different landscapes!
If you’ve never been to Swaziland and you a) live in South Africa or b) are coming to visit South Africa, then do yourself a giant favour and make room for it in your itinerary.
Trust me, you’ll thank me later!
1. Malolotja Canopy Tours
Hands down one of the best experiences I’ve ever had! I loved zip lining across the canopy of Malolotja National Park. Every moment of our time their was filled with fun and laughter.
The zip lining itself is very easy and our guides took us through a progression of crossings so that by crossing number three (there are ten crossings in total,) you’re really confident in your ability.
Our guide was the BEST ever, not only did he make us feel safe but he also made us laugh. It was constant laughter in fact. I’ll never forget the views and my time there and I cannot wait to head back! More Info: Malolotja Canopy Tours
2. Phoponyane Falls Lodge & Nature Reserve
Phoponyane Falls is a surreal lodge run by amazing people, it’s located in the Swazi highlands and overlooks a dramatic valley. Waking up here to the sounds of the birds is idyllic. A short swim in the pool before breakfast is recommended (by me) and then feel free to spend your day doing whatever you like. Highlight: You get great coffee with your breakfast.
The accommodation is authentic and you can choose from cottages, “beehives” (my favourite) and permanent “tents”, but these structures aren’t so much tents as they are beautiful rooms with canvas for walls. They all overlook the river and there’s one “tent” which even has a bath!
If you are after a peaceful and authentic experience with a splash of luxury, I can definitely recommend spending a few nights in Phoponyane Falls. More Info: Phoponyane Falls Lodge & Nature Reserve
3. Potholes at The Gap
For those that find beauty in natural formations, a visit to the potholes at The Gap is well worth your time. These are not the same pot holes you would find in a badly worn road, but rather holes formed in river rocks by water erosion.
They are a truly magnificent phenomenon and the story behind this particular location “The Gap” is equally fascinating; In a nutshell, this was the only point (before bridges came along) where it was possible to cross the river due to the gap created by these pot holes. Nevertheless they are extraordinary to look at.
Tip: pack a picnic bag for cool drinks and snacks and don’t forget your sun hat because it can get very warm.
4. Shewula Mountain Camp
YOU. HAVE. TO. GO. HERE.
There, I’ve said all that needs to be said about Shewula Mountain Camp.
In all seriousness though, I’ve only had the opportunity to stay at two places like this in the world. One was Bulungula, and the other is Shewula.
Shewula Mountain Camp is an eco-tourism project owned and run by the community & is based high up on the edge of a rocky cliff face near the border of Swaziland and Mozambique. On a clear day you can see Maputo but the real attraction is looking the other way and watching the sun slowly set over the entire Kingdom of Swaziland.
It’s basic, it’s rustic, you live in rondavel huts, there’s no electricity (save for in the kitchen) BUT it is OH SO INCREDIBLE. I think we honestly appreciate life more and form a deeper connection with the world around us by visiting these kinds of places.
Apart from the location and the huts, though, what makes Shewula really special are the staff. These are some of the most genuine, friendly people I’ve ever encountered and I’ll never forget Lindiwe’s gigantic smile.
5. Sibebe Rock
Sibebe Rock, according to our excellent guide Micheal Mabaso of Etinyatsi Tours, could arguably be the largest single granite rock on the planet. The official title goes to Ayers Rock in Australia but Michael tells me (jokingly) that it’s because they haven’t measured Sibebe properly and Swazi’s don’t feel like fighting with the Australians over a rock.
In any case, whether 1st or 2nd, Sibebe is an absolutely monumental structure and takes the name of a man who tragically fell to his death while trying to scale it, unassisted, & many years ago, in pursuit of the Kings favour. Today things are much safer and there are organised climbs every year, so if you’re into large rocks and natural wonders, Sibebe Rock is a must see.
6. Casino’s: Happy Valley & Piggs Peak
Swaziland has a range of activities top suit every kind of individual and the small country is well known for their two largest Casino’s – Piggs Peak Casino and Happy Valley Casino. If you are inclined to feeling the rush of winning and losing money, then by all means feel free to enjoy them.
7. Matenga Cultural Village
Lauren and I have had the opportunity to visit cultural villages around the world and even though many of them are very similar in structure, we’ll never turn down an opportunity to see them because we truly enjoy learning about other cultures, it’s one of the major reasons we love travel.
However, when I visited Matenga Cultural Village I was pleasantly surprised and reinvigorated by the experience they laid out for us. I truly felt a connection that is so often missing from these experiences. I definitely recommend visiting!
8. Summerfield Luxury Resort & Botanical Garden
The name says it all. Summerfields is luxurious living in the heart of Southern Africa. The resort took our breathe away as we drove down the long and leafy entrance driveway & continued to surprise us for the rest of the evening.
Swaziland has that effect, one moment you can be driving down the road and just a single turn or two can lead into a completely different environment.
I stayed in the Dove cottage which had, apart from a stunningly decorated room, it’s own private lounging area in the garden.
Walking to dinner revealed more beauty and with the resort being set within the borders of a stunning botanical garden, it’s easy to imagine why. The dinner itself (I ordered the Kingklip) was absolutely divine. If you are the luxurious type, look no further than Summerfield Luxury Resort and Botanical Gardens.
9. Foresters Arms Hotel
Think for a moment about the biggest lunch you’ve ever attended, remember the smells & the variety of mouthwatering food on offer. You’re probably thinking of a Christmas lunch, a work function or even an event. Have you got it in your mind?
Now double it, no, triple it!
That is the size of a Sunday lunch at the famous Foresters Arms in Swaziland. The experience was almost unbelievable & for a moment, when staring at the dessert table, I felt as though I was Hansel, staring at a house made entirely of sweet things!
I can’t wrap my mind around how much work goes into Sunday lunches there but I’m guessing they need a small army of staff to put on the spread that they do. If you do go to Foresters Arms, and I truly recommend that you do – make no other plans for the day and try not to eat anything before you get there. You can spend as long as you like sampling every imaginable food. From Swazi to European to Southeast Asian and beyond, they prepare it all.
10. Yebo Art Gallery
Run by Peter Armstrong, Yebo! Art Gallery is a platform for local artists and artisans and designers to showcase and sell their work.
Artists from all around Swaziland can produce their art at Yebo! or simply display it there. The gallery also runs classes and introduces artists to new concepts and ways of doing things, such as screen printing designs onto a variety of materials including ceramic and fabric.
You can immediately sense that Peter has dedicated his life to uplifting and empowering the local artists and judging by the Yebo gallery and Yebo gift shop, he’s certainly achieved that. Please visit Yebo and please support the local Swazi artists. (I bought some very nice prints for my sons room.)
11. Swazi Candles & Market
If it’s markety things and souvenirs that you’re after (like I was on the way home from Swaziland) then the Swazi Candles Market is truly the place to go. They have a variety of stalls all very close together and a traditional african market set up as well. You’ll find all that you need within a short time.
If you have any other Swaziland suggestions and must see’s for our readers then please leave them in the comments, we’d love to see what else is available.