Swaziland was never on my bucket list of places to go, but due to things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go during my first trip to Africa, there it was as part of my tour with GAdventures. As part of the 9 day Kruger/Swazi Overland trip we got to spend a few days experiencing an amazing country full of wonderful and beautiful people.
Swaziland is the last remaining country in Africa still ruled by a King and is bordered in the East by Mozambique and in the North, West and South by South Africa. As Swaziland was under the British Administration from 1902-1968 before becoming independent. Communication is quite easy as most of the locals speak English, so it is easy to talk to locals. Over the 2 days or so we spent at Mlilwane National Park in Swaziland I found the people to be warm, welcoming and curious about Western Culture, as I was about theirs. One morning I spent some time comparing Western Medicine with a local. He showed me a tree and explained how he would use parts of that tree to heal himself if he were to break a bone and then wanted to know what a doctor in North America would do to to heal a broken bone. We shared a laugh over how many North American medicines don’t provide a cure but only mask or hide the symptoms while causing other issues. Who knows which way is right, but I could appreciate how they try to solve an issue instead of only masking it.
While we got experience the people while travelling through the country and in Mlilwane, we also got to experience the beauty of nature and the wildlife. Waking up to Warthog, Nyala and Zebra among other wildlife in camp was amazing! The Bush Buckwould come hang around the fire with us in the evening. There was also a young Nyala hanging around camp who would let us pet him if we gave him a leaf, but would swat you with his horns if you tried to pet him and did not have an offering of a leaf (check out the horns on him above).
A few of us decided to take a hike along an old tribal execution trail which was approximately 35km round trip. This trail is where the local tribe used to hike prisoners to the top of a mountain and push them off a cliff. That aside, it was a very nice hike full of beautiful scenery and wildlife. I even found a beautiful lime green locust, which against the red dirt was stunning. Most people probably wouldn’t ever think to see the beauty in a locust, but it truly is often found in the small things. We never ran into anything dangerous as there are no lions in the area, and even though we found it hot, it was their winter and the snakes were hiding. It was very hot out, and we learned the hard way to always pack more water then you think you might need when we got a bit lost in the bush and ran low. For about the last hour before arriving at camp we had no water and quickly inhaled the first water we found. Lesson learned.
To quote Lonely Planet “In short: big things come in small packages. The intriguing kingdom of Swaziland is diminutive but boasts a huge checklist for any visitor. Rewarding wildlife watching? Tick. Adrenaline-boosting activities such as rafting and mountain biking? Tick. Lively and colourful local culture, with celebrations and ceremonies still common practice? Tick. Plus there are superb walking trails, stunning mountain and flatland scenery, varied accommodation options and excellent, high-quality handicrafts. Unlike South Africa, Swaziland has managed to hold on to that slow-down-this-is-Africa feeling, and that’s why it’s gaining in popularity. Everything remains small and personable, and the atmosphere is remarkably relaxed.”
To truly experience this country you need to spend more than 2 days. The 2 days we were here were spent in Mlilwane National Park, although we did drive through the capital of Mbabane on the way there. I feel like we barely scratched the surface, but at the same time found a wonderful place that otherwise would not have been on many of our bucket lists.
The Kruger/Swazi Overland through GAdventures is a great trip for a first time visitor to Africa as it will take you through the legendary Kruger National Park in search of the Big 5, and you will get to experience Swaziland as well as the KwaZulu-Natal, land of the Zulu. It will also allow for a limited time schedule as it is only 9 days, leaving time for other activities or accommodating limited vacation time.
It’s funny how sometimes the unplanned and unexpected can bring about the greatest treasures. Swaziland is a little known treasure of Africa and one well worth adding to your bucket list, you might be surprised, but definitely won’t be disappointed!