Swaziland is a small, beautiful country in Southern Africa, surrounded on three sides by South Africa and by Mozambique to the east. Swaziland was formerly a British protectorate. It became independent in 1968 as 'the Kingdom of Swaziland'. Mbabane is Swaziland's administrative capital and largest town. Lobamba, an important village, is the traditional or royal capital. Manzini is the country's main commercial center.
There are various villages in Swaziland that offer visitors the opportunity to experience the local culture, cuisine and interact with the local people. The Mantenga Cultural village in the Ezulwini Valley is a favorite among visitors to the area, which includes experiencing traditional dancing and singing and the lifestyle of the Swazi people of over 100 years ago.
A Swaziland golfing experience is unlike anything you’ve experienced on a golf course before. The country's mountainous location did not deter the course designers, and each hole was perfectly planned. The Champion Golf Course at the Royal Swazi Resort & Spa is an exceptional 18 hole course set within the natural tranquility of the Ezulwini Valley.
Swazi Candles Center is quite simply one of the best places to visit if you have an appreciation for the arts and crafts. You will be amazed at the creative genius behind every product, and captivated by the intense process that each Swazi candle goes through. The candles are all 100% organic and handmade. You can even join the artisans in their workshop!
Guests traveling to Swaziland will be welcomed at OR Tambo International Airport where they will be assisted in transferring to their international flight to King Mswati III International Airport in Manzini. The airport is the only airport that accepts commercial flights in the country and was specifically built as a gateway to the game parks.
Swaziland is a mountainous country, and guests will be transported through the country in a private, air-conditioned 4x4 vehicle by an experienced guide. Driving to Swaziland from South Africa is typically preferred, and gives visitors the chance to explore the region by 4x4. It is a great way to view the differences between the two countries.
The mountainous landscape of Swaziland, like most countries in the southern hemisphere has a summer rainfall season. It is during the summer months from October to March that the vegetation is transformed into a dense lush green zone, and migratory birds from the northern hemisphere come for their annual southern summer holiday.
The sub-tropical climate also means that summers are characterized by torrential rains, high temperatures and humidity. The dry winter between April and September is the best time to view wildlife, as the vegetation is thinner. Cultural activities and festivals can be experienced throughout the year. The popular Banganu or Marula season occurs in February and March.
Artifacts found in Swaziland indicate that it has been occupied by people since the Early Stone Age. More recently, the San hunter-gatherers (Bushmen) made it their home. The San left proof of their presence in the form of rock art. Some rock paintings date back to 27 000 years ago, and others as late as the 19th century can still be found. There is evidence that suggests Iron Age farmers occupied the area as early as the 4th century. The Nguni ancestors of the current day Swazis have been recorded to have entered the territory of Swaziland and its surroundings around the year 1600 AD. By 1815, Somhlolo was King and used his diplomatic skill to incorporate surrounding clans into one tribe and allied with Shaka.
The son of Somhlolo, Mswati II, was the greatest Swazi fighting king and conquered an area twice that of current Swaziland. It is also after him that Swaziland was named. The Afrikaner Boers try to annex Swaziland, but failed and, after the Anglo-Boer War, Swaziland became a British protectorate from 1906 until 1968. King Sobhuza II ruled Swaziland until his death in 1982 and was replaced by his son Ngwenyama Mswati III. King Mswati III is currently still the monarch of Swaziland. Swaziland is currently one of only seven absolute Monarchies in the world.
Swaziland’s large varieties of habitats are host to an astounding amount of wildlife. The Big Five are hosted across a variety of wilderness areas,with Hlane Royal National Park being the only place to have lions. Hlane Royal National Park offers game drives as well as the opportunity to self-drive. Mkhaya Game Reserve is host to all of the Big Five excluding lions. Here guests can go on guided walking safaris and see species such as zebra and giraffe on foot. Mkhaya also offers visitors a chance to see the endangered and very rare black rhinoceros, as well as its more common cousin, the white rhinoceros. The other big game conservation area is the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.
Mlilwane allows guests to walk or cycle through the sanctuary on their own. Hippopotamus, warthog, crocodiles and antelope are plentiful in the conservation areas of Swaziland. Antelope include eland, kudu, nyala, roan, oribi, duiker and more. There are three species of primates, namely Chacma baboons, vervet monkeys and greater bush baby. Exceptional sightings of greater bush baby can be enjoyed at Reilly’s Rock in Mlilwane at night. Swaziland is any bird watcher's dream come true, as it contains more than 500 species to enjoy. Swaziland is home to 150 sought-after species in Southern Africa, and is one of the few breeding sites of the very rare blue swallow.
There is very little flat land in Swaziland. Most of the terrain consists of mountains and hills with some moderately sloping plains. A fault runs across the country that starts in the Drakensberg and continues to the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. This fault crosses the country from south to north, creating a multitude of different environments. There are savannas in the east and rain forests in the northwest. The great Lebombo mountain range, on the eastern border with Mozambique, is broken up into canyons by the Ngwavuma, Usutu and Mbuluzi rivers. Swaziland slopes mostly from the Highveld in the west, through the densely populated Middleveld and to the Lowveld in the east.
With so many different landscapes, Swaziland plays host to many different vegetation types. The great majority of the natural vegetation consists of Highveld grassland. There are also evergreen forests, as well as Lowveld, bushveld and savanna. The grasslands are similar to the mountain sourveld of the Drakensberg Mountains. The forests are mostly isolated patches in mountain valleys or concentrated around river courses. The Acacia savanna in the eastern lowveld occurs on the basaltic plains, while the broadleaf savanna occurs on the sandy soils slightly higher up the lowveld. There is plenty of mixed bush and different types of grassland on the steep slopes and undulating plateau.
The Kingdom of Swaziland, although being the smallest country in the southern hemisphere, is one of the best places to visit if you want to view pristine wilderness and enjoy various adventure activities. The country’s size and rugged landscape do not allow for mass tourism, and visitors can expect a more intimate African safari. The Big Five can be found, but lions only occur in the Hlane Royal National Park. The national park and other wildlife reserves focus on comprehensive engagement with the wildlife, and visitors are encouraged to explore and learn about the environment. Two of the most popular safari activities include horseback and walking safaris.
The country may also be referred to as the 'Kingdom of Birds'. With approximately 500 species that have been documented, it truly is birdwatchers’ heaven. Make sure you have your binoculars, recorder and a camera at the ready, as the sheer diversity can overwhelm even the most avid birders. Swaziland is also immensely rich in culture, and various cultural activities and festivals take place religiously throughout the year which visitors are encouraged to enjoy. Adventure seekers can explore the various caves, head out for some mountain climbing and then abseil down, head to the waters for some white water rafting and take part in a scenic canopy tour, to name a few.
Swaziland experiences are unique to the tiny country, from the cultural immersion on offer to the breathtaking panoramas of the Ezulwini Valley. The Swazis are a warm and friendly people who will indelibly enhance your visit.
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