Swaziland Travel Guide
While it is the smallest country in Southern Africa, Swaziland makes up for it with an authentic culture, plenty of natural reserves, and the fact that it is one of the few absolute monarchies in the world.
Swazis are also known for their peacefulness and hospitality, which will likely make for an enjoyable trip to this unique nation.
Currency: Swazilandian Lilangenis
Languages: English, Siswati
What To Do
Begin your visit to Swaziland by paying a visit to its National Museum. In this institution, you’ll be able to get an idea of this nation’s past history through its exhibits, which feature elements of Swazi culture going back countless generations into the past.
Of particular interest are the beehive houses out back, which are traditional residences where many Swazis grew up (and many still do), and the collection of cars owned by King Sobhuza I, which he drove in the 1940’s.
The exhibits contained within the National Museum only give you a small idea of how many Swazis used to live (and still live, in some cases). By including the Mantenga Cultural Village in your itinerary, live actors/actresses will bring many aspects of Swazi culture to life right before your eyes.
A highlight of a visit here is the lively sibhaca dance, which usually occurs twice per day. Nature lovers will enjoy their time here as well, as there is a trail (complete with wildlife such as monkeys and warthogs) that leads to Mantenga Falls. Especially impressive in wet season, it is well worth a look.
Those looking for a more immersive cultural experience will want to spend a night or two at Shewula Mountain Camp. The first eco-tourism attraction in Swaziland to be owned wholly by the community, this place is an actual village located within the bounds of Shewula Nature Reserve.
Those staying here will be able to meet real people that live here day to day, as opposed to merely seeing living history actors do their thing. If you are fearing you’ll have rough it, don’t worry too much, as your accommodation is set up with basics such as hot water and prepared meals made with fresh, organic food.
There are many natural reserves within Swaziland, but most consider Hlane Royal National Park to be the finest among them. Prior to being opened to the public, Hlane was the king’s private hunting grounds, thereby ensuring the wildlife within was actively managed and protected.
While the land itself is nothing special from the perspective of natural scenery, the presence of abundant numbers of elephants, rhinos, giraffes, lions, zebras and wildebeests make it a worthwhile destination for park enthusiasts. There are plenty of birds to view as well, with the highest concentration of white-backed vultures in Africa being a highlight.
Geologists and other rock lovers will want to drop by Sibebe Rock during a trip to Swaziland. Ranking as the world’s second biggest rock outcrop (only Uluru in Australia is bigger) and the largest granite dome in the world, it is a stunning specimen that can only be properly appreciated from up close.
Clocking in at a staggering three billion years old, this former volcanic extrusion of is composed some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth. Simply put, when you touch this ancient stone, you are going (in a way) back to earliest days of not just this world, but the universe in general, as the Big Bang happened only two billion years before this piece of granite was formed. Cool.
What to Eat
Porridges are one of the dominant types of food that you will find in Swaziland. Sishwala is one of the most common of these, as its thick consistency has made it a hardy side to the meats and vegetables served at meals here.
Biltong has become a favourite of those searching for a way to keep going until the next sit-down meal. It is a type of jerky that is produced from a wide variety of meats, ranging from beef, to more gamey varieties.
They are dried, cured and then spiced up to give it shelf life and flavour, then pounded flat before being packaged or served. The existence of this dish comes from a long tradition of preserving excess meat from kills with salt to prevent spoilage; while there is no longer need for this technique in the 21st century, it endures, as generations have grown up with a taste for this salty snack.
If you are looking for a hearty meal in Swaziland, seek out some Karoo Roast Ostrich Steak at any of its finest restaurants. Made from the flesh of this flightless but speedy bird, most varieties of this dish are made by flash-frying a pre-marinated fillet.
Served with pumpkin and mashed maize, it is a hearty meal that will easily rank among the culinary highlight of your trip here.