For the Love of Swaziland - 10 Reasons Why We Love It
You probably know by now, if you've read our About Us page, that we love Swaziland. To Gareth it is still home, despite having left over 10 years ago for the UK. But why is it so easy to fall in love with Swaziland, either as a Swazi born-and-bred or as an outsider?
Here are 10 reasons why we love Swaziland:
1. Countryside - uniquely, Swaziland has a low, middle and high veld. Within the same day, you can experience searing heat in the low veld, only to drive an hour to the high veld where it may be overcast, grey and drizzling with rain. There are lush green valleys, high-sided by granite rock formations. Winding rivers cascade over waterfalls, lakes and dams provide ideal fishing spots and rapids on the Great Usutu River are second only to those found on the legendary Zambezi.
2. Wildlife - the variety of wildlife is enormous and abundant. You can drive around in South Africa's Kruger National Park for days and only see one elephant or rhino, but in Swaziland's smaller reserves you are guaranteed to view many, many different species in one afternoon. Home to the Big 5 (although we are yet to see a leopard) guided safaris and srlf-drive exploration won't disappoint.
3. Mlilwane Game Reserve - our favourite place on Earth! A haven of wildlife and the freedom to walk for miles and miles in the beautiful savanna. To one end is Execution Rock, towering above the reserve, and, to the other, the savanna ends in sugarcane fields and pineapple plantations. The onsite restaurant looks out over the watering hole which is frequented by hippos, crocodiles, terrapins, catfish, ibises and many more. The accommodation ranges from camping and traditional thatched beehive huts to rondavel cottages and wooden huts. The main campfire hasn't been extinguished for 6 decades; it has burnt continuously since 1960, providing the very best Bush TV.
4. Braai - having predictable weather means planning a barbecue or 'braai' is easy. There is nothing more relaxing than lighting the coals and watching them glow and spark whilst turning the succulant, marinated meat with a beer in hand. Of course, biltong provides the perfect braai snack, for Swazis never rush a barbecue and the longevity of the preparation time only adds to the hunger and anticipation of a primal feast. A braai can last all afternoon and once the very last morsels of meat and pap are consumed, logs are added to the burning embers and the fire burns long into the night.
5. Location - Swaziland is perfectly situated for those visiting from abroad. It borders both South Africa and Mozambique. You can hop across the border to the floury-white sands of Mozambique with its turquoise waters, whale sharks and manta rays. Or visit South Africa's many game parks, dramatic coastlines or famous wineries.
6. Friendly - it is well known that Swaziland did not part take in the apartheid regime and it was common for fleeing South Africans to find refuge in the Kingdom. We feel that same kindness and sense of 'togetherness' or ubuntu is still felt today. Of course, you don't think about such things when living or even holidaying in Swaziland, but you do certainly feel safe walking around day or night regardless of your colour or gender. The people are bubbly and friendly. They are always smiling and are always happy to offer help or advice. You are made to feel welcome and accepted wherever you come from.
7. Mix of traditional and contemporary - there is an interesting mix of the old and new in Swaziland. The traditional ways of life are ever present in the rurals, but travel into the city and you could be in any city in the world. The highways are spotless and speedy. The hotels and casinos are flashy and bright. And the restaurants serve up exquisite cuisine.
8. The River - by the river, we mean the Mbuluzi river and, more specifically, its meandering course through Pine Valley. This is a favourite swim spot amongst our friends as there is never another soul about. The gentle bubbling of the water as it flushes over the granite rocks into 'our swimming pool' creates a peaceful rhythm alongside the chirping birds. You could sit for hours enjoying the sounds of nature without being disturbed by anyone. Of course no trip to the river is complete without some biltong, a braai and some beers chilling in the shallows.
9. Sibebe Rock - rising 350 metres above the valley floor, Sibebe Rock is the highest granite rock in the world. It makes for an interesting climb with stunning views to look forward to from the top and ancient cave paintings en route. The footpath is not well signposted (if there is even a footpath!) and so one makes their own way upwards and around the back of this giant rock.
10. Culture - as already touched upon, the traditions as strong as ever, along with the friendliness of the people make Swaziland's culture very interesting. The King still holds the Umhlanga reed dance annually where maidens from all over the country, dressed in their finery, dance in front of the King who will choose one as his wife. The royal family are respected in Swaziland and the King rules alongside the Prime Minister. Gareth went to school with one of the princesses and even attended her birthday party at one of the King's palaces one year! Incwala is another ceremony which is typical basicslly celebrating the harvest of the first fruits. The traditional Swazi clothing is colourful and consists of brightly coloured materials as well as animal skins. Singing and dancing are very much a part of the Swazi culture; traditional sangomas or shamans are still popular amongst many; the grandmothers are the heads of the household and, traditionally, Swaziland has a polygamous society.