Swaziland National Trust Commission
The Swaziland National Trust Commission (SNTC) is responsible for the preservation and conservation of the Kingdom’s cultural and natural heritage. Swaziland’s cultural heritage is conserved in the national museum and the King Sobhuza II memorial park at Lobamba, the Cultural Village in Mantenga Nature Reserve, and though the preservation of the country’s monuments and archeological sites. SNTC is responsible for the conservation of Swaziland’s biodiversity in Malolotja, Mlawula and Mantenga Nature Reserves.
Situated 16km away from Siteki town on the edge of Lubombo escarpment, near the Goba/Mhlumeni border, the Magadzavane lodge is designed to give guest spectacular views of the valley below. Nestled within Mlawula Nature Reserve, it offers a tranquil, relaxing environment, ideal stop over point for visitors travelling to Mozambique. A forty bed lodge with furnished en-suite units with TV point, restaurant, bar, conference centre and swimming pool. All activities available at Mlawula Nature Reserve can be enjoyed while visiting the lodge.
Malolotja Nature Reserve
Set in Swaziland’s eastern lowveld and Lubombo mountains, Mlawula Nature Reserve has a rich diversity of flora and found. A game drive through the siphoso valley offers the includes a number of rarities such as the Narina Trogon, Pinkthroughted Twinspot, African Boardbill and African Finfoot. Flora includes unique cycoads as well as the Lubombo ironwood. Activities available to visitors include game drives, hiking trails, pincics, mountain biking, birdwatching and fishing. In addition to the accommodation offered at Magadzavane Lodge, facilities include the sara tented camp and a spacious main camp for tents and caravans.
Malolotja Nature Reserve
Set in the mountains of north-west Swaziland, Malolotja Nature Reserve is home to a huge diversity of flora and founa. The wildflowers are particularly spectacular in spring, but an interesting range of flowers can be seen throughout the year. Birdlife includes rarities such as the blue swallow and bold ibis, as well as striped flufftails, blackrumped buttonquals, Gurney’s sugarbirds, Stanley’s bustard and ground woodpeckers. In addition to seeing blesbok, zebra, wildebeest and eland, visitors might be lucky and see rare mammals such as oribi or aardwolf. The reserve also includes the world’s oldest mine at Ngwenya, and Swaziland’s highest waterfall. Facilities include extensive hiking trails for up to seven day hikens, a campsite and log cabins.
Treetop canopy tours: visitors can experience the thrill of gliding through the forest canopy within Malolotja Nature Reserve, the last mountain wilderness area in Swaziland. The canopy tour offers views of towering cliff faces and access the forest. Safety is paramount, and the system has been built to the highest civil engineering standards. Guides are trained professionals and this breath taking experience can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Mantenga Nature Reserve and Cultural Village
Mantenga nature reserve includes the cultural village, where visitors may learn about day-to-day life in a traditional swazi homestead and enjoy vibrant dance shows. There are also chalets and tented accommodation, a restaurant and the breathtaking Mantenga falls. There is a small network of hiking trails, offering the visitor the opportunity to experience the contrast between riverine middleveld habitats and highveld open grassland. The reserve also offers excellent birdwatching opportunities.
The Swaziland’s National Museum complements the cultural opportunities offered to visitors by the Swazi Culture Village at Mantenga and the king Sobhuza 11 memorial park; it also has a mini typical Swazi homestead. The national museum displays early history, agricultural development, religious and traditional culture, including natural history specimens. Some at these exhibitions show fine pieces of work done by local artists.
King Sobhuza Memorial Park
The King Sobhuza II memorial park is a fitting tribute and a tranquil haven set in spacious, manicured gardens. In a high-roofed hall a photographic and pictorial exhibit traces the life and times of king Sobhuza II, as well as exhibiting his grand old limosines. Qualified guides conduct tours of these attractions.
History Culture & Tradition
A Nation of Kings
From the beginning, Swaziland has been a land of kings, whose line has led the people since the building of the nation. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Africans of Nguni descent migrated southwards from central Africa under the leadership of Dlamini III and under Ngwane III, in the mid-18th century, some of them settled in the area which today is Shiselwini in southern Swaziland. These people, the Nkosi Dlamini, became known as means king and Dlamini is the surname of the royal family. The royal line of Dlamini dates back to about 1550.
In 1879, during King Mbandzeni’s reign, the British dismantled the Zulu kingdom and to secure ongoing independence and avoid land grabbing by South Africa, he made a series of grazing, mining and trade concessions. This attracted unscrupulous agents and opportunists and ironically resulted in loss of territorial freehold title in the Land Partition of 1907.
Until 1894, the kingdom was ruled by a provisional government comprising Boer, British and Swazi. At that point, Swaziland become a protectorate of South Africa under King Bhunu and when Britain won the Anglo Boer War in 1902, that power administered the country as a protectorate until independence in 1968.
Queen Gwamile, won was the regent until Sobhuza II, ascended the throne, was a firm believer in books and education as the foundation for the nation’s growth and after primary school, young Sobhuza, the father of the present king, attended the Lovedale mission college in the cape province of South Africa. He became the world’s longest reigning monarch and throughout his rule, he devoted himself to regaining the lost land, establishing a fund to enable its repurchase. This was period of stability, rapid economic growth and development.
Following Sobhuza’s death in 1982, Queen Dzeliwe became regent until the young heir, prince Makhosetive, returned home from Sherborne School in England, and the following year in 1986, aged only 18 years, he was installed as king Mswati III. Mswati has established an amended constitution and heads a nation in which ancient traditions and culture work hand in hand with modern technology, economic practice and infrastructure that attracts investors from all over the world.
Choosing the King
The hair to the throne is chosen according to his mother’s status and a Queen Mother is selected, based on her high rank, by the royal council following the King’s death. The King is always a Dlamini and never intermarries so the Queen Mother may not be a Dlamini. The king must be her only son and is expected to choose wives from various clans to ensure national unity. The monarchy is a dual one with the balance of power lying with the King – Ngwenyama (or lion) – and the Queen Mother, who is the Ndlovukazi (she-elephant). The royal council plays a key role in the selection of the heir to the throne. He must be unmarried, and if still a minor, the Queen Mother to the late King assumes the responsibility of Regent until the Crown Prince becomes the Ngwenyama.
The Incwala Ceremony
The Incwala, or first fruits ceremony, in which the King plays a dominant role, is the most sacred of all the Swazi rituals. It is held in December or January on a date chosen by astrologers in conjunction with the phases of the moon and sun. The ritual begins with a journey by the “Bemanti” (people of the water) to the Indian Ocean to collect water and on their return to the royal kraal, the little incwala begins, on the new moon. At the full moon, youths from all parts of the kingdom travel to collect the sacred branches of the “lusekwane” shrub, a species of acacia. On the third day a bull is ritually slaughtered by the youths, instilling solidarity among them and a spirit of valour. The fourth day is the culmination of the Incwala when the King, in full ceremonial dress, joins his warriors in the traditional dance. He then enters a special sanctuary and after further rituals, eats the first fruits of the season. Once the King appears to his people, they may also eat these fruits with the blessing of the ancestors.
Certain parts of the Incwala may not be witnessed by outside people and it is vital to obtain a permit from the Ministry of information to take photographs within the proximity of the royal cattle byre.
The Umhlanga (Reed) Dance
This takes place in late August or early September and is a ceremony that attracts young maidens from all over the Kingdom, providing the opportunity to honour the Queen Mother. Most of the participants are teenagers, although some of the girls are younger.
Over 20, 000 maidens gather reeds from selected areas and the day of the Umhlanga begins with bathing and grooming prior to appearing before the King and Queen Mother. The girls wear short beaded skirts with anklets, bracelets and jewelry and colorful sashes. The royal princesses wear red feathers in their hair and lead the maidens to perform before their Majesties. This ceremony may be freely photographed, provided you have a permit from the Ministry of information.
This energetic dance is performed by teams of men and is also popular among young boys at their school, who form their own teams and perform for special occasions. Many of the hotels and resorts have their own Sibhaca teams to entertain visitors.
Traditional Medicine & Divination
Traditional healers are regarded as physicians, prophets, priest, diviners and herbalists, and about 80% of the people consult these practitioners, who are mostly male. The “inyanga”, as they are known, inherit their skills from their fathers and grandfathers and they hold a senior place in society. The function of divination involves throwing bones and interpreting the patterns into which they fall.
The “sangoma” is a traditional diviner who has been called to the profession. Generally women, they are consulted to alleviate physical and mental problems, attend various ceremonies and act as counselors. When divining, the sangoma traditionally relies on spirit possession.
Swaziland’s social structure is based on a clan system and through marriage, these clans have intermingled. There is a class system which regulates marriage and within the aristocracy the first wife is never the senior one and a second wife of higher status will take precedence. A preferential marriage arranged by the parents bestows a higher status on the union, forming a permanent bond between the two families.
The bridegroom’s pays “lobola” (a dowry) in the form of a number of cattle in keeping with the status of the bride is anointed to indicate that the union has taken place. The rights of fatherhood are acquired through lobola and if no cattle have been given, any child born of the union remains within the mother’s family. Children are taught to share both the good things and the problems of life with other family members. Discipline and a share of family responsibility are imparted from an early age and the authority of the father is respected and obeyed. Boys are taught by male members of the family to assume male roles and skills and female relatives. Boys enter regiments in which they train with their peers, developing with the same group throughout life, and members of the regiments are expected to support each other. Only when a young man achieves mature warrior status may he consider courtship as his earlier responsibilities involved participation in national projects and rituals. Grandparents teach the young to respect their parents and old age is treated with reverence within the culture.
The Swazi Flag
The present Swazi flag, which has been used since 1967, compresses a black and white shield on a bright background of blue, yellow and red. The shield depicts racial harmony is also part of the weapon of the “Sotja” (soldier) Regiment that served in World War II. The blue represents the sky; the yellow is for gold, or the country’s mineral wealth; and the red is the rich fertile soil of Swaziland.
The National Coat of Arms
The lion (Ingwenyama) represents of the King and the elephant (Indlovukazi, or great she elephant) depicts the Queen Mother. Both are supporting a Swazi shield. Above the shield is the King’s crown of feathers, which is worn during the Incwala Ceremony. At the bottom is the national motto “Siyincaba” we are the fortress.
The Regional of Swaziland
At independence in 1968, Swaziland was divided into the four regions of Hlohlo, Manzini, Lubombo and Shiselweni (see centre fold map). These regions are district from on altitude and vegetation, which run from west to east and vary in altitude from 1800 to 400 metres above sea level and the Lowveld to the east, which is also subtropical. The furthers eastern zone runs along the Lubambo Mountains, which form Swaziland’s border with Mozambique.
The regions of Hlohho and Shiselweni are after named old royal homesteads in these areas, Manzini is the name of Swaziland’s largest town, while Lubombo and Shiselwa are respectively served by Mbabane, Manzini, Siteki and Hlathikhulu. Nhlangano has superseded Hlathukhulu in size and importance in terms of employment, commercial output and services, while in the Lubpmbo Region, Big Bend and Simunye, the ‘company towns’ serving the vast sugar estates, are today much large than Siteki.
Covering the western part of Swaziland from the north and running southwards to the centre, Hlohho was named after the capital of King Mswati II, who expanded the Swazi territory to the north and west, taking in the districts of Barberton, Nelspruit, Carolina and Piet Retief. These areas were later acquired by what was the province of Transvaal and today they form part of South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province.
The greater Pigg’s Pick area has a long and interesting history: gold deposits were first recorded in modern times in about 1872 and in 1884, a gold-bearing reef was discovered in the hills to the west by the prospector, William Pigg, after whom the town is named. Gold was mined until 1954 but although initially successful, the venture never really took off.
Today, forestry is the main industry while tourism has grown significantly since the development of the Maguga Dam. The road is the main route into Swaziland from the world-famous Kruger National Park, making the hotels and lodges in the area ideal stopovers for visitors.
Nestled in the Piggs Peak forests in a mountainous valley is the secluded Orion Piggs peak hotel & casino, which is only a four and a half hour drive from Johannesburg. The rolling hills, speaking streams and countless wearfalls make the area one of the most visually appealing in Swaziland. The hotel is close to the Phophonyane waterfall and Maguga Dam, and offers affordable luxury in a relaxing environment. Each room has its own balcony with spectacular views of the mountains and forests and the secluded location makes it ideal for conferences, a romatic honeymoon or a relaxing weekend. A wide range of activities and tourist attractions ensure that all tastes and age are catered for. The casino offers a mix of the most exciting gambling games and some of the most popular slot machines. The hotel is also home of the All Africa Poker Tournament, which is frequented by international poker celebrities and has created numerous instant poker millionaires. The nearby Peak Fine Craft Centre has divers and interesting shops that are well worth a visit. They offer high quality locally produced craft items and there is a restaurant with spectacular views over the area. Phophonyane Falls Ecolodge and Nature Reserve is also located in the vicinity.
The historic mining village of Bulembu to the west of Pigg’s Peak lies at the end of an 18km scenic drive on a gravel road that takes the visitor near Devil’s Bridge on the slopes of Emlembe, which at 1850 metres, is the highest mountain in Swaziland. The village nestles at the foot of the mountain neat the now defuct adsestos min. the houses of mine’s senior management have been beautifully renovated, while retaining their original character, and today form part of the delightful resort kwon as Bulembu Coutry Lodge. Visitors may take the hiking trail that leads to the summit and views that provide make more than adequate reward for the effort. They may then relax in the road from the Bulembu border to Barberton in South Africa is tarred and it is hoped that the section from Bulembu to Pigg’s Peak with be upgraded to further develop tourism in the area. Projects to empower the local community include an orphanage for children whose parents have been victims to HIV/AIDS and crafts are taught in an effort to create income earning opportunities.
Just south of Pigg’s Peak to the left (the sawmill is your landmark) is a scenic loop road that leads to the Maguga Dam, a major development on the Komati River that has been pivotal in expanding agricultural activity, particularly crops grown under irrigation. The Maguga area offers divers diverse development opportunities and has become a significant tours attraction in its own right. Along this road a community-run view site on the right is being development and further on to the left is the View Point Restaurant with a lovely view over the spillway, which is particularly spectacular when the water rushers over. Just along the road on the right is Maguga Lodge, set at the southern bank of the dam with stunning views. This beautiful thatched structure nestles snugly within the scenic area, offering double, en-suite chalets and wide verandahs with wonderful views over the dam. Visitors may also utilize the house boat for overnight stays or a pleasant cruise.
Along the road to Mbabane from Piggs Peak is the Swaziland National Trust Commission owned Malolotja Nature Reserve, which is home to a diversity of flora, fauna and birds. It offers hiking trails, accommodation and a restaurant, as well as the unique Tree Top Canopy Tour which enables visitors to glibe through the forest while enjoying amazing views. Malolotja is also home to the world’s oldest mine.
The Oshoek/Ngwenya border with South Africa at the south-west of Hhohho is the busiest point of exit and entry and is served by the MR3 highway which bypasses Mbabane and links to the tourist mecca of Ezulwini Valley, then goes on to Motsapha and Manzini. Shortly after the border is a turnoff to the village of Ngwenya, home of the famous glass factory and several quality raft shops within the centre. The Ngwenya Montain is the site of the world’s oldest mine, which dates dates back 43, 000 years, and the vast crater created by iron ore mining during the last century.
The oldest mine in the world
More than 27, 000 years passed since ancient man was chapping away at the side of the Ngwenya Mountain in the north-west section of the area that would eventually become known as Swaziland. The world Ngwenya is siSwati for crocodile and the mountain is thus named because of its resemblance to a huge basking reptile of that species
These bushmen were taking out pieces of iron ore (haematite), from which they extracted red ochre to smear on objects or people to signify fertility, purity and sanctity. Secularities, a glistening black oxide or iron, was also among the diggings and was used to ward off evil or as a cosmetic.
The private miners confirmed their work to the mountain’s summit for fear of the great horned snake, the god of the underworld, who lived at its heart. Thousands of artifacts have been excavated from the site (today known as the Lion’s Caver) over recent years and radio-cardon testing of charcoal nodules has established
The Ngwenya Tour – The village of Ngwenya is about a 15 minute drive from Mbabane. On the Ngwenya Mountain, named for its resemblance to a basking crocodile, is the oldest excavation in the world, which dates back 43, 000 years. There is also a massive canyon, surrounded by the imposing hills of Malolotja, created by the 20th century commercial iron – ore mining that took place in the 1960s and 1970s. Although mining in the area ceased in 1980 it remains a major point of interest and there is a possibility that mining will resume. Learn more about the mine site at the excellent Visitor Centre. The area is well sign posted from the highway and about two hours should be allowed for this tour. Nearby is the Ngwenya Glass factory and shop where glass blowers, trained in the Swedish method, create lovely items from recycled glass. It is the only factory of its kind in southern Africa and visitors may watch the hand-made items being made from a balcony overlooking the work area. At the adjacent shop a wide variety of glasses, bowls, ornaments and other items may be purchased at factory prices. Enjoy a light lunch or snack at the restaurant then stroll through the attractive gardens that lead to a craft centre where African crafts, weapons and artifacts are to be found, along with ceramics, clothing and delightful hand – carved rocking horses, as well as jewellery made from recycled paper.
Continuing along the MR3 Highway, you can either take Exit 10 to Mbabane or carry on to bypass the city and travel towards the Ezulwini Valley.
THE CAPITAL CITY
“Mbabane may well not have become the capital of Swaziland if the British had not won the Anglo-Boer war. During the 1890’s the Boer administration had earmarked Manzini (then Bremersdorp) for the main centre, preferring the warm climate of the middleveld area. All that changed when the British won the war and Swaziland subsequently became a protectorate of that country. This followed protests by the Swazi’s against becoming a dependency of the Transvaal Republic and a request to Queen Victoria to establish a protectorate over them. ‘”Not because they love her the more, but because they feared her the less’”, wrote author Allister Miller” (From Mbabane into the Millennium published 1999). Mbabane was founded in 1903 when Swaziland fell under British protection and the new government opted for the cooler climate of the Highveld. In any case, Bremersdorp had been looted and burned down! The city, the meaning of whose name is believed to originate from a “small and bitter Highveld plant” that grew in the area, is named after Chief Mbabane Kunene, whose clan occupied the Dalriach farm which is now a major residential suburb. The origins of the town may be traced back to 1887 when Bombardier Mickey Wells, recorded ass being the first European settler and who was, by all accounts, something of a character, opened a primitive hotel, restaurant and store in the area.
Today the modern, somewhat electic city offers many facilities, including excellent shopping, banking, vehicle hire and other services at the two main shopping centres, the Swazi Plaza and the Mall. Shops include the original African Fantasy, which stocks a wide range of high quality crafts, clothing and souvenirs. There is also visioncare, a first class optometrist, which has capacity to produce same day prescriptions on the premises and which has additional branches in Mzansi and Matsapha. Both shopping centres have ample secure parking with modern supermarkets as their anchor tenants. Sadly two large incomplete structures have tended to dominate the city during recent years but one of these but one of these is now due to be completed while the other will either be demolished or finished in an effort to rectify this eyesore.
Mbabala is steeped in history, although the remaining of some streets has obscured much of the legend. The original main road in the old part of town, Gwamile Street, which features many of the original tin-roofed buildings, was previously named Allister Miller Street after the man of that name. This flamboyant character, who came to Swaziland in 1888 when Mbambane was merely a dusty hollow, was a man of many talents – journalist, author, politician and cartographer. He charted the first topographical maps of Swaziland and founded the times of Swaziland newspaper in 1897, among other achievements.
Other interesting features along this Street are the old lamp at the corner of Dr. Shishayi road, named after the late Dr. Shishayi Nxumalo who was a prominent and popular figure in post-independence Swaziland. The lamp once stood at London’s Waterloo Bridge and was obtained for Swaziland with funds raised by the Overseas League. The Old Secretariat, a lovely Cape Dutch style building, was built during the 1930s – it is believed for 8,000 pounds Stirling. It is located opposite the City Inn, a conveniently positioned, family-owned hotel. This is one of the oldest accommodation establishments in the country, having been established as the Mbabane Hotel during the pioneering days of the 1890s.
At the end of the road is the famous Mbabane Market, whose original character was obliterated with the demolition of the old tin buildings a few years ago, which were replaced by a concrete structure. Happily, the tenants have taken it upon themselves to decorate the walls with bright images and the charming handcrafts and fresh fruit and vegetables continue to be sold by the friendly “market mamas” WHO traditionally rule that roost.
For visitors staying in the Mbabane area, there is a wide choice of bed of bed and breakfast and other residential establishments, such as Brackenhill Lodge and Ekulindzeni. Located in Mbabane’s suburbs, they are set in lonely gardens with views of the surrounding mountainous scenery.
Leaving Mbabane, you will arrive at the top of the Malangwane Hill where the road joints the MR3 highway. Nearby is the turnoff to the Mountain Inn, a well-appointed and established hotel owned and run by the same family as the City Inn. This hotel overlook some of the country’s most spectacular views, embracing the Ezulwini Valley and the famous twin peaks of Sheba’s Breasts and Execution Rock.
The Ezulwini Valley – The Tourism Mecca
The scenic and fast-developing Ezulwini Valley (Valley of Heaven) lies at the bottom of the Malagwane Hill. There are three exists off the highway but it is recommended to take this first one in order to cover the full extent of the valley. This is the Kingdom’s main tourist area, where excellent hotels and restaurants are to be found, together with craft outlets and many activities.
The Valley of Heaven, as it is known, offers a wealth of attractions to visits and is an ideal base from which to explore the Kingdom. From Mbabane, proceed along the highway, enjoying the magnificent scenery as you descend into the valley. The lush sub-tropical area, overlooked by the Mdzimba Mountains to the north, has hotels of all descriptions, from the magnificent Royal Villas, as well as the luxury Royal Swazi Spa Valley comprising three hotels: the Royal Swazi Spa, among the places worth visiting are:
- Shops within the royal Swazi Spa Valley hotel complex where quality clothing and souvenirs are available, as well as a wealth of fine reading material. There is a beauty and health spa at the Royal Swazi Spa.
- Visit the roadside markets with their wide selection of crafts and souvenirs sold by friendly vendors. These include Bhule Besibuko Semaswati, a complex just off the main road to the left after the Ezulwini Hotel, and Buhle Bakho Make the gables.
- The fascinating and diverse shops at the Mantenga Craft Centre.
- There are restaurants to cater for every taste and nightclubs that provide entertainment into the small hours.
- Try your luck at southern Africa’s first ever casino at the Royal Swazi Spa which has tables, slot machines and a salon prive.
- Golfers may enjoy the challenging international standard 18 hole golf course with superb views at the Royal Swazi Spa. Those wanting to improve their game may take lessons from the pro.
- Mlilwane Wildlife sanctuary is Swaziland’s oldest nature reserve and is known as the Mother of Conservation in the Kingdom. Visitors may stay overnight in a variety of accommodation, enjoy game drives an walking and horse riding trails, as well as cultural experiences. Reilly’s Rock, Chubeka Trails and Sondzela Backpackers are located within Mlilwane. The sanctuary plays a pivotal role in local tourism and also supports neighboring establishments. (See advert inside front cover).
- Mantenga Nature Reserve embraces the cultural village where visitors may learn about and experience traditional Swazi life and customs.
- Contact Taman tours for a guided day or multi-day excursion anywhere in Swaziland, covering the many aspects of the country, whether of a historical, conservationist of cultural nature. They cater for individuals or groups with emphasis on value and exceptional service.
Sheba’s Breasts: The distinctive twin-peaks are clearly visible from the Malagwane Hill as the traveler descends from Mbabane into the Ezulwini Valley. The rock formations are named after the legendary beauty and mysterious Queen of Sheba from Ethiopa, supposedly seduced King Solomon. The author H. Rider Haggard, who traveled through Swaziland as secretary to Sir Theophilus Shepstone in the 1880s, was inspired by the peaks and it is believed that he wrote his famous “King Solomon’s Mines” while staying at the private Kapola Estate. His lesser-known novel “She” was also inspired by the Queen of Sheba. Legend tells that Sheba’s Breasts ate the site of King Solomon’s mines.
Executives Rock overlooks the Ezulwini Valley, forming a backdrop to The Gables Shopping Centre. It is easily viewed from the Mantenga cultural village and is located within Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary, from where self-guided hiking trails to the summit offer a spectacular 360 degree view of the Valley. Chubeka Trail’ ‘Rock of Execution Horse Trail” is a unique excursion.
The rock derives its name from the custom of a century ago, when wrong-doers accused of crimes such as witchcraft and murder were made to walk to the summit and plunge to their deaths. This venture inevitably required some assistance from the Swazi warriors on the ascent and, understandably, a prod from a spear to facilitate the download journey. Happily, this custom was done away with some time ago.
Lobola, the spiritual and cultural centre of the Kingsdom, is home to the Somhlolo National Stadium, the Houses of Parliament, the National Museum and Archives, and the King Sobhuza II Memorial Park. Near Lobola is the Lozitha Royal Palace with its distinctive minaret styled roof, which represents traditional Swazi beehive huts. Along the old main road towards Malkerns is Eludzidzini. This replaced lobola as the traditionl capital when King Mswati III ascended that throne in 1986 and is the royal home of the Queen Mother.
The Mantenga Experience
There are numerous attractive within the Mantenga area, the entrance to which is clearly sign posted to the right going towards the Gables. Visit the Mantenga Craft Centre with its fascinating shops that offer a wide variety of local art and craft items. Book an adventure adrenalin sport or a safari at Swazi Trails. There is also a Tourism Information Office in the centre and nearby is legends Backpacker Lodge, a stopover that is popular with young and young at heart.
Within the Mantenga Nature Reserve is the Cultural Village, which falls under the Swaziland National Trust Commission, and where visitors may learn about day-to-day life in a Traditional Swazi homestead and enjoy vibrant dance shows. There is also tented accommodation, restaurants and, of course, the breathtaking Mantenga Falls.
Lobambo – The Royal Experience
On the left about 1.5 km after the Gables is the turn-off to the royal area of Lobamba, which is regarded as the kingdom’s spiritual home. Eludzidzini, the residence of the Queen, is near the main entrance to Mlilwane Wildfine Sanctuary further along the tourist route towards Manzini. This is where King Mswati III summons his people to advise on various issues and to listen to their suggestions regarding administration, enabling all Swazis to express their views. Eludzidzini is where the sacred Incwala Ceremony is held each year in December, as well as the colorful Umhlanga (Reed) dance in September. Lozitha Royal Palace, located along the road beyond the MR3 Highway link, was king Sobhuza II’s residence but today is used only for ceremonial and official occasions.
Conservation & Culture
Visit Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Swaziland’s oldest nature reserve and home to Reilly’s Rock, which is surrounded by the Royal Botanical Gardens. These are inhabited by a variety of endangered antelope species. Also within Mlilwane is Sondzela Backpackers, where the country’s thriving backpacker industry took root. Go to the Mantenbga Nature Reserve with its magnificent waterfalls and the Cultural Village, where traditional dancing takes place. Within the village, which is operated by the Swaziland National Trust Commission, is a luxury tented camp and a restaurant. Enjoy walking and hiking trails, including a guided hike to Sheba’s Breasts, and bird watching.
The Cultural Tour
Turn left into the Labamba area at the Somhlolo National Stadium, which is clearly visible from the main road. This is where major sporting events and celebrations take place and where Mswati III was crowned King in April 1986. The late Pope John Paul II addressed the people of Swaziland at Somhlolo in 1988.
Turn right at the roundabout and you will pass the houses of parliament, and then arrive at the National Museum and the king Sobhuza II Memorial Park, both operated by the Swaziland national trust commission, whose headquarters are also located there. They offer interesting displays of Swazi memorabilia, as well King Sobhuza’s grand old limousines, while a traditional homestead enables visitors to learn about Swazi life. Qualified guides conduct tours of these attractions.
Phophonyane near Pigg’s Peak beautiful riverine walks surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, small animals and impressive bird life plus accommodation and a restaurant in a beautiful ambience. Mnalolotja, the largest nature reserve in the country, falls under the Swaziland National Trust Commission and is located between the western border with South Africa and the Piggs Peak Road towards Ngwenya. It teems with game, bird life, fish and flora, offering hiking trails, the highest waterfall in the country and giant potholes. Accommodation is in log cabins and at campsites along the hiking routes.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in Ezulwini is part of the Big Game Parks group and the oldest nature reserve is Swaziland. It offers camping, accommodation, a restaurant and a wonderful atmosphere at the Rest Camp with its hippo pool, cheeky warthogs and restaurant.
There is diverse game and bird viewing and several activities, such as walking, mountain biking and horse riding trails. Overnight camping and cave trails are also available for the more adventure hikers, cyclists and riders. Mantenga Nature Reserve is also a national trust commission project in the Ezulwini Valley. It incorporates tented accommodation and a culture village where visitors may observe traditional Swazi life and dance. There is also an a la carte restaurant within walking distance of the magnificent Mantenga Falls.
This region, which covers mid-western and central parts of Swaziland, is home to Matsapha, the country’s largest industrial area. This region is the most densely populated in the country.
Manzini, the Capital City
The region’s capital city, also called Manzini and known as The Hub of Swaziland, was previously named Bremersdorp after the entrepreneur Albert Bremer, who arrived there in the 1880s during the concessions period. Because he operated his farm and trading store near the river, the Swazis, with typical humour, dubbed his place kaManzini (at the water).
Bremersdorp was the country’s capital under the Transvaal administration, which was superseded by British rule in 1903 at the end of the Boer War, when capital was moved to Mbabane. The reason given is the preferred cooler climate – and probably the fact that Bremersdorp had, in any case, been looted and burned to the ground! The name Manzini was officially adopted during the 1960s. Coupled with the nearby industrial area of Matsapha, this city comprises the country’s largest urban population. Modern day Manzini serves as a dormitory for Mataspha and is characterized by both formal and informal trade. This bustling cosmopolitan centre is described by historian and writer James hall as:
“….a city, but with a languorous small town feel. A brisk walk from one end of downtown to the other, from the traffic circle opposite the golf course to the bridges spanning the river, takes all of fifteen minutes. The walk is interrupted by only four traffic lights. The city’s first traffic light at Ngwane and Sandlane Streets was not even there until 1983. Sidewalk vendors, whose proliferation was a phenomenon of the 1990s, sell fruits and vegetables. Boys blare announcements of sales through loud speaks before chain stores. People congregate in pair or small groups, passing the time of day in a city that appears to be in no hurry to get to where it is going. At the library silence is observed among serious students in school uniforms filling tables before long, brown-tinted windows whose 360-degress second story view shows that the principal feature of Manzini is still its tress. Each season brings a new blossoming of colour-coordinated flowers along the paths of Jubilee Park and the knoll of grass beside City Council Chambers. Prominent marriages and funerals are held in the cathedral where the red flowers of coral trees in December contrast with the lavender profusion of the street’ jacarandas in October.
70, 000 residents now call Manzini home, a number greater than the entire population of Swaziland a hundred years before. Despite some ungainly development and a host of new social challenges the city captures the essence of Swazi life in its casual pace and informal, friendly attitude. And in this way the years of change have not altered (it) at all: it is still a place, as it was in the beginning, where everybody knows your name”
Manzini is home to the Mavuso trade Centre, where the annual International Trade Fair and other major promotional events and exhibitions take place. Adjacent to this are a sports arena and football stadium. The city provides excellent shopping in three large malls, the newest of which, Riverstone, opened in 2011. There is a wide choice of hotels and restaurants, including The George Hotel near the city centre, which offers excellent facilities, for both business and pleasure. Global village is a luxurious guest house set in the tranquil suburb of Madonsa near the Manzini golf course.
The route from Manzini to Matsapha is along the MR3 highway and you cannot miss the vast industrial area on the left with its factories, warehouses and shopping centres. Leave the highway at the industrial site (do not take the flyover) and at the roundabout, branch to the left and travel along the old road until you reach the quarry. There is a turning to the left and signage will take you to the unique Summerfield Botanical Garden and Resort. This comprises a restaurant and luxurious accommodation set in amazing grounds with water features, lifelike model animal and a profusion of exotic and indigenous trees and shrubs, including protected ancient cycads.
Lubombo is home of the country’s greatest concentration of nature reserves, which are collectively known as the Lubombo Conservancy. Here visitors may spot a vast diversity. Here visitors may spot a vast diversity of animals, including the Big Five and bird life that is second to none, all within protected bushveld areas that incorporate wonderful indigenous plants and trees. The bird life in this region is among the most prolific in the country with more than 350 species and due to the extent of the conservation areas, there are many majestic raptors as well as brown-headed parrots in their hundreds. A wide choice rest camps.
Lubombo runs from the north to the south of the country, alongside the flat-topped Lubombo Mountains, after which the region is named, and which form the country’s eastern border with Mozambique. The Mhlumeni/Goba border is the recommended option when traveling between Swaziland and Mozambique.
The region’s historic administrative centre is Siteki (Formerly Stegi), a charming little town set on hill 1000 metres above sea level and from where, on a clear day, the Indian Ocean may be seen. Towards the end of the 19th Century, the Transvaal African administration placed a magistrate in the area to control the “lawless white adventures” who adounded there at the time. Take a break while visiting and enjoy a steak, pizza or sea food at the popular and friendly R & B Restaurant.
About 20km east of Siteki is the small town of Mpaka which was previously best known as a centre for Swaziland Railway. However, in recent years, the area has revealed a secret in the form of Swazi indigenous products, a supplier-owned company that produces natural skin and hair care products under the Swazi Secrets brand. The factory cold-presses the oil of seeds from the fruit of the indigenous marula tree into skin products that are rich in anti-oxidants and vitamin E. The oil is also exported overseas for use in the manufacture of cosmetics and skin care items. This environmentally sustainable project generates income for local women, who gather and crack the hard nuts within the marula fruit to release the seeds. Visitors are welcome to the factory, where they may also purchase the finished products at special prices.
The fruit of the marula tree has a high alcohol content and the joke about marula berry-consuming elephants becoming inebriated is not too far from the truth! The month of March marks the famous buganu season, when the Swazi people habitually indulge in their traditional marula beer. The marula berry also forms the base for the popular Marula Cream Liquor, whom label bears an image of happy elephants.
The “Sugar Belt”
The “company towns” of Simunye, Mhlume, Tshaneni and big bend have expanded considerably over the years with the development of the vast sugar estates there, which between them employ several thousand people. They all offer various amenities that include social clubs, which also offer accommodation, as well as shopping facilities and various sports, including golf. There is a par-three nine-hole course at Simunye and a more challenging nine-hole facility at Mananga.
Driving north from the Lavumisa border is the Riverside Restaurant and Hotel in the Riverside Complex at Big Bend, a convenient and pleasant stop in the area for an overnight stay or just a meal and a browse in the curio shop.
Mananga Country Lodge offers a delightful ambience on the golf course and is secured with gates and fencing to protect the game that roams within the grounds. There is an excellent restaurant and accommodation is available at the nearby guest house, which is adjacent to the sixth tee. Mananga Country Lodge has a fully equipped houseboat that sleeps up to four and has its own motor boat for fishing, as well as a sunset cruiser for up to 20 people. To the far north of Lubombo near the Lomahasha borer is the community run Shewula Mountain Camp. Here visitors may stay with Swazi people in hutted accommodation and experience for themselves the local lifestyle and culture, while absorbing the country’s unique beauty. This community-run project is one of Swaziland’s most popular tourism venues and is a fine example of ecotourism.
Swaziland’s Scenic Routes
Most of the route in this section are suitable for ordinary cars, although some of the gravel or dirt sect5ions, indicated in while on the maps, may require high clearance or 4×4 vehicles in wet weather. Don’t forget to take binoculars and a camera before setting out on these routes and wear comfortable clothing and shoes that are suitable for walking.
The Hills of Hhohho: Mbabane to Pigg’s Peak and Ngonini: Distance 99km. Add 36km for the Bulembu option. Rood, in which case high clearance or 4×4 is recommended. From Mbabane, this route follows the highway to the Ngwenya border then turns right at Motshane, passing the Hawane Dam to the right. At Malotja Nature Reserve, is the Tree Top Canopy Tour which offers a unique experience as participants glide above the area. This is one of the finest scenic routes in Swaziland, taking the traveler along a winding tarred rood fringed by spectacular mountain scenery that is interspersed with gorges and waterfalls.
Stop and buy a souvenir at one of the many craft stalls along the roadside and watch cheerful young boys and girls dressed in banana leaves dancing to the beat of a drum (tips appreciated!). Towards the northern edge of the historic town of Pigg’s Peak a gravel road to the left provides a scenic diversion to Bulembu and the site of the defunct asbestos mine. This winding route may be awkward in wet weather. The area has been developed as a tourist attraction with charming accommodation available at the renovated mine village house known as Bulembu Country Lodge. Various community projects include the creation of handcrafts for tarring but commencement of work is yet to take place.
About 10km north of Pigg’s Peak is the Phophonyane Nature Reserve, where visitors may enjoy yet more Spectacular Mountain and riverine scenery, waterfalls and walking trails, as well as view small mammals and 230 bird species. At the nearby Peak Craft Centre, just after the Orion Hotel, area quality craft shops continue north throgh yet more awesome scenery towards Ngonini, one Matsamo/Jeppes Reef Border, which is close to the Kruger National Park.
Magnificent Maguga – A 25km diversion along the Mbabane/Pigg’s Peak Route. Recommended Vehicle: ordinary car.
With a capacity of 332 million cubic metres of water and a wall 115metres tall, Maguga is the highest dam in the region. Since it was opened by his Majesty King Mswati III in 2002, a diversity of tourism attractions have been developed in this unique and truly beautiful part of rural Swaziland. Travelling in a northerly direction provides the most spectacular views of the area and over the dam. About 24km along the Mbabane/Pigg’s Peak road is a clearly market turning to Maguga Lodge on the right. About 4km along the winding main road the vista shortly opens up to reveal the first sight of Maguga Dam. Magagu Lodge on the left provides second-to-none views of the dam. This is a perfect stopover in the area and even if not staying the right, it is well worth stopping at the lodge for refreshments or a meal at the lodge while enjoying the stunning vista from the rustic verandah. About one km further on is the Maguga View Site Restaurant with spectacular views over the spillway and later, on the left community run Maguga Dam Viewsite. Shortly after the view site is the T-junction that meets the main Mbabane/Pigg’s Peak road.
Cross Contry Adventure
From the Maguga Dam Road to Mbabane: Distance about 50km. Recommended Vehicle: high clearance or 4×4.
A clearance vehicle is essential and 4×4 is recommended for this wonderful scenic route which is for the more adventurous and best taken in fine weather. Please check your distance to ensure you take the correct turnings. Driving along the Maguga Road, about 7km from the turnoff from the main Pigg’s Peak Road, take the dirt road to the right signposted Swazi Ark of Arts and Crafts. Caves containing ancient pottery have been located with friendly local people. Continue past homesteads and general stores with a breathtaking view of Maguga Dam on your left. After 6.5km the road winds downwards quite sharply and after 11km, look out for Malandzela Primary School where you must turn left. The road is quite rocky at this point. At 17.5km, you will drive up to a ridge and then come across a bridge. Look for a World Vision sign and turn sharp right. At 22.5km, keep left at the T-junction, go over a causeway then drive up the hill for yet another spectacular vista. There are no further turnings from this point so you can simply enjoy the view as you came to Pine Valley near Mbabane and cross the Mbuluzi River before reaching the tar road. Soon you will see the famous Sibebe Rock on your left. At the top of the winding road on the left is a green wall (about 47km). Bear left (do not take the sharp left turn). Pass Sifundzani High School on the left and shortly there is a three way stop street by the golf course bridge. The second three ways stop near the Mbabane Club marks the edge of the city.
The Tea Road: A circular route from Ezulwini: Distance 62km. Recommended Vehicle: high clearance or 4×4. Travelling from Mbabane and just before the calabash restaurant turn off is a road to the left which marks the start of the scenic Tea Road route. It was is a named following a failed bid to establish a tea plantation in the area during the 1970s. You will pass the large satellite telecommunications dish on the left before starting the steep climb to the top of the Mdzimba Mountain Range. The panoramic, breath-taking views take in the Ezulwini valley, Lobamba and Malkerns, and include the twin peaks of Sheba’s Breasts which, according to legend, are the side of King Solom’s mines. The gravel road is marked by huge boulders and Swazi villages. As you continue your journey, take the left-hand fork (the right leads to an army camp and visitors are not encouraged). 41km from the start of the journey, turn right then left at 43.5km and left again at v45.5km, towaards the Kwaluseni Campus of the University of Swaziland and on towards the highway near Matsapha Industrial Area. At this point, continue back to Ezulwini via Malkerns on the old road or along the MR# highway. Take extra are along the steep gravel sections of this route in wet weather.
Scenic Splendour: Mbabene circular route to Manzini via Pine Vally and Ezulwini, Distance 126km. Recommended Vehicle: high clearance or 4×4.
Drive northwards out of Mbabane past the club and entrance to the golf course on the right, follow the Sibebe signs and turn right down the Pine Valley road after two km. This route will take you through the beautiful Pine Valley, post the famous Sibebe Rock, which is the world’s largest exposed granite dome or pluton, and on to Mbuluzi, named after the nearby river. The road becomes gravel from this point. At 43 km, take the left-hand fork (the right leads back to Mbabane) and continue, through typical rural Swaziland, passing villages and homesteads. Take a right-hand fork and continue through the countryside until you come to the village of Luve. The road is now tarred and you will arrive at Mafutseni after another 15km. turn right towards Manzini, the bustling “Hub of Swaziland”, and the route will take you past Matsapha, the country’s main industrial area. You may now continue along the MR3 highway back to Mbabane but it is worth taking the old road to the left and driving on to Malkerns. This rural area is rich in farmland and provides some interesting diversions, including craft shops and stalls and the well-known Malandela’s Centre with its funky theatre, craft shops and restaurant, among other attractions. This are off the route but clearly sign-posted and well worth a visit. The drive continues through the Ezulwini Valley, up the MR3 highway and back to Mbabane.
Forests and Valleys
The Mbabane circular route via Mhlabanyatsi, Bhunya, Malkerns and Ezulwini: Distance 97km. Recommended Vehicle: ordinary car. This tarred route runs from Mabane to the charming “English” village of Mhlabanyatsi about 25km away, through mountains and hills that encompass one of the largest man-made forests in the world, within which are several well-stocked dams for fly fishering. On the left, you will pass the Luphohlo Dam, which is popular for water sports. Be careful of the high speed bumps as you enter the village of Mhlambanyatsi at the boom. Just beyond the village is the charming Forester’s Arms Hotel, after which a winding road leads to Bhunya. At this point, turn left and travel through undulating agricultural land beside the Great Usuthu River on the right. You will pass Luyengo Campus, the agriculture faculty of the University of Swailand and eventually arrive at the agricultural village of Malkerns. Here there are diverse shops and craft centres and it is well worth stopping to browse and buy. Follow the road to Mahlanya and turning left at the T-junction, you will travel past Lobamba, the spiritual heart of the nation, then through the Ezulwini Valley with its many tourist attractions, eventually joining the MR3 Highway back to Mbabane.
The circular route from Nhlangano via Hlatikhulu and the the Grand Valley to Kwalusen, Malkerns, Luyengo and Mankayane. Return to Nhlangano via Gege. Distance 211km. Recommended Vehicle: high clearance for the Sicunusa/Gege/Nhlangano section. This route, which may be started and finished at any point, embraces many aspects of rural Swaziland. If setting off from the southern town of Hlangano, travel northwards along the Grand Valley route, which offers some of the country’s most spectacular vistas of steep hills and deep valleys, with mountain views as far as the eye can see. It was in this area, where the land rises from lowveld to middleveld that the early Swazi clans first settled in the country. About 25km after Nhlangano a loop road to the right leads to the pretty village of Hlatikhulu. This road also provides breathtaking views, which continue once the main road is rejoined about 12km after the village. The road end at a T-junction near Manzini. Turn left and proceed along the MR3 highway as far as Matsapha industrial Area. Do not use the flyover bridge, but bear left and continue along the old road (as opposed to the MR3 highway), then travel to Mahlanya and turn left towards Malkerns. At the top of this road (about 6km) turn right ending at the Luyengo Campus. At this point, continue towards Bhunya on the tar or turn left, in both cases following the Mankayane signs. This tiny, sleepy village with its quaint buildins is one of the oldest in Swaziland.
The excellent tar road takes you through yet more spectacular scenery. Look out for the Nhlangano sign about 26km after Mankayane. You will now travel along an unbarred road, past Swazi homesteads and villages, though a section of the Shiselweni Forests before arriving back at Nhlangano. A deviation of this route is the 19km drive from Nhlangano to Mahamba, where the scenic gorge has been developed as a community-based tourism centre with a cafe and self-catering rustic but comfortable accommodation in stone cottages. The old Methodist Church at Mahamba is also located in the area.
The Conservation Route: The Lubombo Conservancy – Eastern Swaziland from Lavumisa/Golela and Nsoko via Big Bend, Siteki, Simunye, Tshaneni and Managa. Distance 190km. Recommended Vehicle: ordinary car unless visiting a Nature Reserve, in which case high clearance or 4×4.
This route incorporates the kingdom’s major conservation area and provides excellent opportunities for big game sightings and birding. It starts at the Lavumisa border and runs nortwards through village of Nsoko and past Nisela Safaris’ the first of the nature reserves on the journey. Nisela lies at the foot of the Lubombo Mountains and famed for its game, birdlife and beautiful setting. The road goes on to the town of Big Bend, so-named because of the sharp bend on the adjacent river. This is home to Ubombo, one of the country’s major sugar estates.
Travel past the Van Eck dam on the left and a few kilometres later, you have the option of continuing left towards Siphofaneni and the Mkhaya Game Reserve. This is Swaziland’s refuge for endangered species; including the kingdom’s only population of buffalo, black rhino, tsesebe and sable antelope: fantastic viewing of these animals is virtually guaranteed. Mkhaya is responsible for saving the famous traditional Nguni Cattle breed from extinction – a conservation success in its own right. Prior booking for Mkhaya is essential – see advert for Big Game Parks inside front cover. Alternatively, turn right and continue towards Siteki, a fascinating old town set high in the hills, which is the original administrative capital of the Lubombo region. This road leads to the Mhlumeni/Goba border which links Swaziland with Mozambique.
Continuing along the road to Mhlume, you will soon be in the heart of conservation land, where the three nature reserves of Hlane, Mlawule, and Mbuluzi merge to form the Lubombo Conservancy. These reserves do not required prior booking for day visits although it is advisable to reserve accommodation in advance. Hlane is home to the kingdom’s largest herds of game, including four of the Big Five. Mlawula, set at the foothils of the Lubombo Mountain, has intriguing flora, including cycad species that are indigenous to Swaziland, as well as ancient iron wood trees. The route continues on to simunye and Mhlume, whose vast sugar estates form the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation. Just north of Simunye near Maphiveni is the community run Shewula Mountain Camp, set atop the Lubombo Mountain with stunning views and offering a wonderful experience of nature, as well as Swazi tradition and culture. This journey ends at Tshaneni and the Mananga and Lomahasha borders.
The Lubombo Route
Linking South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique and representing regional cooperation between the three countries, this is one of the most popular tourist routes in the region. Broadly, the Lubombo Routes runs between the Kruger National Park and Durban, and enables tourists to experiences a choice of three options, each with its own highlights and stories. Two of these incorporate Swaziland. The first starts at either the Matsamo/Jeppes Reef border or the South African town of Barberton in the north-west, going on to Pigg’s Peak, Ngwenya and through the Ezulwini Valley, then on to Big Bend and the Lavumisa/Golela border with South Africa. The second option begins at Mananga in the northeast and follows the Lubombo Conservancy as outlined under Scenic Route 6. It goes on to Big Bend before linking with South Africa at the Lavumisa/ Golela border.