First off. If you’re going to be visiting Swaziland for a weekend, you ought to know that our neighbour has had a name change.
Yep, South Africa has a brand new country on its doorstep. To celebrate 50 years of independence (and the King’s 50th birthday) Swaziland has been renamed the Kingdom of eSwatini and you can visit on an affordable weekend break.
48 hours: things to do in The Kingdom of eSwatini
Exploring Swaziland is easier than you think. Adventure awaits just a four-hour drive away. From Johannesburg, the easiest place to enter is the Ngwenya border, on the eastern side of one of the smallest countries in Africa. The Kingdom of eSwatini is also one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies with King Mswati III currently on the throne.
Despite its size, Swaziland is brimming with wildlife, amazing scenery and an awesome adventure. Here’s how to plan a weekend away from Gauteng that won’t break the bank.
Leave on Friday
Book a car with Travelstart or hop into your own ride and set off east from Johannesburg. There are also some great flight deals if the four-hour journey doesn’t appeal to you.
Sleep with the warthogs
Lying close to two of the main cities of Swaziland, Mbabane and Manzini, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is your destination for the first night. It’s a popular tourist attraction, the first protected area created in Swaziland under the guidance of iconic conservation figure Ted Reilly, and draws in loads of day visitors. Here you’ll find a rare environment where visitors can experience nature up close by walking or cycling alongside some pretty tolerant wildlife. There’s also horse riding available too.
The sanctuary covers 4600 hectares and encompasses a surprising amount of diversity and wildlife. Zebra, wildebeest, impala, warthogs and more walk the plains of this wonderful conservation area. A high annual rainfall also means there are plenty of charming streams and waterways too.
There’s a good variety of affordable accommodation options, but we recommend you enjoy a night the Swazi way and stay in the budget-friendly, traditional Swazi-style beehive units. You’ll find warthogs around the evening fire on your way to dinner at the Hippo Haunt restaurant and it’s most wonderful to while away an evening beside them. The ‘beehives’ (so-called for their traditional grass dome construction) have a low door and no windows providing for a deep night’s sleep.
Fly across the skies on Saturday
Once energised with a dose a nature from Mlilwane, it’s time to set your sights on the skies.
First though (easy tiger!), make a stop at the renowned Ngwenya Glass factory on the way. Here, recycled glass is turned into magnificent works of art and the open factory is absolutely mesmerising. Visitors can watch as the glass-workers fire up and mould the glass into dolphins, lions, vases and extraordinary drinking glasses. There’s also a reasonably-priced cafe (milkshakes are a must) and other fabulous local Swazi design stores to browse.
From here, it’s an easy hour drive to the Malolotja Nature Reserve. This national Swazi park bordering Mpumalanga in South Africa boasts high meandering hills (among the oldest in the world at 3.6 billion years) and magnificent hiking trails (over 200km of them). The easiest way to explore though? The treetop Malolotja Canopy Tour.
One of the most epic ziplines you can do, this canopy tour crosses the Majolomba River, passing wild banana plants and sometimes baboons hanging out in the gorge too. There are 11 platforms, 10 slides and a gut-wrenching 50-metre-long suspension bridge to walk over. The views though, are all totally worth it.
From the Malolotja Nature Reserve, opt for the scenic tarred route past Maguga Dam and aim for Pigg’s Peak. The pretty dam is Swaziland’s largest reservoir and the long wall, which you drive across, stands 115m high and is the fourth largest in southern Africa. It’s an easy and spectacular drive. At the end of the route, you’ll find well-deserved rest after the morning’s adrenaline spike at a sanctuary called Phophonyane Falls Eco Lodge.
This perfectly peaceful oasis is perched beside a waterfall in the natural forest and offers many breath-taking views. There are over 240 bird species to discover across the property. Look for some of them on a sedate stroll to the stream for a golden-hour sundowner or enjoy some local brew, Sibebe beer, back at the restaurant deck.
Take the slow road home on Sunday
You won’t want to leave, but sadly Monday (and probably work) beckons. Draw out the day on Sunday as long as you can.
If you are driving back instead of flying directly home, take note. Even though the GPS will tell you the shortest route back to South Africa is via Bulembu border, the road is hazardous. Rather opt for the Jeppe’s Reef border and the route home will take you via Malelane. The upside of this is that you can always dip into the Kruger National Park for a quick game drive on your way home. Time-permitting, you can get up to Afsaal picnic site via the scenic Matjulu Loop on the S110 and S120 roads. Pack bacon and eggs to fire up a skottel breakfast. You can rent one for R25 for half an hour at the picnic site.
The N4 is the easiest route back to Gauteng and the best lunch spot has to be Milly’s, just before you reach the turnoff to Dullstroom. Try any of the trout specialities such as the delicious smoked trout pie.
Just like that, you’ve explored Swaziland in one easy weekend away.
Book cheap flights to Swaziland and Manzini now and see the magical Kingdom of eSwatini for yourself.
Have you visited The Kingdom of eSwatini recently? Tell us some of your favourite spots in the comments section below!
All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart will not be held liable for loss or inconvenience resulting from the use of out-dated or incorrectly noted information.