The highlights of any visit to Swaziland are mainly cultural and we recommend a visit to Mantenga Traditional Village, where tours are offered along with musical performances. The village is a living museum of traditional Swazi lifestyle, including colourful decorative beadwork and hand-weaving, and all Swazis are encouraged to visit here in order to develop an interest in their heritage.
The most significant Swazi cultural event is the annual Reed Dance that
takes place over eight days in late August/early September. During these festivities tens of thousands of unmarried young women dress up in colourful traditional attire, camp out and cut long river reeds which they present to the Queen Mother at her royal residence. On the last day they dance before their king, who traditionally used this celebration to choose a new bride. Little can prepare you for the sheer scale of this pageant, with column upon column of young girls ululating in a giant centipede formation - swaying, stamping and chanting.
The Swazi game reserves are good examples of sustainable tourism and provide much needed local employment. Mkhaya Game Reserve in particular has been important for its work in the conservation of black and white rhino. The scenery is spectacular and you can also see plains game, elephant, buffalo and crocodile. As well as Mkhaya, there are two other game reserves of note. Hlane Royal National Park is Swaziland’s largest reserve, situated in rugged unspoiled bushveld with lion, elephant, white rhino and giraffe. Game drives are offered as well as overnight fly camping. The secluded Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the beautiful Ezulwini Valley (Valley of the Heavens). It is home to many antelope including bushbuck, common duiker, blesbuck and klipspringer as well hippo, zebra, jackal and honey badger. This is a good walking and birding destination and also offers horse riding and mountain bike trails. All three of Swaziland’s reserves are within 1.5 hrs drive apart, so it’s easy to combine two reserves in one day. Each offers contrasting habitats and a range of varied activities, including many that are family-friendly. There is a good choice of accommodation from self-catering cottages to small comfortable lodges.
Swaziland’s birdlife deserves special mention as there are over 500 recorded species in the kingdom. Attracted by the many wildflowers, rare plants, and the remarkably wide variety of habitats, there are some bird species here that are hard to see elsewhere. Notable species include the critically endangered Blue swallow, Gurney’s sugarbird, Blue crane, Stanley’s bustard, Southern bald ibis, African broadbill, Red-billed helmet shrike and the Pink-throated twinspot. A total of 48 raptors have been recorded in the kingdom.
In addition to cultural and wildlife experiences, golfers can enjoy the championship course at Royal Swazi Spa Country Club and casino.