By now you might have heard that the Royal Kingdom of Swaziland officially has a new name. The country bordered by South Africa and Mozambique is now known as eSwatini which means “place of the Swazi” and is the local Swazi language name for the country. One of the few countries in the world that is still ruled by an absolute monarch, visitors find the small country packs a punch when it comes to authentic experiences, charm, and exhilarating activities. The Kingdom celebrates 50 years of independence (from British Rule) this year and with a new name, it’s starting to pop up on travellers’ radar. Here’s an opportunity to learn more about the country and its attractions, and why you should visit.
The people of eSwatini are incredibly proud of their culture and traditions. When travelling through the Kingdom there are many opportunities to absorb the rich cultural heritage of the country. A visit to a traditional village or homestead is not to be missed and Mantenga Cultural Village is one of the best. Depending on the time of your visit you may even witness traditional ceremonies such as the Reed Dance, taking place in August, tens of thousands of unmarried Swazi women and girls travel from their villages and take part in an 8-day event that involves dancing with reeds held above their heads. The dance is in honour of the Queen Mother, to promote chastity and foster solidarity amongst the women.
The kingdom is known for producing incredible arts and crafts and two places that travellers should visit are Swazi candles and Ngwenya Glass. Swazi Candles is part of a larger craft market that is also worth exploring but the candles are most impressive with their various designs and patterns and make wonderful souvenirs. At the centre you can also watch woodcarvers at work and purchase woven baskets, batik prints, carved masks, and jewellery. Ngwenya Glass factory is regarded by many as the most prestigious glass factory in Africa. Here travellers have the opportunity to buy pieces at wholesale prices as well as watching the glass blowing process. These decorative animal bowls, wine glasses and wine stoppers, and unique chess sets among others can be found throughout the world in art galleries and high-end homeware shops.
If travellers are looking for wildlife experiences we recommend Hlane Royal National Park and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Hlane Royal National Park is home to all of the Big Five except the Cape Buffalo and boasts the largest herds of game in the Kingdom. Hlane means wilderness in siSwati and the park holds deep royal and cultural significance. Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is eSwatini’s pioneer conservation area situated in the “Valley of Heaven”. This reserve is incredibly family friendly and has exciting activities on offer such as cycling and horseriding.
Thrill seekers can enjoy the beauty of the country by partaking in various adventure activities such as abseiling at various locations such as Mantenga Waterfall or Execution Rock, canopy tours in Malolotja Nature Reserve, caving in Gobholo Caves, kayaking or white water rafting on the Great Usutu River, and horseriding in various locations throughout the kingdom.
The people of eSwatini are known to be incredibly friendly and welcoming and are happy to share their culture and traditions with the rest of the world. In 2018 the country is celebrating 50 years of independence as well as King Mswati III’s 50th birthday so it is an excellent time to experience the country and its special offerings!