I am 1 of the 3 “travellers” that embarked on our “road trip safari” of South Africa at the end of 2008. My part of the journey picks up on the Wednesday (after Laurina’s blog) where we pack the car once again and depart from Forresters Arms to explore more of what Swaziland had to offer! We were scheduled to do some site inspections of the Sun International Properties – so we headed toward Mbane and towards Manzini where we would find all 3 Hotels situated next to each other on the Main Road! We were able to do these inspections quite quickly and we were off once again, the heat became too much – not even the air-conditioning helped under these conditions. We made a quick “water run” at a nearby mall where were we happy to find a Pick n Pay.
Swaziland is not only known for its King Mswate but also for its great game viewing! We made our way to Milwane Game Reserve where we did a self drive through the park and went on to do a site inspection at Reilly’s Rock and the Bee Hive Huts.
The staff were extremely helpful and friendly and insisted that we wait to meet the marketing Manager of Big Game Parks! When he arrived he was very pleased to see us and also mentioned that we were so “lucky” to be able to overnight at Mkhaya Game Reserve! I would not exactly describe it as “LUCK”!
After this we were quite famished , but at the same time we were keen to see ” House of Fire” and well as “Swazi Candles” both of which Laurina had seen before on a her travels to Swaziland and which she recommended as a ‘must see’ and now I agree with her 100%. We arrived at the “House of Fire” and I was pleasantly surprised at its uniqueness. I am sure I will never see anything like it again. With its breathtaking views of the countryside and complimentary entertainment (a matter of right place at the right time!) we enjoyed a delicious lunch. After lunch we left immediately as we were going to see the “Swazi Candles” before continuing on to our overnight accommodation. As women we have our favourite pass time -SHOPPING and we bought a collection of candles to last probably a lifetime as well as early Christmas gifts and gifts for 2009 even! Time had caught up with us as we were to meet our transfer into the Park at 4pm .
I must advise anyone doing a self-drive through Swaziland to leave enough time to do things and not “cut the time so fine”. You can not guarantee that you will always be able to go the speed limit, you may just be stuck driving behind a truck or even a herd of cows. Fortunately, Katja was a real “pro driver” -a true Michael Schumacher and she managed to get us there as the clock struck 4pm. That was a close call as the transfers are only at certain times and if we missed it we might have just been left behind. We met our guide and we were then transferred into the park where we parked our vehicle and were further transferred into the Park area. We went on a 2 hour game drive, where we saw quite a bit and even were able to walk with the Rhinos!
We arrived at Mkhaya Stone Camp when it was dark already… not knowing what was awaiting us there: no electricity, no doors, and no walls! Yes I am completely serious. I was shown to my room and I was totally taken aback not really my idea of a good nights sleep! We negotiated among ourselves and had a very interesting evening! In hindsight I would probably not change anything about that evening as it was truly an unforgettable experience. We met some interesting people here! We then got a wake up call and we were taken on a morning game drive. After the game drive we had a scrumptious breakfast and afterwards we were transferred out of the Park.
Out of the Park and we headed straight for the Golela Border Post where we crossed back over into South Africa. Once we were through the border post we headed on the N2 towards Mkhuze. We were to spend this night at Ghost Mountain Inn. What we saw on entering the town coupled with name of Ghost Mountain Inn gave us images of …. not quite sure how to describe it! But, when we arrived at Ghost Mountain Inn and entered we were pleasantly surprised as this place is a real jewel. It is wonderful little hotel and I would definitely recommend to anyone as a stopover on their way to Kruger National Park, Durban, Swaziland or even Mozambique! This was our day at leisure and we were completely spoilt with a delicious lunch, a complimentary massage (heavenly!), a boat cruise and a unique cultural tour! After dinner we went to our rooms as we had lots in store for the next day.
The next morning after breakfast we left Ghost Mountain Inn and travelled all the way to St Lucia! Since we had such a relaxing day the day before we had quite a few site inspections scheduled for this day. We visited Hluhluwe Game Reserve the sights are absolutely magnificent and the vegetation is lush. In the Reserve we inspected Hluhluwe Hilltop and in the town we looked at Protea Hluhluwe and Hluhluwe Guesthouse. We then travelled further on making our way closer to St Lucia! We visited Emdoneni Lodge, it is nice place – the highlight is its Cat Rehabilitation Program. We were taken on a wonderful guided tour of the various cats they had on the premises, I would say a definite selling point of the place. We then proceeded further on to a place called Makakatana Bay Lodge situated in the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park. It is quite a dusty and bumpy road to get to the Lodge but when you arrive there it is definitely well worth it! We were met by chance by the owner of Makakatana! I think having her show us around really emphasised the essence of the place. This lodge is real luxury and definitely one of my favourites! The views from the Lodge are spectacular looking on tana to the St Lucia Wetlands! This coupled with the added features of the rooms makes it a wonderful place to getaway and definitely a great place for honeymooners!
After Makakatana Lodge we were on our way and done with site inspections for the day! We proceeded on to St Lucia Village where we were to overnight at Lidiko Lodge. St Lucia Village is a great little holiday town, with lots to see and do and literally everywhere you turn you are bound to find a bed and breakfast, a guesthouse or a hotel. We checked in and then went down to the beach which is about 10-15 minutes away by car. The water is a great temperature for swimming and the sand soft – only thing though it turns your toes pitch black! We decided to eat out that night and had a hearty meal at Ocean Basket. This is another point about this town is that there are great places to eat so booking a breakfast only option at you accommodation is a good idea. We were quite excited for our evening activity as we had booked a night drive and turtle tour, we were going to search for turtles laying their eggs -quite a unique experience. We were picked up by our guide and taken on a night drive in the Ismangaliso Wetlands Park. It was really a good game drive as we saw lots of nocturnal animals and even got to see hippo’s out of the water for a change! I must say that our guide was excellent being able to spot the smallest creatures in the dark even a chameleon that was camouflaged on a tree! I must say that it is so peaceful out in the wild at night that Katja and I did doze a bit though! We were disappointed though as we learned that we were not going on the turtle tour as well as it was not part of the night drive as apparently it takes place somewhere else you actually have to do an overnight! This aside we did have a great night drive. We were then dropped off at the lodge and this was to be the last night of our tour!
Final day of our tour and we had quite a bit of site inspections to do before the 3 hours drive back to Durban. So we got an early start after breakfast. We decided to visit Cape Vidal, so we went back through the Park, it was a totally different world out there from the evening before on our night drive. After doing this sight inspection we headed back to town to have a look at a couple a properties in the area. The properties were located either in the main road or on the roads running off the main road. I must say there are a couple of beautiful guesthouses to choose from. We then had lunch at a local “restaurant” if I can call it that. The restaurant looks out over the Wetland Park with amazing views.
After lunch we headed back to Durban for our flight home. I must say that we drove for almost an hour and a half without a garage in sight. Eventually we found one and had a quick “ice cream break”. We were on our way again , once we arrived at Durban International Airport it was time to say goodbye to our trusted car who looked a sight , but had managed to carry us through the whole journey! We had a quick bite to eat before boarding the aeroplane for our flight back to Cape Town. It was a wonderful trip but I was at the same time happy to be going back to Cape Town!