Swaziland (Kingdom of Eswatini)

Still under rule by decree of the King, Swaziland is one of the last true monarchies in the world. A country wedged between South Africa and Mozambique with a small economy but with a number of game reserves and a huge traditional culture so unique, it has fast become a popular tourist attraction.

Diverse landscapes from a north of green rolling hills, distant mountains and rivers to a south of vast, flat expanses, open plains and sugar cane fields. The typography of this country is truly varied, as is the climate offering cool and temperate modesty in the Highveld to some extreme summer temperatures in the dry Lowveld. A dry winter and a summer of rains and thunderstorms. Beware of lightening as this country holds the title for the highest number of people struck by lightning per capita.

The capital of Swaziland is Mbabane but the country is also divided into 4 districts, Hhohho in the northwest, Shiselweni in the south, Lumbombo in the east, the royal and legislative capital and Manzini in the central-west, the business centre. You can expect to hear English in the developed areas but where rural, only Swazi (SiSwati) is exclusively spoken by the locals, so if you know some of the local language this could be of great assistance when heading off the beaten track.

If the flag doesn’t give it away that this country is still very much based on traditional cultures, then the people certainly will. It’s all about tradition and you can’t miss the ritual ceremonies that take place every year, such as the “reed dance” for the King to choose his newest wife or the Incwala Kingship, which is a ritual ceremony over eight weeks to bring blessing of the ancestors and unity of the people.

When traveling in Swaziland it’s best to keep your dress code modest. We’d even go so far as to say, it’s best to only use your right hand for all things, using the left is a sign of disrespect. It’s a cultural thing as is most in this country. Although this can seem daunting, to the locals this is the norm and all part of the experience when visiting.

Much of the cuisine is of western standards, but for those who wish to enjoy the local feast, you’ll likely come across maize based dishes in some shape or form and as popular ingredients beans, groundnuts, avocado and sour milk. Dried or cooked ‘wild meat’ and ‘Chicken Dust’ (a cheap local barbeque meal) are found throughout and Marula is the home brewed drink of choice, if you’re daring enough to try it.

Look to visit Hlane Royal National Park for a chance to view lion, white rhino and elephants amongst numerous other animals and various bird species found in abundance. For those interested in nature and the more scenic landscapes, make sure to include Pine Valley and Malolotja Falls.

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