The Kingdom of Swaziland Explored


The Kingdom of Swaziland Explored

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 12 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers

Dossier

Despite being the smallest country in the Southern hemisphere, Swaziland more than makes up for its lack of size with a hugely diverse range of attractions and activities. As one of the few remaining executive monarchies in Africa, culture and heritage are deeply engrained in all aspects of Swazi life, ensuring an unforgettable experience for all who visit. Yu will find Swaziland is a welcoming Kingdom with wonderfully stunning landscapes, friendly people and up close and personal wildlife sightings. Walk within the reserves, learning to track animals, and truly immerse yourself into the African bush where your senses will come alive. Swaziland is bound tightly with its culture and there will be opportunities to see traditional dancing and to hear beautifully harmonised singing. In the communities you will be welcomed into their homes and their hearts.


Tour Rating 

Fitness ●●○○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●○○ | Wildlife ●●●●●

Tour Pace

Relaxed

Tour Highlights

  • Walk amongst wildlife
  • Traditional Dancing and Community Visit
  • Lion Safari and Amazing Birding
  • Black Rhino safari

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: A range of lodges and camps - Traditional and unique accommodation
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum 12
Start Point: Mbabane
End Point: Mbabane
Transport: Mini-Bus and safari jeep
Countries: Swaziland

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.

Day 1 – Arrive in Swaziland

You will be met on arrival at King Mswati III airport in Swaziland and take the one hour transfer to Mlilwane. On arrival there is the chance to stretch your legs and walk in the reserve and see wildlife on foot. The walk can be as long or as short as you want as there are a number of trails in different aspects of the reserve. This is dependent on your arrival time. This evening we have a group evening meal and welcome you as you start your amazing holiday in Swaziland. Overnight at Rondavels camp or similar (D)

Rondavels

The huts have the feel of traditional Swazi huts overlooking the bushveld. They are tastefully designed with en suite bathroom yet in keeping with the surrounding area, they are surprisingly larger inside than you anticipate. The camp is unfenced, yet safe as only smaller species of wildlife occur in the Sanctuary, it is tranquil and relaxing with a continual stream of animals such as impala, warthog and nyala walking between the facilities and grazing outside your room.

Day 2 – Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary

In the morning there is a gentle walk through the reserve on the Hippo Trail. This is a trail around the main hippo pool and the central plains. Be prepared to see wildlife on foot including wildebeest, impala and zebra. Keep an eye out for the hippo in the main dam. This is a gentle stroll with lots of options to cut short or lengthen. It will be a slow walk as we will be stopping to see wildlife all the time. There is also time to learn about the reserve and visit the education boards dotted around the camp. In the afternoon we will visit Mantenga’s traditional village where you can learn about the Swazi culture and how a traditional village is set out. Local villagers will show you around, explaining the roles of the chief and his wives, their sons and daughters and the traditional healer, also called the sangoma. Overnight at Rondavels camp or similar (BLD)

Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary

Mlilwane is Swaziland’s pioneer conservation area, a beautiful, secluded sanctuary situated in Swaziland’s “Valley of Heaven”, the Ezulwini Valley. Look out for the abundant bird life and animals such as hippo, crocodile, zebra, blue wildebeest, kudu, nyala, impala and warthog. It is a photographer’s paradise. Mlilwane is Swaziland's oldest protected area and gave birth to the concept of nature conservation in the Kingdom. Ted Reilly, having witnessed the disappearance of wildlife, turned his 450ha family farm, Mlilwane, into the Sanctuary as it is today. There is a network of trails through Mlilwane, ranging from a leisurely stroll along the plains where a variety of game are often found, to the harder trails leading up to the infamous Rock of Execution. The trailing philosophy is to promote an affinity with nature and if you are quiet, you should see a wide variety of animals along the different trails such as wildebeest, zebra and many antelope.

Day 3 – Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary

Another gentle morning walk to take in this incredible reserve and some free time to try the optional activities of riding through the reserve or even cycling gently around the reserve. In the late afternoon we will go on a game drive finishing with sundowners at Execution lookout point and the amazing view. Overnight at Rondavels camp or similar (BLD)

Day 4 – Local Life

Today we will visit a number of unique Swaziland attractions and experiences. First stop is the Umphakatsi, the local chief near to Mlilwane, and learn about local life in Swaziland. We then visit Gone Rural to learn about the story of how women are being empowered in Swaziland through weaving. Visit behind the scenes and see this in action. Over lunch we will visit Swazi Candles where there is time to watch candles being hand sculpted into colourful animal shapes of lion, elephant and other Swazi wildlife. Overnight at Rondavels camp or similar (BLD)

Day 5 – Malolotja

Today we visit Malolotja. Malolotja Nature Reserve which is one of the most impressive mountain parks in Southern Africa and is the largest protected area in the Kingdom. The spectacular scenery and the variety of fauna and flora make it a prime Highveld conservation area. The views in Malolotja are stunning. Here we will visit some spectacular view points and there is the chance to take a gentle walk in the reserve. After lunch we will then drive further north to Maguga dam and visit the nearby Nsangwini Rock Shelter which is the largest example of San art in the country and is said to provide the most comprehensive display in Swaziland. 4000 years ago, the San people used this Highveld area for spiritual rituals and for recording iconic moments in their lives through etchings on the ancient rocks. The paintings are remarkably clear and informative interpretations are given by members of the Nsangwini community, who manage and maintain the site. Overnight at Foresters Arms or similar (BLD)

Foresters Arms

The Foresters Arms dates from colonial times and is a place of great character and charm. It is gloriously situated on its own estate in the mountains, and is a short scenic tarred drive from the capital, Mbabane. This lodge has a personal and relaxed feel about it, where time slows down and you have the opportunity to appreciate the glorious scenery of the surrounding area. The hotel combines excellent service with charm so you can step out of the fast lane and rest. The relaxed atmosphere is echoed in the lounges, bar area and restaurant with charming furnishings, old prints and roaring log fires for chilly weather. The bedrooms are tastefully decorated, with bathrooms en suite, telephones and satellite TV. The personal touch of the Foresters Arms spills over into the bedrooms where they have a homely and welcoming feeling to them. The rooms are spacious and all open up onto the delightful gardens and the outstanding views over the surrounding countryside. The stunning gardens are a favourite haunt of sunbirds, paradise flycatchers and other colourful birds.

Day 6 - Ngwenya Mine

Today we will visit Ngwenya mine which is the oldest mine in the world. Man first began mining iron ore here over 43,000 years ago. We will join a guided tour into the Lion Cavern, the oldest part of this mine. The walk up to the cavern is quite steep yet well-maintained with stepped walkways over rocky sections. Afterwards there is the chance to visit Ngwenya glass factory to see recycled glass being created into glass sculptures. Overnight at Foresters Arms or similar (BLD)

Day 7 - Mkhaya Game Reserve

Today we travel to Mkhaya Game Reserve, named after the Acacia nigrescens tree. The reserve comprises of acacia dominated thornveld in the south and broadleaf sandveld in the north. Unique, intimate encounters with Mkhaya’s wildlife are exceptional and all travel within the reserve is by open Land Rovers or on foot. The reserve is criss-crossed with dry riverbeds, dotted with waterholes and has a network of intertwined game-viewing roads. Mkhaya currently supports four of the Big Five; with leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino being present on the reserve. You should be able to see rhino up close and personal. A host of other game such as giraffe, hippo, crocodile, roan and sable antelope, tsessebe, eland, kudu, ostrich and vervet monkey are also seen regularly. The birdlife is also abundant and the rare Narina Trogan can sometimes be seen in camp along with the more common species such as the crested guinea fowl. Mkhaya was set up as a breeding program for endangered species such as the black rhino, roan and sable - a sighting of the elusive black rhino is normally very high up most visitors list, so keep your eyes peeled on those game drives. During your stay there will be game drives in the early morning before breakfast and also in the late afternoon. After breakfast there is often the opportunity to go on a walking safari where you can learn how to track wildlife. During the rest of the day there is the chance to sit at Kirky Hide to see what comes into drink, you never know what to expect! Overnight at Stone Camp or similar (BLD)

Stone Camp

Laid out along the banks of a dry river bed, is Stone Camp where the vegetation comprises of tall fig, leadwood, sausage and knob thorn trees, with a lush under-canopy giving it a year round subtropical appearance. The camp is known as 'Stone Camp' due to the dolerite rocks used in the construction of the semi-open stone and thatch cottages. The whole living area is comfortable, quiet and relaxing and a welcome retreat after a day out in the African sun. Following the sandy path to your accommodation, which winds its way through the bush, you realise what an exceptional experience you're going to have at Mkhaya. Stone Camp is unique in style and offers visitors the opportunity of really getting back to nature. Each unit is laid out discretely in the riverine forest overlooking the dry riverbed, linked by pathways which are lit at night by paraffin lanterns. The entire internal structure of these cottages, although veiled for privacy, is open to the external bush, which gives visitors a totally unique and true bush experience. There is no electricity in the camp which adds to the charm and tranquillity.

Day 8 - Mkhaya Game Reserve

A full day to enjoy the Mkhaya Game Reserve. Mkhaya is staffed and patrolled entirely by Swazis from neighbouring communities and has what is arguably Africa's most effective anti-poaching unit. The reserve is totally self-financing through visitor revenues. Overnight at Stone Camp or similar (BLD)

Day 9 - Hlane Royal National Park

On the way to Hlane we will visit a local school for AIDS orphaned and vulnerable children. Spend time with the children and maybe give a helping hand to increase their social skills by playing and chatting with them. They will want to practice their English. In the afternoon we will go on a sun downer safari to see elephant, rhino and lion, so have your cameras ready. Overnight at Ndlovu Camp or similar (BLD)

Ndlovu Camp

At Ndlovu Camp, there is an open-air restaurant and a game-viewing deck where you can sit back and enjoy the view of the waterhole – a perfect place for sundowners, tasty meals and relaxation. The food in the evenings is diverse and often game meat is available. The camp is open, has no electricity and is reminiscent of the old Kruger. Ndlovu Camp has delightful en-suite twin rondavels near to Ndlovu waterhole. These twin rooms are beautifully designed and set in the bush away from the main part of the camp. There are often impala wandering through the area and each rondavel has its own veranda. There is no electricity in the camp and paraffin lights are provided giving a wonderful atmosphere to your room. Be lulled to sleep by the distant roar of lion.

Hlane Royal National Park

In the vast bushveld expanse of eastern Swaziland where the hot, still sun of Africa beats on the dry but life-giving soils lies Swaziland’s largest protected area, Hlane Royal National Park. Hlane is home to the largest herds of game in the Kingdom and at night you go to sleep listening to the rumbling roars of lion. The first thing you should do is to walk down to the water hole as you never know what is there – often there are white rhino and maybe hippo, crocs and a host of antelope too. It is one of the best places in Swaziland to see wildlife on a regular basis. Hlane offers fantastic sightings of white rhino, and Swaziland claims to be the best place to see rhino in the world. There are also elephant, giraffe, hippo, crocodile, hyena, as well as large populations of zebra, wildebeest and impala. Hlane covers 30 000 hectares of Swazi bushveld, dominated by ancient hardwood vegetation. The park is home to the highest density of nesting white backed vultures in Africa. Game drives in Hlane's open Land Rover's take you to the bush and experience the sights and sounds of Hlane against the roar of Hlane’s magnificent lions – the symbol of royalty and the pride of Swaziland.

Day 10 – Mbuluzi Game Reserve

Near to Hlane is Mbuluzi Game Reserve which encompasses some of Swaziland's most pristine bush-veld with a variety of landscapes and excellent biodiversity. Here there are many kilometres of well-marked and maintained trails offering short strolls to explore the area at your own time and pace. Common species include zebra, kudu, impala and warthog although the main attraction is the giraffe as it is possible to walk within these herds without disturbing them - a unique way to see giraffe. We will spend the morning here exploring the bush. We then go to Simunye Country Club for a dip in pool and for lunch. Return to Hlane in the afternoon for the rhino drive to see these wonderful animals up close and maybe even on foot. Overnight at Ndlovu Camp or similar (BLD)

Day 11 – Shewula Mountain Camp

Up early for a morning safari to make sure that we get to see the lion and elephants. We then visit Shewula Mountain Camp which is the first community eco-tourism project in Swaziland and one of the most successful in the whole of southern Africa. The camp is fully owned and run by the community, meaning that all profits are shared by the community in an effort to continually develop and improve this traditionally impoverished area. Arrive in time for an educational walk amongst the community where you will learn about life in Shewula and be shown into people’s homes. The Shewula community is a friendly agricultural people, with traditional thatch and stone houses dotted neatly among fields of maize cotton and vegetables. They encourage visitors to their area to enjoy the incredible view, gain an insight into traditional Swazi lifestyles. Have lunch on the escarpment looking over the Lubumbo Conservancy and the view here is incredible. This is a traditional lunch cooked by the ladies of the camp and you can taste delicious, genuine Swazi food. Overnight at Ndlovu Camp or similar (BLD)

Day 12 – Depart Swaziland

You will be taken to the airport in time for your flight. As the airport is only 20 mins away, there may be time to have one last safari drive, depending on your flight times.

 

Post Tour Optional Extension 1 – Camp Shawu – Shishangeni Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park

Day 12 – Travel to Kruger National Park – Shishangeni Private Game reserve

The transfer from Hlane to South Africa will take around 2 hours plus the border crossing transfer time. On arrival check in at Camp Shawu. (BLD)

Shishangeni Private Game Reserve & Camp Shawu – Kruger

Shishangeni is situated in a 15,000 hectare private concession of the world renowned Kruger National Park. Kruger National Park covers a large and diverse region of Southern Africa. Made up of nearly 2 million hectares, the diversity of life is unrivalled. The park is home to an impressive variety of species and a plethora of big game sightings and the stunning scenery that epitomises Africa. Camp Shawu is named after a famous old bull elephant who roamed the valley for 60 years and had the longest tusks recorded in South Africa. Camp Shawu captures the spirit of Africa. Private decks overlooking the Mpanamana Dam allow you a privileged view of game gathering to drink. The emphasis of the camp is very much on nature. The camp strives to create the optimum balance between people and their environments, while having a minimal impact on the neighbouring habitat. Activities included are game drives in the morning and afternoon where you will explore the wildlife in and around Camp Shawu. Lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, rhino, cheetah, hippo and crocodile are regularly sighted. Camp Shawu has only 5 individual accommodations so a maximum of 10 guests can be accommodated. Rooms have ball and claw bath, a sitting area facing an open fireplace, ceiling fans and an outdoor shower. A large verandah with reclining chairs and umbrella is the perfect spot from which to watch the game come down to drink.

Day 13 and 14 – Game Drives at Shishangeni Private Reserve

Enjoy 2 games drives each day at this reserve which encapsulates the spirit of Africa. In between relax on your balcony and watch the game come down to the river to drink. Overnights at Camp Shawu (BLD)

Day 15 – Transfer to Kruger Airport (Nelspruit)

Transfer to Kruger airport for your flight back to Johannesburg and onward to your next destination (B)

 

Post Tour Optional Extension 2 – Mozambique Machangulo Beach Lodge

Day 12 – Travel to Mozambique

The transfer from Swaziland to Maputo harbour is around 3 hours approximately with the land border crossing. We then take a boat ride of around 1 hour to the lodge. Overnights at Machangulo Lodge (BLD)

Machangulo Lodge

At Machangulo everything has an ecological and simplistic slant to it yet all your needs will be well catered for. The lodge has been cleverly incorporated into the ecosystem with minimal impact on its surroundings. By day there is a relaxed approach to what you can do but there is great variety, from snorkelling trips, to visiting deserted beaches, to visiting local villages and also fishing there is plenty of choice. Or simply relax to the sound of the Indian Ocean. Rooms are very comfortable and tastefully appointed.

Days 13 and 14 – At leisure at Machangulo Lodge

Either spend your time relaxing or you can book snorkelling trips to the nearby marine reserve. There are also possibilities to be taken to deserted beaches, go fishing or visit nearby villages where many of the staff are from. All optional activities are booked locally. (BLD)

Day 15 – Transfer to Maputo and depart Mozambique

Transfer by boat and vehicle back to Maputo where you depart for your onward flight (B)

Inclusions:
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded:
International flights
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Drinks
Optional excursions