Eswatini: Africa's biggest little secret

Ancient rituals, rare rhinos and rugged ranges: welcome to the Kingdom of Eswatini, the small but mighty country formerly known as Swaziland

3 mins

Eswatini encompasses the best of Africa in one neat package.

This tiny nation –  landlocked to the north-east of South Africa – packs an assortment of adventures, landscapes and pre-colonial heritage into an area smaller than Wales.

Eswatini – a land apart

Eswatini is one of Africa’s last remaining monarchies, and is bursting with tradition. Witness vigorous Sibhaca dancing at Mantenga Cultural Village; or take in the famous Umhlanga Festival, when thousands of women perform the ‘reed dance’ for the king. 

Equally as lively is the Great Usuthu River, which flows east through valleys and mountainous rainforest, perfect for rafters and trekkers.

For a different take on the highlands, venture to the Shewula Mountain Camp, a community-run ecotourism hotspot that gives visitors the chance to experience authentic daily life while benefiting local people. Indeed, it is the warmth of the welcome from the people of Eswatini that many visitors remember long after, so be sure to visit communities during your stay. 

And talking of stays, there are some wonderful hotels, camps and lodges, including the famous Foresters Arms – a quintessential country house hotel deep in the forests of Swaziland.

Wild and wonderful

Swaziland has plenty to satisfy safari-goers too. Track down big game in the hot, dry lowveld or seek out birds (the country has over 500 species) in the rocky highveld. Then begin your search for black and white rhino at the Mkhaya Game Reserve – the black rhino is nearing extinction, having long been hunted for its horns, but Swaziland is something of a refuge for this endangered species.

Hlane Royal National Park is Eswatini's largest protected area and you have a good chance of seeing white rhino and elephant, while lions are kept in a large fenced-off area and can be seen on a guided game drive. 

Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is a very beautiful park with no predators but plenty of other wildlife such as antelopes and zebras. It is very safe and ideal to explore on foot, horseback or mountain bike.

In short, Swaziland punches well above its weight.

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