One of the few monarchies left in Africa, this tiny country is a fascinating cultural destination with a number of interesting destinations and festivals, most notably the Umhlanga, or Reed Festival and the Ncwala, or Kingship Festival.
Swaziland is renowned for its fantastic crafts, and you will find an enormous range of unique and sophisticated items for sale at the numerous craft centres. Swaziland’s main industries are sugar, forestry and tourism but the country has an interesting history of mining. Gold was mined in the north near Piggs Peak, and the world’s oldest known iron mine, which only stopped production late in the 20th Century, is in Swaziland.
But it’s also a fantastic wildlife, nature and adventure destination. There is a surprising diversity of climatic and vegetation zones for such a tiny country. It’s divided into the Highveld, the Middleveld, the Lowveld and Lebombo, and also into four provinces, Hhohho, Mbabane, Shiselweni and Lubombo, that do not correspond with the climatic regions. The Highveld in the north-west is relatively cool, with beautiful rolling hills covered in Afromontane grassland with pockets of forest in the kloofs, and the Lowveld is typical subtropical broad-leafed bush. The Middleveld, not surprisingly, is somewhere in between. The Lebombo Mountains, on the eastern edge of the country adjacent to the Mozambique border, are an ancient volcanic range covered in coastal thicket and forested kloofs.
Swaziland’s main game-viewing areas are the Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya in the Lowveld, where you are likely to see the usual big animals most people associate with an African safari. Rhinos, elephants and other animals roam the bush in both reserves, and there are lions at Hlane. And there are also smaller animals to be seen at Malalotja, Mlilwane and Mlawula.
With its large population of black and white rhino, Swaziland used to have a big poaching problem, but it has introduced some very stringent legislation. Poaching carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and – here’s the best part – trafficking carries seven. So don’t even think about it.