The Kingdom of Swaziland

Hi everyone!

The Kingdom of Swaziland is another landlocked country within South Africa that also borders Mozambique. It is just over 17 000 square kilometers in size, making it even smaller than Lesotho and in fact, one of the smallest countries in Africa.

Our journey to Swaziland was much more tame than that of Lesotho, but it was still longer than anticipated. We left plenty early after our previous debacle and were on tarred roads the entire time so the extra time was no problem.

Coming directly from Lesotho, through South Africa, to Swaziland prompted serious reflection about the discrepancies between the three countries. South Africa and Swaziland were on equal playing fields in terms of wealth and infrastructure, while Lesotho has been left in the dust. I found it interesting the contrast between Lesotho and Swaziland seeing as they are both landlocked, small, resource rich countries. The other major contrast between Lesotho and Swaziland was the climate; Lesotho of course had been very cold yet Swaziland was almost tropical even in the winter months. We were delighted at how warm Swaziland was, especially in the evenings for camping!

We were booked to pitch our tent in the Milwane Game Reserve at Sondzela backpackers. Milwane is a privately owned game reserve with a focus on conservation. Between 1960 and 1970 over 20 000 snares were lifted from Milwane and another parked owned by the same people called Hlane. They have the snares within the park and it was astounding to see exactly what 20 000 snares looked like. See the picture below!

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We rolled in to Sondzela just after dark, pitched our tent quickly and made a bite to eat. Wimbledon was on so we were able to watch a match before bed.

The next day we woke up and opened our tent door to a view of beautiful mountains and a few antelope grazing nearby. The park has no predators so it was perfectly fine to camp, but the wildlife were free to roam where they pleased. We just hoped none became too curious of our orange tent and got too close and damaged it in any way.

That morning we went for a game drive in the park and were able to see tons of zebras, blue wildebeest, and antelope. We parked the car and did the Summit Hike, a steep ascension to the peak of the park where we had a spectacular view of a large majority of the Kingdom. Unfortunately my phone was dead so I have no photos to share! That evening we relaxed by the fire taking in more of Wimbledon.

The next day we started our day with a beautiful run through the park. It was one of our most incredible runs as we were amongst the wildlife as we ran. It certainly didn’t seem like forced exercise with such stimulating scenery!

We then headed to Malandelas Lodge and restaurant for lunch. The lodge is set on a beautiful property and also is the site of House on Fire, Swazilands most famous bar. While we were there we enquired about entertainment for the following night, a Friday night. Unfortunately the bar wasn’t opened that evening, but the manager informed us that on Saturday they were hosting Swazilands first ever Craft Brewery Festival. It was as if he told us Christmas was coming early, we were so excited! We rearranged out plans to ensure we could make the festival.

We checked out the craftstore onsite and I found another pair of beautiful earrings. We then headed to a few other craft markets to check things out. We can’t buy much due to our baggage restriction but we were told the crafts in Swaziland were some of the best in Africa so we wanted to at least look. They definitely had a higher end craft market, with pricetags to match. It was fun browsing but the only thing we walked away with was a bottle of hot sauce for our upcoming tour.

We made our way back to the backpackers as the sun was setting and I was able to snap this beautiful picture below of the hippo pool.

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The following day we had booked a game drive in the Mhkaya Game Reserve, which belongs to the same owners as the Milwane Game Reserve where we were staying. The biggest reason we wanted to do a game drive in Mhkaya is because they have a very successful rhino conservation project which gives you a high chance of seeing them on your drives.

We had just over an hour drive to get to the gates of the park. We were met by a ranger who then led us into the park where we boarded our open viewing landrover. We set off immediately in pursuit of rhinos as they are the most difficult to spot. Within half an hour we had the incredible fortune to find a rhino, and not just any rhino, the very elusive and ill-tempered black rhino! I could hardly believe what I was seeing, he was very close to the vehicle and came even closer (due to his poor eyesight) to investigate further. When he was facing us straight on I was a little shocked as he wasn’t as tall as I thought a rhino would be; but then he turned to the side and he was the size of a small tank.

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We continued with our drive after sitting and admiring the rhino for over half an hour. Not long after we were lucky enough to stumble upon several white rhinos within a close vicinity to one another. We admired from afar a group before pulling up further to a mother and 3 year old baby. As soon as the ranger cut the engine the mother started walking [slowly] towards the vehicle. All of the guests were a bit apprehensive and held our breath as she approached. The ranger however, said hello and grabbed her for an affectionate rub! I was surprised to say the least, but the rhino seemed to enjoy it. She then proceeded to walk along the side of the vehicle scratching her horn along the way. The ranger encouraged us to give her a pat and say hello. Chris and I were hopeful at the start of the day to even spot a rhino, let alone pet one! It was a really incredible experience.

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The ranger had to try and get away when he could, apparently she would stick around all day if allowed! This also enabled me to get some great shots of Chris and the baby.

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We were totally satisfied with the drive after that incredible encounter and we were only a few hours in! We headed to the watering hole where we were fortunate enough to see hippos and a crocodile!

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We drove further into the park to the park lodge where we had a delicious lunch that was included in the price of the game drive. We had guinea fowl and a young antelope visit during our meal. You are able to stay overnight at the park lodge as well which seemed like a very beautiful setting to spend a night (a bit out of our budget).

The afternoon game drive was much quieter than the morning, we joked everyone was having their afternoon nap. When we reached the watering hole for the second time we found more rhinos, the hippos were further out of the water, and the croc was still around. The afternoon light was perfect for picture taking!

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We had an absolutely fantastic time at the game reserve and highly recommend it to anyone!

The following day we went for another run and then headed to the Swaziland Craft Beer Festival for the day. We were able to have a delicious lunch at Malandelas restaurant before we got down to business with the beer. The only craft brewery from Swaziland was there along with 16 South African Craft Brewers. We were able to try 18 different beers throughout the day (it was from 11 am on) and were very impressed with the quality of the beers. We enjoyed Darling Brews beers, their Silverback Dark Wheat Beer shocked and impressed us, it sounds very unappealing but was fantastic! We were even interviewed by the local newspaper, Swazi Times, for our take on the festival. It was an awesome day of sun, excellent beer, and fantastic live entertainment. See below for some pics of the day!

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The following day we left Swaziland for Pretoria where we have spent the last week sorting out our visas for our upcoming tour. On the way out of Milwane we noticed we had a flat tire, which seemed appropriate for the beating we gave the car. Chris changed it no problem!

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We did a ton of running around to obtain our visas, I could detail it for you but just know that if it appears it will be an easy process to apply for a visa it most definitely won’t be. We did all of our shopping for our tour (see pic below) and tried to relax a bit as these next 50 days are going to be hectic! The only thing we did worth noting was visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and the South African Brewing Company World of Beer where we had an awesome tour. The Apartheid museum was absolutely phenomenal and it is a must do on any visit to Jo’berg.

We head out tomorrow on our tour and unsure how reliably we will have internet along the way. I promise to keep up on my blogging and post whenever I get a chance.

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Cheers everyone!