A King­dom of Ad­ven­ture

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Monique Vanderlinden Images © Swazi­land Tourism

For many South Africans, the land­locked sov­er­eign king­dom of Swazi­land that lies in the north­ern part of South Africa is rarely con­sid­ered to be a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion one might think of when day­dream­ing dur­ing a meet­ing. At least, that is what I thought be­fore I vis­ited.

Nat­u­rally, I was elated that I could tick another coun­try off of my travel bucket list thanks to a four-day jour­ney ex­plor­ing Swazi­land. Our group reached the bor­der post on a sunny Win­ter’s af­ter­noon. While it was fairly busy, trav­el­ling with our tour guide seemed to make the process of cross­ing the bor­der quite ef­fort­less.

Our first stop was Malolotja Na­ture Re­serve. Known for its nat­u­ral beauty and abun­dant fauna and flora, this na­ture re­serve is said to be the last un­spoilt moun­tain wilder­ness left in the coun­try, stretch­ing over 18,000 hectares in north-west Swazi­land, mak­ing it the largest pro­claimed pro­tected area in the king­dom.

Vis­i­tors to the park could get a bird’s eye view by par­tak­ing in the adrenalin-pump­ing (yet safe) ac­tiv­ity of a canopy tour, con­sist­ing of 11 el­e­vated for­est plat­forms, 10 slides, and a 50 m-long sus­pen­sion bridge that crosses the Ma­jolomba River. Here, vis­i­tors get a chance to view the nat­u­ral won­ders of the re­serve from another per­spec­tive and spot the area’s mam­mals, birdlife, and flora.

We then made our way to Maguga Lodge, set upon the hill­tops over­look­ing the spec­tac­u­lar Maguga Dam. Per­fect for an overnight stay, Maguga Lodge of­fers

com­fort­able rooms, self-cater­ing cot­tages, as well as Wi-fi. Elated by this, most of us pro­ceeded to catch up on our daily dose of so­cial me­dia and emails, af­ter which we gath­ered at the restau­rant where we en­joyed lo­cal beer, com­fort food served by the friendly staff, and lis­tened as our en­thu­si­as­tic guide talked about his cul­ture and child­hood in Swazi­land. This served to make us that much more ex­cited about what was yet to come.

The next morn­ing, the sun’s rays woke me up just in time for the next des­ti­na­tion – a visit to the Man­tenga Cul­tural Vil­lage, where we were treated to tra­di­tional Swazi song and dance, and a tour through a tra­di­tional Swazi vil­lage to learn about the fas­ci­nat­ing tra­di­tional way of life.

The nearby Man­tenga Falls turned out to be one of my favourite and most scenic spots of the trip, and is a great lo­ca­tion for hik­ing and pic­nics. The word “pic­nic” made us think of food, so we en­joyed lunch at Ma­lan­dela’s Restau­rant, mem­o­rable be­cause of the fact that it’s si­t­u­ated within a cre­ative gar­den of con­crete sculp­tures.

Man­tenga Lodge, be­tween Manzini and Mba­bane, is si­t­u­ated in the lush, green Ezul­wini Val­ley at the foot of the Sheba’s Breast Moun­tain over­look­ing the Ex­e­cu­tion Rock – as the na­tion calls it due to its un­set­tling his­tor­i­cal use.

Man­tenga Lodge serves dishes which are a fu­sion of lo­cal in­gre­di­ents and flavours with some Euro­pean in­flu­ences, as well as its very own Man­tenga wine blends. I was look­ing for­ward to a great meal paired with a glass of wine, which I was crav­ing af­ter all the Swazi beer. An ex­quis­ite tra­di­tional Swazi meal to def­i­nitely try is Iyasha Inyama, which is sim­i­lar to braai meat.

The next morn­ing we were off to Hlane Royal Na­tional Park for a game drive. Here we came face-to-face with a pride of Swazi lions be­fore head­ing to Mkhaya Game Re­serve, a sanc­tu­ary for en­dan­gered species in the east of the coun­try. As I do en­joy life’s un­der­stated lux­u­ries, I wasn’t sure how I would feel stay­ing at a lodge sans elec­tric­ity, but it turned out the lodge at Mkhaya Game Re­serve is one of Swazi­land’s best-kept se­crets.

We ar­rived at the lodge in the dead of night, af­ter a suc­cess­ful game drive through the area. We walked into what looked like a fairy-tale setup, lanterns pro­vid­ing a ro­man­tic glow on the path­way to the lodg­ings with their rock walls and el­e­vated thatch roof. Our ac­com­mo­da­tion al­lowed for a won­drous 360-de­gree view of bushveld. Din­ner was set up around the fire, where the gra­cious hosts also per­formed Swazi songs and dances af­ter din­ner. One of the mo­ments I will never for­get is sit­ting around the fire un­til the early hours of the morn­ing, gaz­ing at the clus­ters of stars in the heav­ens and hear­ing the sounds of noc­tur­nal an­i­mals.

Early the next morn­ing – one of the cold­est morn­ings I had ex­pe­ri­enced in a long time – we had another suc­cess­ful game drive, be­fore mak­ing our way back to the Oshoek Bor­der Post. This time though, we took an un­fa­mil­iar turn and dis­cov­ered the land­scape changed from green hill­tops to en­chant­ing for­est. We ar­rived at the Foresters Arms, which in­cludes a quaint, colo­nial ho­tel and restau­rant. We were wel­comed by the largest Sun­day lunch buf­fet I had ever seen, the ta­ble groan­ing un­der de­li­cious home­made dishes from around the world.

Af­ter lunch, I took a walk to ex­plore the beau­ti­ful scenery. Foresters Arms of­fers a num­ber of scenic paths, and horse­back rides are a must on a sunny af­ter­noon. If you’re plan­ning on stay­ing a few days, there are plenty of other ac­tiv­i­ties to pass the time in this peace­ful area, in­clud­ing golf, ten­nis, cy­cling, cro­quet, fish­ing, and pic­nics.

While we didn’t get to ex­pe­ri­ence all the ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer, we did ex­pe­ri­ence in abun­dance the heart and soul of Swazi­land.

An ideal gate­way be­tween Kwazulu-na­tal and the Kruger Park, as well as Jo­han­nes­burg and Ma­puto, this tiny, land­locked coun­try is filled with sto­ries, African tra­di­tions of a by­gone era, places to see, and things to do. But, most im­por­tantly, it’s filled with the love and ac­cep­tance of the warm-hearted Swazi peo­ple. For now I am say­ing salani kahle (good­bye) to Swazi­land, and un­til we meet again (which we cer­tainly will).

For more in­for­ma­tion, please visit www.thek­ing­do­mof­swazi­land.com.

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