Swaziland is one of the smallest countries on the African continent but is surprisingly endowed with numerous unique attractions that no other country will closely offer. It is bordered by South Africa to the north, west and south and Mozambique to the northeast. Popularly known as Swaziland, its name was recently officially changed to Eswatini by king of the monarchy who heads the nation. This is an indication that the people of Swaziland still have authentic cultural norms and traditions, therefore a good destination for an exploration of the life style and culture of Africans in South Africa.
Explore Swaziland on a safari through the best of her wildlife destinations with lovely animals, breathtaking sceneries and the rolling hills that make hiking a glamorous activity of the day. Some of Swaziland’s exceptional National Parks and game reserves are Hlane Royal national park, Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary, Malolotja nature reserve, Mkhaya game reserve (well known for white and black rhinos) and Mlawula nature reserve among others. They have a rich diversity of species for animals, reptiles, plants and birds including the Big 5 (White and black rhino, Elephant, Lion, Buffalo and Leopard), Wildebeest, Zebra, Sable antelope, Livingstone’s eland. Lions and other threatened species are protected in fenced-in sanctuaries.
The best time for wildlife viewing is during the dry winter season which starts from June and ends in September while birding is perfect from November to April after arrival of migratory birds.
Hiking through the trails on Lubombo Mountains takes you along riverbanks and through forests with great sightings of antelopes and beautiful bird species
Tour around the fascinating Ezulwini valley which is perfectly set between Swaziland’s mountains and savannah plain. It will give a great exploration of the rich tradition and culture of Swaziland at Royal Swazi Sun casino, alongside the hospitable people and their delicious food. A visit to Shewula nature reserve is also a good alternative for tradition and culture while people from Mantenga Cultural village in Mantenga falls nature reserve are superb perfect in traditional songs and dances
There are other interesting activities in Swaziland that can be combined with wildlife tours;
Because of preserving her culture, Swaziland hosts some of the biggest and most exciting cultural festivals. Incwala is a kingship cultural ceremony that takes place from December to January and Umhlanga reed dance at the end of august or beginning of September. Spare some money for souvenirs and grab yourself some of the most elegant batik prints, jewelry and carved masks at the Swazi candles craft market.
There’s always great opportunity all for white water rafting at Swaziland’s largest river- the Great Usutu. The best time for water rafting is from November to April.
A tour around the second largest exposed granite dome in the world is one of the things you ought not to miss on your Swaziland safari / Eswatini Safari.
Best time to visit Swaziland
In addition to the small size of the national parks of Swaziland that ease sighting of animals, a wildlife viewer’s best time for a safari is during the dry season (May to September) when vegetation is dry and seasonal waterholes are dry. Dry and short vegetation enables easy sighting and viewing of animals while the scarcity of water forces the animals to move to the main water bodies.
Bird watching has excellent results in the wet season-summer when migratory birds from Europe and North Africa arrive and increase the bird population. Reptiles are also commonly sighted during this wet season.
Swaziland Safari Parks and Reserves
Swaziland’s National Parks are small in size but offer far beyond your expectations. It is one of the few African countries that shelter the Big 5. The prominent National Park in Swaziland is Hlane Royal National Park.
Hlane Royal National Park
This is the finest destination for rhinos in Swaziland. It is the largest and is situated in the northwest part of Swaziland. It is also home to 3 of the rest of the big 5 (elephant, lion, and leopard apart from buffalo), Nyala, wildebeest, alongside over 250 bird species. Lions can only be seen on a guided game drive because they are kept in a separate enclosure. The park is also a good destination for birders. More activities at this park include nature walk, mountain biking, overnight bush treks, and cultural visits. A perfect time to enjoy the activities of Hlane National Park is during the dry season from May to September when wildlife can easily be spotted due to dry grass and converging at water bodies.
Malolotja Nature Reserve
Malolotja nature reserve is Swaziland’s most specular destination for hiking. It is situated 30km north of the capital. It has a great population of antelopes and birds alongside stunning vegetation with beautiful flowers. Other animals in the park are zebra, blue wildebeest, and baboons. Wildlife here is also featured by Malolotja waterfalls. Activities at the park canopy trail zip-lining, hiking, and camping.
Mkhaya Game Reserve
This one is located in southeastern Swaziland and keeps the famous rhinos, elephants, and Livingstone’s eland among others which can be seen on game drives in vehicles or while moving on foot. It boasts for being home to over 140 bird species which are easily spotted from November to April.
Mbuluzi Game Reserve
Mbuluzi game reserve is privately owned and an increase in the population of animals is a sign that management is doing a good job to protect the animals. It is well located at the bottom of the Lebombo Mountains, peacefully hosting animals that are not dangerous and 400 bird species. Activities of the park are hiking, mountain biking, birding, and guided walks.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
This is one of the most visited national parks in Swaziland and can easily be accessed from Ezulwini. It also has animals that are not dangerous and therefore is a good destination for nature walks. Animals in the park include hippos, zebra, greater kudu, blue wildebeest, warthog, Nyala, caracals, impala, and over 400 bird species. Other activities of the park are mountain biking, village visits for a cultural experience, and horse ride.
Mlawula Nature Reserve
Mlawula nature reserve has a small number of animals but boasts for the variety of bird species- over 350 species. Animals at the park are zebra, waterbuck, spotted hyena, leopard, eland, giraffe, bushbuck, greater kudu, klipspringer, hippo, and crocodile. The park stretches to the summit of the Lubombo Mountains which are a backdrop for stunning views and has trails for hiking. Activities are done; birding, nature walks.
Wildlife and Birds in Swaziland
Swaziland is a small country but houses most of the world’s favorite species of animals and birds for wildlife lovers. They are featured by beautiful vegetation on mountains, valleys and the gorgeous plains. Most of its National Parks and game reserves are peaceful homes of none dangerous animals. Hlane National Park is the only one with lions. Which are kept in a separate enclosure. It also has white rhinos and elephant white Mkhaya is a home to black rhino and Cape buffalo making the big 5 complete. Other animals in Swaziland are hippo, wildebeest, leopard, sable antelope, Livingstone’s eland, tsetsebe, Nyala, warthogs, crocodiles, giraffes and others.
The best time to do a safari for wildlife viewing in Swaziland is during the dry season from June to September when animals are commonly spotted around water bodies. However, those that visit the place before or this period may still be able to spot quite a big number of animals because the wildlife reserves are small.
The small kingdom of Swaziland records over 500 bird species. It has 48 species of raptors and 52 southern Africa endemics. Some of the world’s rare species of bird reside here, that is the blue swallow found in Malolotja nature reserve. Common bird species are cape vulture, cested guinea fowl, blue crane, southern bald ibis, brown hooded kingfisher, knysna Turaco, African wattled lapwing, rudd’s apalis, and pink throated twin spot among others.
From the month of November to April, migratory birds have joined the resident birds and the number of birds in the country is thrilling. This is when birders spot numerous birds in Swaziland.
Swaziland Safari Lodges
Swazi people are friendly, kind and have great skills in cooking. Time spent with them at your lodge will be one of the best experiences of the safari.
When you travel to Swaziland, you may spent your nights and days at Silverstone lodge, Emafini country lodge, Mvubu falls lodge, Vekis village.
Accommodation at Hlane national park is provided by Ndlovu camp and Bhubesi camp. Stone camp at Mkhaya game reserve, Reilly’s rock hilltop lodge and Mount Vista Heartwood at Mlilwane gives a cozy stay.
Swaziland Weather & Climate
Swaziland has a temperate subtropical climate characterized mostly with sunny and dry days. Since it is located in the southern hemisphere, summer and winter seasons in Swaziland are a reverse of what happens in Europe and North America. Winter comes in the dry season from May to September and summer in the wet season from October to April. Temperatures are relatively cool in May but become very warm in august. This is when animals are commonly spotted at water bodies. During the wet season, the country experiences violent electrical storms. Areas at a t high altitude receive heavy rains and may get covered by heavy mist. Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary is one of the reserves located on a higher altitude and therefore receives more rain.
Is Swaziland safe for tourists?
With limited police in the country, crime is rife in both urban and rural areas. Crime increases during holiday periods. Busy urban areas are particularly dangerous at night, but daytime crime is not uncommon. Even if you are in a crowded area, do not take this as an indication you are safe.
Swaziland Safaris and tours
National Parks in Swaziland are rich and sparely distributed across the country. They have diverse wildlife which is featured by culture. There luxurious, midrange and budget tours in and outside the country.
A 5 day Swaziland tour takes you Mlilwane wildlife reserve and Hlane royal national park. You’ll travel from Mbabane to Mlilwane on the first day, go through the parks from the second to the 4th day and travel be dropped at Mbabane on the 5th day after the tour.
Most tours to Swaziland are combined with safaris to national parks in the neighboring counties especially South Africa. These go for more days; 11 days, 12 days, 14 days or more.