Swaziland Holidays and Travel Guide
Swaziland is placed across this great geological fault which runs from the Drakensberg Mountains of Lesotho, north through the Eastern highlands of wp, forms the Great Rift Valley of Kenya and, eventually, peters out in present-day Turkey. Mbabane is the capital city of Swaziland.
It is a small, land-locked Kingdom is bordered by the Republic of South Africa in the North, West and South and by Mozambique in the East. Although Swaziland has a land area of only 17,364 square kilometers, roughly the size of Wales or the American State of New Jersey, it holds four separate geographical regions. These run from North to South and are dogged by altitude.
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The present population trend, which the government actively discourages, is high growth of 3.2% with a birthrate of 6.4 infants per woman. The young population ensures an ample supply of labour. In terms of distribution, 28.2% of the population resides in the Manzini region, 26.4% in Hhohho, 22.9% in Shieselwini and 22.5% in Lubombo.
The raised ground on the west increases to an altitude of above 6,000 ft, and has an average altitude of 3,500 ft. The middle land averages about 2,000 ft while the lowland or bush land to about 1,000 ft. The entire country is traversed by rivers or streams, making it one of the best watered areas in southern Africa.
Swaziland is a year-round destination with plenty of sunshine. Whatever your favourite activity; hiking, pony-trekking, golf, it may be enjoyed at any time. The seasons are the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere with December being mid-summer and June mid-winter. By and large, Swaziland receives rainfall more often than not during the summer months, and it is usually in structures of thunderstorms. Winter is the dry season. Annual rainfall is highest on the Highveld in the West, between 1000 and 2000 mm depending on the year.
The average temperatures at Mbabane are, according to season:
Spring which goes from September – October the temperatures are 18 degrees Celsius. Summer which comes from November – March temperatures are Usually 20 degrees Celsius while autumn which runs from April – May is always 17 degrees Celsius. Winter which runs from June – August encounters 13 degrees Celsius
Variations in temperature are also correlated to the altitude of the different regions. The Highveld temperature is temperate and seldom, uncomfortably hot while the Lowveld may record temperatures around 40 degrees in summer.
The vegetation in Nature Reserves is thickest during the summer months and those keen on game viewing should visit during winter. On the other hand, bird watchers are advised to visit Swaziland during the summer months as some species are migratory and the greatest number of birds will be seen at this time.
HISTORY OF SWAZILAND
It is vivid that the land which is currently the Kingdom of Swaziland has been occupied since the Stone Age. There are also relics of nomadic Bushmen, of Sotho and the Ntungwa-Nguni clans. Centuries ago, a great migration from Central Africa took place. A sub-group known as the Nguni, which today includes the Zulu and Xhosa, splitted off from the main stream of this movement to follow the East Coast. The first steps towards the creation of the Swazi Nation were taken around 1750 when NqwaneIII led his people inland to settle in, the current Southern Swaziland. Ngwane enthralled other people to set up himself in this area.
His successor, Sobhuza I was concerned with raids by the Zulu’s to the south and re-established his capital near the present-day Lobamba which has remained the heartland of the Nation. Mswati II succeeded Sobhuza I and inherited a Kingdom twice the size of Swaziland today. Still troubled by the quarrelsome Zulu’s, he set up is his capital at Hhohho, in the northern mountains, conquered territories as far a meadow as Carolina, Barbeton and Hectorspruit and blended his people into one nation. They were known as the people of Mswati-Mswazi to the Zulu’s who are presently known as the Swazi.
During the 1840’s white adventurers – hunters, traders, cattlemen, missionaries, began to arrive in the area. They were peacefully welcomed by the Swazi’s but, during the reign of Mbandzeni, it turned out to be clear that many of them were simply fortune-hunters, greedy for land and trading concessions. Then, in the late 1800’s, both the Boers of the old South African Republic and the British hunted administrative power over the Kingdom. This was a perplexed period where little was done to resolve the problem of the fortune-hunters and the present Northern, Western and Southern borders of the country were defined without reference to the Swazi’s.
During the Anglo-Boer War, in 1899, King Sobhuza II was born and after the death of his father, Bhunu, his grandmother, Labotsibeni, took over the bequest until the King came of age. After the war, Britain ruled Swaziland for 66 years as a Protectorate.
Upon ascending the throne, Sobhuza II continued his mother’s struggle with the British to recover land, belonging to the Swazi Nation which had supposedly been conceded to concession holders by King Mbandzeni during the 1800’s. A twofold control persevered whereby the British Resident Commissioner and his district officers, on the one hand, and the King, the National and Inner Councils, and the local chiefs, on the other. However, legitimate changes suggested by King Sobhuza II in the years leading up to Independence in September 1968 were ultimately customary.
Following Independence, it was acknowledged that the Constitution, formed with western thinking by the British, did not suit the traditional needs of Swazis. King Sobhuza Ii ruled Swaziland from 1921, when he ascended the throne, until his death in 1982. His long rule is commemorated for the wisdom of his insistence on the maintenance of customary tribal values at a time of modern development.
CULTURE AND TOURIST INFORMATION
Inspite of the transformation that has come to Swaziland, the people have sealed their age-old culture and traditional ceremonies. At every stage of Swazis life; infancy; adolescence; puberty; marriage; and adult life; and the old age; there are traditional customs to guide the community. There are also other two most important and colorful customs, in the eyes of Swazi’s and foreigners alike, They include; the Incwala in December and the Umhlanga in late August or early September.
Incwala; commonly known as the “first fruits” ceremony is rich in symbolism and imagery. It is the most significant and consecrated of all Swazi ceremonies. The actual day on which it is held is largely unpredictable as it is chosen only after the careful study of the movement of the planets by Swazi astrologers.
Umhlanga; which is also known as the “Reed dance” is the second most important ceremony as well as one of the most colorful. The ceremony is especially for un-affianced maidens to pay reverence to the King and Queen Mother. The Queen is known as the Ndlovukati or “she-elephant”. The Umhlanga attracts young girls from all over the country.
Cinematography; Photography and sound recording of sacred parts of the ceremony is STRICTLY prohibited. Visitors aspiring to photograph at the Ncwala must apply in writing to the Government Information Service, P.O.BOX 338, Mbabane. The photographing of the Royal Palace, the Royal Family, uninformed police, army personnel vehicles or aircraft is prohibited in Swaziland. Traditional ceremonies may be photographed with permission from the Government Information Service, P.O.BOX 451, Mbabane. If the visitor wishes to photograph a homestead or an individual, he should request for permission. A Swazi, for example in full traditional dress might expect a perquisite in exchange for permission to take photos.
Tipping; Service charges are not normally levied as a percentage on bills, but 10% is a useful guide.
Natural resources: asbestos, coal, clay, cassiterite, hydropower, forests, small gold and diamond deposits, quarry stone, and talc
Languages Spoken; Siswati and English are the official languages. Therefore English is the intermediary of instruction in all schools and is widely comprehended. Events and discussions in Parliament are in both languages.
Clothing; The ladies will need summer dresses, skirts, slacks, and blouses. In the evening on the Highveld and during the winter months (May to September) a sweater is necessary. Gentlemen wear lightweight lounge suits, slacks and sportcoats, safari suits with either long or short trousers, and shorts and casual shirts. Throughout the evening, at smart hotels and restaurants, gentlemen are expected to wear a jacket and a tie. Formal evening dress is hardly ever worn unless visitors are attending a gala, function or elegant private dinner party.
Domestic Pets; Visitors will only be allowed to travel with their pets if they have been ranted permission from state veterinarians. The necessary documentation may be arranged from either the State Veterinarian, Customs House, Fraser Street, Johannesburg, South Africa or Veterinary Services p.o.box 162, Mbabane, Swaziland. Veterinarians will advise travelers about innovation.
Tour Operators; Various tour operators based in Swaziland offer an assortment of excursions to witness Swazi culture. These are suitable for groups and individuals.
Airport Tax; On exit from Matsapha Airport, Manzini, all passengers must pay an airport tax of E20.00
BUSINESS AND SOCIAL HINTS
Business is conducted relatively informally. Lightweight suits and a tie are the accepted form of business dress. Appointments should be made and business cards carried. Elegant casual wear is usually for social occasion. As a result of the good climate, entertaining often takes place out of doors. In some instances traditional customs may be involved in social contacts. Alcohol is available and smoking is generally acceptable.
Office and shop hours are usually 08h00 – 13h00 and 14h00 – 1700 Mondays to Fridays. Bank hours are 18h30 – 14h30 Mondays to Fridays and some banks, 08h30 – 11h00 on Saturdays. Post offices are open 08h00 – 16h00 Mondays to Fridays and 08h00 – 11h00 on Saturdays.
Lilangeni (singular) or Emalangeni (plural) and cents is the legal tender used in Swaziland. It is of equal value to the South African rand and cents and both currencies are common in circulation. The traveler is advised to change Emalangeni back to his own currency before leaving Swaziland as it is part of the Rand monetary area. There is no currency controls at border posts and no limit to the amount of currency a traveler may carry. All tolerable credit cards and travelers cheques are acceptable in Swaziland.
Electric current is supplied at 220 volts AC 50Hz and 15 amp round-pin wall sockets are used.
Vaccination against yellow fever is a necessity, if arriving within 6 days from or via an infected area. Prophylactics against malaria and immunization against cholera, typhoid and polio are recommended. Other risks are rabies and in river and dams, bilharzias.
Swaziland is at GMT +2hours. Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom are one hour behind Swaziland. The United States (Eastern) is 7 hours behind and the USA (Pacific) 10 hours behind. Hong Kong is 6 hours ahead and Sydney, Australia, 7 1/2 hours ahead.
SWAZILAND VISA REQUIREMENTS
Visas are a requisite by all visitor from different nations EXCEPT: Nationals of Swaziland, British subjects being “Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies” and nationals of Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Botswana, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Republic of South Africa, Sweden, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guyana, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Israel, Italy, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad, and Tobago, Uganda, Uruguay, the United States of America, Zambia and wp. Visas for citizens of Austria, Switzerland and R.O.C can be acquired free of charge at the point of entry. Visitors wishing to stay more than 60 days must apply for a temporary residence permit from the Chief Immigration Officer, P.O.BOX 372, Mbabane (Tel: (+268) 404-2941/2). Within Swaziland visas can be got from the officer. They are usually issued out by the Swaziland Mission abroad. For more information about visas, visitors should contact the Swaziland Embassy in their countries.
Art And Craft; Certainly one of the Kingdom’s utmost attractions is the art. There are art and craft outlets and traditional markets of Swaziland are firm travellers favourite. Whether wanting a souvenir of an African holiday, a key decorative feature for a living room or office or maybe a special present for a love done back home, hours can be spent in the grip of Swaziland’s handcraft industry.
Handcrafts; The Swaziland kingdom has a variety of Handcraft outlets like African fantasies for example T.shirts, post cards, pottery , baobab batiks, fabrics, screen printed batik, coral arts, African clothing among others. These can be found in places like Nyanza, Malkens, Matenga and many other places.
Wilderness; The kingdom has 7 Big Game Parks and reserves. They include; Malolotja Nature Reserve, Hlane Royal National Park, Mbuluzi Game Reserve, Mlawula Nature Reserve, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Mkhaya Game Reserve, and Phophonyane Nature Reserve. The following game can be encountered by day or night by spotlight.Scrub hare, Steen buck, Zebra, Verve monkeys, Eland, Baboon, Kudu Cane rat, Nyala, Ant bear, Impala Civet cat, Caracal cat, Ratel, Serval cat, Klipspringer, Blesbok Vaal rhebuck, Red Duiker, Red rock hare, Giraffe, Bush Baby, Blue Wildebeest, Cape polecat, Warthog, Cape wild cat, Crocodile, Porcupine, Bushbuck, Maanhaar jackal, Buffalo, Hippo, Grey duiker, Reedbuck
Spas and Health; There are a number of thermal springs in Swaziland, some of which are very hot and others warm.
Scenic Places; the kingdom has a good number of scenic sites one of the best being the pine Valley with a wide range of waterfalls on the Black Umbeluzi river, the tea road, the drive to Piggs peak, south of Ezulwin valley are more attractions like the Bulungu falls, The rock paitings most of which may be attributed to Bush men may also be seen, the low veld of Swaziland provides a nice scene and many others beautiful sceneries. All these attribute to what a treasure of gorgeous attraction Swaziland has!
HOTELS IN SWAZILAND
Given the variety of accommodation in the Kingdom of Swaziland, a visitor’s taste or budget persuades one to choose according to his budget and plans. Placed inside this Beautiful Kingdom is a profusion of accommodation to cater for the discerning traveller, adventurer as well as the budget seeker. All the visitors have a choice to choose from luxury international hotels with world class accommodation, sporting facilities and services. Swaziland also has numerous homely lodges and guest houses specializing in personal service or even the more rustic and traditional style establishments for the true African adventures. So all visitor should be assured of finding suitable accommodation for their stay in the country at the best rates.
WHERE TO EAT
Visitors to Swaziland who may wish to take a break from the restaurant at their hotel and dine out have a wide choice and opportunity. There are many possibilities offering every type of cuisine in all the cities.