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Holidays in Swaziland

Understanding Swaziland

Swaziland, one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, is one of the the smallest countries in Africa and has a well-earned reputation for friendliness in Southern Africa It also contains several large game parks and reserves, which are sponsored by the government and are popular tourist destinations

Compared to other countries in the region, Swaziland is known for its civility and peacefulness, despite similar problems with poverty and one of the world's worst AIDS crises As of November 2008 the total reported percentage of those with HIV was listed as 30%; this, of course, does not include those who have not yet been tested The AIDS epidemic has broken up the traditional extended family unit, leaving many young children orphaned and fighting for survival

Swaziland is divided into four adminstrative districts: Hhohho northwest, Lubombo east, Manzini central-west, and Shiselweni south

Rumors abound that much of Swaziland's economy is based on the farming of marijuana, or dagga, as it is locally known

History

Artifacts indicating human activity dating back to the early Stone Age 200,000 years ago have been found in the Kingdom of Swaziland Prehistoric rock art paintings date from ca 25,000 BC The earliest inhabitants of the area were Khoisan hunter-gatherers They were largely replaced by the Bantu tribes during Bantu migrations who hailed from the Great Lakes regions of Eastern Africa

The autonomy of the Swaziland Nation was dictated by British rule of southern Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries In 1881 the British government signed a convention recognizing Swazi independence At the start of the Anglo Boer war, Britain placed Swaziland under its direct jurisdiction as a Protectorate The Swaziland independence Constitution was promulgated by Britain in November 1963 in terms of which a legislative Council and an Executive Council were established The first Legislative Council of Swaziland was constituted on 9 September 1964 Changes to the original constitution proposed by the Legislative Council were accepted by Britain and a new Constitution providing for a House of Assembly and Senate was drawn up Elections under this Constitution were held in 1967 Since 1973, Swaziland has seen a rather quiet struggle between pro-multiparty activists and the monarchy

Climate

Generally speaking, rain falls mostly during the summer months, often in the form 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 further East, the less rain, with the Lowveld recording 500 to 900 mm per annum Variations in temperature are also related 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

Talking in Swaziland

English is the official language of business It is advisable that travellers learn a little of the local language, SiSwati also known as Swazi which, in rural areas, is spoken almost exclusively

Buying stuff in Swaziland

The currency of Swaziland, the lilangeni plural: "emalangeni", is tied to the South African rand at 1:1 Shops in Swaziland often accept and make change for both currencies indiscriminately This is not the case in South Africa, however, so if you are planning to visit South Africa also, you may prefer to request rand in exchange for emalangeni at banks in Mbabane or Manzini: proof of identity is required It is impossible to exchange your emalangeni at Johannesburg Airport, as well as in the UK All Swazi vendors will take Rand, but no South African vendors will take emalangeni

Note that when traveling on the kombis in Swaziland, the operators will NOT take Rand coins

For souvenirs, one must not miss these highlights:

  • Swazi Candles 6, located in Ezulwini Valley where you can buy beautifully waxed colorful animal figures in all sizes
  • Ngwenya Glass 7, located just next to the Ngwenya Border Post on the MR3 Here you can find lots of glass works made on location Animals, Plates, Glasses, etc are all to be found here, and they are cheaper here than in other places One can also visit the factory and see the glass blowers at work
  • Gone Rural 8, located in Ezulwini Valley next to the House on Fire concert stage Here you can find various woven baskets, placemats etc for very cheap prices

Next to these highlights there are also smaller stores, where you can buy everything from Swazi Foods to Swazi wooden sculptures and handmade bags

Food and eating in Swaziland

Many Western foods are available in Swazi grocery stores, but traditional foods are still common, as is modern convenient food based on traditional ingredients

Maize-based dishes are popular, and mealie or pap similar to porridge is a staple Beans, groundnuts, pumpkin, avocado and sour milk are also common ingredients Dried and cooked local meats, such as antelope often called 'wild meat' by locals, are widely available at tourist restaurants

"Chicken dust" is a cheap local bbq meal; basically chicken grilled in the open served with a salad and mealie It is popular both with locals and absolutely delicious Of course, take appropriate precautions as it is a street vendor food

Sweet breads, vegetables and fruits are often available from roadside merchants If you're craving pasta, imported olive oil, Nestle chocolate, Herbal Essences and Carlsberg, head over to the Hub, at Manzini: a huge Spar with everything you could need at an appropriately inflated price There are several coffee-shops and restaurants around the Hub, also: be aware that the lavatories are located separately, down the stairs, and you have to pay to use them Manzini's bustling markets and local shops yield all kinds of interesting foodstuffs, along with the ubiquitous KFC

There are some superb restaurants in Swaziland; many are be found in Ezulwini:

  • eDladleni Restaurant Upper end of Ezulwini Valley +268 404 5743 http://edladleni100webspacenet/ 1100-2300 Traditional Swazi food - one of Swazilands only restaurants serving tradtitional food
  • The Calabash Continental Restaurant Upper end of Ezulwini Valley +268 416 1187 http://wwwswaziplacecom/calabash/ 1100-2300 Excellent German and Swiss cuisine They do wonderful things with fish!
  • The Boma Restaurant Timbali Lodge Upper Ezulwini Valley +268 416 1156 http://wwwtimbalilodgecosz/bomahtm 1100-2300 New, popular, 'Africa-Chic' destination
  • The Great Taipei Gables Shopping Centre, Ezulwini +268 416 2300 1200-2300 Reasonably priced Swaziland's favourite Chinese restaurant

Drinking in Swaziland

Marula is locally brewed during the marula season It may be difficult to find; ask locals as it is home-brewed

There is a vibrant nightlife in Swaziland ranging from traditional dances to bars and nightclubs If you're staying in Ezulwini, there are four bars at the Royal Swazi hotel; why not check out the Why Not nightclub too? If you're in the Malkerns area, the House on Fire is extremely popular: local art, local and national DJs, an open-air setting and live acts

Accommodation in Swaziland

Swaziland is a small country and it is easy to go anywhere in the country during one day If you're watching the pennies, head to Veki's Guesthouse or Grifter's Backpackers in Mbabane, which costs around 120R per night for a bunk If you want to push the boat out, book a room at the Mountain Inn which has outstanding accommodation, facilities and leisure opportunities

The most sought-after hotels in Swaziland tend to be located in Ezulwini Valley between the two major cities, Mbabane and Manzini Don't forget to pick up beautiful local crafts from the roadside stalls on the way With four bars, a restaurant, a casino, golf, swimming, tennis and 411 rooms and suites, the Royal Sun Swazi epitomises luxury The Royal Villas, also found in Ezulwini, spread 56 rooms across 14 villas and are extremely luxurious, offering excellent food, atmosphere and leisure facilities The Ezulwini sun offers excellent facilities, also, at mid-range prices

And, if you're heading down towards the Mozambique border, you'll find comfortable, well-appointed country clubs at Manananga, Mhlume and Simunye

Again, out in the country, a wonderful place to stay one or more nights is Phophonyane Falls 9 It is situated in the north-east, next to the Phophonyane waterfalls and offers great hiking trails Best is to sleep in comfortable tents, next to the river The Shewula Mountain Camp, Swaziland's first community-owned camp, is perched high in the Lobombo mountains with stunning views across game reserves; on clear days the Mozambique capital, Maputo is clearly visible Guests stay in traditional rondavels, round thatched huts The Camp is an eco-tourism initiative designed to help the local community and the wider environment

Working in Swaziland

Volunteer

Volunteer for a day at Matjana Preschool, a not-for-profit pre-primary school in Kaphunga, Rural Swaziland For more details and to contact us at Matjana 10 Matjana Preschool was established by a group of volunteers without any organizational assistance and opened in 2007, the first preschool in the area Since then with the support of International donors it has grown from strength to strength In 2007, 19 children attended Matjana Preschool and one local woman was employed as the preschool teacher working with an Australian volunteer teacher In 2008 newly purchased furniture has allowed the organization to increase the class size; they now have a class of 22 students and enough funds to pay a second local teacher They hope to build a new classroom at some point in the future depending on donations so that they can accept up to thirty students per year and continue employing two local women

Cities in Swaziland

bhunya  big bend  bulembu  hlatikulu  hluti  kubuta  kwaluseni  lavumisa  lobamba  malkerns  manzini  mbabane  mhlambanyatsi  mhlume  nhlangano  nsoko  sidvokodvo  siteki  

What do you think about Swaziland?

How expensive is Swaziland?
(1 ZAR = 0.08 USD)
Meal in inexpensive restaurant48 ZAR
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)248.63 ZAR
McDonalds meal35 ZAR
Local beer (0.5 draft)10.78 ZAR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 14.89 ZAR
Cappuccino10.8 ZAR
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)8.85 ZAR
Water (0.33 bottle)7.76 ZAR
Milk (1l)10.5 ZAR
Fresh bread (500g)9.66 ZAR
White Rice (1kg)11.1 ZAR
Eggs (12) 15.02 ZAR
Local Cheese (1kg) 84.76 ZAR
Chicken Breast (1kg) 40.26 ZAR
Apples (1kg) 20.7 ZAR
Oranges (1kg) 20 ZAR
Tomato (1kg) 27.6 ZAR
Potato (1kg) 35.63 ZAR
Lettuce (1 head) 4.05 ZAR
Water (1.5l)13.65 ZAR
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 42.18 ZAR
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)14.35 ZAR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 11.76 ZAR
Cigarettes35.64 ZAR
One way local bus ticket16.52 ZAR
Monthly pass for bus0.94 ZAR
Taxi start55.1 ZAR
Taxi 1hour waiting277.25 ZAR
Gasoline (1 liter) 13.16 ZAR
Utilities for a "normal" apartment609.4 ZAR
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 55.4 ZAR
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