This is part 2 of your introduction to the Kingdom of Swaziland. Where people greet you on the street: “Welcome! Relax. No hurry in Swaziland!”. We were just passing through but during a Village Tour we actually learned so much about the history, cultural traditions, and the polygamous King that spending more days could easily be justified…
Part 1 of this post showed you the first stops of our Swazi Village tour, where we visited the Swaziland National Museum and the King Sobhuza II Memorial Park. Part 1 also talked about the situation in Swaziland and why we think the country is worth an extended visit. If you have not yet read part 1, click on this link. It will help you to better understand the continuation of our travel story.
So here it goes: part 2 of our Swaziland adventures!
Our Lombaba Village Tour
After visiting the National Museum and the Memorial Park we finally went to visit the actual village. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult for local people (or tourist guides for that matter) to understand that this is the thing many tourists actually love the most: to watch a slice of everyday life. At least we love to do so!
Just send us into a regular village where we can watch kids go to school, witness activities at the local market, talk to people out on the street, etc. This is real Swazi life today.
So there we found ourselves walking the streets of Lobamba village. King Sobhuza had his royal residence here, which is how the village developed. There is no real adventure or excitement, it’s just a regular day in a typical Swazi village. The excitement can be found in the people! A guy who was working his muscles. Or just your regular laundry scenery (always a feast for the photographer!).
Kids ran out of their houses to greet us and shake our hands. They followed us all the way! Wherever you travel, people are curious. Where do we come from, why are we here, what do you think of our country? These questions we get all the time, mostly after a while when people are used to our presence. But it’s the kids who show no restraint in approaching you immediately. Not with your typical questions but just to give a high-five or follow you around. It was again so much fun.
After a while we stopped at the local (outdoor) bar where we were treated with a bowl full of locally brewed beer: Sorghum. Everybody drinks out of the same bowl and so did we! Of course they told us the beer was very nutritious which to me sounds more like an excuse to drink all day long… While drinking we of course had a chat with some of the Lobamba residents.
At the end of the tour we enjoyed a local BBQ: one big plate with different pieces of meat. Again, one plate where all of us had to use our hands to eat. I was unable to take a picture of that because my hands and fingers were all greasy!
Such a simple village walk is a great experience for you and your kids. Our guide lives in Lobamba himself so we met a lot of his friends. At the end we said goodbye with the Swazi handshake which comes in three, like on the picture below. And of course with a big smile!
What do you need to know about Swaziland?
On the one hand Swaziland is very different from South Africa. Being an absolute monarchy, the polygamous King operates with lots of grandeur and splendor. This would be forgivable if Swaziland were not facing important issues as drought, unemployment, HIV/AIDS and poverty. The young people we talked to want the country to move forward and it’s good to see tourism is booming.
Visit Swaziland to experience local traditions that have stood the test of time. And although the country has its challenges, the people still smile, greet you and act modest in some sort of manner. Probably something they learned from their former King Sobhuza II: “I have no enemy”. It says something about the spirit of the country.
Accommodation in Swaziland
We spent two nights at the Mantenga Lodge located in the Ezulwini valley. The lodge is famous because of the spectacular views. From the lodges terrace you have an amazing view of what locals call the Execution Rock (let them tell you what happened at the rock in the past….). The manager is very helpful and always willing to give advice on tours. She can even assist in booking tours for you.
The lodge has a swimming pool and a fine restaurant (make sure to book a table). Sometimes monkeys take over the place, eating and drinking all that is left on the tables outside. Funny view!
The lodge offers various types of rooms: from upgraded rooms with great rock views to standard rooms. The standard room is what you expect: everything is available but that’s about it. Make sure to check the other types to find the best one according to your personal need.
Travel advice for Swaziland
Swaziland is a perfect place for a self-drive. We never felt unsafe, so don’t worry about that.
Mind you that border crossings are not open 24h. At the border crossing you first pass the South-African border and after a few meters you arrive at the Swaziland border. Both times you have to get out of the car, walk to the office and get in line to receive approval and the desirable Swazi passport stamp. You are also obliged to pay road tax (around ZAR 60 per car) which is done at the same customs office.
When you rent a car in South Africa, make sure they provide you with a cross-border authorization document.
Our travel with Better Places
We were invited by Better Places to visit Swaziland. Better Places is a relatively new Dutch agency, providing tours to over 30 countries worldwide. In each country they work with local travel experts who know the best places to travel to.
Better Places puts emphasis on sustainability (compensating Co2 emission) and community travel. They try to minimize Co2 emission by selecting mostly small, sustainable accommodations and by comparing airline routes.
Our stay in Swaziland was wonderful and we would like to thank Better Places for the opportunity. As always, all opinions in this blogpost are ours and ours only.
The warm tones in these photos and the smiles on the children’s faces are the loveliest thing I’ve seen today. Thanks for sharing Emiel! Keep it up!
Thank you so much! Your comment again made me smile… 🙂
Hi Emiel. Great read about my country. Im soon going back after studying abroad for 5 years. I always get discouraged whenever I go back that it still looks the same, no change but I get comforted that the people are atleast really nice and kind, thats not something I’ve been experiencing the past 5 years. Really looking forward to making some change but I doubt it will make any big difference because the whole system just fails Swazis. Im currently working on creating a travel blog focusing on Swaziland and I’m grateful to hear about your experiences. Thank you
Hi! Thank you for your comment. I am so happy that you, as a Swazi resident, loved my take on Swaziland. It’s indeed a realistic one and I hope things do change around. Keep me updated about your Swaziland travel blog, I’m really interested!
I wonder how the sorghum beer tasted like. Was it good? Thanks for this heartwarming series on one of the least-talked countries in the world, Emiel.
The taste of the Sorghum beer? Well, what can I say…. it wasn’t bad but not the beer I could drink all night long 🙂 A bit sour. A nice tasting experience though… Glad these posts appealed to you, thanks.
Another series of great photos Emiel! And for us too: we love the local experience most, even better than most of the highlights. 🙂