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Swaziland’s Ezulwini Valley is the hub of Swazi crafts and culture. Here you will find crafts ranging from the only jewellery designers and manufacturers in Swaziland to Candle manufacturers, Game Lodges to back-packers. Ezulwini is the Zulu word for heavenly, and this valley truly is a little corner of Heaven. Surrounded on all four sides by magnificent mountains and decorated with fields of sugar cane, the Ezulwini Valley is an absolute must for every visitor to Swaziland. It is no wonder that the valley has been chosen by all of Swaziland’s major hotels as the place to build. It is in this valley that King Mswati III lives in a grand residence and rules the Kingdom with his Queen Mother or Ndlovukazi (She-Elephant).
Visitors to Ezulwini can get some of the finest nature experiences around! The brilliant scenery, diverse bird life and Big Five will prove to be a true wildlife experience. The Hlane Royal National Park has large numbers of Lion, Elephant and White Rhino, and an amazingly diverse bird life, while the Mkhaya Game Reserve has endangered species such as Black Rhino, Roan & Sable. Golf fans can enjoy the 18-hole championship golf course, while horse-riding and hiking are also popular outdoor activities.
Ezulwini is surrounded on the north, south and west by the Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary, which was established in the 1960’s by Ted Reilly and his wife Elizabeth, with the assistance of KIng Sobhuza II. The sanctuary consists of an area of scrub and grassland which is surrounded by the Nyonyanw Mountains. Initially animals had to be brought in from far afield , and special plants needed to bo grown for the wildlife to graze on. The sanctuary has grown since its early days to its current area of four thousand five hundred hectares as a result of land donations. The Mlilwane sanctuary is a bird wathing paradise with four hundred and seventy various species being found there. A variety of indigenous mammals also can be found in the sanctuary including zebra, rhino, giraffe, hippo and various antelope.
Mantenga Cultural Village
Another place of interest is the Mantenga Cultural village. The cultural village is a living museum which showcases all aspects of traditional Swazi culture, and represents a classical Swazi lifestyle during the mid eighteen hundreds. The building materials used in the construction of the village are all strictly traditional and consist of poles, grass, reeds, leather strips, earth and dried cow dung. The Mantenga Village consists of sixteen huts, each with its own specific purpose, kraals or byres for cattle and goats, reed fences that serve as windbreaks, and various other structures. With the traditional artefacts on display, the village illustrates many facets of the ancient Swazi way of life which include social, economic and religious.
Swazi Reed Dance
The reed dance is a spectacular annual event attracting multitudes of tourists to the Kingdom of Swaziland. Performing at the reed dance ceremony are thousands of Swazi maidens in their traditional attire. These Swazi girls come from various locations over the country and gather together for the ceremony which lasts for about eight days. The Umhlanga Reed Dance occurs towards the end of the month of August, when the seasons start changing and the reed is matured and ready for harvest. This event presents the maidens with an opportunity to pay honour to the Queen Mother. Only childless, unwed girls are permitted to take part in the event.
The Swaziland National Museum, located in the Royal Area adjacent to the houses of parliament was built in 1972, and is run by the Swaziland National Trust Commission. The museum located in Lobamba is dedicated to King Sobhuza II who led Swaziland to independence in 1968, and is well known by many in Swaziland, and provides an interesting and insightful introduction to the origins and history, culture, lifestyles and traditional attire of the Swazi nation.
The museum also highlights the close relationship between the Swazi people and nature, and features amongst other interesting exhibits, a natural history hall built in 1991, which houses various dioramas covering a range of topics including vegetation types, numerous animal displays, and a representation of the nation’s well know Mantenga Falls and it aquatic species. The Swaziland National Museum also hoses numerous displays which showcase Swazi cultural ceremonies and attire, traditional use of herbs, and other cultural uses of Swaziland’s fauna and flora.
King Sobhuza Memorial Park
Swaziland’s King Sobhuza II Memorial Park is located in Lobamba, and lies adjacent to the houses of parliament and the National Museum, while serving as a tribute to the memory of the Nation’s beloved King Sobhuza who led Swaziland to independence in 1968.
The King Sobhuza Memorial Park displays a number of interesting features which have great symbolism in the Swazi culture. Perhaps the most predominant of these is the massive ten foot high bronze statue of King Sobhuza. The statue faces east, where the monarch originally came from, and carries the inscription ” I Have No Enemy”. The statue of the king is surrounded by traditional Swazi shields, and this symbolises his position within the kingdom as a central figure, and head of the regimental system.
The memorial park features a Royal Entrance through which only the King, the Queen Mother, Heads of states, Heads of foreign missions may enter. Also found at the memorial park are the Royal Palms. These were the King’s favourite tree species, and he even built one of his residences and named it “Masundvwini” meaning palm tree area.
The Memorial Torch at the site is lit to show that the spirit of King Sobhuza lives on. It is lit on important days in the lives of the Swazis, for example on the King’s birthday, Independence day known nationally as Somhlolo day, or when a foreign head of state pays a visit to the Park.
The Mausoleum is considered to be the most sacred part of the park and is guarded by members of the Swazi military. No photographing of the mausoleum is permitted, out of respect. The mausoleum stands on the spot where King Sobhuza’s body was laid during the state funeral which took place on 3 September 1982.
The vibrant and colourful Manzini Market, located in Swaziland’s biggest city, the lowveld city of Manzini, operates every Thursday, and provides an excellent opportunity for crafters both local and from afar to showcase their their wares. The market has gained a reputation as a popular tourist attraction, and houses a wide and interesting variety of traditional Swazi arts, crafts, curios and other hand made items. Most of the stalls at the Manzini Market are operated by women who manufacture their wares at their villages and make their way to the market to sell them.
There is everything in the market and this includes fruits and vegetables, household items and traditional medicines while a separate portion of the market is devoted to an enormous range of products which include interesting hand carved wooden pieces, traditional pottery, beautiful beadwork and embroidery, various leather products, and woven baskets for which Swaziland is very well known. Also to be found at the Manzini Market are a large variety of fabrics from Zimbabwe, Congo and Mozambique which are hard to find elsewhere in Swaziland.
Malotja Nature Reserve
The Malotja Nature Reserve, located in Swaziland’s highlands, serves as the mountain kingdom’s last remaining unspoilt wilderness area. The reserve covers a total surface area of approximately 1800 ha. Aside from the awe- inspiring mountain views , visitors are also provided with the excellent opportunity to view a wide and interesting variety of fauna and flora.
Malotja Nature Nature Reserve also supports a unique and diverse variety of colourful highland birds which include many sunbirds, loeries, and sugarbirds. Blue cranes and swallows also make their home in the reserve, along with a breeding colony of bald ibis, who nest on the cliffs near Malotja Falls.
The Ngwenya village, named after the crocodile shaped mountain range which encircles the kingdom of Swaziland, gets its name from the Siswati word for Crocodile, “Ngwenya”. The village is also the location of the famous Ngwenya Glassworks and craft complex, and the world’s oldest known mine, the Ngwenya Mine.
The glassworks were established in 1979 as a Swedish Aid project, and saw the factory being built and its machinery and equipment all being imported.
visitors can witness the glass being melted, formed and polished, and experience a little of the heat associated with the process.
The showroom houses an interesting variety of ornaments which include skilfully crafted elephants, rhino, dolphins and many more animals and birds, plus cups, vases and chess sets, all made from glass.
Songimvelo Game Reserve
Songimvelo Game Reserve is South Africa’s largest provincial game reserve, covering an area of almost 50,000 ha, and is managed by Mpumalanga Parks Board. The reserve lies along the Eastern Drakensberg escarpment between Barberton and Badplaas.
he grasslands within the reserve attract herds of game such as Burchell’s Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, Waterbuck and Blesbok, while other species such as giraffe, Impala and Kudu are more often sighted in the denser woodlands.
Songimvelo is also home to a thriving community of White Rhinoceros. Buffalo are also seen from time to time in the reserve. Leopard, Blackbacked Jackal, and Brown hyena are also common , however these predators are nocturnal, and so they are seldom seen.
Swaziland Harvest Festival
The Ncwala, or first fruit ceremony is considered to be the most sacred and colorful of all the Swazi ceremonies in which the King plays a dominant role. The Ncwala is usually held in December or January upon a date chosen carefully by Swazi astronomers in conjunction with the position of the sun relating to the phases of the moon, and takes place over three weeks.
The ritual begins as the Bemanti clan or “water people” make their way to the Mozambique coast, where they collect the foam from the waves, which is believed to have healing powers. The return to the Royal palace commences in the celebration of the Little iNcwala, which takes place before the appearance of the full moon.