Loosely translated as the place of heaven, the Ezulwini valley which is located in the western part of the country was the first city in the southern African country of Swaziland to become a tourist hub. The Ezulwini valley is located right next to Mbabane and if you are wondering how it came to be the top tourist Centre in Swaziland then this is the right article for you. It started being a tourist attraction Centre in the 1960’s due to the many tourist attractions in the valley and by the end of 1963, it was one place you wouldn’t want to miss out on while on a safari to Southern Africa. Although the Ezulwini valley has seen a lot of transformation over the years, there is still some under development when it comes to infrastructure and the lighting around the city but despite all this, you can still enjoy a night out in the valley and day tours that will leave you wanting to actually come back for another Safari in Swaziland.
There are a few reasons besides the tourist attractions as to why you should actually check out the Ezulwini valley while on as safari to Swaziland and these include the following:
Accommodation facilities, the Ezulwini valley has some of the best accommodation facilities in the country and that is why you should not miss out on visiting it. The accommodation facilities are family friendly, couple friendly and affordable to each tourist who visits the country.
There is definite development, since the Ezulwini valley is known to be a top tourist destination in Swaziland, the government has done a lot to improve the facilities that are found within the city so that tourists are comfortable as compared to other parts of the country.
Transportation, it is really easier to travel and explore the whole country if you are residing within the valley due to the improved transport system here as compared to other places within Swaziland and since it is considered to be one of the best tourist attractions, many of the tour operators find it easy to pick their clients from the numerous accommodation facilities.
Location of the Ezulwini valley, it is strategically located making it easy for tourists to go and come into the valley easily that is it is just a few minutes away from Mbabane where the king stays and also a few minutes away from the capital city of Swaziland.
Ezulwini is majorly known as a good destination for all those that are interested in culture as there are a lot of places in the valley that showcase the unique culture of the Swaziland people. It is also a home to different tourist attractions and there are a lot tourist activities that you can also engage in while here and some of these have been listed below so that you get to know what to expect when you get to the Ezulwini valley.
The Ezulwini craft market is the one place to be for all those that have love for art and craft. While here you will be able to see crafts that have been made from the different materials that are scattered all over the country like fiber, beads, clay, papyrus and so many more others. There are several craft shops all over where you will be able to get all these materials at an affordable price. There are also clothes with different Swazi designs, pottery works, jewelry and books that you can get yourself as a souvenir while in the crafts market.
If you have a love for adventure and adrenaline activities then caving is the perfect exercise for you to engage in when you get to the Ezulwini valley. The cave system here is considered to be the best in the whole of southern Africa and it connects almost the whole country from underneath and the whole cave system is known as the best cave trails. A few things that you need t be aware of before going caving include:
When you get there, expect to find a lot of bats and other surprising things but all these will just add on to the adventure.
Swaziland as a country is known to be a good birding destination and has over 500 different birding species. Birding is one of the best activities that you can carry out while in Ezulwini valley and there are many birding spots from where you can get to see lots of bird species and these include:
The Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary is was the first sanctuary to be opened up in in Swaziland and it is one of the many birding spots where you can get to see the different bird species that are found within the valley. The sanctuary covers an extremely large area and some of the birds that you will get to see include the purple crested Turaco, the black crowned, the purple crested Lourie, the fish eagle and many more other species.
The Matenga Nature Reserve which was opened up in 1991 is also located within the Ezulwini valley and a good birding spot. Some of the bird species that you will get to see while here include the black winged lapwing, the white breasted cormorant, the Shelley’s Francolin, the orange breasted waxbill, the African fish eagle, the streaky headed seedeater and the white faced duck among others.
You might think that since it is known as a valley no hiking is done here but there are actually some pretty good hike trails in the region. One of them is found in Lobamba and the other in the Mdzimba Mountains and before you head out to the trails, you will at least need a tour guide to take you around while explaining the various things that you will see along the way.
There are a lot of places within the valley that are best explored using a quad bike and it is an experience that every tourist to try out. Quad biking is normally organized by the different resorts and this is one of the easiest ways in which you can enjoy quad biking but there are also some tour operators that organize this activity and all you need to do is to find out which resorts and tour operators have quad biking on their list and book in time so that you get to enjoy moving around the valley on a quad bike. Note that you do not really need to have prior knowledge about the activity as there will be an experienced tour guide to help with you with a few steps and do not also forget to put on protective gears before getting onto the bike.
This is another way of exploring the valley and a fresh way to look at it from a different perspective. There is a freedom that you will feel when you get try horse riding and although the galloping is mostly left for those that are more experienced, even beginners can still try out but with the help off an experienced tour guide. Horse riding in Ezulwini is done at the Hoofbeat safari and you will be able to go to the different corners of the valley on a horse back.
There is a lot that the Ezulwini valley has to offer and the best way to get to know all this is by getting there and experiencing all this firsthand. When you get there you will not need to worry about accommodation facilities within the valley as they are many and considered to be some of the best in the whole country. For all those wondering whether it is actually safe to travel to the valley, the answer is yes it is safe but you will also need to be cautious with all property to be on the safe side.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.