Eswatini: One of The Smallest Countries in Africa –with the Biggest Soul
By Veronica Moore
Eswatini is the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland. This little, landlocked country in the middle of South Africa and Mozambique changed its name in 2018 and is now known as Eswatini.
It is a magical and welcoming place with festivals and rhinos. It is one of the smallest countries in Africa and it is one of the continent’s last remaining monarchies. The entire country can be crossed by car in just a few hours.
Eswatini recently came into much publicity as it made fifth in the Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020. The country formerly known as Swaziland is well known for its undying culture. The country has multiple festivals every year that celebrate the heritage of the people and their traditions.
The Kingdom of Eswatini: The Kingdom of Festivals
Swazis gather by the thousands for the Umhlanga Reed Dance festival. This is a festival where as many as 40,000 girls and unmarried women get up and perform a dance for their people dedicated to the Royal Family in late August.
It is an eight-day event that happens annually where the girls are split up into age ranges and whether or not they have had children out of wedlock. It is said that day six is when to attend to see the peak of the festival.
This is a remarkable festival not only for the event but also for its location in the Eludzidzini Royal Residence, which is off-limits for the rest of the year. The Royal Residence is located near Lobamba, the capital of Eswatini.
Another annual festival that has been celebrated for centuries is Incwala. This occurs during the last week of December or the first week of January. Roughly translated Incwala is the “first fruits festival.”
According to the Kingdom of Eswatini, many of the interworkings of the festival are secret and rarely shared with outsiders. Photos are not permitted and spectators are discouraged, however, the kingdom does recommend if you do attend to go on the fourth day of the festival, which is usually the busiest and when there is the most dancing.
In recent times, Eswatini has claimed a name in the modern-day festival scene. They now host Bushfire along with Luju Festival, Green Lifestyle Festival, Festival Xplosion, and the Eswatini International Music Festival. All of these, with the exception of Bushfire, were as recently introduced as last year. These new festivals are beginning to draw many young people to Eswatini for a weekend of dancing and partying.
The Precedence of Rhino Conservation
On the other side of the coin, Eswatini is also well known for its protection of the rhino population. Rhinoceroses were reintroduced into the country in 1986.
Since then, the country has only lost 3 rhinos. This is a huge success because of the large problem that surrounding countries have with poachers and killings.
Most famously, Eswatini has many wildlife preserves perfect for a great safari. Mkhaya Reserve is a private reserve where people can escape into a nature they have never seen. It is an immersive experience where travelers eat and stay on the campus of the reserve.
There are private guides available for bush walks and game drives. No vehicles are allowed on the reserve, but that allows for less disturbance both to the animals and the humans staying near and on the reserve. Mkhaya Reserve is internationally known for the dense population of animals is within its borders.
Hlane Royal National Park
Hlane National Park is the largest amount of protected land in Eswatini. Although protected, the park does host something called “Butimba” or “Royal Hunt.” Big Game Parks now manages the national park for the Royal Family; after reintroducing many species Hlane National Park is home to many endangered species including but not limited to the white rhino, elephant, leopard, and lion. There are many animals that call Hlane home.
Unlike Mkhaya Reserve, tourists can choose to be guided on Game Drives or they can choose to drive themselves through the park. The park contains many wide roads that make self- guiding easier than one would imagine on a safari in Africa.
Malolotja Nature Reserve
Malolotja Nature Reserve is a place where many people travel to enjoy a trek or hike. Rock climbing is available as well, as it is primarily a mountain reserve.
As a visitor, you can just have a short walk or you are able to organize a multi-day hike where you could encounter a water buffalo, wild boar, or zebra crossing your path.
In addition to all the land wildlife that travelers encounter in the many safaris that Eswatini, there is also an incredible bird population that can be seen in the mountain trees or on the backs of many of the large land roaming species.