Big things come in small packages
Africa’s hidden gem
Formerly known as Swaziland, the kingdom of eSwatini got its new name (which means “Land of the Swazis”) in 2018. Landlocked by South Africa and Mozambique, this tiny country is the second-smallest country in continental Africa (only Gambia is smaller). But it more than makes up for its lack of size with incredible offerings.
This is a land of stunning scenery filled with mountains and valleys, forests and verdant plains. Celebrated wildlife reserves are home to more than 500 species of birds and a huge diversity of animals, including the Big Five. And because the parks are small, the game is never hard to find. The country’s breathtaking mountain scenery sets the stage for a number of adventure activities, from white-water rafting, caving and abseiling, to mountain biking and zip-lining above ancient forests. The hiking in eSwatini is exceptional, and a horseriding safari should not be missed.
Culture and heritage are deeply engrained in all aspects of Swazi life – this, after all, is one of the few remaining monarchies in Africa. The country’s rich culture is showcased in annual festivals and ceremonies that will be a highlight of your trip if you happen to catch one. They’re lively and colourful events, usually involving elaborate costumes and traditional dancing to a soundtrack of throbbing drumbeats. The Swazi people are incredibly friendly and laid-back, and because this hidden gem is not swamped by tourism (yet!), it’s ideal for travellers wanting an authentic, safe and relaxed African holiday experience that they don’t have to share with hordes of other tourists. It’s easily incorporated into a southern African travel itinerary, but don’t just make a flying visit here on your way to a larger, more famous destination in South Africa or Mozambique – stay and do this incredible country justice. It offers everything that’s best about Africa in one small but perfectly formed and oh-so beautiful country.
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Eswatini is a land-locked country in Southern Africa, bordered by Mozambique to the east but almost completely surrounded by South Africa.
The tiny kingdom is not only one of the world’s few remaining monarchies, it’s also the smallest country in the Southern Hemisphere, with a total area of just 17,364 square kilometres. It has two capital cities: Mbabane is the executive capital and largest city, while Lobamba is the traditional, spiritual and legislative capital. Just over one million people live in this country and the official languages are Swazi (also known as Swati or siSwati) and English.
Choosing when to visit eSwatini comes down to personal preferences. eSwatini’s seasons are the same as Australia, so December is mid-summer and July is mid-winter. Winter (June to August) is a great time to visit as the weather is drier and sunnier. It’s also easier to spot wildlife thanks to an absence of lush vegetation. But you need to consider the variations in altitude in eSwatini as well, so if you plan on travelling to the highveld during winter, be sure to pack warm clothes – temperatures can get as low as 5C. Summer (November to January) is the wettest time of year. As such, this is when the country is at its greenest and most beautiful. It’s the best time for bird watching, but it’s also the hottest time of the year. The lowveld in particular, which is drier, can get very hot. The good thing about this place is that the wildlife doesn’t all disappear at certain times, most roads are navigable all year round, and it’s never overrun with tourists.
eSwatini travel information
Australian tourists can visit Eswatini for up to 30 days without a visa. To enter you simply need a valid passport with two blank pages and six months’ validity from the date you return home. Please note, officials may refuse you entry if you try to enter as a same-sex married couple.
The local currency is the Swazi lilangeni (SZL), divided into 100 cents. Please note, the plural of lilangeni is emalangeni. The South African rand is also accepted in the country, but expect to be given emalangeni in change. Always keep a small stash of cash handy as credit cards aren’t always accepted, especially in rural spots. ATMs are common throughout the country. Please note that friendly haggling is common in the markets, but elsewhere you need to pay the stated price. Restaurant wages are low in eSwatini, so tips of around 10% to 15% are expected.
There are no compulsory vaccinations for travel to eSwatini unless you’re travelling from a country with yellow fever. In this case, you’ll need to provide proof of vaccination at immigration. Other than that, nothing is compulsory, but it’s recommended you be up-to-date with routine vaccinations – hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations are recommended for most travellers, while hepatitis B and rabies may be advisable depending on your planned activities. Malaria is also a risk in certain areas of the country. Consult your GP or a travel doctor at least six weeks before you travel regarding health precautions and immunisations for travel in eSwatini. For more inspiration about where to go and what to see when you’re visiting this incredible country, click on the buttons on the adjacent map.
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