My Little Swazi Guide
Before I give you MY guide to Swaziland, let me tell you about the country since most of you are probably like me and have never heard of this amazing little country. I can not give you an accurate description of this “valley of heavens” because you have to see it to believe it. When you are here, you are literally in the middle of these amazing mountains, surrounded by both beauty and not so beauty (but the beauty outweighs the not so). You can pretty much do everything here from seeing big game, hiking. rafting and so much more. This country is great for families as well as individuals. Not only is Swaziland an amazing country, you can drive a few hours to Maputo, Mozambique to beautiful beaches, or into South Africa for more things to do. Swaziland is also a few hours from Krueger as well. The views are amazing, it would be a great vacation spot for anyone wanting to come to Africa.
This is lengthy so you can skip the demographics and history lesson if you want.
Some of the not so good: The roads are decent but not the best maintained in some areas, there are potholes and in some areas you do not have much room on the “shoulder” for any errors (we blew a tire because we got a little to close to the shoulder and hit the rocky broken up pot hole edge). At night, you do not have many street lights so be careful. Also if you are from the states, please read up on the driving here before you venture out. My first time was scary because cars kept passing us and Justin kept getting too close to the “shoulder” to let cars pass, but now I know that it is normal for South Africa (I will admit it still scares me). You will see houses that are as basic as they can get, some are less than basic, you will question how anyone can live in them, most don’t have running water or power. One of the more upsetting things to me is something so simple to prevent - TRASH, you will see it just thrown out onto the roads, sidewalks, wherever and it takes away from this beautiful country and is such an easy fix.
From what I have encountered you will not meet any person more appreciative, happy and respectful than those here in Swazi. I hope my guide can give you a little insight to this magnificent place.
Let me do a little bit of a history and geography lesson on Swaziland before we jump into the modern-day Swazi (I will try to be accurate as possible from what I have learned, if I am missing something or have something incorrect please let me know, I don't want to state anything wrong about this beautiful country):
Geography / Climate:
Swaziland is a little smaller than New Jersey and is the smallest country in Africa.
It borders South Africa and Mozambique (both are beautiful places and within a few hours drive).
It is very mountainous (such a beautiful scenery) and has a few plain areas. The Great Usutu River is 21m (68ft) above sea level, making it the lowest point and the Emlembe 1862m (6108 ft) above sea level making it the highest point.
It has several “big” cities: Mbanane (capital), Ezulwini and Manzini. These are the “hubs” of Swaziland and very modern with shopping centers, technology, restaurants and places to stay.
They have 4 “Districts” which are Hhohho, Lubombo, Manzini, Shiselweni.
The Temperature is very diverse, hot and dry in the low areas and cool in the mountain regions, and it does have a “rainy season”. It has 4 distinct seasons but they are opposite of the US in the northern hemisphere.
The ancestors of Swazi traveled south in the 1700’s to what is now or near what is now Mozambique, but after some battles with others in the area they had to travel south in the northern area of what is said to have been Zulu’s territory. After that wasn’t as safe as they would like they moved north again and eventually established the heart of Swaziland around 1800 (but I have read several stories that state The Ngwane people settled in Swaziland in the 1700’s). The British ruled Swaziland from 1906-1968, after the Anglo-Boer War. They gained their independence of Sept 6, 1968. It is the last absolute monarchy in Africa.
The people are called “Swazi(‘s)”
The country is 97% African, 3% Other (from what I have experienced that other is huge and multicultural, I met Portuguese, Afghans, Pakistanis, South Africans, Indians and other Americans)
They speak Siswati and English
Religion: Zion is the primary religion at 40% (this is a mix of Christianity with ancestral worship), Other (includes at Methodist, Mormon, Jewish, etc) at 20%, Catholic at 20% and Muslim at 10% .
Population is around 1.4 million (this is the sad part due to AIDS/HIV this country has a very low population of people over 55 years old):
55 and older is at 7.9%
25-54 is 33%
15-24% is 22.3%
0-14 is at 36.5%.
The median age is 21 years old; compare this to Japan where the median age is 48, France is 39 and the US is 36 but just to show there are some with a younger median age: Uganda has a median age of 15 years old).
HIV Population: 26.5% (they have the highest population of HIV/AIDS in the world)
Education: To me the system is very confusing to me and frustrating to think about, because I come from a country where education is a RIGHT and given to everyone, it is simple you go k-12 and some then go to college. It just breaks my heart that these kids are not allowed the same rights. We all know that a country is only as good as the people and without educations the people cannot truly thrive, neither can the economy or ultimately the country.
There is Preschool which is usually community driven
Primary goes from 1st grade to 7th (only the first two years are free), and then at the end of the 7th year of education you get a certificate and that determines if you are eligible for continuing education
Secondary and High school (3 years junior secondary and 2 years senior secondary)
Only about 20% go to anything past primary because of financial burdens, limited spaces, and the need of the family to be working.
Tertiary Education or College (can be paid by the government if the student qualifies).
Only about 5% will receive Tertiary Education
Currency: Lilangeni / emalangeni which is connected to the Rand (You can use Rand here but you cannot use Lilangeni anywhere but in Swaziland). Swazi will accept Rand or Lilangeni / emalangeni.
**Please remember to cash out or exchange your Lilangeni / emalangeni before you leave the country because you will not be able to ANYWHERE else nor will any other country accept it.
Artifacts and cave drawings indicate that there was activity in this region going back 200,000 years ago. Some of the drawings date back as far as 25,000 BC
Some of the world’s oldest rock formations can be found at Malolotja Nature Reserve.
Ok, Ok, enough of that, I am sure by now you are just wanting to know about the fun stuff. My guide is simple and straight to the point. I will give you my opinions of the places that I have had the pleasure to explore and please remember these are just my opinions not facts, and they are my opinions based off of what I am use to from where I am from. I will update regularly as I explore more of the area, also I will make a separate blog for most of the places that we explore so be sure to check those out as well.
Swaziland has some rich history for such a small country. But how many of you have ever heard of Swaziland? I had never heard of it until my husband got his job offer. But once we moved here I heard several references to Swaziland; once in the movie Expendables 3 and then there was a pilot show that I read about that had a scene where they entertained the King and his wives (yes more than one wife). So maybe the knowledge of this beautiful country is getting out there more. With some advertisement and some assistance I think this country could be one of those vacation destinations that everyone puts on their bucket list.
We have been in Ezulwini Swaziland for 1year and I love the country, I will continually update the blog as we explore the area but I will tell you what we have experienced so far.
Handi-Crafts / Souvenirs:
You have several options throughout Swazi but the ones that I have frequented are:
The one at Corner Plaza, the one near MTN, and the one at Swazi Candles.
Several little shops of handicrafts made by the local Swazi people. Take your time and look at each shop before you purchase anything because they all have great items, unfortunately most of them are exactly the same but different prices. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask for a better offer or to combine a price if you are buying several things from one shop.
I truly wish they would be more creative and individualistic with their handicrafts, it seems like everyone uses the same patterns and I know these are some talented and creative people, they just need to trust their selves and be a little different from the stall beside them.
Calabash – A really nice restaurant, the food was delicious and some of the best that I have had here so far. It was not crowded at all and the staff was pleasant. Only complaint which isn’t really a complaint is that the decor was out dated but that added to the style of the place. Eat in.
Summerfield – I have no words to describe Summerfield because it is absolutely stunning. The gardens are beautiful and serene. The restaurant is not only relaxing but the views are amazing and the food is delicious. Check out my blog on Summerfield as well.
Mandella/House On Fire – The style of the place is very artsy and modern with a heritage charm. There are several little shops here that offer beautiful handicrafts. They use the location for concerts and other activities and I can see why: the view and artsy feel make for a perfect location. The first time that we went here we were amazed at how good the food items that we purchased were. The next time we were disappointed and vowed to not return due to the lack of customer service and quality of the food. But every restaurant has bad days so we will try it again. Eat in.
Oceans Basket (The Gables) – Be prepared for a long wait but it’s worth it if you are wanting seafood and sushi. The sushi was really good, as was most of everything that we tried. Eat in or take away.
Mugg N Bean (The Gables) – Great coffees and drinks. The Lemon Pie is absolutely amazing but be warned it is soooo sweet and I am sure it contains more calories than two meals. The food is pretty good as well. Eat in or take away.
Debonairs Pizza (The Gables) – My favorite thing on the menu was the Jalapeno Poppers. You have to try those, they are so simple yet OMG, I could eat them every day!!!! I wasn’t a huge fan of the pizza’s but they were decent and we do order from there occasionally, but remember I am just so use to the NY style pizza’s back home. Eat in, take away or delivery. Tel: 2416 2555
Spur (The Gables) – Our go to place to eat. Service is usually excellent and most of the time the food is very well prepared. They have a pretty large menu with everything from nacho’s to ribs. The breakfast menu is very good as well and they have cheap specials (I think my meal I usually order is like 3.40 and it is a good-sized breakfast). Eat in or take away.
KFC (The Gables) – I will have to admit that this KFC is better than back home! TJ would eat this every night.
The Great Taipei (The Gables) – We tried this place 3 times and every time we had to wait a LONG LONG LONG time, and one time a family came in way after us, ordered way more than us but were served way before us, we figured they either knew the owners or were family. Other than that it was decent food (although nowhere near as tasty to the Chinese I am use to back home in NC). No one offers General Tso’s or “American Chinese”, and we can’t find a Thai or Japanese restaurant anywhere. Eat in or take away
Galito’s (The Corner Plaza) – My Son’s second favorite! I have to admit I love their seasoning and the chili bean salad!!!! Great customer service and usually pretty fast delivery. Delivery, eat in or take away. Telephone: 268 2316 2090
Luxy Garden Chinese (The Corner Plaza) – We enjoyed this one, the service is usually fast and the food is pretty good. Eat in or take away.
The Bakery (The Corner Plaza) – I pass by this place many times but haven’t had the pleasure of trying it just yet. When I do you will be the first to know!
Mvubu Falls Pub - Beautiful! That describes this place perfectly. The food is good but the tranquility is absolutely amazing! Eat in.
One note: we haven’t been to many places in Manzini or Mbabane but as we do I will update the guide. We have been to a Chinese restaurant at The Swazi Plaza in Mbabane and it is my favorite here in Swazi, it isn’t like the Chinese back home but it is really good.
Gables - Gables is in the main area of Ezulwini. You can get all of your shopping done here. Not only does it have Shop Rite for groceries but it also has Pic N Pay and Woolworths (a very small selection but the qualities is wonderful). You also have a little mall with clothing stores, a health food store and many other options. You have a large variety of restaurants as well. Don’t forget after you have done all of your shopping and eating out, you must try out the gym that is located in the shopping center. Website: http://www.thegables.co.sz/restaurants.html
Corner Plaza - At Corner Plaza you have pretty much everything that you need. You have Spar where you can find great grocery items. There is a pharmacy, a housewares store. Several Restaurants for dining in or take away. Galito’s is my sons favorite and they deliver as well. Several businesses are in this area as well like a Dentist (we have used him and he is GREAT!), a Therapist and several other offices.
Mbabane - In the city center you have The Mall and across from it you will see The Swazi Plaza. You have more options here as far as the shopping goes. There is a Mr. Price and Sheetstreet among the bigger stores in the Swazi Plaze. At the Mall there is a Super Spar along with many other stores. Unfortunately I can’t give too much advise on this areas because we only go there for housewares items at Sheetstreet and Mr. Price, just because it isn’t as close to our house as The Gables is.
Game Parks (see more information at the specific blog about each Park):
Mlilwane - Does not have the big game that some of you might be looking for, but Mlilwane is absolutely beautiful and peaceful. It is never over crowded and you can walk, bicycle or self drive through the entire park at your own pace. – see more on the blog for Mlilwane
Hlane - This is so far my favorite of all the parks that we have been too. -see more on the blog for Hlane
Mbuluzi Wildlife Reserve – haven’t went here yet but it is on our to do list.
Mhkaya - haven’t went here yet but it is on our to do list.
Drives, Falls & Gorges:
Mantenga Falls - haven’t went here yet but it is on our to do list.
Phophonyane Falls - Absolutely serene, beautiful, majestic and my favorite place to go for a hike (so far).
We will continually update our blog with information about our adventures but if you have some advice or suggestions please feel free to comment and share your stories or thoughts.
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