With traditional customs still central to everyday life, the Kingdom of Swaziland offers an unparalleled insight into Africa’s tribal societies in a setting that is safe and welcoming to visitors. Combine this with a varied landscape and the most iconic species on the continent, and you have a nation ripe for exploration.
Swaziland holds the accolade as the only absolute monarchy in Africa (and one of only a handful left in the world). The king, Mswati III, plays a central role in political and cultural life, with the country’s most important annual events closely linked with his household.
Though smaller events involving traditional dress and celebrations can be found across the country at almost any time of year, it is the set piece ceremonies that draw the largest number of participants. In fact, the Umhlanga (Reed Dance) festival is one of Africa’s biggest cultural events. Thousands of unmarried Swazi women travel to the round, mud-brick buildings of the royal compound at Ludzidzini, where they pay tribute to the Queen Mother with reeds, song and dance.
Around the turn of the year, the Incwala or Kingship Dance is a rare survivor of what was once common across southern Africa. The highlight of the week-long festival is the spectacular sight of Swazi men in full battle regalia the likes of which you will not have seen outside a Hollywood blockbuster.
Swaziland also hosts a great diversity of landscape, ranging from river valleys, cool mountainous Highveld in the west, and hotter and dryer Lowveld in the east. A typical African landscape of acacia-dotted grasslands, the Lowveld is where Swaziland’s most iconic wildlife can be viewed. Mkhaya Game Reserve, one of 17 protected areas, is considered one of the very best places in Africa to witness rhino in their natural habitat.
Friendly, safe and spirited, Swaziland’s distinct and ever-present cultural traditions, together with its landscapes and wildlife, make this small land-locked country a unique and enticing destination.