Swaziland is ideal for a walking safari holiday. Unlike many safari trips, you will get up close and personal with much of the wildlife as on many of the safaris you will be able to approach on foot rather than in a jeep. Also the game parks are large and relatively quiet with few, if any, other people in sight So, if you would like to experience the unique opportunity to see rhino, giraffes and lions at close quarters then this is the trip of a lifetime for you! Swaziland also has a rich variety of birds so it’s an ideal trip for bird lovers too.
During the holiday Jenny will also take you to some of the local schools and projects that she has been working with for a number of years. You will gain access to places that you wouldn’t normally visit including projects designed to empower Swazi women. There are also plenty of opportunities for shopping from local craftspeople! Jenny is extremely knowledgeable about the country’s history and culture and shares her passion for the country with the group.
The Swazi people are extremely friendly and helpful and a delight to meet. We stay in varied, extremely comfortable, expertly sourced lodgings throughout our tour with twin ensuite rooms. Single rooms available if you book early – £20 per night supplement.
Price includes: 11 nights accommodation; breakfast, dinner and 1 lunch; all transport; expert guide; local expert wildlife guides; airport transfer meeting certain flights.
Not included: flights, most lunches, tips
Itinerary Please note that this itinerary is subject to change.
Day 1 Leave UK on an overnight flight to Johannesburg
Days 2 – 4: Mlilwane
Driving to Mlilwane is an easy journey and before arriving at your accommodation you can see that it is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Mlilwane is Swaziland’s pioneer conservation area, a beautiful, secluded sanctuary situated in Swaziland’s “Valley of Heaven”, the Ezulwini Valley.
As you drive through the reserve you are already on your first game drive, keep an eye out for the abundant bird life and animals such as hippo, crocodile, zebra, blue wildebeest, kudu, nyala, impala and warthog. As you cross the dam make sure that you look on the small island close to the road on the far side, it is a popular place for hippo and crocodile to sun themselves.
Mlilwane is Swaziland’s oldest protected area and gave birth to the concept of nature conservation in the Kingdom. Mlilwane is ideal for walking as there is a network of trails, ranging from a leisurely stroll along the plains where a variety of game are often found to the harder trails leading up to the infamous Rock of Execution. The trailing philosophy is to promote an affinity with nature and if you are quiet, you should see a wide variety of animals along the different routes such as wildebeest, zebra and many antelope. Or simply sit by the hippo pool at Main Camp. One of the attractive features of Main Camp is Hippo Haunt Restaurant that overlooks a hippo pool providing wonderful wildlife viewing. This is great for lunch or a visit in the afternoon to see the wildlife walking through the camp and getting those ultimate close-up photos. There are some very good educational areas as well so you can learn about the history of Swaziland and Mlilwane.
Day 2: Once you have arrived in Johannesburg you will be transferred to Swaziland which is about a 4.5 hr drive. After settling in, there will be time for a short walk amongst the wildlife to stretch those legs and iron out the kinks from your journey, no better way to start off your holiday by seeing wildlife on foot!
Day 3: In the morning there is the opportunity for a walk in the reserve to see the sights of the area. After lunch overlooking the hippo pool we set of for Mantenga. Here there is a cultural village where you can learn about Swazi culture and how a traditional village is set up. Local villagers will show you around, explaining the roles of the headman and his wives, their sons and daughters and the traditional healer.
Day 4: In the morning there is another chance for a guided walk. The beauty of Mlilwane is that you can do as much or as little as you want, there is flexibility in the days to enjoy what you want to do.
In the afternoon there is the optional opportunity to do something more active, such as mountain biking or horse riding. Mountain biking in Mlilwane is a popular activity and trails are accompanied by a Swazi field guide. Alternatively you can see Mlilwane from a horse’s perspective. There are fantastic trail horses throughout the reserve and these are for both beginners and experienced horse riders. The wildlife are used to the horses so you can get up close and personal with much of the plain’s game and riding through herds of zebra is something to remember. If you do not want to do either of these then there will be another guided walk in the afternoon. In the evening we go on safari to see the reserve from a different aspect.
Accommodation – Rondavels. The rondavels are tastefully designed with twin beds and en suite bathroom yet in keeping with the surrounding area.The camp is unfenced, yet relatively safe as only smaller species of wildlife occur in the Sanctuary. It is tranquil and relaxing with a continual stream of animals such as impala, warthog and nyala walking between the facilities and grazing outside your room.
Days 5 – 6: Mkhaya
On the way to the Mkhaya we will visit a host of craft markets selling traditional products and a trip to Swazi candles to watch elephants being sculpted out of wax is highly recommended. Lunch is on the way at a small cafe near these artefacts.
Mkhaya Game Reserve, named after the Acacia nigrescens tree, comprises of acacia-dominated thornveld in the south and broadleaf sandveld in the north. Unique, intimate encounters with Mkhaya’s wildlife are exceptional and all travel within the reserve is by open Land Rovers or on foot. The reserve is criss-crossed with dry riverbeds, dotted with waterholes and has a network of intertwined game-viewing roads. Mkhaya currently supports four of the Big Five with leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino being present on the reserve. You should be able to see rhino up close and personal. A host of other game such as giraffe, hippo, crocodile, roan and sable antelope, tsessebe, eland, kudu, ostrich and vervet monkey are also seen regularly. The birdlife is also abundant and the rare Narina Trogan can sometimes be seen in camp along with the more common species such as the crested guinea fowl. Mkhaya was set up as a breeding program for endangered species such as the black rhino, roan and sable – a sighting of the elusive black rhino is normally very high up most visitors list, so keep your eyes peeled on those game drives!
During your stay there will be game drives in the early morning before breakfast and also in the late afternoon. After breakfast there is often the opportunity to go on a walking safari where you can learn how to track wildlife. During the rest of the day there is the chance to sit at nearby Kirky Hide to see what comes in to drink, you never know what to expect! Mkhaya is staffed and patrolled entirely by Swazis from neighbouring communities and has what is arguably Africa’s most effective anti-poaching unit. The reserve is totally self-financing through visitor revenue.
Laid out along the banks of a dry river bed, is Stone Camp where the vegetation comprises of tall fig, leadwood, sausage and knobthorn trees, with a lush under-canopy giving it a year-round subtropical appearance. The camp is known as ‘Stone Camp’ due to the dolerite rocks used in the construction of the semi-open stone and thatch cottages. The whole living area is comfortable, quiet and relaxing and a welcome retreat after a day out under the African sun. Following the sandy path to your accommodation, which snakes its way through the bush, you realise what an exceptional experience you’re going to have at Mkhaya.
Accommodation: Stone Camp is unique in style and offers visitors the opportunity of really getting back to nature. Each unit is laid out discretely in the riverine forest overlooking the dry riverbed, linked by pathways which are lit at night by paraffin lanterns. The entire internal structure of these cottages, although veiled for privacy, is open to the external bush, which gives visitors a totally unique and true bush experience. There is no electricity in the camp which adds to the charm and tranquility of the camp. Magical.
Days 7 – 9: Hlane Royal National Park
In the vast bushveld expanse of eastern Swaziland where the hot, still sun of Africa beats on the dry but life-giving soils lies Swaziland’s largest protected area, Hlane Royal National Park. Hlane is home to the largest herds of game in the Kingdom and at night you go to sleep listening to the rumbling roar of lions. Entering the park, you will probably drive straight to Ndlovu camp, named after the elephant, that are often seen drinking from the nearby waterhole. The first thing you should do is to walk down to the waterhole as you never know what is there – often there are white rhino and maybe hippo, crocs and a host of antelope too. It is one of the best places in Swaziland to see wildlife on a regular basis.
Hlane offers fantastic sightings of white rhino, and Swaziland claims to be the best place to see rhino in the world. There are also small populations of elephant, giraffe, hippo, crocodile, hyena, as well as large populations of zebra, wildebeest and impala. Hlane covers 30 000 hectares of Swazi bushveld, dominated by ancient hardwood vegetation. The park is home to lion, elephant and white rhino, with an abundant and diverse bird life, including the highest density of nesting white backed vultures in Africa.
Day 7: On the way to Hlane we will stop of at a local school and meet the children there who are benefiting from this AIDS orphan establishment and learn about life in the area. In the afternoon, we venture out on a sunset safari in search of lion, elephant and rhino. What a magical way to end the day.
Day 8: A day of safaris and time to sit at the waterhole and immerse yourselves in the environment. An early morning safari before breakfast is the order of the day and then time to enjoy the surroundings. After lunch we go on a rhino safari to get up close and personal with these amazing animals.
Day 9: Near Hlane is Mbuluzi Game Reserve which encompasses some of Swaziland’s most pristine bushveld with a variety of landscapes and excellent bio-diversity. A morning’s walk here is a must. Here there are many kilometres of well-marked and maintained trails offering visitors a choice of short strolls or all-day hikes and hikers are free to explore the area at their own pace.
Common species include zebra, kudu, impala and warthog although the main attraction is the giraffe as it is possible to walk within these herds without disturbing them! This is the best place to walk in Swaziland and also the best place to see giraffe. You will hardly see anyone at all within the reserve. Lunch at Simunye Country Club, with the chance of a swim, before returning to Hlane for sundowners and to relax.
At Ndlovu Camp, there is an open-air restaurant and a game-viewing deck where you can sit back and enjoy the view of the waterhole – a perfect place for sundowners, tasty meals and relaxation. The food in the evenings is diverse and often game meat is available. The camp is open, has no electricity and is reminiscent of the old Kruger National Park rest camps, with abundant bird life and a relaxed communal atmosphere.
Accommodation: Ndlovu Camp has delightful cottages and rondavels near to Ndlovu waterhole. They overlook the waterhole so you can sit back and watch the rhino walk past. There are often impala wandering through the area and each rondavel has its own veranda. There is no electricity in the camp and paraffin lights are provided giving your room a wonderful atmosphere. Be lulled to sleep by the distant roar of lion.
Days 10 – 12: Foresters Arms
The Foresters Arms dates from colonial times and is a place of great character and charm. It is gloriously situated on its own estate in the mountains, a short scenic drive from the capital, Mbabane, in the heart of this majestic Kingdom – ideal for exploring all attractions.
Foresters Arms has a personal and relaxed feel about it where time seems to slow down and where you can take the opportunity to appreciate the glorious scenery of the surrounding area. It combines charm and an excellent service so you can step out of the fast lane relax and rejuvenate. The spacious grounds and colourful gardens create a tranquil atmosphere and the invigorating climate is ideal for walking.
Day 10: Before leaving Hlane we go on a rhino safari to take a look at these animals close-up, and maybe even on foot! On arriving at Foresters Arms there is a chance for a walk through the plantations.
Day 11: Whilst staying at Foresters Arms we will take a trip to Malolotja Nature Reserve. Malolotja is one of the most impressive mountain parks in Southern Africa and is the largest proclaimed protected area in the Kingdom. The spectacular scenery and the variety of fauna and flora make it a prime highveld conservation area. The views in Malolotja are stunning, reminiscent of Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’- if a dragon rose up from behind the mountain range, you probably wouldn’t be too surprised! There are wonderful 4×4 trails to follow ending at incredible viewpoints and it is worth a full morning of walking to get the most out of it all.
Day 12: In the morning, we will visit Ngwenya mine and climb down into this extraordinary place and learn about iron ore mining from ages past. After that a visit to Ngwenya glass factory is a must. Here you can see glass being blown and shaped into glassware such as wine glasses, sculptured animals like lion and giraffe and extraordinary vases. Ngwenya also has a number of other shops and traditional artefacts which you can buy as gifts or souvenirs for your own pleasure!
Accommodation: Foresters Arms All bedrooms are tastefully decorated, with bathrooms en suite, telephones and satellite TV. The personal touch of the Foresters Arms spills over into the bedrooms with a homely and welcoming feel. The rooms are spacious and all open up onto the delightful gardens and the outstanding views over the surrounding countryside. The colourful gardens are a favourite haunt of sunbirds, paradise flycatchers and other colourful birds. And the food here is the best in the Kingdom.
Day 13: Return to UK. After time spent watching the birds nectar feeding it is time to leave the peace of Swaziland. The journey back to Johannesburg is around 4.5 hrs. From here you will take your overnight flight and leave with happy memories.
Day 14: Arrive UK
“Best of the 7 WalkingWomen holidays I’ve been on. The chance to get up close to wildlife on foot is thrilling, awe-inspiring and unforgettable. I didn’t know there was a place in the world like this. Jenny was incredible, the lodgings all different and enjoyable.” Christine
“Jenny has created an outstanding itinerary to incorporate experiences of safari – jeep and walking – walks, cultural visits. Terrific knowledge of all aspects of Swaziland especially wildlife, birds and culture. ” Jan
“My first holiday with WalkingWomen, I liked being in a small group and it felt more like holidaying with friends”
“I love the great itineraries and travelling in the company of like-minded women”
“It was a fantastic holiday. I really enjoyed the opportunity to get up really close to wildlife such as rhinos, giraffes and lions”