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Popular Destinations

Manzini, The Capital City

The region’s capital city, also called Manzini and known as The Hub of Swaziland, was previously named Bremersdorp after the entrepreneur Albert Bremer, who arrived there in the 1880s during the concessions period. Because he operated his farm and trading store near the river, the Swazis, with typical humour, dubbed his place kaManzini (at the water).

Bremersdorp was the country’s capital under the Transvaal administration, which was superseded by British rule in 1903 at the end of the Boer War, when capital was moved to Mbabane. The reason given is the preferred cooler climate – and probably the fact that Bremersdorp had, in any case, been looted and burned to the ground! The name Manzini was officially adopted during the 1960s. Coupled with the nearby industrial area of Matsapha, this city comprises the country’s largest urban population. Modern day Manzini serves as a dormitory for Mataspha and is characterized by both formal and informal trade. This bustling cosmopolitan centre is described by historian and writer James hall as:

“….a city, but with a languorous small town feel. A brisk walk from one end of downtown to the other, from the traffic circle opposite the golf course to the bridges spanning the river, takes all of fifteen minutes. The walk is interrupted by only four traffic lights. The city’s first traffic light at Ngwane and Sandlane Streets was not even there until 1983. Sidewalk vendors, whose proliferation was a phenomenon of the 1990s, sell fruits and vegetables. Boys blare announcements of sales through loud speaks before chain stores. People congregate in pair or small groups, passing the time of day in a city that appears to be in no hurry to get to where it is going. At the library silence is observed among serious students in school uniforms filling tables before long, brown-tinted windows whose 360-degress second story view shows that the principal feature of Manzini is still its tress. Each season brings a new blossoming of colour-coordinated flowers along the paths of Jubilee Park and the knoll of grass beside City Council Chambers. Prominent marriages and funerals are held in the cathedral where the red flowers of coral trees in December contrast with the lavender profusion of the street’ jacarandas in October.

70, 000 residents now call Manzini home, a number greater than the entire population of Swaziland a hundred years before. Despite some ungainly development and a host of new social challenges the city captures the essence of Swazi life in its casual pace and informal, friendly attitude. And in this way the years of change have not altered (it) at all: it is still a place, as it was in the beginning, where everybody knows your name”

Manzini is home to the Mavuso trade Centre, where the annual International Trade Fair and other major promotional events and exhibitions take place. Adjacent to this are a sports arena and football stadium. The city provides excellent shopping in three large malls, the newest of which, Riverstone, opened in 2011. There is a wide choice of hotels and restaurants, including The George Hotel near the city centre, which offers excellent facilities, for both business and pleasure. Global village is a luxurious guest house set in the tranquil suburb of Madonsa near the Manzini golf course.

Manzini, Swaziland

The “sugar Belt”

The “company towns” of Simunye, Mhlume, Tshaneni and big bend have expanded considerably over the years with the development of the vast sugar estates there, which between them employ several thousand people. They all offer various amenities that include social clubs, which also offer accommodation, as well as shopping facilities and various sports, including golf. There is a par-three nine-hole course at Simunye and a more challenging nine-hole facility at Mananga.

Driving north from the Lavumisa border is the Riverside Restaurant and Hotel in the Riverside Complex at Big Bend, a convenient and pleasant stop in the area for an overnight stay or just a meal and a browse in the curio shop.

Mananga Country Lodge offers a delightful ambience on the golf course and is secured with gates and fencing to protect the game that roams within the grounds. There is an excellent restaurant and accommodation is available at the nearby guest house, which is adjacent to the sixth tee. Mananga Country Lodge has a fully equipped houseboat that sleeps up to four and has its own motor boat for fishing, as well as a sunset cruiser for up to 20 people. To the far north of Lubombo near the Lomahasha borer is the community run Shewula Mountain Camp. Here visitors may stay with Swazi people in hutted accommodation and experience for themselves the local lifestyle and culture, while absorbing the country’s unique beauty. This community-run project is one of Swaziland’s most popular tourism venues and is a fine example of ecotourism.

Manzini, Swaziland

Magnificent Maguga Dam

A 25km diversion along the Mbabane/Pigg’s Peak Route.

With a capacity of 332 million cubic metres of water and a wall 115metres tall, Maguga is the highest dam in the region. Since it was opened by his Majesty King Mswati III in 2002, a diversity of tourism attractions have been developed in this unique and truly beautiful part of rural Swaziland. Travelling in a northerly direction provides the most spectacular views of the area and over the dam. About 24km along the Mbabane/Pigg’s Peak road is a clearly market turning to Maguga Lodge on the right. About 4km along the winding main road the vista shortly opens up to reveal the first sight of Maguga Dam. Maguga Lodge on the left provides second-to-none views of the dam. This is a perfect stopover in the area and even if not staying the right, it is well worth stopping at the lodge for refreshments or a meal at the lodge while enjoying the stunning vista from the rustic verandah. About one km further on is the Maguga View Site Restaurant with spectacular views over the spillway and later, on the left community run Maguga Dam Viewsite. Shortly after the view site is the T-junction that meets the main Mbabane/Pigg’s Peak road.

 

Manzini, Swaziland

The Hills Of Hhohho

Mbabane to Pigg’s Peak and Ngonini: Distance 99km. Add 36km for the Bulembu option. Rood, in which case high clearance or 4×4 is recommended. From Mbabane, this route follows the highway to the Ngwenya border then turns right at Motshane, passing the Hawane Dam to the right. At Malotja Nature Reserve, is the Tree Top Canopy Tour which offers a unique experience as participants glide above the area. This is one of the finest scenic routes in Swaziland, taking the traveler along a winding tarred rood fringed by spectacular mountain scenery that is interspersed with gorges and waterfalls.

Stop and buy a souvenir at one of the many craft stalls along the roadside and watch cheerful young boys and girls dressed in banana leaves dancing to the beat of a drum (tips appreciated!). Towards the northern edge of the historic town of Pigg’s Peak a gravel road to the left provides a scenic diversion to Bulembu and the site of the defunct asbestos mine. This winding route may be awkward in wet weather. The area has been developed as a tourist attraction with charming accommodation available at the renovated mine village house known as Bulembu Country Lodge. Various community projects include the creation of handcrafts for tarring but commencement of work is yet to take place.

About 10km north of Pigg’s Peak is the Phophonyane Nature Reserve, where visitors may enjoy yet more Spectacular Mountain and riverine scenery, waterfalls and walking trails, as well as view small mammals and 230 bird species. At the nearby Peak Craft Centre, just after the Orion Hotel, area quality craft shops continue north throgh yet more awesome scenery towards Ngonini, one Matsamo/Jeppes Reef Border, which is close to the Kruger National Park.

Manzini, Swaziland

Reed Dance

If you are lucky enough to be in Swaziland during the Umhlanga Reed Dance you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to see it for yourself. The event, which is held annually around the end of August when the reeds are matured and ready for harvest, lasts approximately eight days. The event gives the country’s maidens (childless, unwed girls) the opportunity to pay homage to the Queen Mother (Indlovukazi).

Before the start of the event, the girls come from all over the country. They are looked after and mentored by captains appointed by the Royal Family. As part of the tradition, the girls cut reeds and carry them back to the Royal Residence where the reeds are used as windbreakers for the perimeter. Aims of this particular ceremony include promoting solidarity between the girls. The seventh day of the Umhlanga Reed Dance is a national holiday and is when the King participates. On this special day the arena is filled with thousands of spectators who come to see the girls dancing and saluting the Queen Mother.

His Majesty then makes his rounds to salute thousands of girls as they cheer him on. The Umhlanga Reed Dance is truly one of Africa’s most fascinating cultural events!

 

Manzini, Swaziland

Mkhaya Game Reserve

Mkhaya Game Reserve joins Hlane and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary among Swaziland’s big game parks. Located in the southeastern part of the country, Mkhaya is a fantastic safari destination for day tours and overnight stays. Resident wildlife includes black and white rhino, giraffe, sable antelope, and buffalo. Accommodations at Mhkaya are at the Stone Camp. For couples, we recommend the double cottage. This open-air suite (no windows or doors) is beautifully decorated and offers privacy, comfort, and wildlife viewing opportunities directly from your bed!

Manzini, Swaziland

White Water Rafting

There is no shortage of thrilling activities in Swaziland, and for adventure lovers there’s no greater rush than an exhilarating white water rafting trip down Swaziland’s Great Usutu River. This excursion is the only one of its kind in the country.Half and full-day packages are available. Trained river guides accompany you the entire time. No prior experience is needed.

Manzini, Swaziland

Swazi Candles Craft Market

Swaziland is known for its original arts and crafts. The Swazi Candles Craft Market is a unique shopping center showcasing work by local artisans. Among the boutiques and gift shops of this outdoor complex is Swazi Candles – a colorful collection of paraffin wax candles, scented beauty products, and other gifts. The candles are molded by hand into several standard and animal shapes. Their lively patterns and beautiful designs make perfect souvenirs. When you’re done, stroll the rest of the craft complex, then head to the courtyard to watch the wood carvers at work. Specialty items available at the shops in the craft center include woven baskets, batik prints, jewelry, and carved masks.

Manzini, Swaziland

Shewula Mountain Camp

Shewula Mountain Camp was Swaziland’s first community-owned eco-tourism attraction. Set in the beautiful Shewula Nature Reserve, with views overlooking the Mbuluzi and Mlawula Reserves, Shewula Mountain Camp offers a different kind of tourism. Visitors can partake in village walks to get to know the local community and its members, witness traditional song and dance performances, visit with a traditional healer, or enjoy the tranquil natural surroundings. For those who want to stay a night or two in a rustic setting, Shewula has single and family-sized huts, as well as hot showers and delicious homemade meals prepared with organic, local produce.

Manzini, Swaziland

Sibebe Rock

Sibebe Rock is the largest exposed granite dome in the world. It sits about 10 kilometers outside the capital city of Mbabane, and unlike its Australian cousin, Sibebe doesn’t suffer from tourist overcrowding. The rock’s sheer magnitude can be felt from the base, but many daring visitors choose to make the 4-hour round-trip hike to the top with a local guide. Sibebe Rock is number ten on our list because it’s over 3 billion years old!

Manzini, Swaziland