Eswatini is one of these countries that you don’t hear much about, probably due to its neighbours having more lions, higher mountains, hotter deserts, longer coastlines etc. etc. but WOW, what a beautiful and friendly country.
We started off at Hlane National park, where we found ourselves with the whole National Park to ourselves for the 3 days, something we were to get used to. It must be said, there is something slightly disconcerting when the staff go home at the end of the day and leave you alone in the campground of a national park. The animal noises seem somewhat louder, closer, and more ferocious…. We got to see loads of magnificent wildlife and experienced our first wet season electrical storm which came directly overhead, an experience which will stay with us for many years, and one I hope will be repeated many times over the next 6 months.
From Hlane we headed to the northeast corner of Eswatini to visit Mbuluzi National Park, a beautiful national park with no big game, meaning that you can walk wherever you want inside the park. We ate dinner watching bee-eaters and showered in outdoor fire heated showers.
In hindsight we should have stayed longer, but opted to move on to Maguga Dam, where the mercury hit 36C and we were thankful for the swimming pool, despite having to share it with water scorpions.
From there we headed uphill to Malolotja Nature Reserve which sits at 1500m, where we basked in the cool air, hiked to waterfalls, and climbed on the boulders - where the boys had their first close encounter with a snake.
We took the boys on a zip-lining canopy tour at Malolotja for Jack’s birthday, an experience made more exciting by the uncertainty of African safety standards.
We stayed in a cabin at the delightful Yebo Art gallery for Jack’s birthday as a treat so that the boys had internet to play games on their iPads. It also gave us a chance to call home and catch up on some jobs. The owners: Aleta and Pete, could not have been more hospitable, and we spent a few days enjoying their charming gardens, swimming in their idyllic pool, playing with there 4 boisterous dogs, and Pete showed the boys how to screen print their own T-shirts. They also explained to us that Eswatini is currently in the midst of serious political unrest with violent protests against the ruling monarchy and opposition MPs being tried for treason. A bit of a wake up call of the need to keep a close eye on the local news.
Next it’s back into South Africa and over to the Drakensburg for Christmas, before heading into Lesotho.