Best time to visit Swaziland

Best time to visit Swaziland


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

Swaziland is a year-round destination, but if you’re hoping to see wildlife, the best time to go to Swaziland is in the dry winter months of May-Sep. Summer (Oct-Apr) is hot and wet, but the scenery is gorgeously green and there’s abundant birdlife and local culture. In terms of temperatures, the Lowveld in the east experiences days that hit around 33°C (and there is malaria here), while the Highveld, home to capital Mbabane, stays cooler thanks to its altitude – rarely more than 25°C. Winter mornings and evenings can be chilly, dropping as low as 5°C in Jun-Jul, so bring layers for dawn game drives.

Things to do in Swaziland


What to do in Swaziland & what not to

Things to do in Swaziland…


Watch the wildlife. Swaziland’s reserves have all of the Big Five – elephant, black rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard – as well as hippos and incredible birdlife. The country’s small reserves and lower visitor numbers guarantee a more personal safari experience than in some of the neighbouring, high-profile parks, too. Most parks are set up for guided, on-foot exploration, which is a thrilling way to observe wildlife and in Mlilwane you can even bike or horse ride right up to the animals.
Look beyond the lions and enjoy the culture, too. Swaziland has a royal family, entrenched traditions and some jaw-dropping spectacles, including the annual Reed Dance. Its people still lead very traditional lives, too. While much of South Africa’s land has been depopulated by apartheid, with rural populations moving to large, urban townships, the opposite is true in Swaziland. Most Swazi people live in community homesteads, outside the cities, farming sugarcane, maize, cotton, rice, citrus, cattle and goats.
Try some porridge. The usual breakfast stodge might not be worth the trip, but the Swazis do porridge differently, with many variations. Sour porridge is made of fermented cornmeal, thick porridge is made of ground nuts or ground sorgum mixed with sour milk, or try porridge made with pumpkin and cornmeal.

Things not to do in Swaziland…


There are opportunities for volunteering on schools, sports and building projects, to support local communities blighted by Swaziland’s high HIV and TB rates, but don’t forget to do your homework before you sign up. Make sure your help won’t rob local people of work, and be sure the organisation you’re volunteering through is reputable. Another way to give back is to donate to Responsible Travel’s Trip For A Trip when you buy a holiday; one of the programmes takes Swazi children to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.
Be scared of the stats. Swaziland has the world’s highest estimated rates of HIV and tuberculosis. It’s a depressing statistic, yet when here, all you’re likely to experience is a warm Swazi welcome and a country that’s more laid-back than its neighbour South Africa. There is also high unemployment, with the polygamous king’s large family hoovering up most of the plum jobs. It’s not ideal, but this has bred an impressive, entrepreneurial spirit in many Swazis.
Expect South African levels of comfort. The roads aren’t as good as next door and parks like Hlane are simple and fairly basic, but that’s the charm of this small, easy-going country. Don’t rush it, either. Many itineraries zip through Swaziland, perhaps stopping at Mlilwane, after Kruger and before KwaZulu Natal or the St Lucia wetlands in South Africa, but it merits more than a flying visit.
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Swaziland travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN SWAZILAND

Safari advice


Aled Evans, from our supplier Undiscovered Destinations: “Put the camera or phone down and enjoy the experience. It’s great to have a wish list of what you want to see, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t get to see everything – it’s a great excuse to go back again. There is as much joy to be had in viewing a warthog (one of my favourites) as there is having your first glimpse of a leopard.”

Tips on temperatures


Dirk Reiche, from our supplier Sunway Safaris, recommends bringing layers: “Getting up early is a must for game viewing no matter which part of Africa you’re in. It’s cooler and the animals are moving around. Later in the day, they disappear into thick bush to escape the heat. So if you’re visiting in summer, bring light cool clothes. In winter, it can get fairly cold so something warm that can be removed when it starts to heat up is a good idea. If you are going on game drives, it’s always good to have a wind breaker to keep the chill out.”

Safari advice


Dirk Reiche, from our supplier Sunway Safaris: “Mkhaya Game Reserve is my favourite place to view wildlife, at any time of the year. Mainly because of the walking safaris you can take there to get close to both species of rhino found in southern Africa. I always love seeing black rhino. I have walked into them many times and they are really unpredictable. One day they will be very chilled and let you get nice and close, but on other days they can be gone just like that or charging down on you! Now that is what a buzz feels like in Africa – when a 950kg black rhino charges through the bush at you...”

What to do when not watching wildlife


Aled Evans, from our supplier Undiscovered Destinations: “One of my favourite places is Shewula Mountain Camp. It’s the first community ecotourism project in Swaziland. This friendly community encourages you to gain an insight into traditional Swazi lifestyle by offering guided walks into their homes.”

Advice on local etiquette


Responsible Travel’s Sarah Faith has taught and travelled in Swaziland: “The Swazis take a real pride in their culture and in welcoming people to Swaziland. You see this even without going to any official cultural events. Everyone speaks English and it’s taught in schools, but it’s a nice idea to learn a few SiSwati words. People really respond – they laugh and smile. Remember when you shake hands, support your right arm with your left hand. It’s polite and a sign of respect.”

Tips from our travellers in Swaziland


ADVICE FROM THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN THERE

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Swaziland travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.

“Our guides made an effort to take us to places where we could buy things where the money would go back into the community rather than to corporates. I also found it charming that the guides always offered any extra food we had to local workers, be they staff in the guest houses at dinner time or guys out on the roads at lunch time. No waste created, and lots of happy customers!” – Christina Stephenson
“There are some long days in the truck, so I’d suggest getting up early to walk or run. It’s a beautiful time to be up and about.” – Christina Stephenson
“A totally amazing and uplifting experience. A lot of fun, a lot of new things learnt, a new appreciation of another country and its culture, and new friends made.” – Cathy McCall
“I had not expected to enjoy the safari part of my trip as much as I did. I loved seeing the animals in their natural habitat. One day we watched a mother cheetah hunting for her cub. It was thrilling.” – Patricia Ruble
Photo credits: [TempChart: Vais Ha] [Safari advice - aled: Visions of Domino ] [Safari advice Dirk: Bernard DUPONT] [Etiquette: Drianbcross ] [Tip1: K15photos] [Helpdesk: Dimitry B.]

Written by: Joanna Simmons
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