It was early December 2018 and I had just received my new passport, and I was itching to get my first stamp on that first, clean page. My boys and I planned to drive up to Johannesburg for the December holidays so that they can spend some time with their father. When a friend suggested a mini road trip to eSwatini, previously known as Swaziland, I jumped at the chance. Not just to get my first stamp, but more importantly, to explore a new country.
eSwatini is about a 4-hour drive from Johannesburg, making it an easy long weekend getaway. The day we arrived was one of the hottest days I have ever experienced. On our way in, we stopped at the Ngwenya Glass factory, took a walk around and checked out the glassblowers and the furnace room.
The reason why Ngwenya Glass is so special is that only recycled glass is used and that each and every piece is totally handmade and mouth blown. People from all over eSwatini collect bottles and are paid per kilo for clean glass. There is also a shop where you can buy the finished products – and they sell everything from stemware to ornaments. They make great gifts for the folks back home.
That evening, we met up with some friends at Malandela’s for drinks. Malandela’s is where the annual MTN Bush Fire Festival happens – which is something I would LOVE to go to, hint, hint. I enjoyed watching the sunset while listening to their stories.
The next day we went sightseeing, and checked out Swazi Candles, some markets, the King Sobhuza II Memorial and visited the Nkonyeni Golf Estate for lunch.
The King Sobhuza II Memorial had some awesome cars and photographs of the King’s life.
We had lunch at Nkonyeni Golf Estate which is situated next to the Usuthu river.
I even got to satisfy my church photography fetish by photographing the beautiful Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral in Manzini. Just look at that mural.
On our final full day in eSwatini, we all met up at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary for an epic braai. The name ‘Mlilwane’ (‘Little Fire’ in siSwati) was derived from the numerous fires started by lightning strikes on the Mlilwane Hill but now holds significance as the little fire that ignited the conservation movement in Swaziland. Mlilwane’s Rest Camp offers a range of affordable accommodation with self-catering and catered options available. Day visitors can explore the sanctuary, braai, picnic, or visit the restaurant.
While the men braai’ed, I walked around with Alex (the daughter of the couple we were staying with), she gave me the best guided tour of the area. We checked out the accommodation, the swimming pool, the Bird Pool at the restaurant where you can view the birds, crocodiles, and turtles. Kudu and Warthog wandered into the braai area to munch on the leaves and check us out.
They have hippo, elephant, and rhino skulls on display for their environmental education program. They displayed more than 20 000 snares found in Hlane and Mlilwane between 1960 and 1970. This gruesome display highlights the importance of stopping poaching and conserving the wildlife in the area. I look forward to visiting again, there really is something special about exploring a new place with a friend, especially when that person is from that area. You get your own personal tour guide that comes with funny anecdotes and tips on the best places to shop for gifts & curios.
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