Eswatini – A Tiny Little Kingdom Nation That Nobody Knows

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Eswatini – A Tiny Little Kingdom Nation That Nobody Knows

I bet not many of you have ever heard about the country of Eswatini or also known as Swaziland. It’s completely different from Switzerland and it is located in the southern continent of Africa. I must tell you that this country is as beautiful as Switzerland in its own way. In July 2023, I went on a trip to South Africa for 12 days independently without any tour package from Malaysia with another 2 friends and we have decided to include Eswatini in our itinerary. But why Eswatini? To be honest, we don’t have a specific answer for that but we all are aware that travelling is about learning and experiencing, so why not give Eswatini a try since it’s just a few hours away from the big city of Johannesburg (or Joburg).

For this Africa trip, our main goals were to see the beautiful nature in Cape Town, to learn its history and at the same time go for a safari game drive in Joburg. And what about Eswatini? We had absolutely zero expectations of what to do and see in this country. But trust me, we had so much fun over there and a part of me actually felt sad that I had to leave after 3 days of visiting. From Joburg, we took a shuttle service to the capital of Eswatini, Mbabane. The cost was around R1400 per pax for a return trip back to South Africa. We got it from a trusted company called TransMagnific. The journey took us around 4 and a half hours including immigration and for Malaysians, it is a visa-free country! This means that we didn’t need to apply for a visa to enter this beautiful place. Eswatini’s currency is Lilangeni, however, South African Rand is widely accepted. But take note that Lilangeni is useless in South Africa. So before going back to South Africa, we cleared and changed our money to Rand (we also kept some for memory).

The shuttle had multiple stops and we chose the closest town to our hostel which was Malkerns. We proceeded for a quick lunch and then found a taxi driver nearby a shopping mall to send us to our hostel which was located inside the animal sanctuary of Mlilwane. The taxi driver, France, was so nice to us (he also gave us a very cheap fare compared to other taxi drivers), we then decided to hire him as our “driver” throughout our stay.

 

Quick information about this country, there are two main safaris that tourists usually visit, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Hlane National Park. Hlane is much bigger and has many wild mammals while Mlilwane is more like a sanctuary for “prey” animals. Hlane is also a bit further to the Mozambique border hence we chose Mlilwane as it was closer to the capital.

As soon as we arrived in our hostel inside Mlilwane, Sondzela Backpackers, we went for a sunset game drive. We saw zebras, wildebeest, antelope, warthog and so many other animals. The best part was that we had a beautiful scenic view at the highest point of Mlilwane during sunset. Priced at R455 per person.

While at night, the weather was so cold, the temperature could go as low as 2 degrees. Since Eswatini is located in the southern hemisphere, winter usually comes during mid-year just like New Zealand and Australia. Luckily, we did the proper research and brought along winter jackets with us. Another great part of our hostel was a fireplace to keep us warm.

The next day, we called our driver, France to bring us to some places in this country. The first place was Mantenga Cultural Village, imagine Sarawak Cultural Village but for African especially the Swazi people and it was a 15-min drive from the hostel. It was fun over there, we got to see the local customs and culture of the Swazi people and they had some dance performances and their singing was amazing. Something that I have never seen before!

The second stop was Ezulwini Craft Market, as suggested by France, to shop for some handicraft souvenirs. Tips: Craft markets in South Africa and Eswatini are selling the same merchandise, but the price is much more expensive in South Africa. It turned out that we bought some fridge magnets, wooden plates, Swazi fabric and lots of other things because those were so cheap!

After we had lunch (fast food chains like KFC and Nandos are halal-certified), we went back to Mlilwane for an impromptu activity and it was also the highlight of our Eswatini trip – riding a horse. The price was R390 per pax for an hour and it was the best decision that we have ever made. It was my first time riding a horse without any guidance and it was a great ride, we enjoyed the view of the whole Mlilwane area, just imagine you were on a horse and a group of zebras walked past in front of you, the experience was priceless!

The third and final day was the saddest as we had to leave this country to continue our journey. Before we left, France brought us around Mbabane. The capital of the country itself was very chill, laid back and nothing much to see. It was just like a small town in Malaysia. With a very heavy heart, we went back to South Africa.

Despite bad WiFi and mobile network experience, 3 days were definitely not enough for me. Would I recommend Malaysians to visit this country? Absolutely YES! Just remember to do the proper research before travelling to this continent if you’re planning to travel independently. Yes, safety in South Africa is a big concern, but I can say I felt so safe in Eswatini. Also, as a backpacker like me, I would enjoy a place that doesn’t have many tourists.

Expenses (per pax):

Return Trip Shuttle ServiceR1400
Sunset game DriveR455
Horse RidingR390

*    1 MYR = 3.88169 ZAR

      1 ZAR = 0.257618 MYR 

* Can use XE Currency Converter ( https://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/  ) to calculate currency conversion in more detail

I share more tips and information regarding my trips on my Instagram and tiktok, @izzudinpauzi, videos and more pictures of my South Africa trip and other places are there too!

Tiktok : https://www.tiktok.com/@izzudinpauzi

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/izzudinpauzi/

Extra Photos:

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