Swaziland, like Lesotho, is a small country that is almost completely surrounded by South Africa. Aside from knowing the capital city, Mbabane, and the fact that the king has a dozen wives (this I learned on an episode of Madam Secretary), I honestly didn’t know too much about this little African kingdom. I assumed it would look like Lesotho, just because of its similar size and location, but boy was I was wrong. While the international rankings don’t put Swaziland too far ahead of Lesotho, a little bit apparently goes a long way. Unlike Lesotho, the border post looked very official, roads were well-maintained, and the cities looked like actual cities (with buildings that wouldn’t look out of place in a western country). It appears Swaziland’s economy has been handled fairly well by the king – the last reigning absolute monarch in Africa – though there is a push for more democracy in the country (followed by laws to stop that). Women’s rights are a big issue and the HIV problem is widespread (Swaziland has the highest HIV rate in the world). Because of AIDS, the life expectancy in Swaziland is one of the lowest anywhere in the world.
Our main purpose for visiting Swaziland was to go to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. It was there that we took a game ride. This was not a game drive in the protection of a truck, but rather a game ride – on a bicycle! Mlilwane doesn’t have any major predators (aside from crocodiles) so it was quite safe to hop on a bike and ride around the trails that cover the park. As I was nearing the end of my time in Africa, I had already seen the vast majority of the species that Mlilwane has on offer. Along the way, we saw heaps of kudu, zebra, blue wildebeest, and blesbok, along with a crocodile and hippo or two. We could even stop and get quite close to the animals. I did see one new antelope species: the nyala! I was quite thrilled to get one new one on the list. In addition to the game we saw on the bicycle ride, our campsite in the park was filled with bushbuck, helmeted guineafowl, monkeys, impala, and even some warthogs roasting by the campfire.
Dinner that evening was at the restaurant at our campsite. I had the local beer, Sibebe, along with the one animal that I had yet to eat despite its abundance in Africa: impala! My impala came in the form of a stir-fry. Warthog also featured prominently on the menu. Out of curiosity, Jarrod asked where the impala meat and warthog meat came from. Turns out they just go and get some of the animals from around camp. Did I mention that it’s a wildlife sanctuary? Yeah…
Our road out of Swaziland took us through the mountains and above the cloud line, which was pretty great for some photos. I was excited for our next stop back in South Africa: Kruger National Park, where all my hopes and dreams of seeing a leopard could come true. But first, let me take a (nyala) selfie.
To see more photos of my time in Swaziland, follow this link: