Join Jane Livingstone as she takes you on a brief journey across the continent’s smallest nation, Swaziland, home to some of southern Africa’s most exciting culture and wildlife
How do you explore a country only slightly larger than the Tokyo Metropolitan Area? As the crow flies, it would take you about an hour to cross the width of Swaziland by car. The roads don’t quite run that straight, but even following their meandering path, you are looking at no more than two hours.
Despite its small size, Swaziland is frequently referred to as the nutshell nation of Africa. It encapsulates the culture and spirit of the region, containing everything you’d expect from a southern African country. Travelling by car means that if you blink, you’ll miss it. Walking across the Kingdom of Swaziland, however, is a very different story…
Encounter breathtaking wildlife
Most people travel to Africa for one reason — and that reason usually has big floppy ears or a long gangly neck. The exotic wildlife of the African continent is one coveted the world over, and in Swaziland, the beasts are out in full force.
The reserves in Swaziland, although diverse and full of life, match the size of the country. Many are quite small, only a few miles across. Bumbling across the tracks in a 4WD may be exciting, but here it doesn’t offer the best experience for wildlife encounters. That happens on foot.
Wandering through these beautiful parks, tightly packed with life — both flora and fauna — allows you to not only see more of what’s available, but to get up close and personal, too. Immerse yourself in the African bush. Take in all the sights, sounds and smells missed while rushing along a dirt track by truck.
Explore African wilderness
Swaziland is home to a multitude of incredible landscapes and wildernesses. From towering mountains and deep, vast ravines, to bare, open plains and dense woodland, you’ll find almost every African walking experience imaginable here.
The eclectic range of biomes in such a small space brings another level of excitement to a walking adventure. One day you could be exploring lush green hillsides bursting with colour, waterfalls and shimmering lakes; then before you know it, you’re wandering through dramatic and harsh landscapes as mountains loom in the distance.
Discover traditional culture
Walking offers the unique opportunity to connect with locals in Swaziland. Unlike more controversial schemes, like volunteer abroad programmes and visitation tours from resorts, walking through the wilds of Swaziland allows for genuine, meaningful interaction in a natural way.
As you wander through the mountains, in search of vibrant landscapes or wild animals, you will invariably encounter rural communities. By doing so, you can experience traditional African culture in its purest form. What happens here isn’t a moneymaker for tourists; just people living their daily lives. Of course, some aspects of culture will be different and exciting, dependent on the type of community you discover.
Be part of positive change
Walking in Swaziland provides a powerful opportunity for positive change. Out in the wilds, these communities provide vital sources of food, water, resources and accommodation. In areas that don’t often see economic stimulus, visitors on walking adventures provide a vital spreading of wealth, boosting struggling local economies.
On a recent walking trip in Swaziland, for example, we came across a small community and hired two local guides to take us on a trek through the wilderness. Neither of them had stable work. A one-off job will have a small impact, but the more people we can inspire to walk in Swaziland, the more wealth will be spread across this beautiful, yet struggling region.
Jane Livingstone of Mountain Walking Holidays is an adventure traveller, qualified international mountain guide and walking enthusiast. She regularly runs walking tours in Africa and has walked across Swaziland many times.