Mhlambanyatsi, Swaziland

Photo: Foresters Arms
Photo: Foresters Arms Hotel

Africa is full of uncertainty right now. The northwest is still struggling to contain Ebola. The north has been rocked by political instability. While people in large portions of the center live in fear of terrorist takeovers. But Southern Africa is a bright spot on the world’s second-largest continent. The five countries that make up this region are considered stable and tourist friendly. This includes a country you probably know very little about: Swaziland.

Swaziland is an interesting place. It’s one of the smallest countries in Africa. It’s practically surrounded by South Africa, except the northeast section of the country, which shares a border with Mozambique. It’s one of only a handful of countries in the world—and the only one in Africa—still ruled by an absolute monarchy. Plus, with gorgeous scenery, friendly people, and colorful traditions, it’s a fun place to visit.

You arrive in Mbabane, Swaziland’s small capital. It’s located near the western border in the Dlangeni Hills. The city recently finished celebrating Incwala (the Festival of the First Fruits). The nation’s most important event features singing, dancing, elaborate costumes, and ancient rituals. But Mbabane is quiet now, so you drive south into the mountains.

Photo: Foresters Arms
Photo: Foresters Arms Hotel

Foresters Arms is only 27 kilometers outside of the city, but it feels like a much more secluded retreat. The small country hotel overlooks the mountains. The pool is surrounded by gum trees, gardens, and paradise flycatchers. A fireplace stands in the lounge—not that you’ll need it this time of year. While the cozy bedrooms have fluffy duvets, heated towel racks, and fresh spring water.

Wake up to coffee being delivered to your room. Breakfast—including fresh juice, homemade muesli, and warm muffins—is then served on the terrace. Plan your day around local activities. Go swimming at Cuddle Puddle, the nearby hot mineral springs. Visit a traditional Swazi healer or a Swazi market to buy beautiful handmade crafts. See ancient Bushman rock paintings. Fish for bass at Luphohlo Dam. Hike to Mantenga Falls, a beautiful waterfall in the Ezulwini Valley. Then return to Foresters Arms for cream tea later in the afternoon.

Tomorrow, you’ll move to the eastern side of the country to see the deep canyons and the volcanic Lebombo Mountains. Despite its small size, Swaziland has surprisingly diverse topography. But first, a seven-course dinner by candlelight that begins with homemade bread and ends with hand-churned ice cream. It’s amazing more people don’t know about this interesting little country.

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