Piggs Peak, Swaziland

Photo: nklette [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
It’s a gorgeous autumn day to hike through the mountains. A footpath starts in the dry woodlands. It meanders around lowveld chestnut, bushwillow, and fig trees. You follow a rushing stream and pause when you find orchids growing along the side of the water. A pair of emerald-feathered Narina trogons seem to like the orchids, as well. An African goshawk surveys the area from above. Plus a whistling sound means that there is at least one red forest duiker nearby.

Phophonyane Falls is up ahead. The 80-meter waterfall flows over steep gneiss. At about 3.55 billion years old, the metamorphic rocks are among the oldest rocks in the world. Waterberry trees dangle over the side of the falls. Cool water pools at the bottom, before flowing down the Phophonyane River. The air is fresh and revitalizing. While, at least for the moment, you have this beautiful spot all to yourself.

You’re in the Phophonyane Nature Reserve. It’s surrounded by the Gobolondlo and Makhonjwa Mountains. Views extend down the Ntfonjeni Valley. Piggs Peak, which was founded as a gold mining town, is nearby. So is Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves. But you’re not in South Africa. You’re in Swaziland.

Photo: Phophonyane Falls Ecolodge & Nature Reserve

Swaziland is one of the smallest countries in Africa. It’s surrounded by South Africa, except for the northeastern section of the country, which shares a border with Mozambique. It’s one of only a handful of countries in the world—and the lone one in Africa—still ruled by an absolute monarchy. You found gorgeous scenery and friendly people as soon as you arrived.

After spending time at Phophonyane Falls, you begin to hike back to the Phophonyane Falls Ecolodge inside the nature reserve. You’re looking forward to cooling off in the pool, listening to the songbirds in the gardens, and sipping a sundowner on the veranda of Driftwood Restaurant. Though small, the lodge offers three types of accommodations. Safari tents stand on decks above the river. Self-catering cottages face the mountains. Plus beehives feature a traditional design and natural materials. You’re staying in one of the unique beehives, of course.

You’re excited to start exploring the area tomorrow. You plan to visit the Nsangwini Rock Art Centre, walk to a local primary school, and ride higher into the mountains. But, for now, you’re going to enjoy the view, a glass of Pinotage, and the cool breeze from the deck. You’ve unexpectedly found peace, privacy, and, it seems, paradise this autumn in Swaziland.

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