Renewing visas while watching wildlife in Swaziland
Country: Swaziland by Lisette
Two weeks ago we left for a short trip to Swaziland due to visa legislative rules. We chose the Kingdom of Swaziland because we had already seen Nelspruit (well, a little of it) in South Africa and wanted to maximize our opportunities of seeing different parts of Africa.
And we’re so very happy we did! The trip is easy, we left early morning yawning in the back of a chapa.
The wait at the border was the only hick-up as some hard-working Mozambican ladies wanted to export some goods for sale. Every item had to be accounted for. And make no mistake; this had to be done single-handed, one-by-one!
When we finally arrived in Mbabane, Swaziland’s capital, we were pleasantly surprised. It’s a cute little town with a seemingly amiable lifestyle. Our trip to the High Commission was fairly easy and we set out to find Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.
While we were going from one place to the other (change bus, pay at the bank for the visa, return to the High Commission, go to the park, wait for transportation) I kept glancing happily around me. The roads are in amazing shape compared to Maputo. The cars are in fantastic shape when comparing them to my daily chapa (mini-bus) that is so rusty I am regularly staring at the road between my feet. The people look happy, content and friendly.
And there are mountains! Everywhere I looked I saw another hill. Maputo, my normal base of operation, is situated at the waterfront. I have always like being close to water but as it is dangerous here at some parts, I don’t get to enjoy it regularly. Swaziland on the other hand is landlocked and surrounded by lush, green hills.
Despite my vertigo, hills and mountains always intrigue me. They look so inviting. Marlowe sure thought so as he kept telling me “Don’t you just want to climb that hill?” while he pointed at a very steep hilltop. Mwah… “Not that one!” I say each time. Must have given off some serious confusing vibes!
Despite or in spite knowing that Swaziland is experiencing some of the same major issues (e.g. isolated communities, HIV/AIDS) as Mozambique, we felt very different. For me, it was also very nice to be able to speak English to everyone, as most people spoke it quite well.
It was great to see warriors in the streets with their traditional attires. Swati are proud people and it was a joy to see them celebrate their history and tradition in everyday life. It is one of the many things I loved about being in India and that I miss in Mozambique. Perhaps it is because we live in the capital that is very westernized.
The sad part is knowing that the existence of the country is seriously threatened by the HIV/AIDS endemic. According to the UNDP, the “longer term existence of Swaziland as a country will be seriously threatened” as the infection rate is extremely high. Over 50% of adults in their twenties are HIV positive and Swaziland has the lowest life expectancy in the world with almost 32 years.
When we got to the park, we were ready to enjoy the beauty of the country. It was so hot and sweaty that all we wanted to do was get in the swimming pool and drink a cold beer. Worked like a charm! The next day was divided up in three parts: a) getting our passports back with a brand-new multiple entry visa, b) doing a hike during the hottest part of the day and take the sunset drive tour, and c) chilling out on the deck.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary has now joined my “favorite-places-of-the-world” list! The park is small, with grassland plains and striking Nyonyane Mountain (its exposed granite peak is known as “Execution Rock”), well kept and the wildlife abundant. It is not a park that has the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino), though it mentioned it had a leopard somewhere. However, we were able to walk around freely and be part of nature.
Not far from the hotel we saw zebras looking carefully at us, blesboks looking intently at our goings, and a scary-looking blue wildebeest. Being new to nature walking in Africa, encountering a wildebeest is quite exciting. It was in our path and we, somehow, had to get around it. Marlowe is writing this blog post with a detailed description of our anxiety and survival techniques.
We saw several different types of antelopes (steenbok, impala, waterbuck, reedbuck, nyala) and quite a few warthogs (a type of wild pig). The birdlife is stunning here and the sunset drive revealed a sunbathing crocodile for us.
As we took our time viewing wildlife, our guide had to rush us up to the top for a very nice sunset. While there, the lightning started and we knew there would be some heavy rain later on. We didn’t care too much about it, we were safe and dry inside the hotel and were ready to cool off.
On the last day we hiked as far as possible up on the mountain. It was relatively easy with good trails, but as we got higher the ants seemed to be everywhere and you couldn’t stand still for one minute or they’d run up your legs and bite you. And of course I had to have another bout of fear when the trail was barely identifiable and seriously overgrown with thorny bushes.
The way back home was easy. We took a chapa back via Manzini and the drive was a little electrifying. Both Marlowe and I sat on the front seat and saw as the wind and rain chastised the mini-bus. The driver could barely see anything, so he was driving slower than slow. Honestly, he did a great job getting us to the border.
At the border we had to wait again for someone who was importing a lot. Eventually, the chapa driver arranged for us to take another bus that was ready to go. Now that’s customer service for you!
All in all, a trip we’d love to experience more often. Lucky us, our multiple-entry visas mean we have to leave Mozambique every thirty days! We thought we had it sorted out and would be fine from now on, but no… this visa also stipulates we have to leave the country every month. Where shall we go in two weeks from now?