THE LUBOMBO REGION
The country’s greatest concentration of nature reserves,
which are collectively known as the Lubombo Conservancy,
are within this region. Visitors may spot a vast diversity of animals, including the Big Five and bird life that is second to none, all within protected bushveld areas that incorporate wonderful indigenous plants and trees. The bird life in this region is among the most prolific in the country with over 350 species and due to the extent of the conservation areas, there are many majestic raptors as well as brown-headed
parrots in their hundreds. A wide choice of accommodation is available within the reserves at the various rest camps.
Lubombo runs from the north to the south of the country, alongside the flat-topped Lubombo Mountains, after which the region is named, and which form the country’s eastern border with Mozambique. The Mhlumeni/Goba border is the recommended option when traveling between Swaziland and Mozambique.
The region’s historic administrative centre is Siteki (formerly Stegi), a charming little town set on a hill 1000 metres above sea level and from where, on a clear day, the Indian Ocean may be seen. Towards the end of the 19th Century, the Transvaal African administration placed a magistrate
in the area to control the “lawless white adventurers” who abounded there at the time. Take a break while visiting and
enjoy a steak, pizza or sea food at the popular and friendly
R&B Restaurant, which specialises in a variety of dishes.
About 20 km east of Siteki is the small town of Mpaka which, until recently, was best known as a centre for Swaziland Railway. However, in recent years, the area has revealed a secret in the form of Swazi Indigenous Products, a supplier-owned company that produces natural skin and hair care products under the Swazi Secrets brand. The factory cold-presses the oil of seeds from the fruit of the indigenous marula tree into these products that are rich in anti oxidants and vitamin E. The oil is also exported overseas for use in the manufacture of cosmetics and skin care items. This environmentally sustainable project is the brainchild of the Queen Mother who identified the potential of the marula tree to generate income for local women, who gather and crack the hard nuts within the marula fruit to release the seeds. Visitors are welcome to the factory, where they may also purchase the finished products at special prices.
More on Marula
The fruit of the indigenous marula tree, which grows prolifically in Swaziland’s lowveld, has many uses apart from yielding oils with wonderful skin care properties.
The fruit has a high alcohol content and the joke about marula berry- consuming elephants becoming inebriated is not so far from the truth! The month of March marks the famous buganu season, when the Swazis often overindulge in their traditional marula beer. The marula berry also forms the base for the popular Marula Cream Liquor, on whose label happy elephants are depicted.
THE “SUGAR BELT”
The "company towns" of Simunye, Mhlume, Tshaneni and Big Bend have expanded considerably over the years with the development of the large sugar estates there, which between them employ several thousand people. They all offer various amenities that include social clubs, which also provide accommodation, as well as shopping facilities and various sports, including golf.
The Simunye Country Club offers quality accommodation, including self-catering, while providing easy access to the nearby nature reserves. Adjacent to the club is a par-three nine-hole golf course.
Mananga Country Club is a delightful ambience on the golf course and has been secured with gates and fencing to protect the game that roams within the grounds. There is a restaurant and accommodation is available at the nearby guest house, which is adjacent to the Mananga golf course.
To the far north of Lubombo near the Lomahasha border is the community-run Shewula Mountain Camp. Here visitors may stay with Swazi people in hutted accommodation and learn first-hand about the local life and culture, while absorbing the country's unique beauty. This community-run project is among Swaziland's most popular tourist venues and is a fine example of eco-tourism. See also page ………..
Hlane Royal National Park near Simunye in the north of the region and Mkhaya Game Reserve in the of the region near Siphofaneni are part of Big Game Parks (see advert page …). Hlane has the most southern-nesting marabou storks and the highest density of tree-nesting vultures in Africa. It is also home to lion, rhino, elephant and leopard.
Yester-year accommodation is available and game viewing includes self-drive, 4 x 4 Land Rovers, guided mountain biking and unique guided walks. Hlane holds great cultural significance for the Swazi people and Hunter's Rock, which is within the park, is where King Sobhuza II (father of the present King) saw his last lion in Swaziland.
Mkhaya, also run by Big Game Parks, is famous for close encounters with big game, including Swaziland's only black rhino and buffalo. It is a bush-lovers' dream with opportunities for guided open 4x4 viewing and walking trails. Accommodation is in semi-open, luxury stone cottages and meals are enjoyed around the camp fire.
The Mbuluzi and Mlawula Nature Reserves merge with Hlane in the northern area and form part of the Lubombo Conservancy. At Mlawula, which is another Swaziland National Trust Commission project, is the new Magadzavane Lodge. This reserve is famed for its groves of cycads and ironwood trees. The privately owned Mbuluzi Nature Reserve offers beautiful and diverse bushveld with luxury self-catering lodges and a rustic campsite. Visitors may drive, walk and cycle along the trails while enjoying the diverse species of animals and birds and fishing is available. Shewula Nature Reserve and Mountain Camp near Lomahasha is a successful community development where visitors can experience the Swazi way of life amidst wonderful scenery at the top of the Lubombo Mountain.
In the south near Nsoko is Nisela Safaris and Reptile Park, which is also home to lions. The Reptile Park is operated by a specialist who has a wealth of knowledge in his field, and provides a wonderful educational opportunity. Various categories of accommodation are available and there is an excellent semi-open restaurant that is ideal for the warm climate of the area.