5 exciting adventure activities to try in Eswatini

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Petra Shepherd outlines five exciting adventure activities to try in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland).

Disclosure: Some of the links below, marked with a (£), are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Postage stamp sized Eswatini (known as Swaziland until April 2018) is the smallest country in southern Africa, but has more than its fair share of offerings when it comes to adrenaline seeking; you can be abseiling the highlands in the morning and game viewing on horseback by sunset. From white water rafting to zip wire canopy trails, here are my top 5 adventure activities in Swaziland writes Petra.

Petra Shepherd, Travel Writer, Horse, Horse Riding, Adventure Activity, Africa, Travel, Swaziland
Petra Shepherd riding a horse on grassland in Eswatini

Horse riding in Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary

Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, is Eswatini’s oldest nature reserve and is known as the Mother of Conservation in the Kingdom. Riding is a wonderful way of exploring Eswatini, especially those areas which are inaccessible to vehicles.

None more so than Execution Rock which can be enjoyed on a four-hour ride at Milwane. Ancient stories are often told how this magnificent peak acquired its name. Swazis suspected of witchcraft or criminals were forced to walk off the edge at spear-point for their crimes.

My guide and I rode through through plains of lush green grass, swaying in the wind, alongside sociable zebra, spotted crocodiles basking in the sun ( I was very grateful to be safely snuggled in a saddle and not on ground level) and then corralled the horses before a 15-minute steep climb to the top of the rock.

The panoramic views, including those of the politically incorrectly named Sheba’s breasts make the last slog all the more worthwhile.  Many of the horses are home-bred Arab and Warmblood crosses, with a mix of regional breeds, all chosen for comfortable gaits and temperament. Beginners and advanced riders are catered for. For the truly adventurous, tour operator In the Saddle have recently introduced a Five-day Overnight Trail on horseback. Mountain biking with wildlife is also on offer at Milwane.

Hiking at Phophanye Falls

There are plenty of places to hike in Eswatini.  I chose the well maintained hiking trails around the Phophanye Falls to stretch my legs.  The Phophanye Falls are by no means the largest or most spectacular I’ve encountered but the lush indigenous forest where the falls are located is undoubtedly picturesque and the views stunning.

Nature runs rampant with birdsong blending into the ubiquitous trickle of running water.  There’s plenty of wildlife to spot but it was the troops of vervet monkeys seemingly hanging around on every tree that gave me the biggest smile.  Meanwhile,  Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary has nine hiking trails covering over 20 km while Hlane Royal National Park has guiding group walking trails through the  Lusoti area. Competent Swazi guides lead groups through ever-changing habitat, where both fire and historical overgrazing have left their mark.

Climbing Sibebe Rock

For a challenging hike, try climbing Sibebe Rock. Located along the Pine Valley Road about 10 km from Mbabane, Eswatini’s capital city,  Sibebe Rock is second only to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in Australia as the largest freestanding rock in the world. It is estimated to be about three billion years old.

Siebebe Rock, Geology, Swaziland, Africa
A hard climb? Siebebe Rock in Eswatini

Riding the Malhotja zip wire

For a heart-in-mouth experience, the Malolotja zip wire is located in the Sihlotswane Gorge,  a deep forested gorge where one 50-metre suspension bridge and eleven wooden elevated platforms have been ingeniously affixed to the steep sides.

This is Eswatini’s first and only tree top canopy tour.  Participants descend the gorge by zip lining down on a steel cable from platform to platform offering an exceptional bird’s eye view of the gorge and its fascinating wildlife. Some lines are more than 300 metres long.  Although enormously popular, I have to admit I didn’t try it. Why? I froze on Go-Ape in Battersea Park!

White water rafting and caving

Formed by water-eroded chambers from the Kophola River that flows underground between Msunduza and Kopholas mountains, an 800-metre course of subterranean passages 90 metres below ground provide a unique system for caving.  It is the only major granite cave system known in southern Africa.

Alternatively, stay above group and go white water rafting on the Great Usutu River.  Trips are run by Swazi Trails on the Bulungapoort section of the river, between Sidvokodvo and Siphofaneni, in the centre of Eswatini.  This is a remote stretch of water, its brown waters thunder through clefts and gorges, alternating with calmer stretches of bush and grazing land.  For most of the year this is generally a grade three (medium difficulty) rafting river.  In peak flow, however, it rises to grade four and even has trickier sections, which the rafting trips avoid.

Waterfall, Swaziland
A waterfall in Eswatini

Why travel to Eswatini?

Eswatini’s scenery is stunning. It offers fascinating cultural experiences, thrilling safaris and exciting adventure activities all year round, making it an ideal choice for those seeking an adrenaline rush.

Petra Shepherd, Swaziland
Petra Shepherd after climbing a rock in Eswatini

Travelling to Eswatini

South African Airways flies daily between London and Johannesburg, from where it is a four-hour transfer with TransMagnific to MbabaneSwaziland’s capital.

Useful books about Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)

The Bradt Guide to Swaziland (£) is written by Mike Unwin:

Cecilia Lawrence is the author of Swaziland: The Land and it’s People (£):

The Rough Guide to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland:

About the author

Petra Shepherd is a freelance travel writer whose bylines have appeared in national magazines and newspapers. She lives in London and is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. The photos illustrating this post are by Petra.

Further information

For general information on Eswatini visit the The Kingdom of Eswatini website. 

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