Another quiet, grey day, good for a lie- in at the luxurious, five star Royal Villas in Swaziland’s Ezulwini Valley - or so it seemed. The sun quickly burns off the morning mist, revealing the Lugogo Mountains to the west and the Royal Mdzimba Mountains to the east, across the Lufushwana or Little Usutu River.
While the original focus was corporate entities and conferencing or events, that has shifted and Royal Villas is increasingly popular with families and large groups, particularly for weddings and birthday parties.
57 luxury guest rooms are set within 14 carefully designed and sumptuously draped villas, with the gold and browns of the savannah echoed throughout. When taking a room in a four room villa, residents share the common facilities of the dining room and lounge and the outside seating areas- with the exception of the 43.5m2 king suite which has a private outdoor patio. You can rent an entire villa, plus have the service of a cook and waiter and some villas have additional staff quarters and kitchens.
Beside king, there are queen suites and standard queen and twin rooms in each villa, all furnished with extra comfortable beds fitted with exquisite cotton, all-important aircon in a climate similar to Durban, heated towel rails, mini bars and Wi-Fi. Two of the villas have family rooms as well.
Leisure travelers tend to gravitate to the swimming pool and bar, or to the signature Lihawu restaurant which provides a fine dining experience with pan-African cuisine concocted by executive head chef Anton Dlamini. The restaurant can seat up to 130 people with smoking and non-smoking sections and a covered outdoor area facing the swimming pool. The Sivuno Wine Cellar boasts up to 1000 different wines, while on the upper level of the restaurant is Endzaweni private dining facility featuring state of the art boardroom facilities.
The Ensangweni Whisky/ Cigar Lounge is a cosy spot for an after dinner chat.
Lihawu does the simple things just right. The soups were delectable and the trio- of bean dish I had was a stunner. Yes, beans. Believe it.
Ezulwini means ‘place of heaven’, and the so-named valley certainly has its delights. This is where tourism in Swaziland began and there are attractions aplenty: restaurants, hot springs, casinos, a cinema, craft markets, art galleries, riding stable, golf and a cultural village within Mantenga Nature Reserve. En route is the Mantenga Craft Centre, from where you can spy aptly named Execution Rock. You should keep space in your vehicle for some desirable pieces and make peace with a lightened wallet. Swazi Trails have an office there and they offer great adrenaline packages. White water rafting when water levels are high or “adventure caving,” where you get down and really dirty with a swim in a hot spring afterward, are two that I highly recommend.
The friendly Royal Villas reception team had provided me with advice, maps and brochures and I headed way further. Exiting the valley via the very steep and beautiful climb past the capital Mbabane, I headed for Ngwenya, named after the mountain that resembles a basking croc, the site of the world’s oldest iron ore mine and, more importantly, a place where the glass is always greener- Ngwenya Glass Complex. The famous handmade, recycled glass has been in our home since the 70’s so I had to pay my respects (and get some glass of course).
From there I free-ranged a bit, simply taking in the wonderfully varied and picturesque terrains and shrubbery- topiary is a thing in Swaziland. Bushes and shrubs outside homes and businesses are inventively trimmed almost everywhere. Delightful.
Other delights and diversions in the area include Swazi Candles (stocked up on prezzies there), Gaudi-esque House On Fire and the royal village where, during the Umhlanga and Incwala ceremonies, the surrounding plains swarm with crowds of people in traditional dress- a spectacular sight in the lee of the Mdzimba Mountains.
It was great to have such a luxurious, chilled base- central yet secluded- from which to explore.
Tel: 00268 2416 2042 and visit www.royalvillas.co.sz