Durban - When I was told that I was going to Swaziland, Mozambique and Northern KZN, the first thing that popped into my head was, “why?”
After all they are just a few hours away from Durban and I honestly would’ve preferred going further north, or even to Europe. Yet, it’s that attitude that the East 3 Route expedition campaign, a joint sponsorship between KZN Tourism and the Department of Economic Development, wants to challenge, by persuading South Africans to explore countries closer to home rather than abroad. And it worked for me.
Swaziland is synonymous with royalty and King Mswati III. You can feel Mswati’s presence everywhere in Swaziland. Where ever we went was his picture.
Even shops had framed pictures of Mswati, the Queen Mother and Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini. It felt like Mswati was watching you. I asked a shop owner why all the shops had pictures of him and he said, in an irritated tone “Do I ask you why South Africans worship Mandela?” Time to leave.
Our first stop was the King Sobhuza II Memorial Park. King Sobhuza is Swaziland’s icon. He is their Mandela. He is revered and is referred to as the hero of the nation. Our guide, Clement Maziya, who is the curator at the park, showed us aspects of Sobhuza’s life as king, from his early life, his education, his grandmother’s role in his upbringing and also the vintage cars he used during his reign. The black Cadillac was a favourite.
The statue of King Sobhuza is housed under a marble structure with the words “Anginasitsa” which means “I have no enemies.” This was his mantra and he believed in solving problems with talking rather than going to war. The shields that surround the enclosure have no knobkieries or spears. He was all about keeping peace in Swaziland and I believe it’s because of him that Swaziland is so laid back and calm.
Knowing your culture is important to Swazi people. The Mantenga Cultural Village was where I found out more about it. Our guide kept it authentic by telling us we had to call out before entering the village so its inhabitants were aware we came in peace. I was shocked at how, in traditional Swaziland homes, the girls in the family lived in the hut closest to the gate. The idea was if an enemy wanted to attack, he’d first see the beautiful girls first and be distracted.
Swaziland is not famous for its wildlife, so I was surprised to hear they had reserves with the Big Five – like Hlane Royal National Park. At some, like Malolotja Nature Reserve, nature enthusiasts can set up camp and be at one with nature.
Swaziland is a place I would visit to reconnect with myself. I went on a morning run to see the beauty of the country. From mountains, to plants, Swaziland had a calming effect and I wouldn’t think twice about returning.
Could Maputo be the party capital of Africa? Possibly! The minute we arrived in Mozambique, there was excitement in the air. I’m not a party person, but even I couldn’t stay away.
We arrived late in Maputo and I was preparing for a quiet evening, but I was told it’s party time every night in Maputo. It turns out that when the locals come back from work they have a siesta before going out and painting the town red. From karaoke bars and pubs, to gentlemen’s clubs, Maputo is a hive of activity at night. We decided to go to a pub where locals throng to watch football. The second evening we went to Coconuts Live which, according to locals, is their biggest club and can accommodate 2 000 people. From hip hop to house and some African music, I couldn’t stay off the dance floor. I liked that people came to have fun and not to sit in some VIP area and watch as people had fun. Everyone was on the floor. Locals believe in working hard and playing hard. I loved that.
Maputo also has wonderful beaches, seafood and other attractions, including touring the historical buildings on the Maputo Bus – like the train station, the Roman Catholic cathedral, Mandela House and Samora Machel’s statue.
The KZN leg of the expedition was a tad disappointing. After Mozambique and Swaziland, we were happy to be heading home to see what KZN had to offer, but thanks to the rain, (and some angry elephants in a boma) it was not to be.
The best place to see Jozini Dam is from the Jozini Tiger Lodge. It’s arguably the best view of the beautiful dam. The still water, the mountains with their evergreen trees, the mist in the early morning and the sun setting at dusk, makes it one of the most beautiful views of Northern KZN.
Our trip to Umfolozi-Hluhluwe Game Reserve was shortlived as it appeared that the elephants were not in the mood for guests. So instead of risking it, we ended up having lunch and, on our way back to Jozini, spotted some buck and baboons. Hardly the Big Five. But what left a lasting impression on me was the monuments to the fallen rangers who died fighting rhino poachers. When Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Sphelele Luthuli explained the significance of the pillars, you could hear the emotion in her voice.
And KZN has much more to offer: Like Sodwana Bay, one of the top diving sites in the world and Kosi Bay, famous for fishing. And also I would’ve done anything to see turtles laying their eggs.
The summer holidays coming up would be a good time for a trip away from Durban to the more remote fishing towns of Northern KZN. After a long year, there can’t be anything better.
KZN: www.zulu.org.za - Sunday Tribune