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I haven't been everywhere yet,

but it's on my list!

  • Writer's pictureDeborah Latham

Traveling through the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland)

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Traveling through Eswatini is essential to get to Kruger National Park, but this was definitely my least favorite part of the trip.

Don't get me wrong, the countryside traveling through Eswatini is absolutely gorgeous. Our day started with a drive to the Eswatini border, where we disembarked the tour bus and went through customs with our passports, and then walked into the Kingdom of Eswatini. Our bathroom break here was horrible. The women's restroom was flooded with nasty bugs floating in the water. The toilets were not exactly the best, and I was thankful for my purchase of individual wipes! After getting back on the bus, our guide started telling us about the Kingdom of Eswatini, King Mswati III, and the Swazi people.

You will learn so much about the country on this long drive, but here is my summary:

Estwatini is a monarchy. Their king took the throne at age 18, making him the youngest ruling monarch in the world. The kings of Eswatini have all had multiple wives. To be the next king you must be the only child (male) of one of the wives. The king has 15 wives and several concubines in 5 different lavish palaces that the public can't see. He's bought each of those wives a Rolls Royce, all while his subjects are living in absolute poverty. His eighth wife committed suicide, and it has been said more have. He has a festival with a parade of bare breasted women every year to choose his next wife. He has built a multi billion dollar airport for his one plane. He spent millions to build a conference center in hopes of hosting the African conference and the building has never been used. Meanwhile, there is 75% unemployment in the country and 43% of the country has full blown AIDS virus. If you own a business you are required to give the king 51 percent of that business. The population of the country is very poor. There are demonstrations happening protesting the monarchy however, people that speak out against the king are in fear for their lives. It's heartbreaking and left me feeling very sad for the people of this country.

We stopped at an artists community of shops and tents for lunch and shopping! We were able to watch artists at work carving wood, making candles and various crafts. The candle factory was beautiful. This was a good opportunity to buy gifts and souvenirs. The people were very friendly, and the art was beautiful. I would have liked to have had a little more time to see all the crafts, but it's a very long drive to our hotel that is just a couple of hours from Kruger National Park, our next day's destination.

Next, we visited the glassblowing factory that produces gorgeous glass work. It was fun to watch the glass blowers. I am amazed they can work in that heat! There was a chocolate shop and another crafters shop on the property, along with a coffee shop. Outside the grounds were beautiful, with peacocks walking around and beautiful weaver birds building nests. I found it humorous that the male birds build the nest, then, the female birds come inspect the nest. If it is not to her liking, she tears the nest apart and the male bird has to start the building all over again!

After our stop at the glassblowing factory, we continued our drive through the gorgeous countryside. The mountains were magnificent, and the farmlands green and beautiful. We spent the night in Eswatini at a hotel and casino, but no one from our group gambled because no one wants to give their money to such a greedy king! The hotel was adequate, but out of all the places we stayed, it was my least favorite. It is starting to have a run down appearance and is in need of updating. This is not SmarTours fault because, evidently, it is the nicest hotel on the way to our destination. It fulfilled its duty of a place to lay our heads for the night. My safe did not work, so I hid my passport and small amount of cash I had left in a different pocket of my camera bag than I usually do (this is important to know for the next blog story) and went to the explore the hotel and enjoy my evening. I ended up in the bar area, sharing more Pinotage and great conversations with some of our group. The next morning we would depart for Kruger National Park, my very favorite part of the trip!

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