The Nature Reserves in Swaziland are well known for their excellent range of self-guided hiking trails, offering the opportunity to visitors to experience nature at a pace suited to their group. What better way to explore Swaziland’s many and varied highlands, forests, and reserves than on foot. There are paths and trails in many locations across the country allowing for hikes from a couple of hours to many days in duration, and give access to places and views that are inaccessible by vehicle. Alternatively, those with initiative and a good map or GPS can simply head off into countryside.
If you are interested in taking a hiking tour, or exploring the country's stunning landscape on foot, you can find out more information from Dust and Boots - a specialist hiking tour operator based in Swaziland.
Swaziland's best hiking locations are as follows:
Mahamba trails lead through beautiful grasslands interspersed with rocky outcrops. While Mahamba Gorge is smaller than Ngwempisi Gorge, it is equally dramatic. The trails and lodges are community owned and operated and focus on the gorge. They offer exhilarating Swaziland hiking opportunities and range from step climbs into the gorge to less strenuous riverside hikes. Visitors can choose from a selection of half-day and full-day scenic and cultural trails.
Mantenga offers trails both along the river and up to the peaks overlooking the Ezulwini Valley.
Located in North-eastern Swaziland, Mlawula Game Reserve comprises the 500-metre high Lubombo Mountains that separate The Kingdom of Swaziland and Mozambique. Mlawula forms part of the Lubombo Conservancy, which is the largest group of protected areas in Swaziland at 60,000 hectares. Mlawula itself covers an area of approximately 16,500 hectares. Mlawula trails reveal a variety of Swaziland’s environments. Mlawula lies within the transitional zone between two bio-geographic regions: The dry thorn savannas of the west and the moist coastal thickets of the east. It comprises three distinct ecological zones: The Ndzindza plateau, the Siphiso Valley and the rhyollite ridges of the western boundary. Mlawula Nature Reserve has a number of trails, ranging in duration from 1.5 hours to 2 days (all water must be carried) offering a rare opportunity for visitors to walk self-guided through the bushveld to experience the more intimate encounters with nature and wildlife. The trails in the Lubombo mountains provide excellent views across Swaziland to the west and as far as the Mozambique coast in the east. Mlawula is renowned for it's ancient caves some of which can be reached via day trails.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary covers 4,560 hectares. The southern section of the sanctuary comprises open grasslands, plains with middle veld vegetation stretching up to Rock of Execution. The northern section includes Mantenga and includes Luphohlo, one of the highest points of The Kingdom. Only guided hikers may enter the pristine mountains of the north. Mlilwane offers a combination of middle veld and highveld habitats, including areas covered by eucalyptus (blue gum) forests. The middle veld habitats incorporate the low lying areas along the Usuthu River, while the highveld habitats can be found in high altitude areas such as the Luchoncho, Sibumbu and Lugogo mountains.
The Ngwempisi region has very rugged terrain, interesting plant life and rock formations. Walk along the gorge for a particularly impressive hiking experience. The scenic and cultural trails offer challenging half-day and overnight trails.
The camp is easily accessible by vehicle and is located in a safe and secure environment. Shewula falls within a malaria area and precaution through use of mosquito repellent or prophylactics is advised. For backpackers, access is possible by local bus from Manzini, Simunye or Lomahasha. Shewula trails offer hikers an opportunity to discover Swazi culture. Choose between a selection of guided trails that lead you through the surrounding community to visit homesteads, traditional healers and local schools. The extensive Shewulau trail system also leads walkers through the picturesque natural settings of the Shewula Nature Reserve and Mbuluzi Gorge, where memorable photo opportunities are plentiful. Nature enthusiasts will be delighted by the area’s diverse birdlife and ancient hardwood vegetation; encounters with wildlife are also possible.
Sibebe Challenge Hike
Would you like to see the great Sibebe Rock – the second largest granite dome in the world? Come and enjoy the challenge of conquering this mighty Swaziland attraction. The sense of achievement in reaching the top and the sheer beauty of this rugged landscape are highlights of this Swaziland hiking trail.
Situated within Malolotja Nature Reserve, the Upper Malolotia trail offers excellent opportunities to view game such as blue wildebeest, blesbok, zebra and impala. Highveld grassland flora thrives along the trail, with grassland and river species to be found on the lower slope. Malolotja backpacking trails rank among Southern Africa's finest as they offer not only the solace of true wilderness with magnificent rugged country, but also a fascinating variety of fauna and flora and much to interest the amateur geologist. There are approximately 200 km of hiking trails and seventeen backpacking camps which allow hikers to undertake wilderness trails from two to seven days in duration, as well as short walks or day trails. Click here for more information.
Numerous Swaziland hiking trails are available in Kirkhill and most follow water courses and streams. There is a wide range of long and short walks. Choose a 20-minute walk to Sithobela Gorge to enjoy shaded pools and an abundance of birdlife, or choose a short walk to a picnic spot at Sithobela River where a paddle in the river is therapeutic on hot days. Head off into one of the krantzs and take in the wonders of nature.
The impressive landscapes of the Lubombo Mountains are shared by Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa along a narrow range about 800km in length, with an average elevation of 600 meters. The region is a recognised global biodiversity hotspot. Its high diversity of flora and fauna can be attributed to its elevation within a transitional zone between two biogeographic regions: the dry thorn savannas of the west, and the moister coastal thickets of the east. Birdlife is exceptional, with more than 350 species recorded in Mlawula Nature Reserve alone. Densely forested gorges and ravines, open broadleaf savanna and vast panoramic views characterise the scenic landscape. The region has a rich history and the vitality of traditional culture continues to be reflected in the daily lives of its warm and friendly inhabitants.
A new initiative has been set up in the Lumbombo region, opening up a number of eco-walking trails. The initiative has been set up by a collaboration of partners. These include Shewlua Mountain Camp, Mbuluzi Game Reserve, All Out Africa, and Mlawula Nature Reserve. This backing by major tourism initiatives will see these trails become a huge success. The eco trails are designed to benefit the communities, but there is little doubt in the the huge and rewarding experience visitors to the area and trails will receive.
For more information please download the Lubombo Eco Trails pamphlet by clicking here.
Komati Valley & Makonjwa Mountains
A hike through dense riverine growth beneath a canopy of wild fig trees in the Komati Valley is a must for bird-life enthusiast. With the changing and diverse landscape, a number of unique bird species can be spotted, making it a truly rewarding trail. The route is also surrounded by some of the oldest mountains in the world, the Makonjwa Mountains, which make up part of the Barberton Greenstone Belt. This truly unique remnant of the ancient earth’s crust contains the oldest and best-preserved sequence of volcanic and sedimentary rocks on the planet. These highly accessible ancient mountains give a glimpse into 350 million year of rock formation. It’s in this area you can also find The Nsangwini Rock Art, which contains more diversity of subject matter than any rock art found since. Well worth a visit, you can combine a truly breath-taking hike with some of the world most renowned rock art, creating a truly unique trip.
Maguga Lodge offers a choice of hiking trips in this area, click here for further details.