The Swaziland/South Africa trans-border experience is very popular with true overlanders with a yen to see much of Africa’s variety. The route from Maputo through Swaziland and Mpumalanga might be longer than the traditional N4, but the experience is definitely worthwhile.

Did you know?

The establishment of Lubombo will facilitate the ancient natural migration of elephants along the Futi System and Rio Maputo floodplains.


Swaziland is tiny – 193km by 145km, one million souls – and is tucked in between the mega-nodes of South Africa's Mpumalanga Province, KwaZulu Natal and Mozambique. But it's a stand-out state, packed full of stunning mountain scenery, winding rivers, friendly smiles, fascinating culture and great wildlife.

A Swaziland-South Africa trans-border trip involves everything from forest lodges to mountain cabins to plush casino resorts to quiet time spent at a reserve waterhole.

‘The Swaziland trans-border route from Maputo through to Mpumalanga is the traveller's road', says a lodge owner near Piggs Peak. 'It's the adventurous, slightly longer alternative to the N4.'

Head south to Malolotja Nature Reserve, a majestic and misty mountain park with very old rock formations. One day, Malolotja will join with Songimvelo Reserve in a trans-border project with Swaziland and South Africa.

The Royal Swazi Sun gleams in the Ezulweni Valley sunlight, surrounded by forests, a vast rolling golf course and purple blossoms in all its British Colonial splendour.

Near the back of Bob Forrester's guide on Swaziland you'll find a section called ‘Handcraft Route'. Follow it. Mantenga Cultural Market is a forest-shrouded complex of low buildings selling pottery, sculptures, fabrics and adventure tours.

On the Manzini road, turn off to House On Fire, a community craft and entertainment centre of huge interest. It's the most imaginative, eclectic, bohemian setup in Swaziland. They sell great local crafts – doubly-appealing because they're so unusual – and promote local music in their amphitheatre out back.

Spend a while at the Hlane Reserve waterhole near the eastern Swazi border to digest all of this. Your last stop on the South African-Swaziland trans-border route is the Bulembu border post, as you begin the winding journey down the mountain slopes into South Africa.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Tel: +268 2416 2180

How to get here

From Johannesburg or Pretoria take the N4 east and follow the signs to Oshoek border post. If you're coming from KwaZulu-Natal, there are a number of border posts you can choose.

Best time to visit

Being sub-tropical, it can be very hot in summer. The shoulder seasons and winter are very pleasant.

Get around

Self-drive is the most convenient.

Length of stay

You should stay at least two nights in Swaziland, more if possible.

What to pack

Bring along an extra bag for crafts. Don't forget binoculars and camera for wildlife.

Where to stay

Big Game Parks have a number of options to suit all budgets. There are also excellent hotels in the Ezulwini Valley outside Mbabane.

Best buys

Swaziland specialises in woven and carved craft, but look out for the animals made of recycled glass, and Swazi candles.

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