For the full Swaziland travel experience you should try and visit one or maybe more of the four best safari destinations in this tiny kingdom.
It almost comes as a surprise to find wildlife game parks and reserves in Swaziland because the country is so small and mountainous, but in fact there are a number of good ones to choose from.
The list below ranks the best four Swaziland travel safari destinations and it's compiled by making use of trip reports and reviews written by past visitors to these game parks and reserves, forum postings, general consensus in the safari travel industry and my own personal experience as I've visited this beautiful country a number of times myself.
I've found that the most convenient and cost effective way to tour the country is by self driving with your own vehicle and not using a safari guide. I've written a 248 page book which details exactly how to guide your own safari in Swaziland.
How to get there: The sanctuary is situated in the Ezulwini valley between Mbabane and Manzini within easy reach of all Swaziland's major tourist attractions. The gate has 24 hour access so you can come and go as you please.
Where to stay: Many international visitors rate Sondzela Lodge in the reserve very highly and accommodation consists of two houses and 12 rondavels.
I've stayed in one of the houses here in a previous Swaziland travel outing and it was very comfortable and spacious. I really enjoyed the breathtaking views of the reserve from the verandah with a cold beer in my hand. Warthogs, impala and an ostrich all grazed around the house almost within touching distance and vervet monkeys chattered in the trees overhead. Highly recommended.
There is also a campground in the reserve for those who don't mind roughing it and a timber log dormitory with shared ablutions for visitors on a tight budget. Or you can treat yourself to a stay in the beehive hut village which are constructed in the traditional Swazi manner.
What to do there: Due to the fact that there are no big cats here it's safe to go hiking, mountain bike cycling and horseback riding anywhere in the reserve or you can spend some time lounging next to the massive pool.
You can also go on an open 4x4 game viewing tour or do a self drive if you are renting your own vehicle. Wildlife you are likely to see includes warthog, zebra, baboon, vervet monkey, nyala, impala, hippo and crocodile.
One of my personal favorite spots in the reserve is the Hippo Haunt Restaurant and Bar which is situated overlooking a waterhole that sometimes contains hippo, crocodile, water birds and terrapin.
Traditional dances are usually performed after dinner, just next to the restaurant.Mlilwane Swaziland travel reports and reviews »
How to get there: Located in eastern Swaziland about 70 km north-east of Manzini. The park entrance itself is about 4km south of Simunye.
Where to stay: There are two self catering camps here: Ndlovu camp which is set close to a waterhole where sightings of rhino and elephant are commonplace and Bhubesi camp sited along the banks of the Umbuluzana river. Camping accommodation is available in Lusoti.
What to do: This is one of the few places that you can still see lion, cheetah and rhino in a Swaziland travel experience so a game drive or walking safari here will be particularly fruitful.Hlane trip reports and reviews »
How to get there: You will find this reserve in the southeast of Swaziland about 20km from Big Bend on the Manzini Road. It will take about 1.5 hours by road from Mbabane to get here.
Where to stay: Accommodation in Stone Camp is in semi-open stone and thatch cottages unlike anything else you are likely to see on your Swaziland travel itinerary and meals are taken beneath a giant sausage tree with traditional dancing providing some of the evenings entertainment.
What to do: The star of the show here is the endangered black rhino which you might see on an open Land Rover drive and all the other big five except lion. You can also go for a guided walk to get closer to the wildlife.Mkhaya trip reports and reviews »
How to get there: Located on the western side of Swaziland on the road between Mbabane and Piggs Peak.
Where to stay: There are five fully furnished log cabins with amazing views across the reserve and an A-frame unit closer to the camping area.
The campsite can accommodate up to 15 tents each with their own barbecue area built naturally into the surrounding rocks and shared ablution facilities where the water is heated for you the old fashioned way by making a fire.
Activities: Game driving on the approximately 25km of roads and hiking (you will find the highest waterfall in Swaziland here) are the order of the day here with a good selection of wildlife to be seen like eland, black and blue wildebeest, zebra, duiker and dassies. Unfortunately none of the big five are present at this Swaziland travel destination (except leopard but they are virtually invisible) but the surroundings are so exquisite it more than makes up for that.
You can also go fishing here in a dam stocked specifically for that purpose and you can safely swim in the river to combat the worst of the heat of the day.