Swaziland Travel Guide
Swaziland (recently renamed Eswatini) is easily incorporated in a South African holiday. It offers some outstanding wildlife viewing in low-key parks, stunning scenery and traditional cultures. Mkhaya Game Reserve and Hlane Royal National Park are excellent places to see many flagship animals.
Best Time to Visit
Swaziland’s main parks offer wildlife viewing throughout the year. In Hlane and Mkhaya some animals are kept in large drive-through enclosures, making them easy to find. Traditionally, the best wildlife viewing is during the dry winter months, from May to September. While this isn’t so important in Swaziland, you might still want to consider this if you are visiting other parks in South Africa.
May to September – Dry Season
Wildlife viewing at its best as animals gather around water, and vegetation thins out
Blue, blue skies and no rain
Mild daytime temperatures and low humidity
Very dry and dusty
Early morning game drives in open vehicles are cold; warm clothing is required
October to April – Wet Season
The scenery is green and fresh
Wildlife viewing is still good
There are many baby animals
Birding is excellent with migratory birds present
Wildlife viewing is not as good as during the Dry season
It is hot and humid in the middle of the day
Weather & Climate
Swaziland has a lovely, warm climate with plenty of sunny, dry days. The east of the country, where most of the parks are located, is at low altitude; summers are hot and winters are mild. The west of the country is at higher altitude; it is cooler here and there is more rain.
Swaziland experiences winter and summer at opposite times as compared to Europe and North America. Winter and summer correspond to the Dry and Wet seasons respectively.
Dry Season – May to September – Winter
There is virtually no rainfall during the whole winter and humidity is very low. When water becomes scarce, wildlife will gather around predictable water sources.
May – This month brings the end of summer. Temperatures are relatively cool, typically 13°C/55°F in the morning and 27°C/81°F in the afternoon.
June, July & August – Morning game drives in open vehicles will be cold, so it's advisable to pack warm winter clothing. The average morning temperature is 10°C/50°F. Afternoons will be pleasant, with temperatures around 25°C/77°F.
September – The heat gradually builds to about 28°C/82°F in the afternoon, and the first rains bring relief from very dry conditions. At around 15°C/59°F, mornings are pleasant as well.
Wet Season – October to April – Summer
The summer rains are usually in the form of afternoon storms and it can be uncomfortably hot, with temperatures up to 32°C/90°F with high humidity.
October & November – It gets warmer and starts to rain more often, mostly in the afternoon. Temperatures range between 18°C/64°F in the morning and 30°C/86°F in the afternoon.
December, January & February – These are the wettest months, characterized by torrential downpours in the afternoon. Temperatures in the afternoon are around 32°C/90°F, and the humidity is high.
March & April – Rainfall decreases, and it slowly gets colder. This continues in April, which has lovely clear weather and few clouds. The nights get a bit colder but are still pleasant at about 17°C/63°F. Daytime temperatures are around 29°C/84°F, and the humidity drops in April.
Swaziland is rarely visited in isolation, but it is easily included in a South Africa tour. In fact, one of South Africa’s most classic routes goes through this little kingdom. As in South Africa, the roads and general infrastructure are good. The circuit described below can be done as a self-drive package or you can book a comparable group or custom tour, in which case all transport will be arranged by your tour operator.
Swaziland, Kruger & Zululand (1 to 2.5 weeks)
After arriving in Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport, you head east for an amazing safari experience.
Kruger National Park or Sabi Sands (2 to 5 days) will be your first stop. Kruger is South Africa’s largest park and the excellent road network and signage lends itself to a self-drive safari. The various private game reserves in Sabi Sands offer a more luxurious experience with guided activities and top-notch lodges.
Malolotja Nature Reserve (1 to 2 days) is a great destination for nature lovers and avid hikers. You can stay in nearby Piggs Peak or camp inside the reserve for a more authentic experience. Adventure seekers can get their adrenaline rush on the zip line through the canopy.
Hlane Royal National Park or Mkhaya Game Reserve (2 to 3 days) are great to see rhino up close. Hlane is an affordable, family-friendly park offering self-drive and guided safari options. Budget permitting, you could skip Hlane and head to Mkhaya Game Reserve instead. This is Swaziland’s top-notch safari destination, with an exclusive lodge and excellent guides. Wining and dining is all part of the experience and guests can share stories around the campfire at night.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve (2 to 3 days) in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal offers great wildlife viewing in a scenic setting of endless rolling hills. Rhino is the flagship species here, but all of the Big Five are present.
Durban (1 to 4 days) is a port city with lots of character, good food and stunning beaches. You can opt to stay on a few days before flying back to Johannesburg for your connecting flight home.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary for biking, horse-riding and low-key walking safaris
Cape Town for visiting Africa’s most beautiful city and taking a cable car up Table Mountain
Swaziland is almost completely surrounded by South Africa. Most people visiting Swaziland are on a larger tour of South Africa. In fact, Swaziland is perfectly located between Kruger National Park and the parks in KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. Border crossings are straightforward.Therefore, most people visiting Swaziland fly into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) near Johannesburg to start their South Africa-Swaziland tour.
Self-drive is a popular option but in most other cases, your local tour operator will arrange pick-up from the airport and further transportation as part of your tour package.
If you want to visit just Swaziland, you could fly from Johannesburg to King Mswati III International Airport (SHO) in Manzini, and hire a car here as well.