My dose of Bushfire Festival with @TravelSwaziland
This year marked my second edition attending MTN Bushfire Festival, the first though under a hosted media banner. Swaziland Tourism Authority played host to a group of scribes from various media houses in Johannesburg. Aside from experiencing the Bushfire Festival, Swaziland Tourism Authority grabbed this opportunity to showcase tourism products that the kingdom has to offer.
Our road trip kickstarted with a pickup at SABC in Auckland Park where we departed on our way to Swaziland. The media group included representatives from SA fM, Sunday World, CNBC Africa, The Times, The Citizen and two bloggers myself (representing www.tourismedition.com and http://vuyisotshabalala.wordpress.com/).
Watch below a short and precise introductory video clip about destination Swaziland, delivered by Nokwanda Dlamini, Swaziland Tourism Authority (Marketing Assistant)…
Day One – 28th May – Wednesday
- Tree Top Canopy Tour at Malolotja Nature Reserve.
We were all turned into adrenalin junkies, without an option to opt out (which wasn’t a problem…otherwise no one would have volunteered to glide solo). For me a canopy tour mimics monkey’s and baboon’s lifestyle (moving from one end of the tree/gorge, though in our case we were properly harnessed to avoid injury and death. Malolotja
Malolotja Conopy Tour is set within the forested Sihlotswane gorge, adjacent to the famous Malolotja Falls. The canopy tour consists of 11 elevated forest platforms, 10 slides and a 50-metre long suspension bridge that crosses the Majolomba River. The first three slides were very short which gave us enough time to get the hang of gliding.
As we progressed they become long and sloppy, which increased the speed therefore forcing one to engage brakes using your hand by pulling the rope while in motion. Our adventure last about three hours before hiking back to our pickup vehicle for about 1,5km on a steep and rocky hill.
At Malolotja main reception, scrumptious buffet dinner was served…this was actually meant to be our lunch, however since we arrived late our adventure only started at 3pm which was an exception for us…the last adventure normally departs at 2pm.
- Dinner at Maguga Lodge.
Unfortunately we arrived at Maguga Lodge at night, therefore we could not see the actual attraction which is the Maguga Dam. Since we already had lunch/dinner at Malolotja Game Reserve, our stopover at Maguga Lodge was more a formality than having dinner…a few of us ordered takeaway food and off we headed to Piggs Peak Hotel for an overnight.
- Overnight at Pigg’s Peak Hotel.
This property is located about 10km away from the small town of Piggs Peak. Protea Hotels and most recently Orion Hotels are two South African Hotel groups that have managed this Swaziland government property over the years.
The last partnership between Orion Hotels and the Swazi Government went sour in 2012 and contract was terminated. Since then the daily operations of Piggs Peak Hotel is currently under the hands of Swaziland government, while a suitable hotel management group is still being sort to manage hotel.
This property offers 104 rooms (89 Luxury Standard Rooms with 2 beds each, 7 Suits with 1 Queen size bed and 8 Executive Suites with 1 King size bed), which requires a qualified entity to handle the daily affairs of a hotel this size. Currently hotel is operating, however not to its full capacity. Casino is operational, however when we arrived on a Wednesday evening I did not see any activity at the casino…which are signs that all is not well, a casino doesn’t have working hours.
My observations especially with my room…the hotel needs a revamp. I cannot fault hotel rooms about cleanliness, however once bathroom tabs lose their original silver coating and the brass starts showing…it’s a sign that replacements have to be done.
Day Two – 29th May – Thursday
- Stopover at Sibebe (world’s largest exposed granite dome).
We drove past Sibebe, the world’s largest exposed granite dome, adjust after Mbuluzi High School. We stopped to view the granite dome and my early high school memories came flooding back, since we used to walk past Sibebe on our way back to St Christopher’s High School in Luyengo, having spent a night outside Mbuluzi High School premises camping on a Friday. With all the camping gear and food on our backpacks, we would trace back our way to school on foot. Passing the capital Mbabane towards Usutu Forest Primary School in Mhlambanyatsi where we camped again. Through these expeditions I developed the love for tourism and have never looked back ever since.
In honour of Sibebe, a local lager brand has been introduced to the market also named after this granite dome.
- Visit Mantenga Cultural Village.
Swaziland’s major tourist attraction is its unique culture which refuses to die or be influenced by western cultures. International travellers visit the country purely to better understand how Swazis manage to still retain its values and culture in modern society. Granted Swaziland makes headlines across the world for all the wrong reasons aside from its culture. True, poverty and HIV is rife in the kingdom, but life doesn’t end there for Swaziland.
The cultural practices which are observed here are unique to the country and continue to be respected even in the twenty first century. Polygamy is legal in the kingdom, with his Majesty King Mswati III having multiple wives and offsprings.
A man’s wealth is measured by the number of cattle in his kraal. The man is a head of the homestead and has the last say in whatever happens. Mantenga Cultural Village is the centre stage about Swazi culture…here international visitors are educated about the way of life for Swazis and we immensed ourselves about it too…
Listen below to audio about Swazi culture as narrated by our tour guide at Mantenga Cultural Village…
- Visit National Museum and King Sobhuza II Memorial Park.
After our visit to Mantenga Cultural Village, off we went to King Sobhuza II Memorial Park where we were met by Clement Mfanaza Maziya, a Senior Tour Guide at the centre who took us on a historical journey about the His Majesty King Sobhuza II, who was the father to King Mswati III.
Below are audio clips of the tour narrated by our tour guide Clement…enjoy:
- Dinner at Royal Villas
Our dinner was held at Lihawu Restaurant in Royal Villas a 5-star property based at Ezulwini. It offers 57 rooms within 14 beautifully designed luxurious villas, set in an estate with stunning views across the Royal Mdzimba Mountains. Conferencing facilities that can accommodate 230 delegates. Royal Villas is located in close proximity to the Royal Swazi Casino, golf course, Gables Shopping Mall and craft markets.
- Overnight at The George Hotel in Manzini.
The George Hotel located in Swaziland’s central business district Manzini, consists of 53 guest rooms (27 Twin Bed Rooms, 11 Double Bed Rooms and 15 King Bed Rooms). Also offers 2 restaurants and a coffee shop, 4 multifunctional conferencing facilities that can accommodate up to 200 delegates at a time. A sparkling swimming. Poolside bar and an in-house Day SPA. This was my second stay at the facility with my first in 2003 when it was still called Tum’s George Hotel under the management of Swaziland’s astute businessman Tum Du Pont. He managed to revive an old institution that had been run down over the year and left for decay…George Hotel used to be a leading hotel in Manzini in the 80’s when I was growing up in the kingdom of Swaziland. In recent years the establishment has changed hands since Tum Du Pont sold hotel to Moses Motsa, a well known property mogul in the kingdom.
Day Three – 30th May – Friday
- Game drive at Hlane Royal National Park.
Pity on our way to Hlane Royal National Park we could not visit the newly established King Mswati III International Airport in Sikhuphe, which hasn’t started operating as yet since no airlines land there. Apparently 93 staffers are reporting for duty at the airport daily according to the Times of Swaziland story titled ‘Being a KM3 Airport Worker’.
- Three-hour boat cruise at Sand River Dam in Tshaneni
Our lunch after the game drive at Hlane Royal National Park was hosted by Mananga Country Lodge on a boat cruise at Sand River Dam with Hillary, lodge manager taking care of everything on the cruise.
I previously published a blog post titled “My love affair with #BushfireFest” which details why I’m addicted to the Bushfire Festival. As expected many international festival patrons descended in Malkerns to appreciate music offered by global artists. My highlight was watching Uhuru, Bongo Maffin, Muzart, Oliver Mtukudzi and Qibho & Sands a Swazi band that I found to be very unique.
I spotting a mission opportunity that I think would compliment the main stage very well…during intervals when artists change, there is normally a gap where they play background music. For me this is an opportune moment for comedy and poetry. This will help engage the crowd with more entertainment. Comedy and poetry is huge today here in South Africa, am not sure about Swaziland…but its an opportunity worth exploring.
Last year and again this year they used the same master of ceremonies (lady and gent) which I found to be a huge bore…I’m not sure what their status is in Swaziland, but I can safely assume they’re in the media industry. Please rotate MC’s and involve people who can engage with the crowd without digging on their reserves for humour.
Day Four – 31st May –Saturday
- Paintball at Velocity Paintball.
We enjoy a game of paintball at Ezulwini hosted by Velocity Paintball , the service provider. We played against the local media…and I joined the Swazi side.
- Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary for lunch and horse-riding around the park.
Horse riding at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary then lunch before driving back to Bushfire for our second stint.
Day Five – 1st June – Sunday
- An hour of pampering (neck and shoulder massages) at Rebirth Clinic
- Lunch at Timbali Lodge
- Visit Ezulwini Craft Market.
- Dinner at Summerfield Resorts