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

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.

Before we began our Malolotja Canopy Tour...all first timers...from left to right, myself Muzi representing this blog, Sindi from CNBC Africa, Nonkululeko from SundayWorld, Andile from The Times, Tsholo (front) and behind her Geoff both from SA fM and seated Refiloe from CNBC Africa

Before we began our Malolotja Canopy Tour, all first timers…from left to right, myself Muzi representing this blog, Sindi from CNBC Africa, Nonkululeko from SundayWorld, Andile from The Times, Tsholo (front) and behind her Geoff both from SA FM and seated Refiloe from CNBC Africa.

long walk to canopy tour

long walk to canopy tour

Let the games begin, Tsholo in the spotlight...

Let the games begin, Tsholo in the spotlight…

Geoff in motion

Geoff in motion

Sindi enjoying the glide...

Sindi enjoying the glide…

Nonkululeko representing...

Nonkululeko representing…

after the action, we were all exhausted

after the action, we were all exhausted

Enjoying our buffet dinner at Malolotja Nature Reserve

Enjoying our buffet dinner at Malolotja Nature Reserve

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.

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.

The reception area at Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino

The reception area at Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino

Our shuttle mini bus outside Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino

Our shuttle mini bus outside Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino

My hotel room at Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino

My hotel room at Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino

My room at Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino

My room at Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino

Swimming pool at Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino

Swimming pool at Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino

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.

A view of Sibebe, the world’s largest exposed granite dome.

A view of Sibebe, the world’s largest exposed granite dome.

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…

The Sibhaca, a foot stamping dance, vigorous in style, is performed by teams of men throughout the country. The rhythm and spectacular physique of the men when performing causes wonder and admiration from the spectators. Sibhaca dance is sometimes performed as a competition or just for fun, depending on the occasion.

The Sibhaca, a foot stamping dance, vigorous in style, is performed by teams of men throughout the country. The rhythm and spectacular physique of the men when performing causes wonder and admiration from the spectators. Sibhaca dance is sometimes performed as a competition or just for fun, depending on the occasion.

Indlamu It is a Swazi dance which celebrates feminine beauty and virtue. It is performed by unmarried girls dressed only in brief beaded aprons and adornments. It takes the pattern of a beautiful rhythm accompanied by songs with various meanings composed according to the occasions.

Indlamu, it is a Swazi dance which celebrates feminine beauty and virtue. It is performed by unmarried girls dressed only in brief beaded aprons and adornments. It takes the pattern of a beautiful rhythm accompanied by songs with various meanings composed according to the occasions.

Lutsango, these are married weman dancing in a civilised fashion and not exposing themselves...as is the norm with young unmarried girls.

Lutsango, these are married women dancing in a civilized fashion and not exposing themselves…as is the norm with young unmarried girls.

guests learning the ropes at traditional swazi dancing...

guests learning the ropes at traditional swazi dancing…

inside a traditional swazi hut, freshly polished with cow dung...

inside a traditional swazi hut, freshly polished with cow dung…

tour guide explaining the swazi way of life and at the background is a typical swazi homestead...made up of several huts for entire family and different generations.

tour guide explaining the swazi way of life and at the background is a typical swazi homestead…made up of several huts for entire family and different generations.

Listen below to audio about Swazi culture as narrated by our tour guide at Mantenga Cultural Village…

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:

Clement Mfanaza Maziya, a Senior Tour Guide taking us through the paces

Clement Mfanaza Maziya, Senior Tour Guide taking us through the paces

Swaziland photographic history between 1911-1923

Swaziland photographic history between 1911-1923

Clement Mfanaza Maziya, Senior Tour Guide at work educating us about Swaziland

Clement Mfanaza Maziya, Senior Tour Guide at work educating us about Swaziland

One of the fleet of luxury cars that King Sobhuza II owned

One of the fleet of luxury cars that King Sobhuza II owned

Statue of King Sobhuza II

Statue of King Sobhuza II

a rare opportunity for myself, even though I was born in Swaziland, it was the first time that I paid a visit to

a rare opportunity for myself, even though I was born in Swaziland, it was the first time that I paid a visit to King Sobhuza II Memorial Park

DSC05316

DSC05312
DSC05311

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.

DSC05319
DSC05322

my hotel room at The George Hotel

my hotel room at The George Hotel

The reception area of George Hotel

The reception area of George Hotel

Day Three – 30th May – Friday

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’.

Photo session at Hlane Royal National Park

Photo session at Hlane Royal National Park

Group photo session at Hlane Royal National Park

Group photo session at Hlane Royal National Park

someone is very scared of the rhino...

someone is very scared of the rhino…

i was the lion spotter on this game drive...

i was the lion spotter on this game drive…

Hlane Royal National park main reception building...

Hlane Royal National park main reception building…

Only 2 rhino's have been poached at Hlane Royal National Park since 2012...something Swaziland could teach SanParks about rhino protection.

Only 2 rhinos have been poached at Hlane Royal National Park since 2012…something Swaziland could teach SanParks about rhino protection.

  • 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 was the bout captain for 2 minutes...a rare opportunity for me!

i was the bout captain for 2 minutes…a rare opportunity for me!

our host Hillary sailing the boat...

our host Hillary sailing the boat…

hungry scibes waiting for lunch being prepared on a cruise boat

hungry scibes waiting for lunch being prepared on a cruise boat

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.

Jiggs, Bushfire founder being interviewed by Tsholo from SA FM.

Jiggs, Bushfire founder being interviewed by Tsholo from SA FM.

Bushfire patrons taking a breather...too much walking does take its toll with time.

Bushfire patrons taking a breather…too much walking does take its toll with time.

crowd gather at the fireworks displace during the opening ceremony at #MTNBushfireFestival

crowd gather at the fireworks displace during the opening ceremony at #MTNBushfireFestival

firework display

firework display

Qibho and Sands in their element

Qibho and Sands in their element

Qibho and Sands rocking the crowd

Qibho and Sands rocking the crowd

A responsive crowd appreciating music by Qibho and Sands a Swaziland based trio...

A responsive crowd appreciating music by Qibho and Sands a Swaziland based trio…

The Market Place

The Market Place

Swazi made jewellery

Swazi made jewellery

Swazi weaved products

Rosecraft creates luxurious hand woven and knitted accessories

more stalls at the market place giving swazi based traders an opportunity to sell their wares to Bushfire patrons

more stalls at the market place giving swazi based traders an opportunity to sell their wares to Bushfire patrons

test

Coral Stephens Handweaving specialises in decor fabrics and rugs woven in mohair, silk, wool, cotton and raffia. These are used extensively in home, corporate and hotel décor.

Branded Bushfire merchandise was also on sale.

Branded Bushfire merchandise was also on sale.

Based in Swaziland, Black Mamba makes fair trade, gourmet chilli products with fresh ingredients – & no artificial stuff!

Based in Swaziland, Black Mamba makes fair trade, gourmet chilli products with fresh ingredients.

Chisa nyama also supplied hungry patrons with meals

Chisa nyama also supplied hungry patrons with meals

More food stalls.

More food stalls.

All Out Africa manage the Bushfire Campsites

All Out Africa managed the Bushfire Campsites

Mobile bathrooms for campers

Mobile bathrooms for campers

tents in different shapes and sizes

tents in different shapes and sizes

camper recharging her mobile phone...originally from US, based currently a peace corp in Lesotho.

camper recharging her mobile phone…originally from US, but currently a peace corp in Lesotho.

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.

Swazi team on brown attire against South African team in blue...before the start of paintball game. The final score was 1-1 with myself nursing at injury to my right eye...

Swazi team on brown attire against South African team in blue…before the start of paintball game. The final score was 1-1 with myself nursing at injury to my right eye…

Horse riding at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary then lunch before driving back to Bushfire for our second stint.

on a horse back at Mlilwane...

on a horse back at Mlilwane…

Day Five – 1st June – Sunday

  • An hour of pampering (neck and shoulder massages) at Rebirth Clinic
Rebirth Spa Clinic

Rebirth Spa Clinic

  • before my journey into wellness...

    before my journey into wellness…

    after my relaxing journey into wellness...

    after my relaxing journey into wellness…

    one of the skilled therapist

    one of the skilled therapist

  • Lunch at Timbali Lodge
we grabbed quick lunch at and I opted for pizza...

we grabbed a quick lunch and I opted for pizza and milkshake

  • Visit Ezulwini Craft Market.
craft products on sale at the market

craft products on sale at the market

Ezulwini Craft Market

Ezulwini Craft Market

our last dinner at Summerfields

our last dinner at Summerfields

DSC05546

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]tourismedition.com

Share This Post On

1 Comment

  1. one would feel that they were part of the whole experience…interesting

    Post a Reply

Leave a Reply