Serene Kingdom of Swaziland

Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

It might only appear as a dot on most world maps but the Kingdom of Swaziland definitely punches above its weight in the tourism stakes.

Take a walk through the cultural village of Ezulwini - meaning heaven - stop for a drink at one of the many watering holes lining its streets or grab a bite at any number of restaurants and your senses are bombarded by a cacophony of languages.

Expect to hear a variety of European dialects - from German to Dutch, French and Italian - as you sample what this fantastic little country has to offer.

About 20km from the capital Mbabane, the Ezulwini Valley plays host to the majority of tourists to the kingdom because of the abundance of hotels, nightclubs, markets and its picturesque setting.

Three of the main hotels - and part of the Sun International group - are the Lugogo Sun, Ezluwini Sun and no doubt the queen of the lot, the Royal Swazi Sun.

All three have their own identity and style and, though within walking distance of each other, a shuttle service operates at regular intervals between them.

The Lugogo is family-orientated with a Kamp Kwena for the kids.

Here the little ones can play in a supervised and safe environment while parents can enjoy a drink in the Sportsman's Bar.

The Ezulwini Sun has a Caribbean feel to it. Light and airy, the hotel is currently undergoing renovations, but the atmosphere is relaxed.

Sit back and listen to some live music or let Happy, the bar lady, mix you a cocktail at the Valley Blues Bar inside the hotel.

There is no doubt the Swazi Sun tops the list in the group - both price-wise and regarding amenities.

On offer is an internationally recognised 18-hole golf course, tennis, a fitness centre and of course a casino.

The rooms are tastefully deco- rated with wicker furniture - the theme throughout the hotel - and the walls adorned with African prints from a bygone era.

"We have a large number of overseas tourists staying here," said Sareka Albers, public relations officer for the hotel.

"Between the three hotels we normally accommodate between 10 to 12 bus loads of passengers on a daily basis.

"Our occupancy rate is running at between 70percent and 100percent so we are very happy. A lot of company's from South Africa also use our facilities for conferences and team-building exercises," Albers added.

A drive to Piggs Peak is well worth the effort. Only 50km north of the capital, the town is a nice mixture of old vs new.

A word of warning though. The road is very narrow in sections and has more twists and turns than the Robert McBride saga. Expect the unexpected and caution is the operative word.

An added advantage for visiting this tiny land-locked kingdom is that though they have their own currency - the elangeni - South African rands are widely accepted and welcomed.

Also visas are not necessary for South African passport holders.

The only cost is a R50 car tax payable at the border.

I hope Swaziland remains the way it is for many years - a mixture of races and cultures living in harmony in what appears to be a fairly stable economy.