Footstep & Handshakes

Experience Eswatini/Swaziland

Individual or group tour: dates upon request

Price (21 days): 1.900 Euro (other durations upon request)

Introducing you to a real community experience in Eswatini based in the Shewula, Mhlumeni and Jilobi communities and their initiatives for livelihood and natural resource management.

Immerse yourself in environmental education initiatives, school projects, community meetings, forest conservation and ecotourism projects. Visits to natural reserves will leave you in awe about Eswatini’s breathtaking nature. Come as a visitor and return as part of this wonderful story!

We are suggesting a 21-day program. The tour can be shortened or extended upon your preferences.

During the first part of our suggested itinery, we will be based mainly in the Lubombo region. This region takes its name from the line of mountains that form Eswatini’s eastern border with Mozambique. Apart from those mountains, the region is lowveld, characterized by vast sugar estates, where most people in this region are employed. The region is home to plenty natural resources and the country’s greatest number of nature/wildlife reserves. We will be based in the Shewula Mountain Camp, atop the beautiful Lubombo Mountains. Our stay here will include a visit to the local school of the Shewula community, environmental education, and a hike to the Mbuluzi river, among others.

The next few days we will explore wildlife in the Mbuluzi Game Reserve and in the Hlane National Park. We will also meet a traditional healer to understand about ancient medicine.

In the second community-based part of the tour we will be at Mhlumeni Bush Camp, close to the Goba border with Mozambique. The Mhlumeni and nearby Jilobi communities are running community-owned tourism projects. We will be involved in projects around the Jilobi-community, such as community meetings, trail mantainance and campsite development. We will also do a form of research both in Mhlumeni community and Jilobi to understand how the projects have been impacting the communities since the Natural Resources Management programme started.

As a special highlight, we will take advantage of the proximity to Mozambique, and take a two-day trip to Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique. Upon return to Eswatini, we will spend a few days with the Magugu community and visit the Mantenga Cultural Village. From there, we will dive into the beauty of the Phophonyane area with its falls and natural surrounding.
As the last highlight of this tour, we will visit Kruger National Park in South Africa, where we will explore the rich wildlife, before being taken back to O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Note: This is an adventurous tour that involves closely experiencing nature while camping and hiking in natural reserves on some of the days! Apart from the main part of the tour taking place in Eswatini, trips to Mozambique and South Africa are also included.

Tour schedule suggestion

(other schedules upon request)

Arrival at O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa (or King Mswati III Airport in Eswatini or any bus drop-off point in Eswatini) and transfer to the accommodation
Upon arrival at O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa (or King Mswati III Airport in Eswatini or bus drop-off point in Eswatini) you will be picked up and taken to our accommodation in Mlilwane Reserve. Alternatively, you can arrange your own bus shuttle from any location in South Africa or elsewhere and we will arrange for your transfer to Mlilwane Reserve from your drop-off point in Eswatini
Introduction of the tour, Manzini shopping, Shewula Mountain Camp
After breakfast and an introduction to the tour, the bus will take us to Manzini, one of the major cities in Eswatini. We will do a city tour, have lunch, and have the opportunity for some shopping, before continuing our journey to our base for the next few days: Shewula Mountain Camp. Located atop the beautiful Lubombo Mountain plateau, in the North-East of Eswatini, Shewula Mountain Camp is one of the country’s most successful community tourism project and the first community-owned and -run tourism camp in the country. Accommodation at the camp is in rondavel huts. There is a boma kitchen and ablution facility.
Schools project in Shewula, cultural visit to homesteads
We will enjoy the amazing views of the Lubombo Mountains, while we take breakfast in the open. As a first introduction to the Shewula community, we will visit the local school. After lunch, we will pay visits to homesteads of the community to learn about the traditional ways of living and local cultures.
Schools project in Shewula, football game with locals, cultural dance
Today we engage with the school project in Shewula to learn about their work. To get to know the community on an informal basis, we will play a game of football with the local team. We will close the day observing a cultural dance at the Shewula Camp.
Transfer to Mbuluzi Game Reserve, visit to traditional healer on the way
The bus will take us to the Mbuluzi Game Reserve where we will camp. On the way there, we will visit a traditional healer to understand his calling, ancient medicine and foretelling. For dinner, we will do a traditional Braii (BBQ) in Mbuluzi Game Reserve.
Nature walk at Mbuluzi Game Reserve, transfer to Hlane National Park
After breakfast, we will do a guided nature walk at Mbuluzi Game Reserve to get to know the wildlife. In the afternoon, we will be taken by bus to Hlane National Park, where we will camp. We will do another Braai-dinner in the beautiful surrounding of Hlane National Park.
Morning walk – close encounter with the rhino and other small game
The first part of the day is available for resting or doing individual activities in Hlane National Park. In the afternoon, we will do a Game Drive to observe some of the big game that is home in Hlane National Park.
Transfer to Mhlumeni, Siteki town
We will leave Hlane National Park by bus to Mhlumeni. On the way, we will stop at Siteki town, where we can do some shopping. In Mhlumeni, we will camp in luxury tents of the Mhlumeni Bush Camp. The Mhlumeni Bush Camp is a community-owned and -run tented camp that started operating in 2016. The camp is situated on community-owned land within the Lubombo conservancy; it was started as part of an engagement to get communities participate in biodiversity conservation and tourism initiatives for the development of their community. The camp is situated on a gently undulating plateau atop the high biodiversity Lubombo mountain landscape overlooking the Mhlabashana gorge. It also has magnificent views over the Mozambique coastal plains on the East and the Mlawula Nature Reserve on the West. Accommodation in the Mhlumeni Camp is in luxury tents on a camping site with water points and braai areas.
The Jilobi community is located south of Siteki. Jilobi is running a community forest conservation project that involves three traditional communities that are working together to conserve the common forest and develop ecotourism activities and other livelihoods around the forest communities. Upon arrival, we will be welcomed by the community and briefed about the projects.
Hike to Mhlumeni waterfalls
Today we will get to know the natural surroundings of Mhlumeni while we take a guided walk to the Mhlumeni waterfalls.
Jilobi and Mhlumeni research concept
Together with the Mhlumeni and Jilobi communities and the team leaders, we will develop a concept for a form of explorative research (e.g. through interviews, group discussions, workshop) that will help us to understand how the community-led projects have been working and how they have been impacting the communities. It will also give the communities the opportunity to exchange with the visitors about similar initiatives that they might be familiar with. No prior experiences with doing research are required for this activity! Those who want to extend their stay with an internship can take this as an opportunity to decide what areas and activities they want to be involved in during their internship.
Jilobi visit and hike
This day is dedicated to implementing the concept that we developed the previous day. We will be involved with the community to learn and understand initiatives of community-led tourism better.
Jilobi and Mhlumeni community workshop, Jilobi hike
In the first part of the day, we will come back together with the Jilobi and Mhlumeni community and share the information, understanding and perceptions that we gathered from each other in a workshop-style format. For those with a deeper, possibly academic-led interest in related issues, there is the opportunity to develop a paper on these engagements that could possibly be published through Farafina Institute.
In the second part of the day, we will take a hike in the Jilobi region to appreciate its natural surroundings.
Transfer to Mozambique
Today, we will be taken to the nearby Mozambique by bus (approx. 3 hours ride). We will camp at Maputo National Park.
Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique
On this day, we will visit the famous coastal town Ponto do Ouro (‚Golden Top ‘). We will have the opportunity to enjoy the beach and go swimming.
The bus will take us back to Eswatini, where we will be based in Mabuda
Afternoon walk around Mabuda
Immersion into rural life in Magugu
Magugu is a rural community outside Siteki, close to Mabuda. We will spend the day with a family and join them in their work to understand the living and working conditions of those living on farms.
Mantenga Cultural Village, Legends Backpackers
We will visit Mantenga Cultural Village in Lobamba where we will observe the performance of traditional dancers, visit the cultural village to understand more about the structure and functions of a traditional village and take a nature walk
Phophonyane, Cultural Museum, Phophonyane Lodge
On the way to Phophonyane, we will visit the Cultural Museum in Lobamba that tells the story of Eswatini and portraits traditional ancient family life. In Phophonyane we will stay in Phophonyane Lodge.
Phophonyane Falls, transfer to Komatipoort
Before leaving Eswatini, we will visit the beautiful Phophonyane Falls. The bus will take us to Komatipoort in South Africa that is located right by Kruger National Park. Depending on the time of arrival, we might do a night drive through Kruger National Park to see wildlife by night.
Kruger National Park
We will spend the whole day in Kruger National Park to see the manifold rich wildlife. The last night before departure will be spent in Hazyview, South Africa.
Departure and drop-off at O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg
The bus will take us to O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg for departure. Those who are staying longer in Eswatini will be assisted in their transfer to the respective location.

Services

Included services

  • Transfer from O.R. Tambo International Airport, or King Mswati III Airport or bus drop-off point in Eswatini, drop-off at O.R. Tambo International Airport
  • 20 nights in lodges and in tents:
  • In Shewula Mountain Camp (3 nights in round huts) and Mhlumeni Bush Camp (5 nights in luxury tents): accommodation in double huts/tents. Single occupancy possible in tents. Write in the booking form if you require this option.
  • In all other lodges: double rooms with single option for additional price.
    Breakfast and dinner for 20 days, additional to that lunch during organised activities
    Drinking water during the whole tour (we recommend you to bring a reusable drinking bottle)
  • Local tour guides throughout the whole tour (language: English)
  • Transportation throughout the whole tour by private vans and local buses
    Entrance fees and guided tours according to the program.

Excluded services/additional costs

  • Flight to and from home country
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visa costs
  • Single room
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Tips
  • Personal health certificates and prophylaxis
  • Expenditures for activities that are not part of the organized program*1 Consider that this tour includes, besides Eswatini, tours to South Africa and Mozambique. Confirm entry conditions with your local embassies of all three countries. Regulations for German citizens: Visa on arrival (at the airport or land border) issued for South Africa and Eswatini without charge, no visa requirement for Mozambique but a fee of 10 USD upon entry of the country. Minors who travel with only one parent need a written declaration of consent with the travel by the other parent to enter Eswatini and South Africa.

Optional extension/addition

  • Arrangements of stay of extended days
  • Guide for extended days and places
  • Family stays during extended days
  • Internship and business partnerships during extended days
  • Volunteering with social non-profit institutions
  • Assistance with organising research in any part of the country

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