Horse riding in the Kingdom of Eswatini
Eswatini offers horse enthusiasts the opportunity to discover this beautiful country along a number of horse-riding trails, from 3 to 9 nights, depending on experience and ability. The forests, mountains and grasslands provide long and rewarding hours in the saddle with fast canters and slow descents giving riders time to take in the breath-taking scenery. As rides are not in areas with big game, these rides can be tailored for beginner and experienced riders, with horses of different breeds and sizes. For longer trail rides, more experience is needed as you navigate technical terrain where you will cross rivers on horseback and may have to dismount and lead your horse over tricky paths.
Ride through Eswatini’s pioneer conservation area; a beautiful, secluded sanctuary situated in Swaziland’s ‘Valley of Heaven’. Mlilwane is a hub of activity for local birds and wildlife and visitors can enjoy the beauty of the surroundings and the abundant wildlife that grace the plains by foot, vehicle, mountain bike or on horseback, all led by Swazi guides who are experts in their field.
Eswatini’s geography, wildlife and climate
All rides begin from the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, spread across a transition zone between the grassland savannah and high mountains providing an ever-changing landscape for you and your horse to explore. Along the rivers, you may see crocodile, fish eagle, and many water birds. Originally a commercial farm and tin mine, Mlilwane was the first conservation area in Eswatini and has many intriguing historical points of interest. Across the plains, you’ll get close to wildebeest, zebra, nyala, roan antelope, blesbuck, and impala as well as the ever-entertaining warthogs. From horseback, you will be able to appreciate how nature has reclaimed the land once utilised by humans.
From Mliwane, you can visit Hlane Royal National Park with the highest density of tree-nesting vultures ever recorded. Here you embark on game drive vehicles to search for elephants, white and black rhino, lion, and giraffe. If you stay for 9 nights, you will also visit Mkhaya Game Reserve – Eswatini’s Refuge for Endangered Species where you may be lucky enough to spot white and black rhino, giraffe, tsessebe, sable antelope, and buffalo.
Eswatini has a temperate climate which makes it ideal to explore on horseback. Summer brings thunderstorms and transforms the country into a lush green kaleidoscope. Winter is cool and dry and the ideal time for wildlife viewing, and if you visit in August, you may be able to witness the fascinating Umhlanga (reed) festival. The trail season is during the dry winter months, from May to September, although shorter rides can be done any time of year. This is because most of the soil in the area used for these horse riding holidays is clay and it becomes slippery after rains. Days are clear and warm and nights can get cold, creating the perfect riding and stargazing conditions.
The people and culture of Eswatini
As one of the few remaining monarchies in Africa, culture and heritage are deeply engrained in all aspects of Swazi life. Unlike most parts of the world, Eswatini has managed to hold on to that special slow-down-this-is-Africa feeling. Cantering through the farmlands in Swaziland, you are likely to come across men carrying knobkerries (traditional club) and women wearing colourful traditional dress. Between the wilderness areas, you’ll ride through a patchwork of rich farmlands dotted with mud huts, and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll be able to experience one of the Swazi’s traditional ceremonies. Music is also very important to the Swazi’s and you may hear snatches of song as you ride through the villages.
Accommodation on your Eswatini horse safari
On your Eswatini (Swaziland) horse safari, you’ll be hosted by a family-run team of horse lovers and conservationists. Accommodation ranges from luxurious hilltop lodges to small cottages nestled in quiet valleys. On longer trails, you’ll have a wide variety of accommodation from en-suite traditional huts, canvas tents, and country hotels, and bush lodges, with intermittent cell phone reception and limited electricity – the ideal digital detox!
How do I get to Eswatini?
The easiest way to get to Eswatini is by renting a car and driving – giving you more freedom to explore further afield. However, there are numerous transfer services that run from OR Tambo (Johannesburg) International Airport and we book these for our guests.
Where can I see Rhino in Eswatini (Swaziland)?
Hlane Royal National Park, once a hunting ground for Swazi royalty, is now Eswatini’s biggest and most diverse and abundant park. This is where you’ll have the best chance to see these chubby unicorns. Mkhaya Game Reserve, Eswatini’s Refuge for Endangered Species is also home to both white and black rhino.
Can I combine a trip to Eswatini and Kruger National Park?
Just 2 hours away from Kruger National Park, one can easily combine these two destinations in one trip. Being with a cultural and scenic ride through Eswatini, then venture into South Africa’s premium wildlife area for some close encounters with some of Africa’s iconic animals.
Is Eswatini a wildlife-focused horse safari?
While Eswatini offers some incredible game viewing, it is more well-known for its incredible scenery and diverse culture. It offers some technical riding over ever-changing terrain and a glimpse into African culture rarely seen. Riding in Mlilwane allows you some relaxed and close encounters with plains game and game drives and walks in Hlane and Mkhaya give you the big-game experience.
Why is it called the Kingdom of Eswatini?
One of Africa’s last monarchies, it was known as Swaziland for decades. In 2018, King Mswati III announced that he would rename the country the “Kingdom of Eswatini”, meaning the “Place of the Swazi” to celebrate their freedom and heritage.