After saying goodbye to Gaborone at the end of June (more about that later), I shifted back into travel mode right away, meeting a new group of 14 people and three guides in Johannesburg for a two-week tour through parts of Swaziland, Mozambique, and South Africa.
First stop: Swaziland. Swaziland is a tiny country — just a bit bigger than Connecticut and a bit smaller than New Jersey, if that helps — that shares its eastern border with Mozambique and is surrounded by South Africa on the north, south, and west. It is the last true monarchy in Africa, and its king, Mswati III, is famous for having fourteen wives and an inappropriately lavish lifestyle. Swaziland also has the unfortunate distinction of having the world’s highest adult prevalence rate for HIV/AIDS.
Despite its troubles, in the short time that we spent in Swaziland I found it to be a beautiful country with friendly people and a rich culture (although that is not exactly a unique description among African countries).
And they are definitely trying to attack the HIV problem. We spent a few hours one afternoon wandering around a small town near Hlane National Park, and I passed through a family event where NGOs were distributing the most diverse and interesting range of HIV literature that I have ever seen, including HIV/AIDS education for young children and a comic book encouraging men to get circumcised to lower the risk of infection.
We spent most of our two days in Swaziland camping in Hlane National Park.
If you can correctly pronounce the “Hl” you will win a prize. You will need to conquer the challenge of sucking in air while projecting enough sounds to make a word, which I didn’t think was possible until I heard the locals say “Hlane.”
After Safari Series, I’m sure that no one is interested in another onslaught of animal photos, so I’ll stick to the highlights:
A black-maned lion! I have never seen one before and was struck by how beautiful it was. This one is not one of the very rare breed of black-maned lions; he’s just an old man. Lions’ manes turn black with age the same way that people’s turn gray.
Nyala — a relatively uncommon antelope that I’ve also never seen before.
And finally, by far my best-ever rhino sightings. This water hole was in sight of the campsite’s bar, so we were able to sit and have drinks while getting close-up views of at least ten white rhinos, who were later joined by a herd of elephants. Well worth camping in a 40-degree night 🙂