Set high up on the Lubombo Mountains, in northeast Swaziland, is Shewula Mountain Camp. Cooled by sea breezes from the distant Indian Ocean, the camp is the product of the Shewula Community, which lives, under Chief Mbandzamane Sifundza atop the 500m high Lubombo Mountains.
Arranged in a manner similar to the traditional homestead, the camp has four huts facing to the west with a view that stretches over indigenous forest and the Mbuluzi River and out across almost the whole of Swaziland, from Mbuzini on the North-west to Mhlumeni in the South-east. The camp does not have electricity, so paraffin lanterns and candles light the darkness of the night while gas stoves, refrigerators and geysers are provided.
There is a shared ablution block with flush toilets and the kitchen is fully equipped for self-catering although catering is also available. The camp is staffed by members of the Shewula community who have been trained to assist visitors to give them a real taste of the Swazi rural lifestyle. They will be happy to provide you with a traditional Swazi meal or organise guides for cultural and nature trails on request. This romantic mountaintop setting is an ideal place to experience the rural life of Africa.
The Shewula Community:
The Shewula community has a very interesting history, which predates even that of modern Swaziland. A friendly people, they allow visitors into their homes to see their way of life, and experience their rich customs and traditions. The people of Shewula are agricultural people, their traditional thatch and stone houses dot the landscape between neat fields of maize, cotton and vegetables. Famed for their legendary traditional healers (Sangomas) and ancient rainmaking powers, the people of Shewula have long welcomed people to their area. The new mountain camp now adds to this capacity, with four comfortable huts that accommodate 6 people each, a camping ground, ablution facilities and a kitchen-dining area.
Shewula is a real community, so be prepared – everything is likely to be an adventure to you.
Start your day by assisting herd boys in driving cattle to the dip or help the ladies to collect water from the springs. Later, take a guided walk down the Lubombo escarpment into the Shewula Nature Reserve, with its diverse birdlife and ancient ironwood forests. On the way, your guide will entertain you with tales and fables about the local wildlife. You can even taste some of the edible fruit in the forest. Take a cool dip in the river as the sun reaches its peak before ambling to the top again.
The afternoon promises an opportunity to take a cultural tour through the Shewula community, halting for a chat here and there, sampling local beer and foods. Hear all about the Nswayi sacred forest and stop at the chief’s umphakatsi (kraal or homestead) to hear how the community is administered in an ancient feudal manner. Or visit a Sangoma (traditional healer) whose skills include knowledge of powerful local herbs and the ability to communicate with the spirit world. Last, but not least, the Shewula Mountain Camp offers a grandstand view of the sun dipping into the far-distant horizon. There is no better place to sip an ice-cold beer or open a bottle of wine.
For those wishing to explore further afield, there is the wula-wula trail, which leads from Shewula through the adjacent Mlawula Nature Reserve. Other attractions in the area include a traditional medicinal plants nursery, the Leopard trail and caves, and a trip to the Mbuluzi gorge.