Our Fabulous Neighbours

Say hello to Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland!

  • by Angie Snyman
  • Apr 19, 2018
  • 550
  • News

Say hello to Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland!

While a major tourism attraction to most southern African countries is naturally the incredible wildlife, each country is distinctive and idiosyncratic in its own special way. Whether it's the foods and drinks you consume, memorabilia you take home, the people and interwoven cultural heritage, or your bucket-list experiences on the varying terrain, its essence will be imprinted in your mind forever. Venture across our borders and go and see for yourself...

1.    Mozambique

Fulfilling your idyllic beach holiday fantasy needn’t mean hefty plane ticket costs when the spectacular Mozambique coastline and the semi-deserted islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago are a relatively short distance away. Mozambique is considered one of the best-value travel destinations in the world.

FOOD Mozambique’s historical Portuguese influence comes through strongly in the food… until you’ve eaten piri-piri chicken and freshly caught seafood in a beach restaurant, you’ve not experienced Mozambique!

DRINK 2M (pronounced “doish-em”) beer, as well as Laurentina Clara pale and Preta dark lager, two of the most-awarded and exported beers in Africa, produced by the same Mozambican brewery, Cervejas de Moçambique. <please deep-etch 2M beer image>

Stained red lips are also a phenomenon in Mozambique – the after-effect of a favourite drink called “R&R” (Tipo Tinto rum & Spar-letta Morango, a raspberry drink) which was stumbled upon originally, quite by coincidence.

The website for Jolly Roger, that promises to be “friendly, clean & convenient” and “the only overnight accommodation and restaurant exactly midway between Maputo and Vilanculo”, states that since R&R’s invention, “holidays in Mozambique were never the same … everyone was walking (staggering) around with a red mouth, innocently saying that they have not been drinking”!

Drink it at home! R&R is now available for about R22 a bottle/R110 a six pack at Pick n Pay bottle stores (for those with an extreme sweet tooth!) <ends><please deep-etch R&R image>

SOUVENIRS Bright wax-printed fabric; wooden carvings and bead necklaces

UNMISSABLE EXPERIENCES Scuba diving and snorkelling in the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean teeming with sea life and coral reefs; take a dhow ride to the isolated beaches of Benguerra Island; spend a day or two in Maputo visiting the huge curio markets, history museums, great restaurants and live music at night.

CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS Marrabenta is a popular style of Mozambican dance music combining traditional Mozambican dance rhythms with Portuguese folk music. Take home a CD as a memento!

Drive time: +/- 6 hours from Joburg to Maputo

Currency & conversion: Mozambican Metical (MZN) divided into 100 Centavos; R0.21 = MZN1

In the southern parts, Rands are often also accepted to pay for accommodation.


2.    Botswana

From being one of the poorest countries in Africa in 1966, Botswana is now the third-largest producer of diamonds in the world with a growth rate and economic buoyancy that’s unmatched in Africa.

FOOD Seswaa stew (red meat, especially beef or goat, boiled with “just enough salt”) with maize or sorghum pap and tasty wild spinach; Bambara groundnut snack; dried fish; Kalahari truffles (a desert species of mushroom with a rich, earthy flavour); and for the truly adventurous, phane (Mopane worms)

DRINK St. Louis Lager brewed by Kgalagadi Breweries in capital town, Gaborone; Bostwana produces “Africa's only energy drink”, fruity-flavoured Kabisa, best served ice-cold; locals also enjoy Chibuku, a commercially produced and packaged beer brewed from either maize or sorghum and enjoyed in many African countries, as well as homemade ginger beer <please deep-etch St. Louis beer image>

SOUVENIRS Traditional San crafts, including hand-dyed textiles, decorated bags, leather aprons, bows and arrows, musical instruments and woven mats, Botswana agate chalcedony quartz

UNMISSABLE EXPERIENCES Mokoro dugout canoes in the Okavango Delta; wildlife particularly on an Okavango Delta river safari; birdlife in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS D'kar Village, home to a large community of Ncoakhoe San who operate an art gallery, cultural centre and wildlife ranch, and Xai Xai Village along the Limpopo River, home to some of the last remaining Bushman, otherwise known as the Basarwa people, in the world; the ginormous lone baobab trees

Drive time: +/- 4 hours from Joburg to Gaborone

Currency & conversion: Botswana Pula (BWP) divided into 100 Thebe; R1.26 = BWP1

Major credit cards accepted. ATMs in the main towns only.


Did you know? Taylor Swift’s music video for Wildest Dreams was shot in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. 

3.    Namibia­

Namibia is more than an undulating desert with one lonely little town, there's heaps to do there besides dune buggy rides and sand boarding, although these are impressive and a must-see and do!

FOOD Eisbein and sauerkraut in a restaurant in the still very German-influenced town of Windhoek, Lüderitz oysters

DRINK Locally produced range of Windhoek beers and imported Erdinger German beer. Namibian Breweries Limited (NBL) brew all of their beers according to the Reinheitsgebot (German purity law), in practice since 1516.

SOUVENIRS Carved wooden masks and figurines of Himba locals; colourful material dolls; beaded trinkets from the Namibia Craft Centre, Windhoek

UNMISSABLE EXPERIENCES Free-roaming cheetahs & desert lions, completely adapted to the arid environment; rock art; the Skeleton Coast and seal colonies; interestingly, many streets in Windhoek are named after dictators as many socialist countries who opposed capitalist countries helped Namibia gain its independence 23 years ago!

CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS Himba tribe with their earthy braids; colourful material clothes and long, rolled up Herero headdress (to this day, Herero women wear voluminous Victorian-style dresses, complete with horn-shaped headgear, as they hold on tight to their style of dressing, influenced by the wives of German missionaries and colonialists who first came to the country in the early 1900s); churches and modern buildings with foreign influences exist alongside one another, like the Independence Memorial Museum (referred to as the “Perculator” since it looks like one) built with North Korea's financial assistance.

The Namib Desert is believed to be the oldest in the world!

Drive time: +/- 14.5 hours from Joburg via Botswana to Windhoek

Currency & conversion: Namibian Dollar (NAD) divided into 100 Cents is equal to R1, which is also accepted as legal currency. Major credit cards accepted. ATMs in the main towns only.


4.    Lesotho

The Sani Pass is a breathtaking entry point into Lesotho from South Africa's Drakensberg National Park and is the gateway to the “Roof of Africa” scenic route, linking the magnificent scenery of the two mountain ranges. Popularly described as the “Kingdom in the Sky”.

FOOD Sour sorghum porridge; after harvesting, maize and wheat are stored in exquisitely woven, giant baskets

DRINK Lesotho's trademark brew is Maluti Premium Lager, a pale lager brewed by Maluti Mountain Brewery in the capital town, Maseru. It tastes even better by a fire at the highest altitude pub in Africa – the Sani Mountain Lodge – at 2 874 metres above sea level! <please deep-etch Maluti beer image>

SOUVENIRS Basotho hats and blankets, colourful prints on handmade bowls and crockery, handwoven baskets, tapestries

UNMISSABLE EXPERIENCES African snow (AfriSki in the Maluti Mountains); the world's highest commercially operated single-drop abseil at 204 metres down the Maletsunyane Waterfall at Semonkong Lodge, which is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records; trout fishing; pony trekking through the Lesotho highlands passing remote Basotho villages with their colourful design detailing; hiking and camping is at its best in autumn!

Did you know? The large fossilised footprints of a carnivorous dinosaur dating back 200-million years ago were discovered in the Roma Valley near the National University of Lesotho in western Lesotho last year. But this isn’t the first Lesotho dinosaur to be uncovered in the country – in 1978, Lesothosaurus, a type of omnivorous dinosaur, was named by palaeontologist Peter Galton, the name meaning “lizard from Lesotho”.

CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS Old meets new in the capital town, Maseru where you'll see blanket-clad horsemen in traffic jams, and woven handiwork on pavements outside modern buildings; Thaba-Bosiu is an important historical site, the shape of its rock pinnacle, Qiloane, is the inspiration for the Basotho hat; tribal dancing and stick fighting are a must-see

Drive time: +/- 4.5 hours from Joburg to Maseru

Currency & conversion: Loti (LSL; pl. Maloti) divided into 100 Lisente is equal to R1, which is also accepted as legal currency. Major credit cards accepted fairly widely. ATMs in the main towns only, but some retailers may not accept all cards.


Drink it at home! St. Louis Lager (Botswana), 2M (Mozambique) and Maluti (Lesotho) beers are available (amongst others) in a limited-edition, imported selection of Africa's Big Six beers for R79 from Pick n Pay bottle stores.

5.    Swaziland

The smallest country in the southern hemisphere, the mountainous Kingdom of Swaziland is wedged between South Africa and Mozambique, and is known as the “Switzerland of Africa”.

FOOD Avocados and pineapples; roadside roasted mealies

DRINK Sibebe Premium Lager, brewed in the town of Matsapha by Swaziland Beverages <hold a space for Sibebe beer image please>

Sibebe beer is named after Swaziland's Sibebe Rock, which is the world’s second-largest exposed granite dome (after Uluru in Australia)

SOUVENIRS Glass-blowing and 100% recycled glassware by Ngwenya Glass; handmade candles (Swazi Candles); colourful handmade, locally harvested sisal basket-ware by Tintsaba Master Weavers (some of which can be as large as 31cm, cost US$500-600 each and take approximately 50+ hours to complete, learn more at www.tintsaba.com or visit their shop at the Watershed, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town) and Gone Rural (www.goneruralswazi.com), both are women's upliftment organisations; roadside carvings

UNMISSABLE EXPERIENCES White-water rafting; breathtaking scenery, especially in the western highlands; horse trails and hiking up Nyonyane Mountain to the craggy summit known as Execution Rock where ancient stories tell of Swazis suspected of witchcraft and criminals, forced to walk off the edge at spear-point for their crimes.

CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS Cultural villages and the friendly, welcoming and proud Swazi people; House On Fire at Malandela's in Malkern's Valley, is known to be “one of the most eclectic entertainment venues in the world”. It has the capacity to host large-scale theatrical performances, customised events and intimate gatherings for weddings etc.

MTN Bushfire is Swaziland’s internationally acclaimed music and arts festival that celebrates creative expression, proclaimed by CNN as one of the “seven African music festivals you really have to see”. This year it takes place from 25-27 May at House On Fire. Learn more at www.bush-fire.com

Drive time: +/- 4 hours from Joburg to Mbabane

Currency & conversion: Lilangeni (SZL, pl. Emalangeni) divided into 100 Cents is equal to R1, with Rands also accepted as legal tender (notes only). Remember to change currency back into Rands before leaving Swaziland to return home. Major credit cards accepted. ATMs in the main towns only.

www.thekingdomofswaziland.com <ends>

Notes for South African tourists

  • Travellers wanting to enter these southern African countries require a South African passport valid for at least six months and with at least two blank pages. No visas are needed, but do check with the consulate regarding visa requirements before travelling, in case there are changes.
  • Under 18s leaving or entering South Africa must have valid documentation and affidavits as per South African Home Affairs.
  • Vehicle licences must be valid and up to date, and your vehicle roadworthy.
  • Currency conversions correct at time of writing.

For travel planning and further information contact Alphabet Travel on 011 219 6320 or www.alphabettravel.co.za