African Quiver assists BNN-Vara with Swazi Reed Dance

The Kingdom of Swaziland is currently experiencing one of its most famous festivals, the Swazi Reed Dance or more accurately, The Umhlanga Festival.

A most colourful festival, it has reportedly seen the registration of over 90 000 maidens. While the festival is predominantly associated with exciting attire, it is severely misunderstood and often viciously portrayed in the international media.

African Quiver has been contracted to facilitate unprecedented access for television crews for BNN Vara whose intent it is to arrive at the festival with one set of expectations and leave with another and then portray it accurately.

To stay in touch with on the ground info from Saturday 29 August, tune into @africanquiver and follow the updates on Face Book – African Quiver Tourism



The wild horses of Kaapsehoop

Did you know that the beautiful province of Mpumalanga is home to one of the only wild herds of horses in the country?

Running free across the grass plains on the edge of the escarpment you will find a herd of around 200 wild Boerperd horses.
There is a little speculation regarding how these horses came to make this town their home but the general consensus is that they are the remnants from the gold mining days and boer war steeds that were abandoned when no longer needed.

The horses of Kaapsehoop have developed a very special relationship with the town in which they live. This is a mutual relationship whereby the altitude of the town (1712m) means that the horses are safe from the dreaded African Horse Sickness disease which plagues equines across the rest of the country. The horses in turn create a unique tourism interest bringing equine enthusiasts and photographers from far and wide to Kaapsehoop.

Meeting the wild horses of Kaapsehoop is just one of our equestrians tours available. We can also take you into the heart of the bushveld to meet the Big 5 on horseback, you can experience the core of Swazi culture on a horse back ride through Swazi rural community land or how about galloping down the white sand beaches of Mozambique before taking a dip in the warm Indian Ocean waters with your steed.

For more information on our equestrian tours contact us at


2015 Reed Dance Dates Confirmed – Umhlanga Festival, Swaziland

This is Swaziland’s best known cultural event, and has a more open feel than the Incwala. In this eight-day ceremony, young girls cut reeds, present them to the Queen Mother (Indlovukazi) – ostensibly to repair the windbreak around her royal residence – and then dance in celebration. Up to 40,000 girls take part, dressed up in brightly coloured attired – making it one of the biggest and most spectacular cultural events in Africa.

The proper festivities kick off on day six, when dancing gets under way in the afternoon. Each group drops their reeds outside the Queen Mother’s quarters then moves to the main arena, where they dance and sing their songs. The dancing continues on day seven, when the king is present. Each regiment dances before him in turn.

Little can prepare you for the sheer scale of the pageantry, with column upon column of girls advancing like vast ululating centipedes across the parade grounds of Ludzidzini, each dissolving in turn into the pulsating mass of bodies around the royal kraal. Up close, it’s an almost overwhelming immersion in noise and colour, as the girls stamp, sing and sway in step, anklets rattling, naked flesh and dazzling costume blurring into a living, chanting kaleidoscope. The warrior escorts, adorned with cow tails and clutching knob-stick and shield, are sternly intent on their duties and seem contemptuous of tourists, but the girls are all smiles. It’s Swaziland’s biggest holiday and, after days of tramping the hillsides, cutting reeds and camping out, they’re determined to party.

Today the Umhlanga is as well attended as ever. Indeed cultural historians marvel at how its ever-increasing popularity in Swaziland defies the apparent decline of traditional culture elsewhere. It offers the visitor a unique experience. There are no special visitor arrangements – except for a special grandstand to accommodate visiting dignitaries – but simply turn up at Ludzidizini and follow the crowds. Police will direct you where to go, and where to park. Officially, permits are required for photography.

The event takes place around the last week of August / first week of September. The dates for the event are released relatively close to the time as they derive from ancestral astrology. The 2015 Reed Dance will begin on the 25th of August, with the main day (day 7) scheduled for the 31st of August.


Day One – 25 August 2015

The girls gather at the Queen Mother’s royal village. Today this is at Ludzidzini, in Sobhuza’s time it was at Lobamba. They come in groups from the 200 or so chiefdoms and are registered for security. Men, usually four, supervise them, appointed chiefs. They sleep in the huts of relatives in the village or in classrooms of nearby schools. This is a very exciting time for the maidens.

Day Two – 26 August 2015

The girls are separated into two groups, the older (about 14 to 22 years) and the younger (about 8 to 13 years). In the afternoon, they march to the reed-beds with their supervisors. The older girls often march about 30 kilometers, while the younger girls march about ten kilometers. If the older girls are sent further, government will provide trucks for their transport.

Day Three – 27 August 2015

The girls cut their reeds, usually about ten to twenty, using long knives. Each girl ties her reeds into a bundle. Nowadays they use strips of plastic for the tying, but those mindful of tradition will still cut grass and plaint it into rope.

Day Four – 28 August 2015

In the afternoon, the girls set off to return to the Queen Mother’s village, carrying their bundles of reeds. Again they return at night. This is done “to show they traveled a long way.”

Day Five – 29 August 2015

A day of rest where the girls make final preparations to their hair and dancing costumes. After all that walking, who doesn’t deserve a little pampering?

Day Six – 30 August 2015

First day of dancing, from about three to five in the afternoon. The girls drop their reeds outside the Queen Mother’s quarters. They move to the arena and dance, keeping their groups and each group singing different songs at the same time.

Day Seven – 31 August 2015

Second and last day of dancing. His Majesty the King will be present.

Day Eight – 1 September 2015

King commands that a number of cattle (perhaps 20 -25) be slaughtered for the girls. They receive pieces of meat and go home.

Makuleke Limpopo River Flood Plains

#KrugerBucket List – Pafuri Region

African Quiver’s weekly ‪#‎KrugerBucketList must visit spot is the ancient and awe-inspiring northern-most Pafuri region.

Arguably one of few remaining true wilderness areas in southern Africa this area is the most bio-diverse region of the Kruger National Park and is the most scenically exquisite area also. As much as 75% of Kruger’s total biodiversity occurs here in an area only slightly more than 1% of its total size.

The area spans 24,000 hectares, stretching between the Luvuvhu River and Limpopo River and is a private concession within the Kruger National Park namely the Makuleke Concession.
Named after the Makuleke community, a clan of Shangaan speakers who occupied the Pafuri Region right up to 1969 when they were forcibly removed in the interests of consolidating the Kruger National Park.

In a historic deal with the government in 1998, a resolution was reached and the Makuleke clan agreed to enter into a private-sector partnership to develop new tourism facilities in the north.

This area is a favourite winter grazing ground for vast herds of Elephant, Buffalo and Eland but Lion, Leopard and general game also call this area home. The Limpopo River accommodates countless pods of Hippo and floats of Crocodiles and the area is the best area for bird watching in the Kruger National Park with many species reaching the southernmost extent of their range here.

This ancient area is also one of South Africa’s most anthropologically rich regions and home to one of our earliest stone age sites. Large stone hand axes from the site are believed to be around 1,5 million years old! Ancient burial grounds, rock art sites, pottery and stone tool manufacturing sites are also present.

We love this area for its vast mature fever tree forests which stretch out across the Limpopo floodplains and ancient Baobabs trees which still stand as they have for the past 5000 years.

There is nothing quite like sitting quietly among the Fever Tree forests waiting for an old bull elephant to amble past while the baby-like cry of the Trumpeter Hornbill’s echos eerily through the forests and out across the mighty Limpopo River.

If you would like to book a trip to this incredible region, get in touch with us on


The annual Rhino Conservation Awards

The annual Rhino Conservation Awards, which were founded by Dr Larry Hansen, are held in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) of South Africa and the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa (GRAA). Co-founder of the Awards, Ms Xiaoyang Yu, founding partner of China New Enterprise Investment (CNEI), co-sponsored the Awards with ZEISS. The awards were held in the same week as World Ranger Day, which is celebrated on the 31st July. – See more at:

The recent Annual Rhino Conservation Awards held at the Montecasino represent, on face value, a thorough appreciation of the plight of Rhinos. By delving a little bit, the organisers have unearthed unsung heroes and thereby provided a rare insight into the complexities of conservation. Most often, it is unglamorous and dangerous. In some instances there is serious political interference that would make even the hardiest conservationist hesitate over the extent to which he or she will protect their asset.

Conservation has to contend with economics as well as human and animal rights. These are burning issues for any range state, especially those that have serious social issues to address.

While all the winners at these awards are deserved, special mention must go to the pocket rocket nation of The Kingdom of Swaziland. To have achieved such results as they have requires a closer analysis. Swaziland is infamous for her alarming HIV infection rate, infamous for the “ruthless dictator, “ King Mswati III yet, look at how important the rhino and indeed conservation is for the King and his Kingdom. Stepping ever so briefly away from the issue at hand – I find that such an award reveals something about Mswati and the way he is portrayed. It leads me to conclude that the major issues we hear emanating from that tiny, landlocked country deal mainly with ideological issues. Mahatma Ghandi is credited for saying “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

What does this award therefore REALLY say about King Mswati and Swaziland? It shows, according to Ghandi, that Swaziland’s moral progress is leaps and bounds ahead of most countries!

To further that claim, King Mswati has been unwavering in his father’s legacy of being staunch supporters of conservation. King Sobhuza II is recognised as the enabler of conservation in Swaziland and that was no mean feat. He called the Nation to hear him declare the might with which he was prepared to protect and assist those involved in conservation and he sounded a warning to poachers to cease and desist. In fact, it may be argued that continuing this legacy has been more difficult for the reigning monarch who has to contend with a potent wave of supposed human wildlife abuses while protecting the dwindling natural habitats of Swaziland and balancing that with the needs of the poorer rural areas.

Fortunately the constant between the two monarchs has been the Reilly led, Big Game Parks of Swaziland. Formerly, Ted Reilly helped craft legislation with the Monarch’s approval that today has resulted in the records recognised by the Rhino Conservation Awards. Ted and BGP have lived this ethos, and with the new generation of leaders at BGP, with the Reilly influence still true to the founding principles, many range states can look with envy at Swaziland who have managed to combine, legislative support along with practical support for the very serious issue of conservation – the rhinos and elephants of Swaziland in particular being the greatest beneficiaries.

Well done to the organisers of these awards and to HM King Mswati III for being recognised as the most efficient conservationist today.