One of the main urban centers on the meanders of the Maputo River, appropriately-named Big Bend (the town does actually occupy a big bend on the water) has been a center for Swaziland’s important sugarcane farming industry for decades.
It’s a charming place, with a clutch of shops and inns, but the setting is what really counts.
In the distance, the grass plains and agricultural land give way to the rugged rises of the Lubombo Mountains.
Small eco-lodges hide in the hills nearby, walking paths beckon as they delve into the deep-cut gorges and canyons to the east, and the green lawns of the Mhlosinga Nature Reserve are also on the menu.
The Great Usuthu is the largest river in Eswatini (Swaziland). It enters the country on the western border with South Africa and leaves through the Lubombo mountains east of Big Bend for its final journey to the Indian Ocean. Its lower reaches are home to hippos, crocodiles, and tiger fish, while its waters are the lifeline for Eswatini’s sugar estates. Swazi Trails in the Ezulwini Valley offers full-day and half-day river rafting trips on a remote stretch of the Usuthu, where the river thunders through wild gorges and meanders through rural communities. Rafters will see impressive rock stacks, riverbank life, and a fair amount of wildlife – including the odd small crocodile. They will also get drenched: for most of the year this is a Grade III (medium difficulty) rafting river, but in full flow, some sections can rise to Grade V and even VI.
Big Bend lies 80km southeast of Manzini on the MR8. Built to serve the sugar industry, it is a regional center for southeast Swaziland. Emerald-green cane fields have supplanted the dusty bush, and visitors will find shops, services, and a handful of places to stay. From Big Bend, the road continues south over the Lavumisa border into South Africa and joins the main highway south to Durban.
How to get to Great Usutu River & Big Bend
Great Usutu River & Big Bend is located 120 kilometers from Mbabane city.
Where to stay Great Usutu River & Big Bend
Travelers wanting to explore can stay at places like Nkonyeni lodge and Golf estate, the Lebombo Villa B&B, and Brookside lodge.