In less than two weeks Swaziland’s famous music festival Bushfire will open its doors for a weekend of international music. Last year I wrote about some of Swaziland’s best places to visit in conjunction with attending the festival; now I have attended and can share numerous tips to make the most of your visit to Swaziland.
A screenshot from the Bushfire homepage with Sands performing. Can you find me?
The festival is going electronic this year. There will be RFID wristbands you can load with money and then use to pay for food and drink inside the festival. Cash will also be accepted at the craft market.
The lilangeni is equal to the South African rand: E=R.
It can be relatively warm during the day and then nearly freeze at night. I was wearing short sleeves and skirts during the day and adding pants, gloves, and my puffy at night. If you are camping, be prepared for frosty late nights and early mornings. It’s been getting down to 55*F/13*C the last few nights. It is dark by 5:30 p.m. Rain is possible (it last rained on 12 May this year).
Expect to pay between E75-100 for full on meals in the food court. There was one cafe with limited options inside the campground. The food court restaurants are within the festival gates, so they are not accessible until about 5 p.m. on Friday. The Malandela’s restaurant will be available for dinner on Thursday night. There were some cheaper options inside and you could get a quarter chicken outside for E20. Bring food to save money.
There are a handful of stores within 30 minutes (one grocery store and a large variety of produce are 1 km from the festival grounds) or so if you need to shop.
You can take alcohol into the campsite if you want to drink without paying for it inside the festival. The bars inside the festival are supposed to provide drinking water. There is drinking water available at a tap in the campground. I had no problems taking a water bottle into the festival.
Campground showers and toilets
These 100 percent surprised me in a good way. The facilities were clean and filled with toilet paper. There was no soap last year. There’s a long row of showers and another long row of toilets. Each will have a separate line. The shower line is very long in the morning, so showering at alternative times is recommended. The showers and toilets are open air with a locking door. The showers have a release button on a timer.
Online tickets are sold out, but some are still available at brick and mortar locations in Swaziland. Others will be available for resale. Check with me if you are still in need of a ticket.
For everyone camping, you check in across from the Moya Center at the kaMavis stesh. There will be a small structure located next to the camping parking lot. You will receive both your camping and festival bracelets here.
You can charge your phone at charging points inside the festival if you bring your own cord. Swaziland uses South African and European outlet shapes.
It’s not fully announced, because there are always a few last minute surprises. There are always a few Swazi artists who perform. Sands verbally confirmed to me that he is performing, but he has not been announced. Velemseni is performing, and everyone should go see her. I ate dinner with her at last year’s festival without recognizing her. She’s really cool.
It turns out Velemseni sings a duet with Sands, which was my favorite non-traditional siSwati song even before I knew it is Velemseni singing the female part. You can check out a video of this song below. (It’s from a fan, so the sound isn’t great.)
There are also some well-known South African artists performing, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Check out the lineup here.
Arriving in Swaziland
The wait at the border was miles long last year. The campground will open on Thursday this year to hopefully reduce the border traffic from Joburg.
The khumbi/taxi from Joburg costs E220. It leaves when full from the taxi lot just east of Park Station in the CBD. It’s located in the northernmost row of the lot. It’s another E10 or E15 to the festival from the main bus ranks depending on if you get off in Mbabane or Manzini.
Anyone is welcome to visit my homestead before or after the festival or on Saturday or Sunday morning during the festival. Make a comment with your email or WhatsApp number and I’ll get in touch.
Special note for PCVs
I know that some PCVs drove to and in Swaziland last year. Peace Corps will admin-sep you for this if they find out.