Lodge review: Umdoni Guesthouse

Look out for the large cock, she directed. Turn there.

I was looking forward to seeing this grand feature, but we didn’t. It was dark when we found the little gravel road leading to Umdoni Guesthouse. It was only the next day when we woke up to green hills and pineapple fields when I spotted the said cock. It was a huge rooster on the side of the road opposite the elegant guesthouse’s turn off.
I was slightly disappointed; maybe I was expecting something else.

Umdoni is near Malkerns in central Swaziland, where two rows of fever trees lead you to the guesthouse with crisp green lawns neatly tucked into flower beds. You will be greeted by boisterous dogs and a smiling Jane Gilbert. Born and raised in Swaziland, she has the tips on the best restaurants, where to buy the most original crafts and will take you to see pineapples being harvested. There are two cottages, each with two rooms, a lounge and a small kitchen area and rooms can be occupied individually or booked as a unit. English elegance – soft florals, crisp linen and four-posters beds – is the style here. Classy but not snobbish.


Umdoni’s room are about the size of school halls and well-equipped with firm beds and good linen, huge bathrooms and enough warm blankets for cold Swaziland winters. The lounges have stacks of magazines, travel books and local newspapers and the fridges are stocked with icy beers, gin and tonic water…


Accompanied to birdsong in the lush garden, breakfast is an extensive affair at Umdoni. Muesli with yogurt and fresh fruit salad is followed by an English breakfast and excellent tea. The cottages have small kitchens to prepare a snack, but best to visit nearby restaurants for lunch and dinner. (I enjoyed a delicious salmon supper at Malandela’s and as expected, their beer was ice cold.)

Umdoni is a good base to explore the crafters in the area, visit Malandela’s and is central enough for day trips into Ezulweni valley – think horse riding, hiking, Mlilwane Nature Reserve, a cultural village and golf course. Just hanging around on the farm is also good enough. Play tennis, swim, cycle and explore the extensive gardens will recharge your batteries after too much cavorting around. Stay for two days.

I liked the scale. Huge beds, huge smiles, huge garden.

I did not like that we could not find the cock. Swaziland’s roads are not well signposted and it took us a while to find the correct turn-off.

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