Swazi Trails is pleased today to announce its appointment as the official reservation agents for the soon to be launched Maputo-Manzini Cross-border Ferry. The ferry will provide a new and efficient means of travelling between Mozambique and Swaziland. The ferry, which is based on hovercraft technology will initially operate one return trip per day between the capital of Mozambique and Swaziland’s commercial hub of Manzini. This frequency will be increased to two departures per day as demand increases. The hovercraft will make use of the Rio Maputo – Lusutfu River waterway which links the two countries.
Swazi Trail Managing Director, Darron Raw, was very pleased with the development: ” Our initial involvement with this project was purely as consultants. As white-water rafting operators on the Great Usutu River for the past 20 years we have developed intimate knowledge of this river and were able to provide precise guidance on route choice and the avoidance of hazards. However, we are also now Swaziland’s leading supplier of online booking services, through our involvement with the global group whl.travel, so we made a pitch for the appointment as local booking agents for the project, which we were successful in securing.”
Raw was in fact the first person to do a Source-to-Sea descent of the Great Usutu River in 1997, when he and Johan Radcliffe paddled the river from its source near Ermelo in South Africa, right to Maputo in 11 days.
“And no – unfortunately this ferry won’t be able to reach Ermelo,” comments Raw, ” the ferry will dock at Sidvokodvo, just outside Manzini, as this is the last point that is accessible by a vessel of this nature. Further upstream the gradients become too steep.”
The good news is that the trip will be a lot faster than paddling downstream by kayak. The hovercraft will connect Manzini with Maputo in a little under 4 hours, travelling at an average speed of 80km/h. Passengers will be shuttled from the new Sidvokodvo dock to the international terminus in Manzini by local coach operators Intamakuphile Coach.
Wandile Dlamini, a director of Intamakuphile added his enthusiasm for the project. ” The recent trial trip, although very hush-hush, was an eye-opener. This hovercraft, which seats over 120 passengers just flies over water, sand and even rocks. It can go upstream and downstream equally easily. As Swazis we are not much used to travelling by water, we I think it won’t be long before this is accepted… maybe even Bemanti will give it a try…” he mused.
Whilst the project has remained a guarded secret for commercial reasons it is clear that certain businessmen were privy to the opportunities that this new transport route presents.
Tums du Pont, whose recently built Tum’s Waterworld overlooks the ferry docking site, and Nkonyeni Golf Estate, which already has 80 top quality hotel beds available, are two venues that are sure to cash in.
“We will be offering residents of Maputo special golfing packages,” confirmed Resort Manager Julius Steyn, ” and we predict that this will become a major attraction to Southern Africa. The whole journey is magnificent, passing through Bay of Maputo and up the Rio Maputo, across the flood plains near Salamanga and then between the sheer cliffs of the Usutu Gorge to Big Bend, Siphofaneni and beyond.”
Due to Customs and Immigration reasons the ferry will not stop anywhere en route, with officials being based at the existing Maputo harbour offices and a new facility at Sidvokodvo. This was not a popular decision however and it is believed that the matter will be raised shortly in Parliament.
Siphofaneni Member of Parliament, the Honourable Gundwane Gamedze was reported to be particularly upset. “Why Sidvokodvo and not Siphofaneni?” he complained. “We have magnificent natural hot springs here, that are just waiting to be developed, and Hilton Hotels have long been interested in developing this site,” he said, ” Siphofaneni is much more central as a transport hub and we are sick and tired of the Lubombo region always being bypassed by development, I am going to raise it in the House tomorrow – with no disrespect to the Mozambique developers of this project, but something smells very fishy about how this decision was made.”
For more information, visit: www.swazi.travel