The Maguga Dam houseboat experience in Swaziland is something that will appeal to the free-spirited and independent-minded. Why stay in an ordinary hotel, lodge or B&B room when you could be master of your own ship for a night or two?
Curious? Like to know more? Fortunately two travellers, Chris and Courtney kindly provided us with a a great blow-by-blow or should we say splash-by-splash account of what it is to rent and sleep on a houseboat in Swaziland. Read on…
“Hi – this experience combines luxury accommodation with the adventure of having (and driving!) your own boat. Chris and I like to stay at unique places full of character, and thought the Maguga Dam Houseboat would fit the bill. The houseboat certainly did not disappoint; in fact, it went above and beyond our expectations.
We booked and paid for our stay online via Swazi Trail’s site www.swazi.travel. This was ideal as we could then simply arrive straight at the dam without worrying to visit the boats owners who are based 40min away at Hawane. Upon arrival, we were first directed down to the waters edge by a security guard at the Maguga Dam public parking. After unloading our groceries, we then drove our vehicle back up to the secure parking. The boat itself was introduced to us by a very helpful young man named ‘Kingdom’. He showed us how the boat is operated, what all the features are and of course, where to moor our boat for the night. A note for those eager to venture off by themselves straight away: expect Kingdom to stick around for about 45 minutes to an hour. He makes sure that everything on the boat is good to go and that guests fully understand how to operate it. This way guests are ensured they can enjoy their houseboat experience to the fullest. Once Kingdom’s certain of this, he will depart from the houseboat on the dingy that he tied onto it.
We asked Kingdom lots of questions like how the fish finder worked, what to do about extra fuel, and if we could use a fishing pole. He was patient, polite, and full of information. By the time he waved us good-bye, we felt very comfortable and excited to get our adventure fully under way! We found the ‘Fish Eagle’ houseboat easy to operate, and really enjoyed cruising around the dam. It comes equipped with two full petrol tanks. One is included in the rental price, while the other is for optional use. If you drive the boat at its top speed you will use more fuel than at an easy-going speed. We found that the latter option is more desirable, even more so since we could enjoy the quiet environment nature of the dam with a less noisy engine.
Maguga Dam is a massive lake created by a hydrodam. At some places it’s over a 100 meters deep, but notably towards the shore it can get quite shallow. One of our favorite features of the houseboat was a sonar device called a ‘Fishfinder’. This handy gadget gives you a depth reading every few seconds, so we always knew where it was deep enough to cruise. Unsurprisingly, it is also capable of finding fish which is helpful for those who want to reel something in for on the braai! While we really enjoyed watching fish appear on the screen, and then looking for them below, our fishing skills were clearly not up to standard in terms of hooking and landing them.
But the boat comes equipped with other features as well, of course. We especially enjoyed the boat’s sundeck, which is accessible by a short ladder. From this elevated position you have an even better view of Maguga’s majesty especially once the sun is setting. First we enjoyed a chilled bottle of champagne, and later brought some wine, olives and cheese up there to enjoy the dam from a fantastic sundowner spot. The boat came with both wine and champagne glasses, which made the experience feel even more authentic. That sundowner was definitely one of our highlights!
Kingdom told us that before darkness sets in, it’s a good idea to find out where the nearest mooring spots are. Since there are only a few designated places on the dam where you can tie up your boat for the night, it’s best to do this with some daylight. Mooring spots are indicated on the dam’s map which is right next to the Fishfinder. We found a nice secluded spot (which wasn’t hard, as we were the only boat on the entire dam!) and with the boat secure for the night we ducked down into the galley. Here we discovered the near-endless possibilities of the kitchen. It comes with a fridge, an oven, a gas stove (2 burners) and all the crockery and cutlery you will ever need. We decided to make Indian Curry for our dinner. This always involves a lot of cutting and chopping, so we were quite pleased to find sharp knives and a cutting board as well. We were also surprised to see that the boat even came with an oven, and considered all the dishes we could make next time such as chicken lasagne or fresh warm brownies for dessert. On top of the features inside the kitchen, there’s also a braai for those who were lucky enough with angling (sadly, not us). The only thing we found that the kitchen does lack is a power point. In fact, the boat doesn’t have any at all so make sure you bring your electronic devices fully charged. For for emergency matters, the boat does come with its own mobile phone and local SIM card!
After you’ve prepared your gourmet meal, you can enjoy your dinner on the sundeck if the weather allows it (it can be a bit tricky though, getting everything up that small ladder!). We decided to seat ourselves at the cosy kitchen table, since the cushions were quite comfortable to sit on. Which is good since, with this table folded away, they create the mattress of the second double bed (the main bed being at the front of the boat). Since there were only 2 of us, we kept the kitchen table up and found it was well-suited for playing card or boardgames into the small hours of the night. We had some great laughs while challenging each other in Trivial Pursuit, which was one of the board games included with the boat. We also played some cards, but for this we had to use our own set. We didn’t feel like watching a movie, but if the weather turns on you or if you want another way to relax in the evening, using the boat’s tv/dvd set can cater for that as well. Before we finally turned in for the night, we took a peek outside and we were amazed at how many stars we could see. Though it was a bit chilly, we grabbed one of the extra blankets and laid on the top sundeck to check out the skies. It was well worth another gaze!
Waking up on a boat is quite a pleasant surprise for those who haven’t experienced it before. The crisp morning air at Maguga Dam soon woke us up from a very peaceful sleep. At first we didn’t even realize where we were, but a quick glance out the 360 degree view windows gave us a beautiful reminder. For those who wish to wake up a little bit more, you can enjoy a hot-water shower in the combined toilet-shower cabin: it’s a bit confined, but it works. As we meandered outside on the deck, we found ourselves instantly rewarded with lovely views while being surrounded by the lush hills of neighbouring Malolotja Nature Reserve. Morning birds swarmed over the dam, and the only disturbance in the pristine waters was from the gentle rocking of our own boat. The rest of our day was filled with lazing around on the deck, reading our books, attempting to fish and splashing around in the chilly but refreshing water. Sadly since we only booked for one night, this was time to lift the anchor and head back. However, we can confidently look back on our Maguga Dam Houseboat experience as a very special kind of luxury stay indeed. Next time, we’ll stay even longer!”
To book a stay on the Fish Eagle House Boat on Maguga Dam visit: Maguga Houseboat online bookings