My MTN Bushfire Festival experience

When you notice people returning to a festival a second and third time in a row, it must be good. So this year I made sure to be at MTN Bushfire Festival in Swaziland in May. It was my first time in Swaziland and I was so happy to be there. For those that don’t know, Bushfire festival is a 3 day art and music festival that takes place annually in Malkern’s Valley, Swaziland.

Getting to Bushfire Festival

Road trip! It was a 4 and a half hour drive away from Joburg. A group of friends were planning to go for the festival and I joined in on their plan. The road trip was smooth and fun and went by pretty quickly – all the girl chat made the time go by. Remember that you will need money for the tollgates along the way.

The border is quite painless – it might have helped that we got there early. We spent about an hour or less at the border. There is no visa requirement for South Africans entering Swaziland, so all you need is your valid passport.

Remember to enable roaming before you cross the border if you would like your cellphone line to continue working in Swaziland. Alternatively, purchase a sim card in Swaziland. It was helpful that someone brought a GPS navigator that we could use to navigate in Swaziland instead of using Google Maps on our cellphones as we usually do.

Accommodation for Bushfire Festival

There is a large and vibey campsite right next to the festival venue where a lot of my friends were staying. It somehow just works that a bunch of strangers are all camping on a field alongside a never ending party. It’s a vibe! You can chill in the comfort of your tent whenever you need to and return to the festival when your favourite artist is performing. Visit Bushfire Festival’s website for details about the camping options at Bushfire Festival.

Ok so I didn’t camp. I stayed in a hotel called The George Hotel and drove to the festival each day. The hotel has a pool and serves buffet breakfast daily It’s a 30 minute drive away from the festival.

The George Hotel in Swaziland
The George Hotel, Swaziland

I got a lot of judgement on social media for this decision as many felt it is important to camp at the festival for an authentic experience. What’s your opinion? I say do your trip however you want to. I don’t mind camping and would consider camping in the future. If you choose to camp, you have the option of purchasing a camping space and bringing your own equipment or purchasing a ready erected tented camp. For all ticket options visit the bushfire festival website.

Campsite setup at Bushfire Festival
Campsite at Bushfire Festival

Money matters

Tickets go on sale months before the festival and they always sell out. Early bird tickets are already sold for the 2019 festival. The next phase of tickets are pre-sale tickets which are available for R800 for full festival access. Bushfire festival is taking place on 24-26 May 2019. Make sure to get your ticket in time.

In terms of money spent while at the festival, MTN bushfire was cashless so you needed to upload money onto your wristband in order to buy anything at the festival. This was an effective way of helping me spend near to nothing at the festival because I was too lazy to do it and because I accidentally snapped my bank card into 3 pieces while at the festival. There is a wide variety of food to choose from and a lot of bars so you won’t have to queue for a long time for anything.

Keep in mind that you can take food and drinks (including alcohol) into the campsite but cannot take them from the campsite to the festival.

The music at Bushfire Festival

There are a number of different stages within the festival grounds. Some have performances and others are more like parties with a dj. Bushfire festival publishes a performance schedule before the festival begins which lists the performances taking place on each stage. You can expect international artists and a wide range of genres – very wide. Bushfire publishes a detailed performance list before the festival which tells who is performing when and on which stage.

I spent the first night right in front of the main stage. I didn’t know most of the artists performing but went with an open mind eager to discover something new. My absolute favourite performance was by singer, Nakhane. His music is sooo good – please check him out. I knew I’d love him when he walked onto stage in a sequins silver suit and eyeshadow. I even tried to copy his eye shadow the next day.

Nakhane Performing at Bushfire Festival
Nakhane performing at Bushfire Festival 2018

The vibe at Bushfire Festival

You can expect a mixed crowd of all ages and nationalities. In fact, each year this festival brings people together from over 60 different countries – as mentioned on their website. It is a family friendly festival so children are welcome. Besides the stages there are also markets, a food area, a wifi zone and more interactive stalls. We set up blankets and chairs on the grass in front of the main stage and played games and enjoyed the music during the day and partied all night. I bumped into a lot of people that I know and met a lot of new people. Over 26 000 people attend the festival each year! It’s a massive event.

Travel blogger at Bushfire Festival
That’s me enjoying Bushfire Festival

There is still plenty of time to decide whether you will be attending Bushfire festival next year. I hope this blog post has given you an idea of what to expect to make your decision easier.

Friends at Bushfire Festival
Me, @Black_tonystark and @mgeezy90 at Bushfire Festival 2018