Maguga Dam

October 2018

Maguga Dam.

One of the benefits of travelling in eSwatini is that, due to the compact size, almost everything is easily accessible. A few minutes’ drive north from Malolotja Nature Reserve lies Maguga Dam.

On my most recent visit to eSwatini I didn’t go to the dam due to very wet and cold weather while I was in the area. The photos here are from previous visits.

Built on the Komati River, the dam was constructed as a joint venture between Swaziland and South Africa under the management of the Komati Basin Water Authority. Completed in 2001, the 115m high clay core rock-fill wall is one of the highest of its kind in the world and includes a number of award winning design features.

The road across the 870m long dam wall.

This article from the main contractor’s page gives some insight into the planning and construction of the dam. And this Wikipedia article gives some interesting facts and figures, a truly impressive engineering project.

Maguga is eSwatini’s largest dam with a capacity of 332 million cubic metres and besides providing irrigation for a large area it also generates electricity for the country. Located in a stunningly beautiful setting, surrounded by mountains it is well worth a visit.

Maguga Dam is eSwatini’s largest reservoir.

The main MR1 from Mbabane to Piggs Peak crosses over the Komati river at upper end of the dam. The road descends spectacularly down towards the bridge and rises as dramatically again on the other side. The views of the dam are memorable.

The MR1 crosses the Komati river at the upper end of the dam.

Coming from the south, before beginning the decent into the valley, another road loops off the MR1 to take travellers across the dam wall before returning to the main road on the other side. This road is also tarred and the two roads form either a circular route around the dam, or a lovely alternative between Mbabane and Piggs Peak. I highly recommend doing both.

Just south of the dam wall is Maguga Lodge. The place looks quite nice, although I have never been in to see for myself. Did I mention that eSwatini always has something new to see? The lodge is also just about the only access point to any water activities on the dam.

Just north of the dam wall is a tourist centre. Local crafts can be bought here and there’s a small restaurant with a beautiful view over the dam. The food is basic but the setting is unbeatable and the beers are cold. Adjacent to the restaurant is an information centre. Ask at the restaurant and you can watch a short video of the dam’s construction.

A restaurant and visitor centre overlooks the dam.
The cool deck at the restaurant is a good place to have a drink and a light meal.
The spillway and hydro-electric station can be seen from the visitor centre.

As with most things in eSwatini, things happen at a relaxed pace and the food may take a while to be be prepared. While you’re waiting, a short walk beyond the restaurant will take you to a viewpoint from where the massive scale of the dam’s structure can be clearly seen.

After a visit to Maguga, it’s only another 12km or so to Piggs Peak, a rather busy town and the main commercial centre of Northern eSwatini. Back to Mbababe is about 50Km.

For a beautiful detour away from the main tarred road, take the steep gravel tracks along the southern perimeter of the dam. This road reveals magnificent views but needs a vehicle with good ground clearance.

If you’re feeling adventurous, have the right vehicle and don’t want to stay on the main roads then navigate your way along the backroads and head towards The World’s Second Largest Rock

Sibebe.

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