Bushfire Music Festival
Bushfire was my first music festival and I think it was the perfect introduction to the festival scene. Bushfire is a top-rated music festival and a must-see in Southern Africa but hosts musicians and artists from all over the world. Bushfire is super chill and family-friendly (basically, there aren’t people puking all over themselves or openly doing drugs on the main stage), but there are still plenty of opportunities to stay up till dawn, party with friends, and listen to great music. I really enjoyed the festival and loved meeting Peace Corps Volunteers from all over Southern Africa.
Where and when is Bushfire?
Bushfire is a music festival in Swaziland (now known as Eswatini) and takes place in the House on Fire in the Malkerns Valley. It takes place at the end of May every year. This year was 27-29 May.
How to get to Bushfire?
My friend Akeen rented a car in Pretoria and we (along with another friend) drove to Swaziland together. I thought about taking a bus, but the bus only goes to the capital, Mbabane, and then I would have to take a taxi to the festival. Driving across the border was pretty easy and uneventful. It takes about 4 hours to get to Bushfire from Pretoria, not including the time you have to wait at the border going through customs. Also, tickets to the campsite at Bushfire include a parking spot! Yay!
Luckily, Americans don’t need a visa to travel to Swaziland for less than 30 days. However, I highly recommend you check out your country’s visa requirements for Swaziland before traveling.
Where to sleep?
We chose to sleep in a tent in the camping area. We brought our own tent and the campsite had water from a tap and we showered/brushed our teeth/used the toilet in the public, temporary washrooms that were set up near the campsites. The camping area isn’t too far from the festival main ground, which means you can safely walk to and from at any time, but it also means music will be blaring in your tent all night.
We had a few friends that stayed in a backpackers near the festival (but not at the festival). Although they enjoyed the backpackers, they had to take a taxi to the festival each day. I think camping is the way to go. Camping costs R530 per person for 4 nights and includes a parking spot for your car! There is also the option to glamp (a pre-made campsite) but that costs a bit more.
Tickets range from around 500 to 1000 rand depending on the type of ticket and when you buy. A campsite costs R530/person for 4 nights and you can pay a bit more for a shaded camping spot or glamping.
What to eat?
There are food stalls and food trucks set up all over the festival grounds. The price is a bit high but that is expected at a music festival. Also, you are not allowed to bring food into the festival.
When I moved to South Africa, I made an effort to get to know South African and African music. Some of my favorites are The Soil, Beatenberg, Jeremy Loops, Goldfish, Matthew Mole, and Desmond and the Tutus. I was so happy I got to see Beatenberg at Bushfire. We also saw Nomadic Orchestra the Rudimentals, and other artists from all over the world!
A big part of Bushfire is actually the art festival/marketplace. There are so many artists selling and displaying their work across the festival grounds. They sell everything from paintings and sculptures to jewelry and homegoods.
If you have a South African sim card, it won’t work in Swaziland and there is no Wifi at Bushfire, however, being off the grid is part of the experience!
There are also ATMs everywhere to facilitate the easy purchase of food, art, and merch.
Bushfire has an amazing initiative called Bring Your Fire, which basically is a social action campaign to help different local charities. How great is that?!
Have you been to Bushfire? What did you think? What fesitval should I check out next?