Past week we headed to one of Africa’s best retreat destinations located in the heart of Pilanesberg, Sun City resort, for a midweek review. The resort is a jewel in Sun International’s crown and globally known for its splendid offering of attractions, game viewing, hotels, water sports, events, kids activities and more. The property boasts large swimming pools at each hotel property, jogging trails and floodlit tennis courts.
We were blown away by the magnificent gardens within the resort which are an attraction on their own. The gardens have been accorded Botanical Garden status, varying from tropical rain forest to various indigenous landscapes. Guests can – as we did – meander along paths in these differing forest habitats to view a wide range of bird and plant species.
Our host informed us that due to limitations on capacity, access to the resort is only granted to hotel and Sun Vacation Club residents, existing MVG members and guests with confirmed golf bookings. No day visitors are allowed at this stage. This is part of the resort’s precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On arrival, we checked-in at the Soho hotel.
The Soho hotel
The Soho hotel and casino is set on the edge of the world-famous Gary Player golf course, Spa and country club. It features a fully equipped casino, as well as a night club and sports bar. The hotel offers impeccable service and all the essential amenities to invigorate travellers. Shops, bar, concierge, and laundry service are just a few of the facilities that set the hotel apart from other properties.
We recently reviewed a number of establishments – including Seasons Golf, Leisure and Spa resort – and found them lacking a few basics such as WiFi, satellite TV, minibar, bath tub, and more. The Soho hotel did not disappoint as it offers exactly that and more. Additionally, the hotel offers several restaurant options for guests to choose from. A private parking is also available on-site. The O.R Tambo International Airport is 204 km away.
Dinner at Legends restaurant
Our dinner on the first night was served at the Legends restaurant that pays tribute to a visionary entrepreneur, the many famous stars, personalities, guests and icons that have graced Sun City over the past 40 years.
Perhaps the most famous of them all was Frank Sinatra, ‘ol Blue Eyes, who wowed the crowds in 1981, whose charisma and charm were equally matched by his distinctive smouldering voice.
Joe Cocker with his gravelly sound, Elton John (before he had hair) played his piano, Leo Sayer with his big hair, Olivia Newton John in 1982, newly famous after Grease, Eric Clapton – they all came and made us hungry for more.
Sting and Tina Turner, Dolly Parton, David Essex, Rod Stewart, Cher, Tom Jones, George Benson, Cliff Richard and Shirley Bassey are also part of the list. The Legends is a place to remember the razzle dazzle of yesteryear, to take a trip down memory lane.
It offers guests trendy grill house style food complemented by a diverse drinks menu to suite an array of tastes. We had rib eye and oxtail cooked in a rich rosemary red wine sauce, served with buttered mash and root vegetables.
Our breakfast was served at Sun Terrace, an airy eatery and ideal unwinding spot for a hearty breakfast or lunch.
We also had an opportunity to check out what The Palace of the Lost City has to offer. It is an opulent and lavish as its name suggests, with dramatic vistas overlooking the golf course and magnificent Valley of Waves. It is inspired by the myth of a lost African kingdom and set on the highest ground at Sun City, ensuring that its grand proportions and graceful towers are visible from across the resort.
The fantasy of an African palace is indulged in every detail, from the stately volumes of the reception and dining areas to the assortments, frescoes and fountains that enhance the architecture.
Surrounded by lush botanical gardens crisscrossed with hiking trails, The Palace’s setting is enchanting. The main dining area overlooks the intricately decorated grand pool, which is circled with plush loungers to soak up the sunshine while efficient waiters attend to you.
Murmuring streams, gushing waterfalls and sculpture-lined walkways lead between the hotel and its gardens, golf course and down to the Valley of Waves. This idyllic beach cove is straight out of a tropical island postcard and provides a vibrant alternative to the grand pool’s genteel relaxation. The setting, service and ambience at The Palace of the Lost City conspire to treat you like royalty from happy arrival to reluctant departure.
All air-conditioned rooms and suites are tastefully decorated in warm African-inspired décor. Each room features a satellite TV, safe and minibar. The en-suite bathrooms feature a sauna.
The Valley of Waves
A visit to Sun City will be incomplete without seeing The Valley of Waves – this is exactly what we did. This central feature of the resort is one of the most advanced water parks in the world, dominated by the legendary Roaring Lagoon. Every 90 seconds, bender waves rise two metres in the air.
When waves are not generated, a bobbing cycle is generated in a diamond pattern. Day visitors are unfortunately not allowed at this stage due to limitations on capacity.
There’s something for everyone at the Valley of Waves. Kids can get their kicks in the designated children’s area while adventure-seekers can take their pick of mild to wild rides.
Pilanesberg National Park game driver with Mankwe Gametrackers
We had an opportunity to go on a game drive with Mankwe Gametrackers at the Pilanesberg National Park, a home to the largest collection of animals indigenous to Southern Africa. Known as ‘Big 5 Country’, the park spans 55 hectares of dormant volcanic terrain, and offers uninterrupted game viewing for wildlife enthusiasts and those wanting a slice of the African bush on their Sun City holiday.
The Pilanesberg was officially opened in 1979, which coincided with the launch of Sun City after its founder Sol Kerzner secured the rights to build the resort adjacent to the park. Shortly after opening, over 6 000 species of game were expropriated to the park which today remains one of the largest game resettlement projects in South Africa.
The park is home to over 7 000 animals and 300 bird species. Wildlife lovers can view all of the Big 5 (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, and leopard) and a myriad game – including zebra, hyena, giraffe, hippo, cheetah, crocodile, antelope, springbok and many other types of Southern African buck.
The Pilanesberg National Park is a haven for bird-watchers who have the chance to view over 300 recorded bird species on their bird-spotting expeditions, and the park offers the choice of self-drive tours or guided safari trips with Mankwe Gametrackers.
Mankwe Gametrackers is the largest outdoor adventure activity business based at the resort. They conduct game drives, bush walks and hot air balloon safaris inside the Pilanesberg National Park; as well as quad biking, archery, team building activities, family bush walks and a catered venue inside a private game park.
The zip slide
The brave at heart can also try an extreme adventure slide, alone or in tandem, at speeds of up to 120km per hour along a 2km long zip slide which stands 280m above the ground. Unfortunately we were unable to zip slide due to unforeseen circumstances.
The zip slide is regarded as the world’s ‘original extreme slide’, and is no ordinary slide. Aimed at thrill-seekers aged 12 years and older, this popular Sun City ride offers an unforgettable experience for the adventurous. Opened in 2004, the slide previously held the title of the world’s longest, highest and fastest zip slide.
With an impeccable safety record, the zip slide is perfect for team-building experiences or as an activity the whole family can enjoy.
Other attractions include a versatile outdoor venue – the Amphitheatre – located behind the Valley of Waves and at the bottom of the Royal Staircase that links to The Palace. It can accommodate up to 800 people. With great acoustics and atmospheric gas torches surrounding it, the Amphitheatre is perfect for prize-giving sessions, intimate post-conference concerts or an evening event under the stars.