It’s world-famous, it’s glitzy, it’s iconic, it’s natural beauty, top class entertainment with gambling, birdwatching, water sports, the Big Five, gorgeous tropical gardens, two world-class golf courses, a wave pool with a palm-fringed beach, and one of the most exciting hotels.
It’s the place where the world comes to play and relax – it’s Sun City, Africa’s premier leisure and entertainment complex.
More than 30 years ago the area was overgrazed farmland, rusting fences, scrub, roaming goats and a few impoverished villages. Enter the charismatic, visionary hotelier, Sol Kerzner, who saw the potential of such a place (“I wanted to blow people’s minds,” he said at thetime). He made it all happen and when it opened in 1979 it was a triumph.
Since then the multi-award-winning Sun City has never looked back. Some of the world’s biggest stars have played at the Sun City Superbowl from Frank Sinatra, Queen, Rod Stewart and Elton John, to Dionne Warwick, Liza Minelli and Tina Turner.
Drive yourself (it’s an easy two-hour drive from Johannesburg or Pretoria on good roads), or take an overnight package or a day trip with a licensed tour operator.
If your business is booming splurge and stay at the Palace of the Lost City, one of the Leading Hotels of the World group, and prepare, as Sol said, to have your mind blown. It’s an experience you won’t forget. You’ll feel you’re in the middle of the set of a blockbuster movie about Africa – Rider Haggard or Indiana Jones style.
The furniture and soft furnishings are sumptuous, the artwork fantastic, the building itself with its hand-painted, frescoed entrance dome and leaping cheetah fountains is amazing, and the service is superb. Somehow – surprisingly – it all works without going over the top. Hollywood meets Out of Africa just this side of opulent kitsch.
If you’re a bit more budget-conscious then opt for the Sun City Hotel, the Cascades, or the informal child-friendly Cabanas with its specially designed kids programmes and dedicated entertainment area.
Plan what you want to do because there really is something for everyone. If you’re a golfer, play a round on the Gary Player Country Club course, a multi-award-winning course (watch out for the crocodiles in the water at the 13th hole!). You can hire clubs and a caddy, but must play the full 18 holes. You can play nine holes after 15h00 at the Lost City Golf Course.
Need an adrenaline boost? Go parasailing, horse riding, jet or water-skiing, quad biking, zip sliding or waft high over the resort and neighbouring Pilanesberg National Park in a hot air balloon.
Smother yourself in sunscreen if you want to laze on the white sand at the Valley of the Waves where a 1.8m wave surges every 90 seconds. If you’re brave, attempt the Temple of Courage, where you’ll hurtle 17m down a 70m chute.
Sun City is the jumping off point for the adjacent Pilanesberg National Park, which is malaria-free and is home to the Big Five as well as hundreds of other animals and birds. A first-class safari company operates out of the resort so you could choose a day or night safari, a game drive with a bush breakfast or dinner, a star-gazing night drive or go on a guided game walk with an armed ranger.
And of course there’s gambling galore. Try your luck at American Roulette, Blackjack, Stud Poker and Punto Banco at the Sun City Casino (dress smart casual) where there’s also a Slots Privé and a by-invitation-only International Room, or be totally informal at the Jungle Casino.
Sun City is a must-see destination, so take a day trip or stay overnight, but get there.
Day visitors: adults and children R50
Valley of the Waves: free entry for resort residents, adults (+13 years) R110, children 4 to 12 years R60, under 3 years free
170km north-west of Johannesburg. Sun City is situated 67km from Rustenburg on the Thabazimbi road, the R510, and is well sign-posted.
In the neighbourhood
Pilanesberg National Park