Sun City, South Africa – A One-Stop Travel Destination
My wife and I had been planning an overdue honeymoon trip for almost a year. Originally we were supposed to go to New Zealand but because of visa issues we had to alter our plans. My wife, Kanika, quickly decided we should instead go to Africa and within days we had booked ourselves (read: our agent) a series of plane tickets, resorts and safari(s).
Sun City was our first choice of destination and if you don’t know what that is, perhaps if you’ve seen Adam Sandler’s Blended, it will jog your memory.
This high-end resort is just a few kilometers away from the southern entrance of the Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa, about a 2 hour-drive from Johannesburg airport. The resort is a massive destination with 4 ranges of hotels complete with restaurants, entertainment complexes, thrilling activities and so much more that it is literally a one-stop place for all types of travelers. Well ok, not all, especially if you prefer to travel like a local or with a low budget.
So what’s there to do at Sun City? Here’s everything we did here. It’s important to note that this was not just any honeymoon, we’re (especially myself) very active, adventurous people, so this wasn’t a relaxing trip.
There are 4 hotels here and 1 vacation club, each with their own qualities. There’s the Sun City Hotel, the Cabanas, the Cascades (where we stayed) and the most luxurious, Palace Of The Lost City.
Our rooms at the cascades were very nice and spacious offering a backdrop for stunning scenery such as the tranquil mountainous landscape, surreal sunrises and also the sound of waterfall trickling across the garden area. At this time (July-August), the weather was also very cold, which was a pleasant change from the hot and humid weather we get in Bangkok.
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There is just so much to do at Sun City, you don’t even have to leave the resort. A part of us felt we should have explored more of South Africa but Sun City offers so much, it’s hard to get preoccupied with our regrets. From swimming in a man-made wave pool or twisting through mazes to spending nights playing arcade games or zip lining at high speeds through the forest to even walking through a crocodile sanctuary, there’s something for everyone here.
One of the highlights from the trip was our visit to the maze, which takes about 15 minutes to complete after which you come into a beer garden like veranda where you can enjoy cold draft beers and snacks. They had a beer tasting promotion where you get 8 beers to try out, from which you select the one you like for a whole pint. The maze plus the beer tasting will cost you about 150 Rands (approx. US $12) per person. NOT BAD AT ALL, right?
This was the major reason Kanika had selected Africa as our go-to place. She loves animals and in some ways so do I. We have seen safaris in Thailand but they are still sort of caged. It’s not the real thing like in the wild. We opted for two safaris, one morning and one evening.
Now if you’re not used to the cold, make sure you travel to South Africa anytime other than June-August because it is very, very cold. Temperatures at some days dropped to -1°C. So imagine when we wake up at 6 am for the morning safari and it is about 1° C with piercing winds. We were given blankets (while wearing 3 layers) and still we were freezing. Good thing we starting seeing some wildlife early to make us forget about the weather. We came across a few lionesses (although far and camouflaged), zebras, hippos, rhinos, giraffes, elephants, wilder beasts and even a warthog. I was disappointed not seeing a lion or a cheetah though.
The evening safari started around 3 pm and ended at 6 (just as it was getting dark). It wasn’t as cold till 5:30 when the sun went down and we definitely saw more animals this time around, including a dead giraffe. Don’t worry, it died due to a fight with another giraffe.
Both safaris were amazing with awesome guides who were really passionate about what they do and would go out of their way to show us a good time.
Tip: When traveling for safaris, bring a professional style camera because your mobile phone won’t be good enough, which is a mistake we made. Also don’t forget to carry a pair of binoculars. In addition, always check with the tour operators what you should wear and bring for the period you’re visiting.
Don’t think for a second that just because you’re at a luxury resort, there’s no touch of culture here. We were ecstatic to find out about the Cultural Village where they have set up daily shows and interactions for guests to enjoy. After you pay about 150 Rands for a ticket, you’re greeted by (I’m supposing actors) who are dressed as tribes people of South Africa. They explain you about the 8 tribes that live(d) in the country and their customs.
After that the show starts where they all sing and dance in a very dramatic fashion. Very impressive too if I might add. If you’re lucky they even pull you in to dance with them. This was truly one of the best experiences as we got to do something different from the normal tourist-y stuff.
Once the show was over, we went over to a Shebeen, which was basically a shack-like restaurant serving local food and beers. Again, this was a pleasant change as I was dying to take a break from sandwiches, burgers and fast food. I had the shebeen chicken curry, which basically reminded me of Pakistani food.
All in all, Sun City is a superb destination in South Africa and quite affordable for its value. If the hotel restaurant prices don’t suit you, there are fast food restaurants such as Nandos and other local restaurants to try out at the Entertainment Complex or at Shebeen.
For more photos from my Africa & Seychelles Trip, visit my Instagram @shayan85 and @kanikasriso
About the Author: Shayan Naveed is a marketing consultant and aspiring traveler based out of Bangkok. Although born in Pakistan, he has lived the majority of his life in Thailand. Apart from developing marketing strategies for SMEs and freelance writing for startups, he is also a fitness addict, which is equally matched with his love for food.