Gayle Edmunds revisits a favourite haunt for daytrippers and fans of the sho’t left and finds Sun City still glitters with the same magic.
The tourism industry has begun to unfurl for this year’s anticipated holiday season after a long enforced hibernation. How delightful it was to revisit Sun City after such a lengthy break – the rolling green hills of the Pilanesberg mountains on approach, the well-tended roads and gardens once through the gate and the soaring turquoise domes atop turrets festooned with carvings of Africa’s animal bounty as we were welcomed to The Palace at the Lost City for our stay.
The Palace is truly an escape from our pandemic world. Offering the same promise of an otherworldly experience that raised it into existence, it has shrugged off its lockdown closure and welcomed us with friendly staff and seamless service. The fleet of electric cars that drives guests to and from their favourite spots at the resort add a wonderful, guilt-free travelling experience. It always seemed wasteful to travel around with gusts of emissions – thankfully, no more.
The Valley of Waves remains a firm family favourite and if you can skip a weekend and make it a midweek break, the main benefit is a much quicker turnaround time between slide rides, as the queues are shorter or nonexistent.
There are slides for the stout of heart that sound alarming – like the Mamba – but are in fact perfectly possible to conquer, even if you are teetering on the precipice of middle age. What is lovely is that if you are staying at one of the resorts or hotels, entrance is free and the lockers ensure you never have to worry about where to stow your possessions safely.
The “swimming pool sea”, where the giant crashing waves are heralded by a rumble of drums and squeals of anticipation from the swimmers, is always a crowd-pleaser and my daughter and I stayed there for a long while. We watched a foursome of tourists film themselves with their new waterproof phone over and over again, as the giant waves came crashing down. The other more sedate option is the Lazy River ride, which lives up to its name. With little to do but bob along, occasionally ambushed by a spray of water, it is a great way to start or end a visit.
Attractions for all
On the way out – across the bridge that simulates an earthquake every hour, complete with fake smoke – there is the games arcade for children. It has been condensed into a space in the food hall and shopping complex, and is as much of a hit as always. The games range from the vintage to the latest fads and satisfy the needs of children aged three to 13. It includes a tenpin bowling alley and a few metres away are movies, as well as an array of fast food outlets to suit any taste.
The Sun City Hotel has been refurbished and rebranded as the Soho Hotel. It is where the casino is housed, so it is not for everyone. While Sun City’s original drawcard might have been the blinking lights and tinkling of one-armed bandits and the clacking of roulette tables, it is now a family affair for most visitors. There is also the outdoor Waterworld, with a fun train trip for small children and dodgems on the water, as well as jet-skiing, paragliding or tubing on the water. Alternatively, visit the crocodile farm where, if you time it correctly, the prehistoric reptiles get chicken for lunch.
There are many attractions at Sun City and many places to eat and enjoy the fantasy of your stay, but our favourite food experience was the signature breakfast at The Palace, which has lost none of its smorgasbord magic, despite the necessary Covid-19 rules. The stations are piled high with sushi, cold meats and cheese, omelettes to order, cups of fresh fruit and yogurt, crispy fried eggs on request, as well as pancakes with cinnamon and lemon juice or chocolate spread. There is also anything else you ask for: we wanted vanilla ice cream with our breakfast pancakes and the staff gladly obliged.
The rooms at The Palace are spacious and feel like somewhere you might stay as a character in an Indiana Jones movie (or perhaps a Jumanji movie, for the younger generation’s reference). The veranda looks out over the lush trees, gardens and waterfalls of the hotel that further entrench the sense of being in another world. The pool, with a bar service and a pizza oven, is another step away from life as you know it and within hours of arriving, reality slips away.
In one package, Sun City delivers the escape we could all do with after the past 21 months of unpalatable reality dished up by Covid-19.
Edmunds was a guest of Sun City