In the centre of a volcanic valley surrounded by the dun slopes of the Pilanesberg Mountains, a wilderness wonderland rises from the dust. Shimmering in the African sun, the fantastic Sun City Resort could be mistaken for a mirage. In reality, it is a vision realised through a multimillion-dollar investment and one man’s unshakable faith in the religion of tourism – South African hotel prodigy Sol Kerzner.
The dream began with a middle-of-nowhere luxury hotel in the sun. In 1979, Kerzner, a successful hotelier with a background in accounting, flew in a helicopter over what is today Sun City and said words to the effect, ‘We’ll put up a casino there’ – pointing with his finger to where the hotel now stands. Within nine months of opening in 1979, the casino had repaid 100% of its borrowings – such was South Africa’s urge to gamble! Kerzner never looked back. Sun City soon evolved to include a second sumptuous hotel, the Cascades, with a tropical garden, a flamingo lake lapping the edge of the building, rushing waterfalls and a Sky Train, which whisks visitors between destinations within the resort.
Then Kerzner’s imagination looped the loop in a defiant free fall and he built his ultimate fantasy – the ‘recreation’ of a Lost City which, legend has it, was inhabited by gentle people of an ancient civilisation. The Lost City has as its centre a ‘palace’ of impossible opulence guarded by towering elephants lining an immense bridge; it is ringed with man-made lakes stocked with rare birds and fish, pools, forests and a tropical beach with perfect surfing waves – electrically generated. Lit with the glow of a million candles, the Palace is decorated with Renaissance frescoes, hand-carved furniture, mosaic-inlaid floors and towering columns of false tusks and palm fronds. Out of doors, two championship golf courses – one with crocodiles at the 13th hole – are bordered by the Pilanesberg National Park, which contains the Big Five and has a vigorous conservation programme.
Today the Sun City Resort Complex is one of the world’s largest entertainment centres, a luxury theme park for grown-up kids. And when the day’s play is over, there are beds for more than 2 000 guests. Those who condemn it as just another Las Vegas have never seen it. It is certainly worth a visit. At every level – whether golf, water sports, conventions, high-class entertainment, children’s activities, spectacular gardens and food – it is a class act!
Journey: Golf Safari