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March 17, 2016

Why This Sun City Resort Should Be On Your Bucket List

Text by Shahi Baliga. Photographs by Dushyanta Kawdikar

Palace of the Lost City is a hotel that brings the magnificent outdoors into a luxury resort with a sweeping vision designed to make you gasp

I’d seen photographs of that fairy-tale castle rising dramatically from the lush African landscape, the avenue of elephants on the Bridge of Time, the animal carvings and sculptures, the man-made beach, endless pools of blue and, of course, the many Miss World contests held there. It all seemed over-the-top, extra larger-than-life, almost unreal.

Still, none of it prepared me for my first sight of the Palace of the Lost City — the photographs don’t do justice to the scale of this resort hotel that is meant to make you gawp.

One way of doing that is through sheer size; the other is by bringing the feel of the great African outdoors — its sweeping vistas, forests and animals — everywhere into the hotel. By ‘everywhere’, I mean exactly that. As you enter, in the first courtyard, you’re greeted by a dramatic sculpture of cheetahs hunting a herd of kudu (the twisted-horn African antelope). The next courtyard has a fountain flanked by gigantic, stylised kudu busts. To the left is a tranquil lagoon amidst African palms and thick foliage. To the right is another lush sweep.

Walk in under the roofed dome of the main lobby, covered by a massive mural of the African landscape. The chairs are upholstered in zebra stripes. Look down and a giant sculpture of four elephants dominates the cafe below. Lions stand guard at corners, birds fly here and there. Even the view from my hotel room could have been out of Tarzan — all I can see are trees, vines and giant palms. At practically every point in the hotel, you get a sense of the outdoors — whether through animal sculptures, the sound of a waterfall or chirping birds, a view of a lagoon or swathes of thick hillside. Inside my room, a monkey holds up a lamp, and even the furnishings have animal prints. If you’re a die-hard nature lover (like me), it’s music to the ears and a feast for the eyes. Even if you’re not, and if some of it seems like kitsch on a grand scale, you can’t but be taken in by this seamless interweaving of contemporary indoor luxury and the African outdoors.

So there are plenty of indoor and outdoor thrills. There’s a water park, a man-made beach (called the Valley of the Waves), two golf courses designed by Gary Player, one of which features a live crocodile pond, a botanical garden and a maze. If you want to stay indoors, pick from the casino, nightclub, stage shows and movie halls, shops and spas. And children have a zone of their own, with a toy train, water games, a small zoo, and an aviary.

And if all this within the resort isn’t enough to keep you occupied, you can head out for a safari in a private game reserve of the Pilanesberg National Park, go horse riding or zip-lining (on the world’s fastest zip slide), visit a butterfly park, crocodile sanctuary or the Cultural Village. Heavens, you think, faced with so many choices, when am I ever going to get around to all of it?

Oh, I forgot — the whole of Sun City, with its four hotels and the rest of the package, has been built in the crater of an extinct volcano. How much farther could you go with this theme?

The Palace of the Lost City is the resort’s showpiece, complete with its own legend about a royal couple who were driven out of their palace by an earthquake and were helped through their many years in the forest by the animals; hence the kudu, monkeys, elephants et al.

The rooms are spacious — what a luxury to have a bathtub, a shower cubicle, a washstand sprinkled with the best of toiletries, a generous closet and plenty of dressing space. Bye bye, poky hotel bathrooms.

Obviously, staying in the palace doesn’t come cheap, but the other three hotels, the Sun City Hotel, the Cascades and the Cabanas, are less expensive.

In other words, they’re determined to get you in there one way or the other. Surrendering might be a good option.

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