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You have to see Sun City to believe it. It's Las Vegas meets Arabian Nights. An African Disneyland on steroids. What's truly amazing about this hedonistic showplace is that nothing but an arid South African valley existed here before 1978.

Cheetah and antelope sculpture at entrance to the Palace Hotel
Cheetah and antelope sculpture at entrance to the Palace Hotel
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

That's when entrepreneur Sol Kerzner decided to build a luxury casino resort 187 kilometers west of Johannesburg. Over the years, it's grown to four hotels, with entertainment and recreational facilities served by 4,100 staff.

The 340-room Sun City Hotel is the liveliest since it houses the casino and a theater that features dazzling shows. Its chrome, granite and glass Harlequin's Disco sizzles with music and light shows. The Calabash Restaurant serves a groaning buffet of African specialties, while the Orchid specializes in Oriental cuisines.

Walk-through aviary

At the 380-room Sun City Cabanas, there's a supervised children's program called Kamp Kwena. Here, kids can enjoy face-painting, treasure hunts, sandcastle-building and water sports.

Azalea gardens, tumbling waterfalls, swinging hammocks and peacocks surround the 243-room Cascades. Netting slung between large trees creates South Africa's largest walk-through aviary.

Palace Hotel lights reflect in pool at night.
Palace Hotel lights reflect in pool at night.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The 338-room Palace is the most breathtaking hotel. Dominated by soaring towers, the hotel is the centerpiece of a 25-hectare oasis. Marble and granite mosaic animals prance across the floor. Elephants guard triumphal stairways. Massive columns support a 25-meter-high rotunda painted with wildlife.

Paw prints and rose petals

Opulent rooms feature hand-carved wooden furniture, zebra striped and paw-printed fabrics and enormous bathrooms. For turndown service, housekeepers leave Swiss chocolates and thick terry robes on the bed and rose petals strewn on the floor.

An immense five-meter chandelier highlights the Crystal Court Restaurant. Cascading waterfalls feed a river that encircles it.

Six 5.6-metre elephant tusks arch in pairs over the Tusk Lounge. Made of Indonesian squara wood, which is heavier than ebony, they weigh two tons each.

African fantasy world

At night, huge torches flicker in courtyards and around the pools and rainforest surrounding the hotel. Villa del Palazzo, a Northern Italian restaurant, floats like a jewel box on a turquoise cushion of water.

Tables and umbrellas surround the Palace Hotel pool.
Tables and umbrellas surround the Palace Hotel pool.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The Palace is the nucleus of an even more remarkable creation called The Lost City. It took 5,000 people 28 months to build this $280 U.S. million African fantasy world.

(Sun City's legend claims it was constructed by an advanced civilization that vanished after an earthquake.) The jungle, the largest ever built by man, contains 1.6 million trees and 3,200 species of plants.

An 18-hectare aquatic playground flows through the jungle. Valley of the Waves includes a palm-fringed beach, a large pool, five water slides and a tubing river that meanders in a 500-meter loop. Its Roaring Lagoon wave pool can generate surf as high as two meters.

Beware of the 13th hole

The Wedding Palace Tower of the Palace Hotel frames the Lost City Golf Course by Gary Player.
The Wedding Palace Tower of the Palace Hotel frames the Lost City Golf Course by Gary Player.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Sun City boasts two par-72 championship golf courses. Nile crocodiles, some nearly two meters long, watch players from the 13th-hole water hazard on the Lost City course.

Non-golfers will find casinos, cinemas, video arcades, simulated roller coaster rides, shops and restaurants in Sun City's Entertainment Centre. Superstars, including Elton John, Bryan Adams, Bill Cosby and Shirley MacLaine have performed in the complex's 6,000-seat Superbowl.

For an authentic African experience, visitors can book game drives, walking safaris and hot air balloon rides in the adjoining 55,000-hectare Pilanesberg National Park. The fifth largest game reserve in South Africa, it features the "big five" — lions, rhinos, elephants, buffalos and leopards.


Sun City: www.sun-city-south-africa.com

More South Africa information:

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South Africa Cheetah Encounters and Conservation

Protea Hotel near First Post Office in South Africa