SUN CITY, North West, South Africa, August 2019 – South African Tourism (SAT) truly treats its copious guests like royalty, something which I was able to experience first-hand during the past few days.
Fresh from attending the Africa Tourism Leadership Forum (ATLF) – a Pan-African platform that brings together key stakeholders of Africa’s travel, tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors to network, share insights and devise strategies for intra-Africa travel and tourism growth across the continent, whilst enhancing the brand equity of “Destination Africa”, held in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal we flew back to the City of Gold, Johannesburg, Egoli or simply Jozi for yet another refreshing two nights breather at the North West Province’s Sun City Resort.
Like Sandra Lake states, “With age, comes wisdom. With travel, comes understanding,” our recent travel to South Africa opened our perspective and broadened our minds.
Quite exciting about my recent travel was flying Mango Airlines – a state-owned South African low-cost airline based at OR Tambo International Airport, a subsidiary of South African Airways. This was one of the many epiphanies in my trip, which I felt clearly encouraged intra travel thus augmenting tourism industry growth.
This was quite a new terrain for me. However, I must admit it was the best airline I ever experienced thus far. This month of September, flying between Johannesburg and Durban will cost you around ZAR1000 return ticket, which quashes the rampant exasperation that flying in Africa is expensive for its natives.
Domestically, around South Africa, I regard Mango Airlines as extremely cheap – in fact a few South Africans I had a chat with whilst on flight told me the epithet for Mango is Taxi Air, simply because its prices are like getting an Uber or taxi around town.
So yes, we arrived in Johannesburg amidst the raging xenophobic unrests and drove to the country’s richest province – culturally and economically, North West, which houses prominent ethic groups such as Bafokeng, Bakwena, Bakgatla and Bakubung amongst others.
The biggest economical commodity in this province is mining where platinum and lead are mined. So arriving in the northwest was more like homecoming – this is where my tribe the Bakgatla originate and growing up, we always heard our grandparents saying they need to go to Moruleng to check on our relatives.
Back then I thought the place was far-flung only to realize now it was a mere 3-hours’ drive from Mochudi.
So we arrived at The Cabanas Hotel at Sun City Resort – the newly refurbished Cabanas hotel is situated at the Sun City Waterworld Lake, and offers guests a contemporary twist and great ‘base’ to explore the resort. As the sun sets over the open spaces and rolling lawns the nights begin at the Cabanas Pool Deck, with chic cocktails and a vibrant island setting.
A truly amazing atmosphere unfolded before we could even enjoy the city life of the luxurious and modern side of north west, as our tour guardians reminded us that we have an early morning in Pilanesburg Game Reserve for a truly invigorating hot air balloon experience.
Believe you me, I know the importance of rest in these activity packed excursions so it was an early night for yours truly to prepare for tomorrow’s unexpected. I was startled out of my comfortable bed early in the morning at around 0445hrs, as the phone rang from the hotel’s reception to notify me that it was time to wake up as instructed by the tour guide the previous night.
At 0530 everyone was on the truck amidst the unforgiving chilly North West morning. However, we were in luck thanks to fleece blankets provided by the Mankwe Game Trackers who were responsible for our game drive and the hot air balloon experience. Mankwe Game Trackers is the premier outdoor adventure activity operator in the North West, South Africa, based at Sun City Resort on the edge of the magnificent Pilanesberg National Park.
They conduct Game Drives, Bush Walks and Hot Air Balloon Safaris inside the Pilanesberg National Park, and Quad Biking, Archery, Team Building activities, Family Bush Walks, and The Wallow, a catered venue, inside a private game park named Letsatsing.
Soon before the sun could even rise we were safely hovering above Pilanesberg National Park. Possibly the most accessible situated in the ecologically rich transition zone between the Kalahari and the Lowveld, this vast area promises thrilling big game viewing. We flew at 1600m above the ground and 5500m above sea level. We experienced breathtaking scenery from the top for at least 1hr before our champagne toasting.
Traditionally, each time a hot air balloon lands, champagne is shared. This, you may have known, but you may not know how this tradition came to be. It is said that back in the day local farmers believed that hot air balloons that were landing in their fields may have been dragons descending from the skies. To soothe the farmers’ fears and make peace, the hot air balloon pilots would share a bottle of champagne with the farmers whose land they have disturbed. Now this is how to wake up every morning – with champagne.
From the park we headed to Mphe Batho Museum (the name simply means ‘give me the people to lead’ – founded during the period between 1870 and 1903 when Bakgatla in Moruleng sent a delegation to Botswana after the chieftaincy shifted to ask for the regent to be installed for them in South Africa. Here everything looked similar to my daily life. It was like a revision book of my clan’s responsibilities, and I was happy to take a break from speaking English.
I was home and dry. Next on the agenda was enjoying a bicycle tour across Moruleng followed by a quenching drink at the local pub before going back to the museum for a taste of traditional beer (umqombothi). We learnt about maize pounding and the traditional way of living.
The people at the museum wanted to know more about myself than them, this is the other half of northwest, where local people live traditionally – rearing livestock.
Moruleng set a perfect location for tourism attraction. Tourists always come to Africa to learn about our traditional ways of yesteryears coupled with a game drive boasting our big five. Thank you South African Tourism (SAT) for a splendid working getaway, to the select media team across Africa, bon voyage, until we meet again, boyaka!