Published: March 24th 2009March 24th 2009
Palace of the Lost City
One of the pool areas at the Palace
The first stop on our trip was in Sun City, South Africa. Every year the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) holds and International Destination Expo (IDE) in a different region of the world to educate travel agents on that region through educational seminars and first hand experience. This year, Sun City was the chosen destination and myself and my mom were attending. We wouldn’t have chosen Sun City as a destination in and of itself, but we couldn’t pass up the excuse to visit Africa and I do gain a lot of value from many of the opportunities offered at this conference each year. To note, there are five of us traveling, but not everyone attends the conferences as they are just here as our loved ones, not as travel professionals.
If I had to describe Sun City in one quick phrase it would be “Las Vegas meets Disney World, with an African slant”. It’s not that the resorts are not nice and that there is not stuff to do, it’s just not what I (or anyone in my group) looks for when traveling to Africa. Sun City is a resort area basically plopped down in the middle
of a rural region which includes 4 hotels/resorts, a vacation club, and and entertainment complex as it’s main attractions. We stayed in the most exclusive resort there, the Palace of the Lost City. While certainly a bit over-the-top, it was a nice place to stay in that the rooms were large, the property was very nice though boarding on a bit gaudy and the service was absolutely fantastic. The Palace included a beautiful restaurant, a lounge, several shops, two pools, very large grounds with walking trails, several pools a man made beach-looking wave pool area and a water slide among the trees (no we sadly did not get to try this given our shortened stay after the cancelled flight). Unfortunately, Sun City did not exactly live up to its name, as it was overcast most of time and down poured on afternoon.
Although this would not have been my choice for my entrance into Africa, there were some very nice things about it. First of all, I was there for a conference and I really got some great education, particularly on the seminars I attended about the countries of Botswana and Namibia, as well as the session on the wine region of South Africa. The first full night there, ASTA held an evening at the game park followed by a Boma dinner (boma is, more or less, an African BBQ) which my mom, dad and sister attended. My boyfriend and I decided to stay back and just explore the area, enjoy a nice dinner and catch up on some relaxation. Much of this decision was based on the fact that our next stop (where I’m currently writing this) was the Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana where we looked forward to seeing a lot of wildlife completely in it’s natural habitat. Instead, we wandered out to the small lake and some riding stables, and explored the other hotels. We found a wonderful Indian restaurant in the Sun City Hotel (actual name, not just a generic word for the hotel in Sun City) and relaxed for our first dinner in about three nights that didn’t involve food from an airport, airplane or late night room service menu.
As is tradition at each IDE, the event comes to a close with a dinner brought to us by the host of next year’s conference. The IDE 2010 will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, and the tourism board put on quite a show for us. While we did not have Turkish food (I’m guessing due to the unavailability of ingredients here) the presentation included a spectacular slide show of images from the country and an apparently very popular band from Turkey entertained us with covers of American songs from roughly the period of 1975 - 1993. While traditionally Turkish (or at least I’d assume, but perhaps that’s what they listen to there), it got everyone singing and dancing along and ended the event on a high note.
The next morning we got a transfer back to the Jo’berg airport with a wonderfully knowledgeable tour guide who was just as interesting as any session I attended at the conference. We enjoyed seeing and learning about the landscape and the country’s history and culture before hopping our flight to Victoria Falls. And then, the real fun began!