SUN IN THE SKY
Thembekile Vokwana flies through the trees and rides high on a horse at the Drakensberg Sun
Set in a postcard-perfect valley in the foothills of the Drakensberg lies the Drakensberg Sun. The hotel is on an 8ha property near Cathkin Peak in the Central ’Berg and within a Unesco World Heritage site. It celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, continuing its impressive legacy of catering for its varied clientele of families, couples and business travellers. The four-hour drive from Joburg on the N2 is not as exhausting as one would expect and getting there makes the trip well worth it.
We arrived around 8pm, to be greeted with warm towels to freshen up and fireplaces in the reception/lounge area.
The cold, wet weather that greeted us foretold the blanket of snow that was to envelope the peaks overnight.
A sumptuous supper was served in the family-friendly Lakeview Restaurant, under executive chef Michael Pather.
Pather started his career as chef for the royal family of Brunei. He was also involved in the inauguration of our beloved Madiba in 1994 and travelled and worked extensively before he set up shop at this exquisite location.
ZIPPING THROUGH THE TREES
The Saturday was cold and wet and I considered pulling out of the zipline adventure with Canopy Tours. But my adventurous spirit kicked in and I am glad I went. The experience was jaw-dropping.
The tour involves long cable slides at the canopy level in the forest. What amazed me the most was the engineering aspect of it all.
As I zipped between trees several metres off the forest floor, like Tarzan, I kept on wondering how in the world this was possible.
Turns out, it’s thanks to a man named Mark Brown, a civil engineer who worked extensively in Costa Rica, where canopy swinging was first developed by biologists who wanted to be able to study plant life in the rainforests without damaging the plants.
This has become a booming eco-tourism activity.
The heights we scaled were aweinspiring and made me fall in love with the beauty of my country even more.
After we’d slid to the bottom of the forest, we had to undertake an arduous and vertigo-inducing 15-minute, 560m walk back to the top.
SNAKES & VULTURES
On Sunday morning the skies were clear, the air was crisp and Cathkin Peak was covered in snow.
I decided to venture on my own down the Blue Grotto Trail, but got a bit nervous as the thicket grew thicker. I turned back, imagining snakes that had come out to bask in the warm sun.
As I did, I spotted a kettle of vultures flying gracefully up above and was reminded of what Theo Joubert, the hotel’s deputy general manager, had told us the previous night about the nearby vulture hide/restaurant created by conservationist Roy Strydom in 2000.
This six-seater “restaurant” allows observers to sit close to the vultures and witness them in their natural habitat, as they eat horse carcasses donated by the hotel.
COOL BY THE POOL
The last adventure of this action-packed weekend was a horse ride. I must admit I was quite uncomfortable about this adventure, as I found myself a metre off the ground on the back of a ride that turned out to be bumpier than I expected.
My son, however, sat calmly and enjoyed the experience.
I finished off the day lying next to the pool, listening to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and realised why Drakensberg Sun was voted by TripAdvisor this year as one of the best family hotels in South Africa.
This place rejuvenates the soul and uplifts it to soaring heights.
Thembekile Vokwana was a guest of the Drakensberg Sun