Sunday Times

SUN IN THE SKY

Them­bek­ile Vok­wana flies through the trees and rides high on a horse at the Drak­ens­berg Sun

- Travel · Drakensberg · UNESCO · Brunei Darussalam · Costa Rica · Ludwig van Beethoven · Ludwig van Beethoven · TripAdvisor · South Africa · Africa · Cathkin · Nelson Mandela

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

 ?? Pic­ture: Sup­plied ?? MOUN­TAIN VIEW The ap­proach to the Drak­ens­berg Sun.
Pic­ture: Sup­plied MOUN­TAIN VIEW The ap­proach to the Drak­ens­berg Sun.
 ?? Pic­tures: Them­bek­ile Vok­wana ?? CHECK MATES Wanda Vok­wana, 7, and Elona Vok­wana, 3, try out some of the horsey ac­tiv­i­ties at the ho­tel.
Pic­tures: Them­bek­ile Vok­wana CHECK MATES Wanda Vok­wana, 7, and Elona Vok­wana, 3, try out some of the horsey ac­tiv­i­ties at the ho­tel.
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