Two Very Different South African Properties

After Durban's Indaba tourism trade show in May, Travel Agent experienced two very different, yet both very South African, properties. One, Singita, a small, high-end safari lodge in the bush; the other, The Palace of the Lost City, also a luxury property, but on a much larger scale, and part of the four-hotel casino-resort-entertainment complex, Sun City.  Suites at Singita's Ebony lodge are more traditional African in décor

Singita Private Game Reserve

In South Africa's richly wildlife-populated Sabi Sand Reserve, is the justly well-known in the U.S. safari lodge, Singita.

A member of Relais & Châteaux, Singita actually operates two lodges, Ebony and Boulders. Only a couple of minutes' drive apart, they are worlds apart in design. Ebony is a classic Old World lodge with dark wood, animal prints, native textiles and cozy fireplaces while Boulders is contemporary in design with big open spaces and light colors.

Each lodge has 12 large suites with private pool, lounge and bathroom with soaking tub. At Ebony, rooms 1, 2 and 3 are newer and slightly larger; 11 and 12 are adjoining and have a view of the bush while others look onto the SandRiver, where clients might catch a glimpse of elephants and other animals. There's a plan to merge 8 and 9.

While each suite at both Ebony and Boulders has its own private plunge pool

Suites 9
and 10 at Boulders are adjoining and have their own kitchen and parking lot; they are the farthest from the main lodge. Each lodge has its own spa and service throughout is attentive: The staff-to-guest ratio is 3:1.

Special experiences agents can arrange for VIPs through Head Concierge Vanessa Berry (vanessa.b@singita.co.za; tel.: +27 21 683 3424; fax: +27 21 671 6776) include a private dinner in any of 12 locations such as poolside and on the client's deck, an in-suite couples massage, private game drive vehicle and private wine tasting from Singita's 10,000-bottle collection.
Main bedroom of The Palace's Royal Suite, one of the four top accommodations there

Both lodges can be reserved via Berry, who oversees the reservations department, or reservations@singita.co.za; tel: +27 21 683 3424; fax: +27 21 671 6776; or www.singita.com.

The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City

When many people think of Sun City, they envision a casino resort playground for couples and families, and they would be right. But what many aren't aware of is this enormous, very impressive operation has four hotels, and one of them is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.

The Palace of the LostCity at Sun City, or The Palace, offers a very different experience than Sun City's other hotels. You will want to reserve a suite for your clients: they have noticeably more sophisticated décor as well as more space and amenities. The four top suites are the Royal Suite, King Suite, Desert Suite and African Suite. The latter is the only accommodation at The Palace with a terrace; this is where Oprah Winfrey stayed when she hosted a New Year's party this past December for 160 people, including Mariah Carey. These four suites each have a Jacuzzi in one of the two bathrooms but the African Suite has one on the terrace as well.

The African and King come with two bedrooms; the Desert and Royal have an adjoining room option. A baby grand piano, lounge, dining area, butler's pantry, desk and butler service are features in all. For those traveling with children, The Palace has 55 Family Rooms with a king-size bed and sleeper couch.

By the end of this year, The Palace, which has 338 rooms, will have upgraded with flat-screen TVs, duvets instead of bedspreads, international plugs, tea and coffee makers and Internet connectivity throughout the hotel.

For VIPs, agents can arrange a private VIP game drive in Pilanesburg National Park, which has the Big Five, through Gametrackers (+27 14 552 5020; suncity@gametrackers.co.za). The outfit also offers hot air balloon rides, elephant-back safaris and a variety of other activities. Sun City itself has an enormous list of activities, from horseback riding to zip lining and every imaginable water sport. And of course, there's the casino. The resort has two golf courses, one a par-72 Gary Player-designed course. Special requests The Palace has fulfilled include a dinner for two in the Superbowl, Sun City's 6,000-seat theater; and Sid the owl delivered an engagement ring to one of Oprah's guests. VIP requests can be made through General Manager is Ian Duncan (+27 14 557 3100; iduncan@sunint.co.za. Bookings should be channeled through The Leading Hotels of the World, Utel, or Sun International Central Reservations (tel. +27 11 780 7878; fax +27 11 780 7061). Commission is 10 percent.

An online directory for all Sun International properties can be accessed at http://gst.hautdegamme.net/sundirectory.

Getting There

South African Airways, now a member of the Star Alliance, flies daily from JFK to JNB with a stop in both directions in Dakar, Senegal; the daily flight from IAD to JNB is nonstop but it does stop in Dakar on the return flight. It's a two-cabin aircraft (Premium Business and Economy classes); business class is very comfortable with lie-flat beds (73" pitch), duvets and on-demand entertainment.

Most guests access Singita via regularly scheduled Federal Air flights. A plus for clients is that the hour-and-a-half flight from Federal Air's Johannesburg terminal, which is about a 10-minute drive from the international airport (airline personnel will meet connecting flights, and will drive passengers to the terminal) is nonstop; the flights go on to other lodges in the vicinity. Federal Air flights can be booked via Singita as well.

To get to The Palace, Oprah flew into PilanesburgInternationalAirport (charters only; +2714-552-2134), eight minutes from the resort. Alternatively, helicopter transfers are available from JohannesburgInternationalAirport. The hotel can also send a car; the drive is about two hours.