Spotless, great food but hotel needs sprucing up

Patience Bambalele

Patience Bambalele

I love nature. When I heard that I was booked at the Sundown Ranch, a hotel set on 1600 hectares of African bush, which has a lion park and game farm, I was ecstatic.

Like a child about to get a packet of goodies, I jumped up and down. The thought of being far away from noisy and bustling Jozi was energising.

Just 10 minutes' drive from Sun City and the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, and a two-hour drive from Johannesburg or Pretoria, Sundown Ranch is very laid-back, with friendly employees.

Fatigued and wasted from the drive from Johannesburg, I headed straight to my room for a nap. I threw myself on the couch and thought I had injured my waist. When I checked the sofa, there was wood sticking out of it.

As I was grumbling about that, I tried to switch on the TV. I nearly went berserk when I discovered that the TV had no remote control and only had one Dstv channel.

What kind of a hotel is this, I thought? Though clean, the blankets looked old and felt cheap. Are hotels not supposed to give lodges a home-away-from-home feel?

The last straw was when I was told that there was no Internet. How do local and international visitors communicate with the outside world, I wanted to scream? Guys, the 2010 Fifa World Cup is upon us, you really need to do something about this.

On the plus side, I must say that the restaurant is lovely. It serves a variety of international and traditional South African dishes. The food is delicious and the staff are the warmest I have ever met in any hotel.

There is also a very nice poolside bar.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness. The modern bathrooms, pool and other facilities are sparkling clean, the towels are fluffy and of a very good quality, so it got me thinking that surely God is a resident at the hotel. Everything smelt fresh and clean.

The game reserve, called Sundown Ranch Lion Park, is only five minutes by car. It hosts the Big Five as well as a variety of endangered species.

The park accommodates 42 lions, including 13 cubs under the age of 18 months. Guests can hold them and have their photos taken with the cute little things. There is also a guided tour of the lions in the park where visitors can see the animals being fed.

The hotel also offers extensive facilities for conferences and promotions.

The chalets, adjacent to the hotel, can accommodate about 900 guests in 250 serviced chalets.