A mountain site with homely feel
In South Africa, September is known as Tourism Month or Heritage Month.
Both themes work wonders for Drakensberg Sun Resort, which lies on the edges of the uKhahlamba/Drakensberg Park - a world heritage site accredited by Unesco, a UN agency.
The park is a geomorphological wonderland - from its rolling high-altitude grasslands intermittently broken up by steep-sided river valleys and rocky gorges, to basaltic buttresses holding up the high peaks.
Drakensberg Sun Resort is one of South Africa's finest holiday resorts in the highlands of KZN and remains among the country's best-kept secrets despite having been in existence for 30 years now.
It's a 400km drive from Johannesburg, mostly along the N3 towards Durban. The drive gets better after Harrismith when taking the Bergville road.
Signs of the beauty lying ahead begin to show with each passing landmark, such as the Sterkspruit Dam with its sea-like blue-green waters.
It was already sunset when we arrived but there was no shaking off that feeling of being in a special place.
As a nature lover, I was simply in paradise in the "mountains of dragons", as the Drakensberg translates.
The reception area of the hotel boasts old- world decor with a touch of modernity, which combine well in beauty and comfort.
Dining is a culinary experience, thanks to a team of multi-skilled, world-class chefs. From the grill to seafood, salads and vegetables - every corner of the serving area stood as a precursor to pleasures about to unfold.
My visit coincided with that of a group of golfers who were there for a tournament at a local golf course. Many had travelled with their families, and the presence of kids all over augured well for the hotel's reputation as one of the best in SA for families.
The hotel boasts 78 rooms of varying levels of luxury but all can accommodate families with children, and open onto balconies overlooking the hotel's gardens with the backdrop of mountains.
The rustic feature of the reception area extends to the rooms' furnishing.
Beyond the spoiling couch and armchairs, the comfortable king-sized bed is the best place to relax at the end of the day.
The next day was overcast and drizzly, making it hard to admire the majestic mountains in the distance. The sumptuous breakfast made up for the weather disappointment, but then the best of what the mountains could offer was to come via the canopy tour. Initially it can be a harrowing experience, but midway through the
12-zipline course the adrenalin has pumped up enough to levels of wanting more.
The canopy tour is one of several entertainment activities offered at the resort.
Others include horse-riding and guided walks. But the hotel has enough on its property to keep the adults occupied all day, through activities such as volleyball, squash, tennis, swimming, gym and spa treatments, canoeing and a cruise on the Nkwankwa lake.
For the children, there's a jungle gym, video games, table tennis, action cricket and paintball, among others.
Similarly, like outside activities, some of the hotel's facilities such as the dining hall, the sports bar and spa, are accessible to visitors who stay at adjoining facilities. To say I was refreshed at the end of the weekend, after indulging myself with a massage treatment, is an understatement. Before departure, I enquired about the possibility of booking for December.
"We are fully booked for December," said the receptionist with a knowing smile. "But you can come for lunch."
It was an incredible revelation, that this mountainous corner of KZN can be so popular and yet in my part of the world it remains unknown.
- Mokone was a guest of Tsogo Sun.
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