Just a two-hour drive from Johannesburg towers a giant castle, accessible through a path lined with a herd of elephant statues. This castle’s main fountain spouts water out of the horns of sable antelope, and the courtyard contains a life-sized replica of Shawu, who had some of the longest tusks of any elephant ever discovered in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
This safari-themed castle in the South African bush is the Sun City Resort, a marvelous palace with a bizarre geopolitical history.
Sun City Resort was built in 1979 by business magnate Sol Kerzner just northwest of Johannesburg. At the time, this region was under the autonomy of Bophuthatswan, an independent state created under apartheid. Kerzner chose the controversial region as the site of his palace because it was the nearest place to Johannesburg that permitted topless venues.
Kerzner had always dreamed of building a “mythical royal residence built by a lost tribe” in the middle of the South African bush, and just that he did—Kerzner’s brainchild would make both Indiana Jones and Walt Disney proud. In addition to the countless statues of safari animals, the “Big Five”—lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and Cape buffalo—can be found in living form at the resort. In the adjacent Pilanesberg Game Reserve, visitors to the resort can self-drive their cars through the African bush.
Past the majestic Palace of the Lost City and the sandy poolside beach, visitors can explore the largest maze in the entire Southern Hemisphere, a 300,000-piece mosaic of a lion killing a wildebeest, lamps held up by tiny monkey statues, and a 1.25-mile zipline, the fastest in the world.