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South Africa: See Africa’s Big 5 from Sun City resort!

Seeing animals in the wild of South Africa was quite possibly the best experience of my life!

But have you ever wondered how there came to be a list called the Big 5 when there are literally hundreds of worthy beasts that were left off the list? And who exactly are these animals of Africa that made the Big 5 list?

BRELL. That’s how you remember which lucky animals have made the official “Big 5” list – and it’s not the ones you’d think!

Rhino, Sun City
The rhino was the only representative of the Big 5 I saw in this reserve

Buffalo, rhino, elephant, leopard and lion. What, no giraffe?! No hippo or cheetah?! No zebra, we all shriek? (I did see lots of giraffes and elephants when we went on to Zambia to see Victoria Falls though.)

When you visit Africa you might have to plan to see their big five AND raise them five more!

In fact the chances are you won’t see ALL of the Big 5 in one park, but you will see a whole lot more like zebra, warthogs, buffalo, crocodiles and kudu.

Zebra, Pilanesberg
But I reckon the zebra should be on the list!

One of the best trips of my entire travel career was staying about two and a half hours drive from Johannesburg in the sprawling and exciting Sun City resort. (Featured in the 2014 movie Blended with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler.)

It sits on the edge of Pilanesberg National Park where you can take safari tours and get your camera clicking.

Sprawling Sun City Resort
Sprawling Sun City Resort

Sun City Resort actually encompasses six hotels, including two five-star properties, a huge water park, two world class golf courses and is very near two safari parks to see the famous animals of Africa.

Around the hotels you’ll see monkeys and baboons – most often being chased away so they don’t steal the restaurant food! They’re pests actually, but make for great photos if you can keep your distance.

Palace of the Lost City waterpark

Each Sun City hotel provides a different experience

Kids will love the water park and activities at the Palace of the Lost City. This is one of the most advanced water parks in the world set around a large lagoon, fringed by a sandy beach and dotted with palm trees. There are slides and a lazy river and 1.8 high metre waves roar every 90 seconds.

The casino is at the four-star Soho at Sun City Hotel which also offers easy access to the facilities at the others, like the water park and the Gary Player golf course.

Gary Player golf course, Sun City
We were warned to watch for crocs on this Gary Player course

The Cascades Hotel has three swimming pools, including one exclusively for children and another that is heated. You’ll find tropical birds in the lush grounds and they have a small private beach.

It was closed for a while in 2020 for refurbishment, so I’m keen to see what it’s looking like now.

Cascades, Sun City, South Africa
The pool at Cascades, Sun City

The Cabanas is great for young families who are looking for plenty of activities to keep their little ones amused. There’s mini golf, an animal world and lots of themed play grounds, plus an activity centre for teens who want to hang out away from their parents.

But I was most excited about seeing the wildlife

The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is just outside Sun City spread over 55,000 hectares. We took a guided tour (you can drive your own car around the 200km of roads).

It’s wonderful and I couldn’t stop snapping photos of rhino, hippos, zebra and antelope. Alas I didn’t see a lion or leopard, but came home with a full memory card anyway!

Giraffe, Pilanesberg
Take your own car or an open-top tour through Pilanesberg safari park

But if you can’t get to a real South Africa safari right now, you will love my post on some of the best live animal webcams in Africa! My tip is to scroll through and start them all then sit mesmerised for hours!

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!