Any visit to this intriguing double-act of attractions is unlikely to involve much rugby action. While neither Sun City nor Pilanesberg National Park sits too far from either Pretoria (90 miles) or Johannesburg (110 miles) – in the upper reaches of South Africa, in North West Province – neither site is overly obsessed with a tricky bounce of the ball, or a fumbled knock-on. These are places where the focus is on switching off and tuning out.
But this is rather the point. Any Lions fans seeking a change of pace, either before or after the main Tour, will certainly find it here. Sun City has long been a hotspot for rest and relaxation – although, if the mood takes you, you can also enjoy a sporting fix of a less physical sort by taking to one of its two 18-hole golf courses. Both are commendably challenging – as you would expect of a series of fairways and greens that were designed by the South African golf icon Gary Player. And if chancing your luck on a four-iron down the fifth is not your particular sort of thrill, an evening at the resort casino might be.
Then again, a different type of excitement awaits immediately to the north. Pilanesberg National Park is another of South Africa’s great animal-spotting locations. The game reserve within it is home to the “Big Five” (Cape buffalo, lion, leopard, African elephant, black rhinoceros) – as well as myriad zebra, hippo, gi-raffe, crocodile and antelope. Regular sightings are guaranteed. But is it also worth lifting an eye to the landscape – which is among the most remarkable places on the African continent. Pilanesberg’s concentric rings of mountainous ridges are the remains of a mega-volcano which erupted some 1,200 million years ago. It was also a cradle of civilisation – the National Park contains archaeological sites that date to man’s early footsteps in the Stone and Iron Ages.