Drak Sun, as it is affectionately known by many, is a major tourism development in the Cathkin Valley of the Central Drakensberg which opened for business in 1986.
The recently completed renovation includes not only a comprehensive upgrade of the 30 freestanding 2-bedroom timeshare chalets, but also the 32 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom timeshare apartments within the main hotel building.
In addition to the timeshare upgrades, the 4-star hotel component benefited from a full refurbishment of its 78 hotel bedrooms, the Presidential Suite, and other facilities such as public reception areas, the main lounge, and the newly named Grotto Bar.
External areas have also not been neglected, and the swimming pool has been “remarbelited” and equipped with new poolside furniture. The gardens have also received an attractive make-over.
Obviously the financial outlay has been substantial, and expenditure to date is R23 million.
The resort owner is Tsogo Sun, a leading listed hotels, gaming and entertainment company in South Africa, which has underwritten the bulk of the expenditure.
Timeshare owners were, however, charged a special levy in 2013 to help meet the costs, and being a chalet timeshare owner since inception, I had an obvious interest in seeing what had been done, not only in the chalets, but to the other amenities to which timeshare owners have full access.
I am delighted to be able to report an unreserved endorsement of the professional way in which the various renovations have been designed and carried out. There is still some work to be done, but the standard of the facilities is impressive.
The resort is built around a large 2.5 hectare freshwater lake which offers excellent trout fishing as well as boating, or canoeing. There are tennis courts, a squash court and gymnasium, and a bowling green for the more sedentary guests.
A chip-and-putt golfing layout meanders through the grounds. There are two pools, one for the main hotel and one adjacent to the timeshare chalets.
Younger guests have a full daily programme of entertainment organised by management at the start of each week, and it is open to timeshare families as well.
The new equestrian centre being built on-site has become necessary because of the increasing popularity of horse riding. The centre houses 30 ponies and horses in its newly-built stables, and offers tuition as well as organised rides for hotel and timeshare guests.
Hiking is, of course, synonymous with a holiday in the Berg, and guided hikes are organised daily for those who do not wish to “go solo”.
For first-time visitors, it is also rewarding to have a guide who can provide interesting information regarding the flora and fauna.
For the camera enthusiast hiking can be enjoyable, the views of some of the higher peaks breathtaking, as are the streams, waterfalls and forests.
With all this on offer, coupled with first-class cuisine, it is no surprise that the resort is a popular destination for conferences, staff training, outdoor team-building courses and the like. Conference rooms are available fully equipped with necessary audio-visual aids, and the spacious grounds can accommodate numerous outdoor activities for delegates.
The internal upgrade to the chalet units has been more than just cosmetic.
In addition to new roofs, the ceilings have been replaced to accommodate energy-efficient LED concealed lighting within new bulkheads in the bedrooms and lounge/dining/kitchen area.
Tables and counter tops in the units have been replaced with granite, and noticeable features in all rooms are the new attractive white PVC window shutters.
All cupboards have also been refurbished, and two new flat screen TV sets have been installed, one in the downstairs lounge, and one in the upstairs main bedroom. (This should eliminate the previous family arguments when father used to hog the only TV set in the timeshare unit to watch rugby matches.)
Coupled with new curtains and carpets, plus stunning local photographs, the chalet interiors bear little resemblance to what was there prior to 2013 – and there is no doubt that this refurbishment programme has substantially enhanced the level of accommodation and other facilities at the resort, which fully deserves its 4-star grading.
In terms of environmental “best practice”, the resort has been active in programmes such as alien tree clearance work, waste management and recycling programmes.
It also draws and treats its own water and has in place a disciplined energy control monitoring plan.
In addition, wildlife conservation activities undertaken by management and staff over the past few years include the establishment of a vulture restaurant to encourage endemic raptors back to the Drakensberg Mountains, and the introduction of dassies into the region after they were wiped out by an epidemic in 1992.
This increased dassie population has encouraged the return of the black eagle to the area.
General manager Darron Moore and his team deserve the Diamond Status of the International Management Company (a certification agency) award which was granted in November 2013 – apparently the first in Africa.
Service was superb as well. During our recent visit to the Drakensberg Sun we met with nothing but cheerful efficient service by management and staff from the time we checked in up to the time we left a week later. Not only did the management team help make our stay so enjoyable, they also managed to arrange seven days of continuous sunshine.
Contact telephone number: 036 4681000, E-mail: [email protected]