24-Hour Room Service: ROYAL SWAZI SUN, SWAZILAND
Saturday 06 November 1999
I first went there on a riding, partying and gambling weekend; I was too cowardly to mount my pony, but spent a long day by the pool - there's something about being surrounded by mountains that energises the soul. In the evening we all dressed up for the casino hidden behind the reception desk, and found a phalanx of busy slot-machines that would not be shamed in Las Vegas. The green-baize tables in the private rooms were more tempting, and we managed to win pounds 50 each on roulette and blackjack, before losing it again, and more.
LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION
The Royal Swazi Sun is at Ezulwini, Mbabane, Swaziland (call 0181-661- 2263 for reservations).
The Royal Swazi lies in the little verdant bowl of the Ezulwini valley. The hills all around are covered with forests and semi-legal marijuana plants which, together with intricate, coloured candles, seem to form the country's main export industry. Around the hotel are lush fields and paddocks, making it seem like a subtropical version of Sussex. The staff are relaxed, warm and polite. On Saturdays a band plays by the polygonal outdoor pool, and you can sit in the sun drinking cans of Castle beer and the latest potent cocktails mixed by the energetic barman.
Time to international airport: The Royal Swazi is 20 minutes outside the Swazi capital, Mbabane. There are direct flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town; otherwise the beautiful drive from Johannesburg international airport, though plateaux, valleys and bushveld, takes four hours.
ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?
The rooms are decorated in a modern, bright style, with comfortable double beds. There's not much in the way of local feel, though, because the hotel belongs to a South African chain, Sun International. If you ask for a room overlooking the pool and you'll have live music all day, and a fantastic view of the mountains.
As the hotel sits alone in such a beautiful spot, the relative lack of imagination in the architecture seems hardly to matter. It also has an 18-hole golf course, which meanders around the valley. Every tee has a striking view of forest or mountain, and the hotel is welcomingly unfussy about who plays. A rank amateur, I had a wonderfully relaxing day - and got around the first hole in just 68 strokes.
Staying in touch: South African and satellite TV channels are the alternatives to the casino during the rainy season (November to April). Your British mobile will work here, which feels bizarre.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start at pounds 110, a princely sum locally.
I'm not paying that: The Protea Pigg's Peak Hotel, on a forested mountaintop 20 miles away, has even better views, but no casino or live music. It's comfortable rather than luxurious, and prices for a double room start at pounds 60. Contact Protea Central Reservations (00 27 21 419 8800) for more details.
Life & Style blogs
WWE 2K15 gameplay trailer: First look at Sting, Triple H and Daniel Bryan in next-gen graphics
iOS 8 apps and features: eight iPhone settings you need to look at after you install the update
iPhone 'Wave': iOS 8 hoax claims you can charge your iPhone in the microwave - you can't
First day of Autumn: Google Doodle celebrates 2014 Autumn equinox
What are your fingerprint words?
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
- 1 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 What are your fingerprint words?
- 5 Gary Lineker involved in Twitter row after presenter rubbishes claims he will be warned by BBC over foul-mouthed tweets
£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...
£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...
£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...