Escape from reality: the Vaal has the right magic

Zinhle Mapumulo, City Press
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 BALL OF A TIME: Sometime the greatest escapes are literally only mere hours away from home. ~ Supplied

The Riverside Sun Hotel in Vanderbijlpark, with its royal service and adrenaline-inducing water activities, is a mere hour’s drive from Joburg. Zinhle Mapumulo pays it a visit. 

I often hear people complain about how they would like to travel and see South Africa, but they don’t have money.

A friend recently told me: “Apart from having to pay for accommodation, meals and activities, I also have to drive for hours or fly to my destination, which requires more money. Where am I supposed to get that money when the rand keeps falling every day?”

I looked at her in amazement because this is the same person who has no problem spending more than R2000 on her weave. While there’s some truth in the unstable rand and how it affects how we spend, going on holiday doesn’t need to break the bank.

Some holiday gems are hidden in our back yards. All we have to do is find them.

My partner and I recently had the opportunity to go on holiday at the Vaal River and we enjoyed ourselves, despite the fact that we were staying at a hotel a mere 85km away from our home. It took us less than an hour to drive from the north west of Joburg to the Riverside Sun Hotel in Vanderbijlpark.

GO WITH THE FLOW: Riverside Sun is nestled on the banks of the Vaal River, and provides a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

SEE: #FindNewRoads: Unlocking Joburg


You’re probably thinking, why choose the Vaal of all places? Well, let me explain.

Apart from the fact that we were hosted by the hotel, we needed to get away from our normal lives and the Vaal appealed to us as the perfect holiday spot.

It’s close to Gauteng and it’s popular at this time of the year as a number of cultural and music festivals take place in the area.

It also offers a host of vibrant water sports for water enthusiasts and those who just enjoy the natural beauty and tranquillity of a river. You can try waterskiing, fly-boarding, tubing, jet-skiing, rowing, yachting, kayaking, fishing, power-boating and rafting.

Most of these activities are available at the boathouse, situated at the hotel.

SEE: A whisky retreat on the Vaal River



Water sports enthusiasts can enjoy a variety of water activities on the Vaal

Nestled on the banks of the Vaal River, with immaculate gardens and perfectly landscaped lawns sloping down to the water’s edge, Riverside Sun caught my eye the moment we drove in. There was a serene country atmosphere about the place that drew me in.

As we walked from the parking lot, I was hoping the same serenity would be exuded by the staff. It was.

We were met by a friendly concierge who offered us something to drink while our booking was confirmed.

We received our key and went to our room, where we found a welcome gift – a platter of snacks, chocolates and Champagne with a note from the deputy general manager, Michelle Bregger, wishing us a pleasant stay.

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I must say I was impressed by the hospitality, from the security guard to the concierge and the restaurant staff. They were all superb and made our stay a memorable one.

I should also commend the kitchen manager for having a designated meat-free station to cater for vegetarians. I’m not a vegetarian, but I was impressed by how mindful the hotel was of its guests’ dietary requirements. That for me showed excellent customer service.

We were spoilt for choice when it came to water sports activities. My partner and I are not adrenaline junkies, so we stayed away from fly-boarding or any of the hectic water sports.

For those who don’t know what fly-boarding is, I didn’t know either. It’s a wakeboard-based water jet that uses propulsion to thrust you into the air. A flexible rope of 18m is connected between the fly board and a Jet Ski turbine, allowing an operator to control the pump and hand-guided nozzles to stabilise your flight. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted.

We opted for a romantic sunset cruise operated by the River Otter instead. Our cruise was an hour long, enough time to enjoy drifting down the Vaal River and appreciate the beauty of the sunset and birdlife.

Enjoy drifting down the Vaal on a romantic cruise

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After the cruise, we relaxed by the pool and enjoyed the sound of children laughing and splashing in the water. Riverside Sun Hotel is a family-friendly destination and that explains the children who were bathing and playing volleyball in the pool.

The hotel’s Riverview restaurant is informal and offers all sorts of cuisine. Kids can enjoy freshly baked pizza straight out of the pizza oven.

After dinner we thought we were going to sample the Vaal nightlife, but old age got the better of us.

A friend had told us about Chicago’s Piano Bar, a stunning 1920s-themed venue offering live music. I guess we will hit this spot the next time we’re in the area.

Leaving the Vaal the next day was not easy. As short as the holiday was, it provided a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, and of course gave me much-needed rest.

Mapumulo was a guest of Riverside Sun Hotel. Rates range from R1250 per room (sleeps two adults and includes breakfast) to R4 085 for a suite. Children under the age of 18 stay for free. Riverside Sun is also a conference venue that can accommodate up to 500 people. For more info, visit tsogosun.com/riverside-sun.

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