On the ABC Perth Radio Breakfast Show we recently discussed the continued popularity of dark tourism.
It doesn’t have to be morbid but it does have to involve death in wars, disasters, murders, terrorism or assassinations.
The darker side of history has meat on the bone and the gristle as well. We try to put ourselves in the shoes of the fallen and maybe sometimes in the shoes of those responsible.
It’s about confirming our fears, confronting the reality of the history books we grew up with and perhaps providing closure on those images we’ve seen on tv’s in our own lounge room, like that Paris tunnel in 1997 or the New York City skyline in 2001.
The rise in tourist numbers at destinations such as Chernobyl, Fukushima, the concentration camps of World War II, prisoner of war camps in Sandakan and Ranau and the killing fields of Cambodia are all examples of a phenomenon that is attracting those seeking a broader understanding of the events that took place at those sites.
In Australia, many events and sites may be seen as dark tourism. Off the Western Australian coast on the Abrolhos Islands in 1629 the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia ran aground and the ensuing mutiny saw 125 men, women and children brutally slaughtered. The islands can be visited for an understanding of these events and there are also museum exhibitions in Geraldton and Fremantle, displaying grisly skulls marked with the slashes of the mutineers swords.
In Snowtown, South Australia, the little bank where the bodies in the barrels were discovered in the late 1990’s is a popular stop for people wanting to take a quick pic.
Most issues in our lives have a line that we decide we will or won’t cross. Dark tourism has many lines that cross in different directions, challenging our sense of morbidity, appropriateness and thresholds of respect.
It’s a great topic for publication and radio and sure to get you thinking about your own dark tourism bucket list.
What a rollicking chat about travel toilets, kids travel bucket lists and we even found time to talk about some day trip options from Perth.
Kids travel bucket lists is a wonderful topic. When I was a kid I always wanted to visit India because of Rudyard Kiplings story, Rikki Tikki Tavi, the story of a mongoose and his fight with some evil cobras.
We had a wonderful caller, Eloise, who described how she wanted to go to Hawaii because of the travel shows she had seen and some influences from social media as well.
Kids have travel dreams, just like grown ups. I was able to take my daughter to Sun City in South Africa and on safari at Sanctuary Retreats Makanyane Safari Lodge because of her love for the romcom movie, Blended which featured South Africa and in particular Sun City Resort.
ABOVE: SUN CITY WHERE MUCH OF THE ROMANTIC COMEDY MOVIE, BLENDED, WAS FILMED.
Books, movies, social media posts by celebrities and even sporting events inspire our destinations. What a great way to decide where you’re going to go next!
They make movies here. It’s a land that gave birth to one of the worlds greatest crooners and one of the worlds greatest songs. Below are some links to my story, published in The Starfish and also by Have A Go Newspaper. This is a love story. This is a story about Puglia, a land with towns that one junior reviewer of my work described as, ‘being full of towns with funny names’. He’s right. Puglia does have lots of towns with names you just want to keep on saying, not just for the memories but for the mood it puts you in, just like humming a few bars of ‘Volare’.
Romantic comedy, Blended, starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, was partially filmed in South Africa and my daughter Matilda’s love for this movie and her desire to travel to the locations from the movie have led us to The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City in South Africa.
I have never arrived at a hotel before that has made my jaw drop and put a smile on my face at the same time. The Palace of the Lost City is spectacularly over the top in every way. It is awash with a sense of style that could be a movie set but is genuine and authentic in its attempt to impress you. Combined with the mesmerising architecture and décor are staff who laugh and sing through their day as they attend to your every whim.
As we approach the hotel over a small bridge we can see that between us and the entrance is ‘Cheetah Hunt’, the larger than life bronze sculpture depicting two cheetah pursing a small group of impala. It’s the first of many exclamations from Matilda, “It’s just like it is in the movie!” The sculpture is large and dramatic, fitting seamlessly in with the style of everything around it.
CHECK-IN & BEYOND
The check-in process is quick and easy with a broad counter and many staff to assist you. The check-in takes place under a 25 metre high ceiling dome painted with frescos of African wildlife while underfoot a marble floor flows towards the Crystal Court, the palatial dining area of the Palace of the Lost City.
Large parts of the hotel have atrium spaces that allow views across the various floors and out to the Sun City valley below. As we’re escorted to our room we pass by the atrium space where the statue of Africa’s most famous elephant, a massive bull called Shawu, commands your attention.
Our room overlooks a dense belt of jungle that can be explored using various paths but also brings with it a warning sign in our room to not leave our balcony doors open otherwise monkeys may ransack your room. The room is spacious, luxurious and includes excellent information about the facilities and attractions to be found in Sun City. There is plenty of room to unpack our bags, plenty of room to stretch our legs and a bathroom big enough for a teenager to declare, “This will do just nicely.”
Our buffet breakfast each day is held in the Crystal Court of the Palace of the Lost City and where many of the meal scenes in Blended were filmed and where comedian and actor Terry Crews performed much of the movies music.
For one of our lunches at a restaurant overlooking the Valley of Waves we meet some of the people who worked on the movie Blended and can be seen in several scenes. Over a monster pile of sticky ribs, Matilda is spellbound by a series of first-hand accounts from someone who actually appeared in her all-time favourite movie.
The next day we sit with the owner of the Sun City microbrewery to listen to his accounts of the cast and crew he met from the movie so while Matilda filled her boots with even more Blended stories I filled mine on delicious ciders and ales.
Sun City has food options in delicacy and price for everyone. From the Crystal Court High Tea at the Palace of the Lost City to the shopping mall food court there is something for everyone at any time of the day.
The Sun City Resort is a complete resort. It is absolutely and truly able to substantiate all claims of having something for everyone. It is infinitely explorable and enjoyable for all ages. It offers extreme adventure, a little adventure or no adventure if you just want to enjoy some poolside time, excellent shopping or world class golf.
Accommodation ranges from recently refurbished budget hotels to the top of the valley ultra-luxury experience of the Palace of the Lost City.
Matilda’s bucket list travel experience separated some movie fact from fiction. We stood on the spot where the ostrich riding scene was filmed but there is no ostrich riding activity available. We drove down the old airstrip where Drew Barrymore undertook her parasailing adventure, nearly missing a rhinoceros on her rapid descent but there is actually no parasailing available behind a four wheel drive.
Matilda discovered in South Africa that fact is greater than fiction. A vast and beautiful landscape filled with adventure, luxury, laughter and excitement that only the real world can create.
South African Airways is the flag carrier airline for South Africa and flies regularly to Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo International Airport and from there it is a two and half hour drive to Sun City Resort.
For accommodation deals, seasonal packages and airport transfer prices to Sun City Resort, contact your local travel agent.
The following story, as published by Karryon (www.karryon.com.au), shares with you the exploits of my daughter and I in a remarkable part of South Africa:
As my daughter Matilda and I touch down on a little airstrip in the Madikwe Reserve in South Africa for a safari with Sanctuary Makanyane Luxury Safari Lodge, the next ten minutes are as imprinted on my mind as the birth thirteen years ago of the girl beside me. Every second as vivid, exhilarating and heart thumping as life can throw at you.
Just seconds after departing the airstrip an impala leapt lightly to the side of the track and the gasps of Matilda led our guide, Kaiser, to turn his head to check if we were OK.
Imagine our behaviour less than ten seconds later when a big bull elephant was standing alongside the track. A real elephant in the real wild. Then at our first river crossing we saw zebra, waterbuck, warthog, impala and a monitor lizard. I was looking for Elton John to start singing the Circle of Life.
CHECK-IN & BEYOND
As we approach the Makanyane Safari Lodge I notice a gathering of people at the entrance and think that we must have arrived at a busy time with people checking in and checking out, the usual commotion of a hotel reception area.
Remarkably, the gathering was the management team of Makanyane Safari Lodge, out to welcome us. I had thought a free iced tea on arrival at some of the South East Asian resorts I’ve visited was pretty flash but this was taking things to another level.
Furthermore, it wasn’t because I was travelling with the most gorgeous girl in the world, it is just what they do for all of their arriving guests, for which there are no more than sixteen at any time. For the next few days we experience not just a luxurious way of life but a level of service that was more akin to friendship than customer service.
Accommodation is spread across just eight luxurious suites that are more like small houses. Each suite is well spaced from the others and built from thatch and stone. The air-conditioned bedroom and bathroom have floor to ceiling windows overlooking a river but I highly recommend the outdoor shower to instantly get you back to nature.
While they are mostly intended to be occupied by couples, the suites pass the rigorous privacy test of a father and daughter. There is plenty of space to do what needs to be done without cries of, “Gross!”
In between game drives and meals, we sit and watch the environment that is just outside our suite. We spot snakes in the trees, monitor lizards, birds and monkeys while other travellers we meet have watched zebra, elephant and kudu make their way along the riverbank in front of their window.
For meals at the lodge there is always plenty of choice and Matilda and I are quick converts to South African cuisine. We loved the gamey flavour of ostrich skewers and tang and spice of chakalaka and love saying it almost as much as bobotie. Chakalaka is a vegetable relish that can used alongside anything while bobotie is a spicy mince dish that is baked with an egg topping.
Matilda and I are warmly included in forming a larger group at mealtimes despite her being the only child at the lodge and all of the other guests being honeymooners. She probably hears a few stories that aren’t quite age appropriate but having heard some of her exclamations upon getting close to roaring lions and charging elephants perhaps I need to reassess her ability to understand the world around her.
We depart Makanyane Safari Lodge in much the same way as we arrived, in the company of the staff who embrace us. Around our vehicle are the friends we have made and as we take a final look at the faces who have pampered us, fed us, protected us and taught us, I hope they truly understand the impact they have had on our life. Experiences that I hope my daughter will describe to her children one day and inspire them to add this remarkable land to their travel bucket list.
The Sanctuary Makanyane Luxury Safari Lodge is located within the lost world of the Madikwe Reserve and is one of the few Malaria free safari locations in South Africa.
Madikwe Reserve is in South Africa’s North West Province, close to the border of Botswana and just a short flight by light aircraft from Johannesburg. It is surrounded by a ridge of hills and well protected by antipoaching patrols.
South African Airways is the flag carrier airline for South Africa and flies regularly to Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo International Airport. From the airport, it’s a one hour flight with Federal Airlines to the Madikwe Reserve or a three hour drive, renting a car from the airport.
Prices at Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge start from ZAR 7,500 per person per night, twin share, for 1 – 3 nights, including all meals and drinks (excluding premium brands) and transfers to and from the airstrip to the Lodge plus a choice of daily shared game viewing activities.
But for even better savings, take advantage of Sanctuary Retreats’ extended stay offer 2018, when you stay at one or more of our properties including Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Loge depending on your season of travel.
Stay 4 – 6 nights and save up to 30%.
Stay 7+ nights and save up to 40%.
Terms and conditions apply.
For more information about Sanctuary Retreats visit:
South Africa has very strict anti-child slavery rules. It is important to ensure that if you’re travelling as a single parent with a child to South Africa that prior to your travel you complete the immigration form and have it correctly signed by a valid certifying agent and, if possible, correspondence from the other parent of the child that certifies permission to travel to South Africa.
Be conscious of the timing and detail provided in social media posting of your safari experience as poaching is a serious issue throughout Africa and any notification of where an animal is located may be of use to poachers.
From Casablanca in Morocco, to the hills of San Gimignano in Tuscany, the beaches of Thailand, the wonderous resorts and bushveldt of South Africa to the mountains of New Zealand, the locations are as varied as the movies themselves and the reasons why we long to travel to these sites are even more varied.
Just remember to keep your expectations in check. You may see an Orc in New Zealand but when you arrive on Thailand’s James Bond Island, from the movie The Man With The Golden Gun, don’t expect Nick Nack to great you on the beach in top hat and tails.
Please enjoy listening to the story below:
Above and Below: 2014’s movie ‘Blended’ now has South Africa’s Sun City Resort on every kids travel bucket list while ‘Mad Max 2’ and over 140 other movies have been filmed around Silverton in the outback of New South Wales.