Sun City rolled out the red carpet for a health worker from Buffalo, New York, this past week as she became the first US tourist to visit a Sun International property since March 2020.
When the staff at the resort realised that solo traveller Stuff Cleague was celebrating her birthday on April 8, celebrations kicked into a higher gear, starting with an upgrade to the Royal Suite at The Palace, which has its own butler, and set up sightseeing trips.
“I’m overwhelmed and speechless,” Cleague said, “I’m used to hotels but this upgrade has been incredible.”
This is her first trip to Africa.
She said she visited after watching the 2014 movie Blended, starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. The movie was filmed in Sun City.
“I couldn’t believe it was a real place, it had such incredible architecture and the environment and scenery, with all the antelope, cheetah and elephants. I saw it was filmed at The Palace of the Lost City in South Africa, so I called my travel agent and said: ’Can you get me to that place?’ I wanted to see the room that Adam Sandler stayed in, in the movie,"
Cleague said people back home had been shocked to hear she wanted to come to South Africa.
“I spent a lot of time researching the country and reassured myself it was going to be fine. As a health worker, I know that everyone has taken all the necessary precautions to protect each other. I could see it and feel it, and have felt safe throughout my journey. I also know that practising simple hygiene is my number one prevention against the disease."
Cleague had her first vaccination before arriving in South Africa. Her second will take place when she gets back home. She took three flights, from New York to Atlanta, Atlanta to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to Johannesburg.
“I also researched the food and drinks. The food is wonderful here. I recognised biltong in my welcome tray, which I knew was similar to our jerky. I wanted to try it even though I don’t eat meat. It wasn’t bad. It was actually good,” she said.
Cleague even overcame her fear of heights to go on a hot air balloon ride.
"It felt like I was floating on a cloud sitting with the angels”.
She also went game viewing in the Pilanesberg to spot the Big Five and spent time lounging by the pool.
Cleague said Covid-19 had encouraged her to “seize the moment”.
Her daughter shared her pictures and videos.
“She’s telling me that people are jealous of my life right now. My co-workers are astounded by the way South Africa is treating me. Well, I invited them! I have FaceTimed them so they know exactly what is going on.”
Cleague’s advice to travellers: “Wash your hands for 20 seconds. Wash them before you eat. Wash them after you eat and wash them every time you touch an object that is a hot spot. This is the number one definitive action you can take ,so do it. Just be safe.”
Sun International COO for hospitality Graham Wood said the occasion deserved a celebration.
"We hope that it will be a catalyst for the revival of our battered tourism industry. The effect of the pandemic has been unbelievable. If anyone had told us a year ago that Sun City would close its doors for five months, after 40 years of 24/7 operation, we would not have believed them. We hope that everyone in America who hears Cleague’s story will be encouraged and inspired to visit our country," he said.