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Make the most of your World Cup holiday

SO, we know now where England will be based for this summer’s World Cup in June and July. Fabio Capello’s guys will set up their training camp in the small town of Rustenburg, 70 miles from Johannesburg and 60 miles from Pretoria.

Aside from being a football haven come June with four World Cup stadiums in situ, this region of the North West province is also a tourist hotbed with plenty to do and see for parties of all ages.

Here is our guide of the must-see sights, sounds and tastes around England’s base camp, whether you’re following the team or just in the market for a lovely holiday with lots to see and do.


ON SAFARI
You simply can’t go to South Africa without experiencing a game drive, and with the Pilanesberg National Park a short drive away, it’s the ideal chance to fulfil those childhood dreams.

Set in the crater of a long-extinct volcano near Sun City, the 55,000-hectare Pilanesberg Game Reserve is the fourth largest in South Africa and one of the most popular.

In time, this has developed into a spectacular landscape of rocky valleys and open grassland surrounding the large central lake, the Mankwe Dam. Pilansberg accommodates virtually every mammal of southern Africa and is, of course, home to the Big Five – lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros.

On arrival, your host will pull up in your game jeep and take you on a tour of the reserve, taking in all the best places for animal spotting and pointing out various fascinating facts about the area and its inhabitants.

Then it’s time for a sunset tour, a fabulous buffet meal and a night spent in one of the reserve’s eight lodges. But be warned, you are not alone... animals are your constant companions in these parts.


BALLOON SAFARIS
As the sun rises and the birds start singing, there really is nothing more peaceful than the South Africa bush at dawn.

But to experience that from 2,000ft in the air really is an experience that must be seen to be believed.

Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris is a family business that has been run by Bill and Mary Harrop in the delightful Magalies River Valley for the last 29 years.

Both fully-qualified captains, the pair run a fleet of six large balloons that can carry between six and 18 people and take you on a majestic hour-long journey across the Magaliesberg range, 45km north of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs. This patch is described as having the best ballooning weather in the world.

The flight takes you blissfully over the treetops, although not over the game parks since you never know where you’re going to land.

At the end of your flight, Bill and Mary will treat you to a glass of South African sparkling wine before whisking you by road back to the Clubhouse Pavillion Restaurant for a delicious a la carte breakfast as the sun comes up. A truly magnificent adventure.


SUN CITY
In the backdrop of the Pilanesberg National Park and 30 minutes from Rustenburg lies the mecca of Sun City – South Africa’s premier holiday resort.

Whether it’s big breaks or big steaks, the Sun City paradise simply has it all and is a must-visit for those days in between World Cup games.

Indeed, Sun City is so big it is classed as an individual state and because of this can offer the kind of gambling, attractions and entertainment opportunities which are banned elsewhere.

Take a wander outside and you will find South Africa’s most advanced water park, the Valley of the Waves, which includes a giant wave machine and a 17-metre vertical shunt named the Temple of Courage.

Sun City is also home to two of the country’s most spectacular 18-hole golf courses, both designed by the legendary Gary Player.

The most famous of these, aptly named the Gary Player Course, is home to the Nedbank Golf Challenge, while the adjacent Lost City Golf Course provides amazing views across the Pilanesberg bushveld, including a water hazard full of Nile crocodiles on the mind-blowing 13th.

As well as the numerous gourmet restaurants on site, Sun City also has four hotels – offering anything from the perfect holiday venue at the Cabanas to the luxury of The Palace of the Lost City, which, for the more adventurous, has rooms with balcony Jacuzzis for a cool £3,000.


SOWETO
Although separated by just a couple of kilometres, the magnificent new £300m Soccer City Stadium and the township of Soweto are a million miles apart.

Famed for its origins as a black township under the Apartheid government, Soweto is a community steeped in history and heritage – and the proud locals just can’t wait to welcome you in and show you around.

Aside from the countless memorials on street corners, Soweto is also home to a number of museums which give you a fascinating insight into those dark days of the mid 1970s.
One of Soweto’s oldest museums is the Hector Pieterson Museum, honouring the 13-year-old boy who was one of the first students to be killed during the 1976 Student Uprising, just yards from the home of former president Nelson Mandela.

Mandela House, as it is known, is now also a museum and a focal point for the community. Among his neighbours were Desmond Tutu and FW de Klerk, making it the only street in the world to house three world leaders. It’s a day trip with a difference – and well worth the effort.

South African Airways fly frequently from London Heathrow to Johannesburg for as little as £356. Carefully check cost and availability during the World Cup month. Internal flights are also available for the 70-mile trip to Rustenburg. Car hire and airport transfers can be arranged easily from Johannesburg.