Explore Southern Africa while living Luxuriously through Rovos Rail
By Matt Martella
The Rovos Rail offers a unique kind of Africa safari. Instead of being crowded into an off-road vehicle and sent into the wilderness for a couple of hours, Rovos Rail lets explorers take their time through the wide and beautiful expanse that is the Southern region of Africa.
Also, Rovos Rail effectively works as a hotel that travels with you, meaning you are never too far from the luxuries you would expect at a great hotel.
Established in 1989, Rovos Rail is world-renowned for its “truly world-class travel experience.” Rovos
Some of the Rovos Rail journeys include Cape Town, Durban Safari, Victoria Falls, Namibia Safari, Dar Es Salaam, and Angola.
Cape Town Journey
The train ride from Pretoria to Cape Town brings travelers through sprawling valleys, imposing mountains, and the Mother City of South Africa, Cape Town. Some highlights of this journey include Table Mountain, the Cape Winelands, and the Ardmore ceramics gallery.
The Cape Town trip stops in the city of Kimberly, which is the home of the Diamond Mine Museum and the world’s largest man-made excavation, the Big Hole. Traveler can also tour the Spionkop game farm and nature reserve and see the Tugela river and a spectacular mountain range.
The Cape Town journey is a 2-night and 3-day long trip, making it one of the shortest offered by Rovos Rail. Once your journey ends on the rail, you will have an entirely new journey in exploring one of the most popular cities in Africa.
Victoria Falls Journey
The journey from Pretoria to Victoria Falls is also three days long but offers an entirely different experience from the Cape Town journey. This Northward travel goes through Modimolle (a small town in South Africa), Bulawayo (the Industrial capital of Zimbabwe), and the Hwange National Park.
In addition to the hundreds of mammal and bird species populating the Hwange Park, Hwange also has the longest stretch of the straight railway line (114 km). And once you make it to Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, plenty of cruises, whitewater rafting, and safaris will be waiting to help you get the full experience of this epic location.
The African Collage tour focuses more on the natural side of Africa, specifically in South Africa and Swaziland. The 10 Day tour starts in Pretoria and ends in Cape Town but takes a scenic trip along the Southern coast of Africa. Stops in the African collage include game drives through Hluhluwe and Port Elizabeth, traversing the
Drakensberg Mountains, and a city tour of Durban including the Botanical Gardens.
Dar Es Salaam Journey
The Dar Es Salaam expedition is one of the most famous train journeys in the world. Starting from Cape Town, this expedition sees many of the big sites in Southern Africa, including the historic village of Matjiesfontein, Kimberly’s Diamond Mine Museum, the Big Five at Madikwe, Victoria Falls, and the Rift Valley.
The Dar Es Salaam emphasizes natural and man-made sites alike. The trip is 15 days long with an overnight stop at Victoria Falls and a two-night stop in Madikwe. Travelers on this journey will be crossing five different countries from Cape Town to Dar Es Salaam, including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Tanzania. One of the final stops before arriving in Dar es Salaam will be Pass the Selous, the largest reserve on the continent and “a vision of timeless Africa.”
The Nambia safari takes passengers from Pretoria to the Walvis Bay, located on the western coast of the
continent. In addition to visiting the Fish River Canyon and Windhoek and taking a short flight to Sossusvlei near Deadvlei (a famous salt pan) and Star Dune 45, passengers will also get to pass through the expansive Namib Desert.
This journey is 9 days long and spans across 3,450 kilometers. Unlike the previously mentioned journeys, the Namibia Safari focuses more on the Eastward side of the region. The Namib desert is also a standout, and it is more ideal for travelers who prefer a dryer climate over the more verdant sites on the other train trips.
A Rovos train can carry a maximum of 72 passengers in 36 appointed suites. These suites are also available for charter.
Event trains, which are best for private functions like weddings, can hold up to 250 guests and are suitable for daytime journeys. These Event trains typically go on 3 hours trips around Pretoria or on a one-way journey to another destination.
An advantage Rovos Rail has over a typical hotel is that the rail offers all the luxuries of a hotel with the included advantage of moving with you. Each train has accommodations carriages, dining cars, a lounge car (+26 seats), a small gift shop, a smoking lounge, and an open-balcony observation car.
Each individual suite (regardless of the type) comes with double or twin beds, shower, toilet, bath, tea facilities, and air conditioning.
The wood-paneled inside of the coaches features an Edwardian style exterior with the advantages of modern technology. For meals, guests will be served traditional South African dishes and wine. To maintain the old-fashioned feel of the railway, radios and television are not available, and technology is encouraged to be used at a minimum.
Pretoria is the headquarters of Rovos Rail journeys. This 60-acre property is a busy hub with plenty to explore before you depart on your journey. For train enthusiasts, Pretoria has a small railway museum as well as a 10,000 m2 roofed workshop where train carriages are repaired and maintained that is open to the public.
With all the routes Rovos Rail has in Southern Africa, travelers can keep coming back to this railway and see completely different sides of Africa with each adventure.
Matt Martella is a writer living in Worcester, Massachusetts and has written for the UMass Daily Collegian and GoNOMAD. He has an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He loves to travel and has lived as a student in Dublin, Ireland and Oxford, England. He looks forward to exploring more parts of the world (specifically in Europe and Asia) and aims to make a profession out of writing about his experiences.