A great rail journey through southern Africa, this tour carries you in luxury aboard the Shongololo Express, and includes sumptuously scenic excursions, and safaris in renowned national parks, on its route from Pretoria to Zimbabwe’s iconic Victoria Falls Hotel
Flight - 1 night
Pretoria - 1 night
Train - 11 nights
Victoria Falls - 2 nights
Flight - 1 night
“The journey not the arrival matters” is a much-repeated quote of T.S. Eliot. You may find that each is equally rewarding on this meandering from South Africa to Mozambique, Eswatini, and Zimbabwe; on a journey aboard the Shongololo Express train of prestigious Rovos Rail, to arrive at mystical landscapes, wildlife reserves, and cultural sites. With air-conditioned carriages and an open-air observation deck, the train’s contemporary comforts combine with classic wood-panelled design, to evoke the romance of African exploration in an elegant bygone age. Embarking in Pretoria, arrivals in South Africa include a tour of the scenically spectacular Panorama Route; a safari in the huge Kruger National Park, the Sable River crossing its wilderness miles; and a game drive in the much smaller Kapama Game Reserve, both boasting Africa’s Big Five animals. Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, sees us on the edge of the Indian Ocean, while mountains and valleys await in the Kingdom of Eswatini; and in Zimbabwe we visit ancient ruins and the astounding landscapes of Matobo Hills; meet the wildlife of Antelope Park and revered Hwange; and conclude the tour with one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls.
4 UNESCO Heritage Sites
Day 1 Fly overnight direct to Johannesburg.
Day 2 On arrival, transfer to Pretoria for overnight stay at the 4-star boutique Hotel Courtyard Arcadia, close to the Kruger Museum. (D)
Day 3 Embark on the Shongololo Express for 11 nights aboard. (B, L, D)
Day 4 Enjoy a splendidly scenic tour of the aptly named Panorama Route, focused on the Blyde River Canyon, the third-largest canyon on Earth, its sheer cliffs plunging 800m to the riverbed; and including the old-world village of Pilgrim’s Rest, founded on gold-panning and now a national monument; the iconic ‘Three Rondavels’ trio of rounded mountains; and the breathtaking views from God’s Window, high on the Drakensberg escarpment. Return to the train for the journey to the farming town of Malelane. (B, L, D)
Day 5 A fabulous full-day safari in Kruger National Park. One of the largest game reserves on the continent, its reputation goes before it, but nothing prepares you for a first Kruger experience, where habitats range from mountains and cliffs to bush and tropical forest, and are home to hundreds of species of mammals and birds, including all of Africa’s Big Five. Depart to cross the border into Mozambique. (B, L, D)
Day 6 Discover the country’s capital and cultural hub, the Indian Ocean port city of Maputo, hemming the Santo Espirito estuary with a mix of modern structures and graceful colonial architecture. Cross into the third of the tour’s four countries, the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). At just 200km long by 120 wide, the diminutive kingdom punches far above its weight, with mountains and savannahs, rain forests and river canyons, thorn bush, grasslands, and wildlife reserves within its landlocked borders. The train overnights at Mpaka. (B, L, D)
Day 7 Tour to views of the ethereal Ezulwini Valley, known as ‘the Valley of Heaven’, and home to several wildlife sanctuaries; and the Komati River, descending from a plateau to cut through a 900m-deep valley; and visit Manzini, the kingdom’s largest city, and Mbabane, the executive capital, set beside its namesake river. Re-join the train to return to South Africa, overnighting in Limpopo. (B, L, D)
Day 8 Begin the day with a game drive to explore the 15,000 hectares of Kapama Game Reserve. A comparatively small reserve, its pristine bush landscape is nevertheless a Big Five park. Continue with a visit to the Wild Dog and Cheetah Project, dedicated to developing carnivore corridors to connect different ecosystems. Overnight at Louis Trichardt. (B, L, D)
Day 9 Relax and enjoy the scenery (and Shongololo service) for a full day on-board today, as the train makes its journey north into Zimbabwe, for rural Rutenga. (B, L, D)
Day 10 Drive to the Great Zimbabwe ruins of an ancient stone-built city. Founded in the 11th-century, abandoned in the 15th, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its three enclaves (the Hill, the Valley, and the fascinating, fortified Great Enclosure) formed the capital of the Bantu-speaking ancestors of the Shona peoples. (B, L, D)
Day 11 Enjoy a full day at Antelope Park private game reserve, where zebra and wildebeest, giraffe and hartebeest share the savannah with 190 species of birds, from vultures to sunbirds and hornbills. Choose from optional activities, bookable locally, which include game drives and a bird-watching cruise. Evening departure for the busy city of Bulawayo. (B, L, D)
Day 12 Visit Matobo National Park, at the heart of the UNESCO listed Matobo Hills, where wildlife vies for attention with legendary landscapes, strewn with giant boulders and evidence of Stone Age human habitation. Visit the ‘balancing rocks’ which mark the grave of Cecil John Rhodes, and see the rock art in well preserved San-Bushmen caves. Depart for Kennedy Siding for overnight. (B, L, D)
Day 13 A full day of exploration in Hwange National Park. The former royal hunting ground of Matabele King Mzilikazi, it is now the biggest, and arguably best, of Zimbabwe’s game reserves; regarded as one of Africa’s premier conservation areas, and teeming with wildlife including, including the Big Five: lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and famed elephant herds. (B, L, D)
Day 14 The Shongololo Express reaches the end of its journey at Victoria Falls. Disembark and transfer, for a two-night stay, to the 5-star Victoria Falls Hotel, a member of the prestigious ‘Leading Hotels of the World’, and Zimbabwe’s grandest and oldest luxury hotel. The Falls are more evocatively known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, ‘the smoke that thunders’; their constant spray creating a thriving rainforest, which is buzzing with birds, insects, and small mammals. Enjoy a guided walk of the Falls and a sunset Zambezi River cruise. (B)
Day 15 A day at leisure to relax in the hotel, its gardens gazing out to the rainbow-spray cloud of the 110m-high Zambezi cataract; or take to the air for a bird’s-eye-view of the spectacular Falls, with an optional helicopter flight (12minutes, £150). (B)
Day 16 Transfer to Victoria Falls airport for the flight to Johannesburg and onward overnight flight to London; or extend your stay, and add a fifth country to the tour, with three nights in Botswana’s award-winning Chobe National Park, boasting the world’s largest population of elephants, and known as “the land of giants”. (B)
Day 17 Arrival at London Heathrow.
Some walking over rough ground andt is sometimes necessary to ‘climb’ into the safari vehicle.
A boutique hotel located in Pretoria, within close proximity to the Kruger Museum. Restaurant, bar, outdoor pool, WiFi (free) and 69 air-conditioned rooms with safe and satellite TV.
One of the world’s great hotels, known as ‘The Grand Old Lady of the Falls’ and a member of the exclusive ‘Leading Hotels of the World’, this 5-star hotel is steeped in history and tradition. Fine dining and casual restaurants, afternoon teas on the terrace, pool and gardens, a short walk to the falls and WiFi (free). 161 air-conditioned rooms with hairdryer, safe and satellite TV.
The Rovos Rail (formerly Shongololo Express) has undergone a complete refurbishment in 2016. The dining cars have been beautifully renovated and an observation car with an open-air balcony has been added. Compartments are air-conditioned with private facilities and room service, Pullman Compartment are 75 sq. ft., Deluxe Compartment 107 sq. ft. with an additional seating area.
Relax in the air-conditioned bar and restaurant. Two appointed dining cars set the scene for meals (one sitting). Modern and traditional local cuisine is offered with a selection of distinguished South African wines. Guests can also relax in the bar car, small smoking lounge or the observation car with an open-air balcony situated at the back of the train. No dress code and laundry available.
Stay three nights at Chobe Safari Lodge or Cresta Mowana Safari Lodge, on the Chobe River. Chobe National Park, one of Africa's most prolific wildlife areas, is renowned for its elephants, hippos and lions with wildlife often visible from the Chobe River. Includes two game drives, two game cruises and half board.
Day 1 Transfer to Botswana and stay three nights at the Chobe Safari Lodge or Cresta Mowana Lodge. (D)
Day 2 Game drive and game cruise. (B, D)
Day 3 Game drive and game cruise. (B, D)
Day 4 Return flight. (B)
Day 5 Arrive London Heathrow in the morning.
Chobe Safari Lodge is situated in Kasane on the banks of the Chobe River, adjoining and sharing facilities with Chobe Bush Lodge. Restaurant, bar, pool and 76 air-conditioned rooms with safe and satellite TV.
Situated on the banks of the mighty Chobe River. Restaurant, bar, gym, pool and spa. 114 air-conditioned rooms with private facilities, mosquito nets, hairdryer, safe, mini-bar, tea/coffee making facilities and satellite TV.
per person in a twin/double Pullman Compartment
British Airways from Heathrow
Supplements per person
Single supplement £3495
Deluxe Compartment £2495
Single supplement £4495
British Airways World Traveller Plus - On request
British Airways Club World - On request
Helicopter flight over Victoria Falls £150
Pre-Tour Extra Nights - Pretoria
Courtyard Arcadia (per night) £200
Single supplement £90
Arrival transfer add £45
Post-Tour Extra Nights - Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls Hotel (per night) £295
Single supplement £245
Departure transfer add £20
Extension - Botswana
Chobe Safari Lodge or Cresta Mowana Safari Lodge
3 nights £945
Single supplement £295
Arrival transfer add £45
Departure transfer add £20
Air travel and taxes, transfers, 11 nights’ train and 3 nights’ hotel accommodation, breakfast daily, 11 lunches and 12 dinners, all drinks on onboard the train, itinerary as described, services of train director, guides and local representatives. If our specially negotiated airfares are unavailable at the time of booking, a supplement may apply.
Travel insurance, optional excursions, visa procurement, tipping, any government taxes or compulsory charges introduced after publication.
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