Image above from the Rovos Rail website.
Looking for a unique way to view South Africa’s vibrant countryside, aside from a traditional game drive or road trip? Rovos Rail, acclaimed as the most luxurious train in the world, might be just the perfect activity to add to your African safari itinerary.
There are several all-inclusive train journeys that Rovos Rail takes, each differing in trip length, including a Cape Town Journey, Victoria Falls Journey, Golf Safari, Durban Safari, Namibia Safari, and Dar es Salaam Journey.
This past October, I had the opportunity to embark on the Cape Town Rovos Rail Journey, which took us through the breathtaking countryside of Cape Winelands and up into Pretoria (a city located just outside of Johannesburg).
Here’s just a brief glimpse into what I experienced on this one-of-a-kind, 2-day trip:
Before boarding: Prior to boarding, we were escorted into Rovos Rail’s private lounge where a two-piece string band, Palm Strings, was playing classical music. We were greeted with welcome beverages, including champagne, mimosas, and orange juice and were able to take a seat in one of the lounge’s comfortable leather couches.
After being debriefed by the train manager we were each escorted to our rooms by our butler.
Once we were escorted to our rooms we were able to browse the set menus for the evenings on board and freshen up. After several minutes of settling into our suites our hostess came by to instruct us on laundering services, and how to operate the light switches, request servicing of the room, and simply acquaint us with our suites.
Image to the left from the Rovos Rail website
Life on Board: The train has an antique design, which transports you back into the romance era of luxury train transportation. The train consists of guest sleeper cars, a non-smoking lounge car, two non-smoking dining cars, kitchen car, smoking lounge, observation car (at the very end of the train), a locomotive, generator car, and staff car.
Before the train departed we enjoyed a delectable lunch in one of the two, pre-1940 dining cars (Note that lunch and dinner are served at set times so everyone must be seated for their meal around the same time). Lunch consisted of bobotie (a traditional African recipe that can actually be found in our recipe book, A Taste of Africa), shrimp skewer salad, and melktart. Each of the dishes during lunch and dinner are served with a complimenting wine.
A little tip for after you’ve boarded Rovos Rail: After settling into your room, head to the observation car in the back of the train to sit outside and enjoy some snacks and beverages! This is the perfect place to be when the train starts moving—you will see some of the most gorgeous landscape as you pass by fields of purple flowers, sprawling vineyards, and dramatic mountains in the backdrop. The train also passes through several villages, which allows you to get a sense for village life—a truly enriching experience.
After finishing our lunch we headed to the observation car to enjoy a selection of nuts, chips, and biltong (the African version of jerky). Our waiter also brought us some mimosas to toast to a gorgeous day and relaxing ride ahead of us!
We spent two-hours on the observation car, soaking in the beauty of the Winelands before heading back to our rooms to freshen up for dinner.
NOTE: Dinner is an elegant affair, which means women should wear a cocktail or evening dress or pantsuit. Men are required to wear jackets. Aside from dinner, dress on board is “smart casual.”
Our five-star, four-course dinner was delectable! We enjoyed scallops, lamb shank over mashed potatoes, cheese, and tapioca pudding.
After dinner, guests can retire to the lounge car or observation car to enjoy a nightcap or simply relax with a cup of tea in their rooms. There is also a smoke car lounge (and you can smoke in your room, as well).
On the second day aboard Rovos Rail, we stopped in Kimberly, a small mining town known for its diamonds, to visit the Big Hole and Diamond Mine Museum. During this visit we exited the train and our guide took us inside the museum to watch a short video on the history of diamond mining in the area and then we went to see the Big Hole, which is just that—a big hole! It was absolutely beautiful, filled with crystal blue water. This is where the diamonds were once mined. We learned even more about the history of diamonds in Kimberly before heading to the gift shop area where you could buy your honey a diamond!
That evening we enjoyed another delectable dinner before heading to the observation car for a nightcap. We arrived the next morning in Pretoria where we departed the train and took a private car service to Johannesburg Airport for our farewell.
Accommodations: Suites on Rovos Rail include the Royal Suite, Deluxe Suite, and Pullman Suite. The Royal Suites are the most luxurious option and feature a double bed, lounge area, full bathroom with Victorian bath and separate shower, hair dryer, and bathroom amenities and toiletries. The Deluxe Suite is another excellent and spacious option and features a small lounge area, double bed and bathroom with an elegantly appointed shower, toilet, and sink. The Pullman Suite is the smallest option and features a sofa-seat that converts into a double bed or twin beds during the evening. Bathrooms are the same as the Deluxe Suite.
In each room there are windows that have a glass pane and a shutter. The shutters can be pulled down and so can the glass pane window. It’s nice to relax in your room and enjoy the sights from the comfort of your room as you read a book or enjoy a cup of tea!
Image above from the Rovos Rail website
Rovos Rail is perfect for:
- Individuals who want to travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg via a more unique route and enjoy the experience of a luxury train, as oppose to taking a plane ride from Cape Town to Johannesburg. The Cape Town Rovos Rail Journey is truly an exceptional and relaxing way to end an exciting African safari vacation.
- Couples interested in complete relaxation. Although families are welcome aboard some of Rovos Rails’ Journeys, the trips are more for adults looking to relax, enjoy the scenery, play a card game or board game, and read or chat.
- Travelers who would prefer not to fly from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
- Golf lovers. The Golf Safari Journey aboard Rovos Rail is one of their most popular journeys! Many first time golfers aboard the Golf Safari Journey find themselves coming back each year. And for individuals on the Golf Safari who don’t enjoy golf or who don’t want to golf regularly during the trip, they can choose to partake in game drives or city tours.
- Antique train or transportation enthusiasts.
For more information about Rovos Rail and their various journeys, contact us today via email at email@example.com or give us a call at 800.940.9344.