Your Room on the train
Of all the modes of travel, I suspect that more books have been written and more films have been made about trains—yes, even more than ships, cars, and airplanes.
And if you take the remarkable Rovos Rail in Africa, it’s plain to see why.
Recall your fantasies of another age—dressing for dinner, African safaris, short plane hops, a suite of your own on a train that Queen Victoria would have envied.
Rovos has come along at the right time, a rising middle class, a search for something different, increased travel by folks who want to be pampered.
Rovos, celebrating its 30thanniversary, has eight rail trips, all concentrated in southern Africa.
I’d been to Africa twice—the nitty-gritty of game drives in South African preserves and the more open feel of the savanna in Tanzania. Now, this had something more.
The trip begins in Pretoria—you’re picked up at the Johannesburg airport and driven to the capital. There, Rovos Rail has its own train station and you are ensconced in your own suite.
The next morning you arrive at one of those places you’ve heard about but never expected to see—or enter. It’s the Kimberley diamond mine, also known, somewhat simply, as Big Hole. According to local lore, it’s the deepest pit ever dug by hand. You also can meander around the adjacent Diamond Museum. And be prepared for your friends to ask if you got any samples.
Back on the train, you mingle with some of the 70 other passengers—and it’s all very civil. No cellphones in sight to bring you back to 21st-Century reality. And for dinner, it’s sort of fun to dress up. Oh, not like formal evenings on a ship, but more like going to a nice restaurant.
Look Both Ways!
The excursion continues with stops and walking tours of cities from colonial times. And then you’re in the desert in a fantastic place known as the Giant’s Playground, with its startling rock formations. Also, the whimsical owner of a large expanse of land has placed sculptures along the road.
Another day and a visit to Namibia’s capital Windhoek—and then a one-hour flight to Sossusvlei Lodge for a real-life safari. You spend the night here after also seeing the towering red sand dunes and the depths of Sesriem Canyon.
Your pilot takes you back to your train and you’re headed for the next stop—the world-renowned Etosha National Park. Here, your game drive will take you up close and personal to watering holes where you’ll be able to spot a variety of wildlife. Just like in the movies—except that this is the real thing.
After a night and a morning drive here, you’re back on the train.
The nine-day trip combines the open-air excitement of being close to animals in the wild, and the coziness of a bygone era of train travel. And all the while, you are being attended to. Rovos Rail has more than 400 employees, and more than 100 have been with the company more than 20 years—so they know what you want.
For further information, catch them at: rovos.com, or at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The word that I used after my first trip to an African safari was “transformative.” I think you’ll agree.