Category : Letter of the Week

Pretoria to Victoria Falls with Rovos Rail

The Rovos Rail journey from Pretoria to Victoria Falls has certainly become a firm favourite. We recently had guests, Mr and Mrs Hume, who travelled on this journey in celebration of their 80th birthdays! They took the time to send us a lovely e-mail but also a really kind and enthusiastic review on their trip.

Thank you Mr and Mrs Hume and happy birthday from all of us at Rovos Rail!

Rovos Rail was simply transporting. In so many ways. Born of the dreams of a tall, handsome visionary who dreamt of having a private refurbished train on which to take his family on a tour of South Africa, it soon evolved into one of the most luxurious trains in the world.

Rohan Vos (pronounced “Foss”), having obtained permission from South African Railways to operate a private train, soon found that the myriad of petty fees and costs levied by the state operator,  made a private train simply unaffordable. So, not to be daunted, Vos expanded his idea into a commercial tourist train. Following his passion of transforming derelict rail carriages into masterpieces of mahogany-paneled Edwardian grandeur, finished with the finest brass and silver trimmings and crimped, etched glass lampshades, Vos has created a traveling jewel which affords the discerning traveler the chance to glide through the rugged African veldt while being pampered in the best ways known to man.

Brother David had driven us from his home in Johannesburg to the start point. But at first we had trouble finding it, nestled as it was under unlikely tall palm trees in a disused section of Pretoria’s railyards. Adding to its sense of mystery. Then there it was, a colonial-era station house, transformed into a spacious, gracious lounge filled with leather couches and period pictures, all gently blown by the breezes of twirling, broad-bladed ceiling fans. Young waitresses plied the guests with trays of champagne in frosted flutes.  We had arrived. The sense of expectation was electric.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls
Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

Vos himself seems to treat the departure of every train as a landmark event in his family’s history. He was there in person to shake every hand and wish everyone a good time. Before  boarding he devoted almost a full hour to explaining the history of ROVOS, and to giving his guests a tour of the workshops adjoining the station house, where coaches are refurbished and train pieces from bogey wheels to window latches are serviced and repaired. For our amusement he had arranged for one of the original steam engines to be drawn up at the siding. We crawled all over it, amid its wisps of escaping steam, like kids on a Jungle Jim, striking poses for each other’s cameras.

Eventually, we boarded. Our bags already loaded into our spacious cabin, we soaked up every detail of the luxury hat engulfed us. The broad double bed, the warmth of the wood panels, the space, the work table, the adjoining shower room and toilet, the ample hanging and cupboard space, the mini-bar, to be stocked up as we ordered. What else could there be? We were soon in the Observation Car, chilled Chenin Bancs in hand, the logoed cut-crystal glasses glistening like golden orbs against the arid grassy plains passing beyond the windows.

Lunch was as much a dream as a meal. We struggled to balance our focus between the scrumptiousness of the food and wine and the beauty of the fittings in the ornate Dining Car, with its tasseled velvet curtains at each window. Mini-quiche served with Hamilton Russell Constantia Chardonnay was followed by grilled salmon on rice with asparagus accompanied by Sutherland Saugivnon Blanc. All served under the regal audience of a large Protea flower, one per table, South Africa’s unique symbol of enduring elegance. Echoed by the pleasure of Meriel’s ethereal presence . Butter balls in a silver-plated dish completed the picture.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls
Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

As the train gently lurched its way forward my history came into focus. We crossed the Limpopo at Beit Bridge, named after Sir Alfred , Cecil Rhodes’ minor partner in the De Beers diamond company, . The fund he established helped finance my Doctorate at Oxford. Bulawayo, place of my birth, was up ahead. First would come Collen Bawn, famous century-old quarry and cement plant, then Gwanda, Balla Balla, and, finally, Essexvale where, about  a hundred years ago, my father Denny cycled out with his gold pan to prospect the streams.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls
Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

We stopped at Gwanda to visit a curio market. Besieged by politely badgering African kids the Rovos guests shuffled from stall to stall against a backdrop of African singing as a troupe of young locals vigorously danced for us.

By now dusk had fallen and I knew I would not actually see these places, but would be in them. Night would steal them from me as history had already done, almost.  So that night we slept near Bulawayo without seeing it, at Mpopoma. After sunrise our journey continued and more names, each with memories, came into view: Pasi Pas where Denny had taken me one day in the late 1940s to buy sandstone from the quarry to build our house on Norfolk Road; Nyamandhlovu (“flesh of the elephant”) where my Plumtree classmate Mike Wood’s father had been Native Commissioner; then Saw Mills once the center of Rhodesia’s hardwood industry (Yellowwood an Muqua), now standing weeded and overgrown, grazed by a small herd of motley looking goats. Gwaai River would be next, followed by Dett and Hwange where we are to stop for a game drive.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

The game drive exceeded all expectations. Starting early on open, tiered-seat Jeeps (supplied by The Hide) there was a sense of exhilarating excitement cruising across Hwange’s endless grassy khaki-colored grasslands. We saw few animals to start with. It was still too warm for them to start their evening browsing. There were a couple of giraffes and a lone Impala bull, partly hidden in the shade of thickets, and some bird life but not much else. Cleophas the guide had asked us what we would like to see. We all said, predictably, “The Big Five”. One guest said “Cheetah” and I added “Kudu”. “The Big Five not possible” he said, “because Hwange no longer has rhinos. Cheetahs not guaranteed and Kudu unlikely but we can hope..” He finished. He said we could see lions but they were 30Kms away. We said that was too far. After a while, deep into the plain we came across a muddy watering hole in which there was a lone elephant bull. It stood motionless like an apparition, its tusks completely covered in glistening black mud like a dark chocolate version of itself. “This bull” the guide explained “has probably been estranged from the herd. He may be in decline and is facing his own extinction in what will be a lonely life from now on.” We left him alone and moved to another water hole with four more younger bulls, caking themselves in mud and dust. Cleophus explained that, once thus covered and caked, they would find a tree and rub their sides against it. Any ticks and other parasites apparently get ripped off the elephant with the caked mud. Tuskers toilet.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

As we left the elephants another viewing Jeep closed on us, saying that the reported lions were still at the same place. We decided to go there. On arrival we saw only a small green patch in the sea of golden grss, with sme scattered bushes and a fallen tree trunk. The we saw that there were two huge male lions, one lying on his side snug into the bush for the shade, the other stretched out below the fallen tree trunk. We came within a few yards from them. They showed no interest in us at all. Occasionally the one would look out into the distance across the plane. We did not know it at the time but he was eying his mates, three lionesses hidden in the grass a half mile away. As we watched the lion under the tree trunk rolled into its back, turned its head lazily and gazed at us with his head upside down. Sizing us up from down under.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

Before long, as the sun lost its heat, sinking towards the horizon and throwing a liquid gold light across the glowing pain, we suddenly saw that it had come alive with animals. Herds of Impala appeared from nowhere, there were giraffe gliding like glinting cranes through a patch of trees, we saw two Kudu does, and there was a family of waterbuck not far from where the lions lay. Cleophus explained the waterbuck were not afraid of lions, partly because they knew did not favor the taste of their flesh, but also because, strong swimmers, they could take to the water if attacked. They made a regal sight as they stared across the pain. As we drove quietly away, Cleophus suddenly stopped the Jeep some yards from a small grass-covered mound. “Cheetahs” he whispered. Then we saw the two small heads of the cubs, ears twitching in the sunlight as they gazed intently outwards. As Cleophus moved the Jeep some feet forward we could then see the mother. Sprawled languidly across the back of the mound, mostly hidden in the grass, she stared intently across the plain with steady, sullen eyes. Was it to be Impala or something else for dinner?

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls
Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

We moved on. In the mosaic that is the Hwange reserve, patches of rich green grass and scrub intertwine the pale khaki of the grassland. In one such patch we came across aa small herd of Zebra grazing actively in the declining daylight. The whiteness on their beautifully plump and proportioned bodies glowed brightly like liquid silver in the sunlight between the jagged stripes of carbon blacking. Lionfish of the plain. Their high manes gave them a full-dress military look, like Trojan Centurions trussed up by Versace.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

It was time to begin to head back to base camp, close to the train, where drinks awaited us.  By this stage we were all elated and flushed with joy. We had not seen The Big Five, but close. Nic had seen his Cheetah, I had seen my Kudu. Nic then shouted that he saw more elephants up ahead, crossing the road. As we snapped our gaze in the direction of the elephants none of us could believe what we saw next on the road ahead of us: a huge male lion, followed by a lioness, sauntering on the bare sandy earth of the roadway towards the Jeep. The male lion did not stop when he saw us, but just kept walking. Less certain, the lioness went to ground and, her belly on the sandy surface, watched intently. The male lion just walked slowly but relentlessly right up close to the Jeep. Seeing that we were not going to move, he padded into the grass on the side of bare track, a few feet from where we sat watching. The jet-black tassel on the end of his tail was twitching, as if nervously, as he passed us about four feet from the edge of the vehicle.  Once he had passed us he simply spun round and lay down to rest no more than six or seven feet from the back of the Jeep. Nicolas had taken a video of the whole incident. Who said we had to drive 30Kms to see lions?

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

Nicolas reminded us about the herd of elephants up ahead, so we drove on towards where they had been. Sure enough, we rounded a bend in the road behind a fleeing flock of Guinea Fowl that sprinted un the road ahead of us, we found ourselves in the midst of a large herd of elephants. Some of them, particularly the younger ones of which there were many, flapped their ears furiously, lifted their trunks skywards and emitted coarse hissing sounds. It was time to return to base camp. We had had a thrilling set of episodes, it was invigorating out on the plain. Birds were everywhere chasing insects in the dying light. The sun had suddenly melted into a faintly crimson glowing orb. The game view was over.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

The whole train was now gathered for drinks and grilled snacks at a camp facility, part of The Hide operation. In an amazing act of management prowess ROVOS had decamped the whole drinks camp, had guests all re-board the train and within an hour served a corsage and candle light final dinner in the Dining Cars. Bravo ROVOS!

All that was left of the ROVOS Rail trip was for us  to arrive at Victoria Falls. There it was suddenly, distant spray rising out of the dense bush, a siding sign, glimpses of the white facades of the gracious Victoria Falls Hotel, and the sounds of African harmonies, as a group of leopard skin-clad Shangaans danced and sang a welcome on the platform.

Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

A magical dream had ended. A new welcome awaited.

(All images provided by © Mr Ian and Mrs Meriel Hume)

Visit our website at rovos.com, e-mail reservations@rovos.co.za or call us on +27 (0) 12 315 8242 (Pretoria) or +27 (0) 21 421 4020 (Cape Town).

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A Dad and his Daughter go on a Train Date

Rovos Rail Dad and daughter date

We recently received a lovely letter from a Dad who decided to treat his 11-year old daughter to a train trip. What fun and what a special Dad and and daughter date!

Mr Pflaum travelled our two-night Cape Town journey with his daughter, Léonie, and other than a glowing report they also sent us images and a video from their time on the train and in South Africa!

Dear Brenda,

I don’t have words to describe our journey a few days ago. It was just a blast! It was a dream of mine for several years to do that – but I had to wait, until my oldest daughter was old enough to realize all of it and enjoy it. Léonie (my daughter) is 11 years old and she never felt bored on the whole journey – she would like to extend for another 1 or 2 nights! I pick out one of my girls for some of my travels and this time Léonie was the one who could enjoy South Africa with me. I attached a few photos of us ;-D

We’ve expected a lot – but all our expectations were surpassed! From the Pretoria station, the train, the stops, the great crew on board (with Heinrich – our favorite in the restaurant ;-D) and the great welcome speech of your father. The most impressive part – beside of all the overwhelming rest – was, that your father even made it to Cape Town to say Good Bye with a handshake and some nice words. I was stunned and the journey was worth every Rand we spent – even much more! I can’t describe it with words…!

Thanks to the whole team – in the front and in the back to make something like that possible! Not only to invest with an “all-in” strategy in something new, to have a vision of something great and to realize the vision in an even better way – but to keep it up so many years and still be in the front, searching the contacts with the costumers directly and share the vision as a “once in a lifetime experience”!

I really hope that I can come back very very soon to show this to the rest of my family – my other two daughters and my wife. Thank you all so much and keep everything as it is! My English is limited, so I don’t have other superlatives for everything. But please hug your father from our side – as well from my daughter! Next time, if we see him, we will do it personally! THANK YOU!!!

Here you find a little trip report video from us, which I just created with my iPhone (together with a little soundtrack, which I created together with a good friend back in Kingston, Jamaica). If you have some time, feel free to watch it: https://youtu.be/krB0iYX6YE8

Ah yes: Did I say THANK YOU already? If not: THANK YOU for everything! I had and I will spread this great experience with many others!

And Dad of the month goes to you Mr Pflaum! Thank you for your kind words, they certainly brightened up our Monday and made us feel very content with the work we do here at Rovos Rail.

To all Dad’s out there – bring your daughters on a date with us! As you can see it’s a spoil that does wonders for what is a very special relationship.

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From Cape Town to Victoria Falls with Rovos– Part 2

Ian Gill’s second part of his story about his Rovos trip to Victoria Falls. 

The beginning of an awesome adventure

We have started the second leg of our train journey. The train station in Pretoria was a step back in time. It was like being a kid again as I constantly ran around with some of my fellow traveRovos rail train on trackslling counterparts searching out the steam engines and reliving a boy’s lost memories.

 

A pleasant surprise for us was to get upgraded to a deluxe berth. Unexpected, but nevertheless much appreciated.

 

Crossing the border into Botswana

 

After departing Pretoria we back tracked to Johannesburg, then continued to head north. Somewhere (Mafikeng) in the middle of the night, we crossed the border into Botswana.

Diamonds and Agriculture

As we were enjoying our breakfast in the dining car, we passed through the capital city of Gaborone, which apparently is quite prosperous due to diamonds and agriculture. We continued north to the Zimbabwe border town of Bulawayo, which we should have reached sometime in the middle of the night.

 

We were running something like three hours late, but that was before the engine broke down and a variety of other reasons, but alas, this is the nature of train travel. It really didn’t affect us as we just sat back and watched the world go by.

 

Waving Hello at Happy Locals

One of the sights and activities I enjoy the most is waving to the locals who are crossing the tracks or tending their cattle by the wayside. Always smiling with an enthusiastic wave makes me feel quite welcome.

train trips

Guest by the train tracks

 

The countryside does vary now and then with hills, mountains and lush Acacia trees. This is in sharp contrast to the dry, brown, flat bushveld of South Africa, which we left the day before yesterday. And did I mention it is HOT!

train trips south africa

We are passing through a game reserve now and lots of wildlife to be seen! Jennifer says she saw a female lion this morning at breakfast. (I told her it looked like a large dog to me). Gazelles, wildebeest, impalas and zebras so far. This should be fun.

The other great thing about train travel and travel in general, is that you get to meet some great people. Thank you for your great companionship, conversation and laughs, Carl and Christina. You made a great trip even better!

Older couple and friend taking a picture

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From Cape Town to Victoria Falls – Ian Gill’s story: Part 1

Ian Gill from America, contacted us recently to tell us about the wonderful experience he had in Africa in 2013. Ian then decided to explore further than South Africa. His journey to the Mother Continent took him to Nairobi, where he enjoyed a two-week safari in Kenya and Tanzania. Thereafter, he journeyed aboard the Pride of Africa starting at Cape Town, winding through stunning South Africa via Pretoria, and finishing in Zimbabwe at the mighty Victoria Falls.  Ian took the Victoria Falls train safari.

It certainly sounds like he had a wonderful holiday!

 

Hi Brenda:

This year’s adventure trek takes us to the Dark Continent. Our trip will be broken up into three segments. Upon arrival in Nairobi, we will first embark on a two week safari encompassing Kenya and Tanzania. This will be followed by a week on the Rovos Train between Cape Town, South Africa and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. We will finish off with a two week self-drive trip along the South African coast following the Wine Route and the Garden Route. We hope you will enjoy following our travels as we very much look forward to our exciting and adventurous six-week tour of the Dark Continent.

 

All aboard the Rovos train!

I love train travel and this is to be our second, long distance train trips. This however, will be slightly different than our trip across the Rockies last August as this time we will actually be sleeping on board, in our Pullman berth. Our five night and six day journey will take us from Cape Town to Victoria Falls via Pretoria.

Train trips

 

We have spent one night on board and there are two things that struck my attention. Firstly, the vastness of this country from the mountains and vineyards in the lowveldt to the vast open spaces and plains in central South Africa, which go on and on and on. Secondly, the service, amenities as well as food and drink are way beyond expectation.

 

The Rovos Dining Experience

Different South African wines served with each course let alone each meal is a real treat and experience as the pre-selected wine parings really know how to tempt and satisfy the palate. The food and its presentation is unparalleled.

Guest enjoying breakfast on train

 

Scenery to die for – no need for television! : 

Sitting in the exquisitely appointed dining car with white linens, silver cutlery and professional service is self-indulgence not often experienced. Oh, and did I mention the window views from both our dining room table and Pullman suite are wonderful. No need for HD television here.

African sunset Rovos Rail

I sit back and write this entry from the lounge car. With the bright sunlight streaming in, I am swallowed up by the huge lounge chair, trying to fight off the gentle roll of the train as it tries to lull me to sleep. I’ll be heading back to the observation car for a pre-dinner drink and a glowing sunset across the African plains. That will probably be followed by a short nap before dressing for dinner and once again over-indulging. Ah, train travel. It is the best!

 

Feeling like a kid again

I’ll have to admit, one of the highlights for me was when the old steam engine showed up and hitched on to all of the carriages. Being a kid again. Women just don’t feel the same about trains as men do.

Old couple next to industrial train

Read the rest of Ian’s journey in part 2.

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Beloved Memories of a Rovos Trip Recounted

We always feel so happy when one of our guests contacts us excitedly recounting the journey they enjoyed with us on the Pride of Africa. It brings us great joy when we read that their experience of Africa has left a lasting impression, and hopefully one day we’ll see them again for round two!

Not too long ago we received this letter from Lorre Lei who hails all the way from New Orleans. We would like to share her letter with our readers wherein she says that Rohan reminds her of Prince Charles. We couldn’t help but chuckle.   We hope you enjoy her description of the train trip she had with us!

 

Hi Brenda,

Just received Rovos Tribune today and I’m amazed that you still have my address from when my husband and I travelled from Pretoria to Cape Town in November of 1998.  That prompted me to pull out the photo album and the journal of the trip.

 

Here is what I wrote:

Boarding the Pride of Africa

Tea at Victoria Hotel with string trio.  Walked to train station by Mr.Vos, himself, who looks somewhat like Prince Charles.  Prince Charles look alike

Rovos Rail Station

Greeted by staff with champagne and red carpet.  18 cars including 2 dining cars, lounge and observation car pulled by 2 steam engines, but no grand piano! (Referencing one on the American Orient Express train from Chicago to DC).

 

Rovos Pride of Africa

Kimberley 

Arid landscape with lots of scrub trees and anthills.  Reminds me of the California foothills north of San Francisco.  Kimberly Diamond mine and the “big hole” not at all what I expected.  Recreated town around the mine very well done with shops, saloon, church, ballroom and undertaker’s parlor.  Afternoon landscapes giving way to old mountain ranges in distance on either side of train.  Some crops with irrigation, mostly cattle and sheep worked from horseback with sheep dogs. Lots of windmills.  Raced by the lake with the pink flamingos.

 

The Big Hole, Kimberley

 

The Karoo

The Karoo is a harsh, barren place to live with an oasis here and there.  Matjiesfontein is such a place.  It was developed as a resort and was a good place to cure asthma and TB.  The whole village was bought in the late 60’s and restored to its original Victorian state.  A local museum contains a huge eclectic collection of Victoriana.

Matjiesfontein - The Lord Milner Hotel

Ostrich farms remind me of the ostrich medallions for dinner last evening.  Mr. Peter Winterbottom (I believe a pseudo name), the train manager, said he never found food or drink he didn’t like.  When I asked him if that was the case, then how did he maintain his youthful figure, he quipped, “Hot women, Madam!”

Cape Town

Off the train and on to the Mount Nelson, the epitome of British chintz!

The Mount Nelson Hotel

 

Please feel free to use any of the above.  I thought Mr. Winterbottom’s response was priceless and showed such a wonderful quick wit!

 

Lorre Lei Jackson,

New Orleans, Louisiana

 

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Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

A World Class Railway

Dear Mr Vos

I am writing this letter as an accolade not only to you but to your dedicated staff who make travel on the train a true five-star experience. I wish to commend you for establishing and running a highly efficient and world class railway. We have travelled on a few trains in different countries and Rovos would have to rank in the top three by our reckoning.

My wife and I travelled on Rovos Rail from Pretoria to the Victoria Falls on 23rd December, 2015. If you cast your mind back, I was the person sitting on the parliamentary chair in front of you when you were addressing the guests prior to our departure.

My wife and I occupied a suite. It was immaculate when we entered and was maintained by staff in that manner throughout our journey. The staff were nothing short of perfect in their efforts to make our trip a memorable one. They were courteous and ever willing to please. The amenities provided in the suite made everything so comfortable – a home away from home.

We had requested special dietary needs for our meals. It was a surprise to us when the chef visited us in our suite to discuss our needs. Allow me to tell you the kitchen staff went beyond the call of duty to cater for us. The meals were immaculately presented in true fine dining style and above all were varied and tasty. To us , it seemed as if the chef enjoyed the challenge of preparing something new each day. I thanked him personally.

The Train Manager on our journey was a true professional. She presented with an admirable work ethic and was a true professional. In conversations with her, I realised what her job entailed. How well she managed it is a tribute to her desire to promote the brand name and reputation. She operated with meticulous precision and it was clear that staff respected her. She was attentive to passenger needs and maintained a cordial relationship with the guests,stopping to converse at each table in the dining car at meal times. Her management of the staff was beyond reproach. This must surely be attributed to a good staff training program!

Finally, the staff on the train were truly magnificent. They were professional and capable, pleasant at all times with no effort spared to see to guests’ needs. It says something when, as guests, we did not want to leave the train at Livingstone because we were already missing the camaraderie we had established with the staff!

I will travel on Rovos Rail again and recommend it to as many people as possible here in Australia.

Thank you and kind regards,

Mr Gona Naidoo

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Rovos Rail Durban Safari

A Wonderful Trip!

It’s always a happy when we receive feeback about a wonderful trip! Mr and Mrs Padiachy celebrated part of their 32nd year of marriage on our Durban Safari and we were so thrilled to be a part of it. Thank you and we look forward to welcoming you on board again one day!

HI REGARDO

WHAT A WONDERFUL TRIP WE HAD ON THE 18 JANUARY 2016, IT WOULD BE ONE THAT WILL STAY IN OUR FOND MEMORIES FOR YEARS TO COME. IT MADE CELEBRATING OUR 32ND YEAR OF MARRIAGE FEEL VERY SPECIAL.

I ALSO WANT TO TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY OF THANKING YOU FOR THE VERY PROFESSIONAL MANNER IN WHICH YOU ARRANGED THIS ENTIRE TRIP FOR US.

MAY I ALSO COMMEND ROVOS RAIL STAFF ON THE TRAIN FROM MART, ADAM, HENNIE, CAMERON, IVANKA, CHANTEL, MICHELE, ANGELIQUE, NAZEERAH, JAKLIEN, MATTHEW, ANNIQA S WELL AS YOUR KITCHEN STAFF

FOR THEIR FRIENDLY MANNER AND SERVICE THEY ALL GAVE US.

AND ABOVE ALL ELSE TO HAVE BEEN MET BY MR VOS PERSONALLY ON OUR ARRIVAL, IMPRESSED US VERY MUCH.

YOU CAN BE SURE,I’LL BE BACK!!!!! THIS TIME WITH FRIENDS

THANK ALL YOU GUY’S ONCE AGAIN

SIELAN AND DELIA PADIACHY

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Rovos Rail Dar es Salaam

A Royal Letter

It’s not every day we receive a royal letter and lovely feedback such as the below is always welcome by all here at Rovos Rail.

Dear Mr Vos,

Journey Cape Town to Dar es Salaam, 17thJanuary

My wife Cammy and I have just returned from Dar – having thankfully not availed ourselves of the rest of the Noble Caledonia tour, by boat. (I particularly dislike the sea; my overriding interest was in your train!)

I wanted to write to say how absolutely enthralled we both were in what you provide! I am not a “train buff” in that I could not tell you the gauges of the railway in Canada, Cambodia or Cameroon (as some of our fellow passengers could – and did), but I have always been fascinated by Edwardian travel details – from early limousines to showman’s caravans and of course the wonderfully extravagant rail cars of American 19th century industry barons.

What you have done in creating the Pride of Africa train surpasses all and nothing short of amazing! There was no reason for me to look for fault, but if I had I could not have found it – the cabins were brilliant, the beds were exceptionally comfortable and including a shower room is quite extraordinary.

It was a total joy to sit watching Africa roll by – or perhaps more truthfully, given the state of some of the tracks, rumble by. How marvellous, in this age of safety and correctness, to be able to open the windows; how fantastic to sit on the observation deck – surely unique? My wife had never been to Africa and there can be few better ways to see it and none in such comfort. We loved every minute.

As for the service and friendliness – and efficiency – of your staff, it surpassed everything. From being greeted with champagne by the line of beautifully dressed hostesses and helpers (I persisted in calling it champagne on the basis that your South African wines are a match for any. And it is easier to say…) to the unexpected and clever touches of cold water when setting out and damp towels on dusty returns and we were looked after at breakfast, lunch and dinner. There were so many brilliant details.

We so appreciated being met in Cape Town by you, something commented on by several people, both on this trip and previous ones.

Eric Annandale, your train manager, was a star. He worked ceaselessly to overcome any operational obstacles. Craig Geater was wonderful – a great help in all matters – not only in the incredible luxury of having a hair stylist on board, but with information and organisation on trips as well.

The food was amazing, always unusual, always delicious and just the right amount. The South African wines were outstanding. The dining room and bar staff were brilliant and always ready to change menu in individual cases, willingly and efficiently. The dining car itself is superb.

Thank you too for the various splendid gifts that came with the tour – including a very fine tie and the magnificent Rovos tog bags!

All in all a most magnificent experience and one we are sure to share with our family and friends for many years.

Thank you and congratulations on your achievements.

Sincerely, 

Lord Cranworth

If you would like information on our Dar es Salaam journey then please do not hesitate to contact Alicia on alicia@rovos.co.za 

Photo credit: Jos Beltman from Icento Treinreizen in Holland.

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Rovos Rail Namibia Safari

A Lovely Letter

We’re in the fortunate position where our guests send us letters; some nice and not-so-nice! Below is an excerpt from a lovely letter we received from a passenger who travelled one of our nine-day Namibia Safari trips with us this year. She writes so beautifully we want to hire her!

Dear Mr Vos

It is literally one week ago that I was enjoying the final leg of the Rovos Rail journey through Namibia. I am again travelling by train, this time through the Scottish Borders and Northern England and having a very different experience. We are all tightly packed, mainly well behaved, drinking from plastic containers and I have not, as yet, braved the loos! But heigh-ho, horses for courses as the saying goes.

But really I want to compliment and congratulate you on your vision in creating a truly superb rail experience. I am still held in the fabulous fantasy bubble of the journey and continue to delight in ‘mulling over’ the sights, sounds and experiences which we shared.

We were blessed by having a really affable and fun group which, in general, gelled very well but this was in no small part due to the welcoming, friendly, tirelessly engaging and train, headed impeccably by Daphne. Nicholas, the font of all African wisdom and knowledge, added immeasurably to our insight of the political geography of your fascinating continent. We certainly left the train physically more challenged, from all the walks and the delicious food and beverages, and hopefully more educated with with heightened awareness and empathy towards the millions who do not have the numerous privileges that most of the ‘Pride of Africa’ guests enjoy.

On reaching Pretoria and seeing the workshops, loco sheds, the nurturing bird and animal sanctuaries etc. and knowing that a percentage of your profits are ear-marked for charitable causes I really wanted to sign on the dotted line and join up! As I have never worked for anyone else, apart from one and a half years of teaching, that is a compliment to your business and it’s implied ethics.

Excursions on the Namibia Safari were wonderful – in particular the sundowner which turned into a full-blown barbeque – it was fabulously romantic, imaginative and unforgettable. In fact, I think Sossusvlei was a real highlight for most of us. The dune walk was absolutely exhausting, exhilarating, fun-packed and mind-blowing.

I thank you and praise you again for your realised vision and would, God willing, that I may be permitted to travel Africa by Rovos Rail again.

Click here to watch our Namibia Safari video.

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